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Rise of The Leftovers | Roseann Lake | TEDxSuzhouWomen

Rise of The Leftovers | Roseann Lake | TEDxSuzhouWomen



I was recently on a plane flying from New York to London and sitting next to a woman from Kenya as we got to chatting the inevitable question came up what do you do for a living I told her that I was a journalist and that I just finished writing a book about an extraordinary population of Chinese women known as Xiang mu or leftover women left over because they had failed to get married by the culturally prescribed expiration date of 25 or 27 or 30 depending on who you ask now when I usually share this word with someone who's unfamiliar with it the reaction is usually a mix of surprise and dismay but not the woman sitting next to me she simply said o Moses was seen o Moses who see I said yes yes o Musa so see this is what we call these women in my tribe in Kenya she then told me that kenya has 52 different tribes and 52 different dialects and although she didn't speak them all she could assure me that every single tribe had the equivalent of Homosassa scene because much to the dismay of tribal leaders more and more Kenyan women were getting married and having children at a later age young new it's a word that has many equivalents that span cultures and span languages in France get seen it in Germany Han mangal in Japan Christmas cake do you know why because christmas is on the twenty-fifth to December so the idea is after your 25th birthday you're done Gold Miss South Korea hamona so they don't know Latin America this means a lonely ham and the u.s. perhaps we can say Carrie Bradshaw's now regardless of the different tone of each word I know some of them are more negative than others ultimately these words all mean the same thing they represent a class of women who are carving out a new timeline for their young adult years a class of women who perhaps choose to flesh themselves and their careers out a bit more fully before making any major commitments I first became interested in leftover women because when I first arrived in China they were everywhere it seemed like every woman I was meeting was a so-called leftover the Beijing television station where I was working at the time was full of leftovers they were the producers and the editors and the directors a vibrant population of young women who I deeply admired in my eyes they should have been the toast of the nation a glittering testament to all of the increased educational and professional opportunities that Chinese women had accumulated over the past 30 years and yet their label indicated otherwise I became particularly close with my colleagues shahnshah who was 24 at the time and had moved to Beijing from anhui province in a bid to make a better life for herself she dreamed of becoming a documentary filmmaker and was squarely on the path to making that come true except that every year especially during Chinese New Year when she went home the Inquisition would begin nita holla ma hi media hood male naam Hong yo Joe Mullin y el equipo hola and on and on on and on as was true for the rest of our colleague Sean John's parents were in a marriage frenzy and when she explained this to me I couldn't understand I didn't understand their anxiety over her becoming a leftover I didn't understand the mania the stress but most of all I didn't understand the word left over it seemed like such an unfair and inaccurate portrayal of a population of women who I truly believed showed great promise so now I would like to explain it seems like you already know but who are leftovers where do they come from and why do there seem to suddenly be so many of them well the best answer I can provide for that has to do something with a chart now the chart you're about to see is my favorite chart the blue dots on this chart represent countries where men are the dominant earners of college degrees meaning more men than women in each one of these countries earns a college degree than women there are 120 dots on this chart it was prepared by a group of demographers in Barcelona and the red dots represent countries where women have higher education greater numbers of higher education than men so the chart right now is set to 1970 and you can see that at the time it was a very blue world men were clearly holding the keys to greater education but watch what happens when we flip forward into the future remember red dot women welcome to the future so as this chart makes very clear by the year 2050 nearly all of the dots show that women will be the dominant earners of higher education now this is a huge paradigm shattering shift that is going to have a tremendous impact on the way relations are formed relationships are formed marriages work and how we live but for the purposes of this conversation let's take a closer look at where china figures into all of this in China the crossover year is not 2050 in fact it already happened in 2012 so congratulations ladies you now earn more higher education than men Joanne you're an eating honey bee and as you can see the leading countries in this push towards education are mainly all in Asia we have Singapore at the front followed by Japan South Korea and Hong Kong just a little bit behind so watch out Asia's on the on the roll now to make better sense of the implications of this chart I'd like to draw your attention to a different set of data so as some of you may already know the natural birth ratio the natural sex ratio at birth is 100 to 105 which basically means that for every 100 girls that are born there are 105 boys this is a law of nature it tends to happen this way so if we look at China in nineteen fifty and nineteen sixty seventy towards the 80s the sex ratio balance was quite normal there were a rather even number of girls and boys but as we get into the early 80s the later 80s the 90s and 2000 we see that that number goes up and it gets to dangerously high levels reaching 120 why did this happen the one-child policy when combined with China's traditional preference for boys has led to a surplus of men this surplus has accumulated over the years to the extent that by the year twenty twenty the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences estimates that there will be 30 million more men of marriage age in China than women 30 million men now when I first heard this number I thought where are these men hiding maybe maybe I can find them and introduce them to my leftover friends it turns out that wasn't going to be so easy because if we look at the regional breakdown of where these men are located a different story emerges this is a map of china and you see that areas like tangen jae joong Beijing for the loggia and Shanghai have reasonably reasonably mild gender imbalance but as you click through to different provinces jungsoo fujian up to 120 126 who Bay clin on 130 on way 131 guangdong 137 and 138 gen see what we start to see from this data is that overwhelmingly the vast majority of China's surplus men were born in the most rural some of the poorest areas of China which means that geographically socially economically and educationally they're not exactly compatible with leftover women so what we see is that China right now has two huge populations of leftovers left over men who represent the past imbalance rural areas and poverty and leftover women who are a product of the future of greater opportunities for women a truly new China and there are no signs that the rates have leftover women are ever going down you see in 1985 the light green is China only 5.3 percent of women remained unmarried by the age of 29 by 2010 that percentage has jumped to twenty one percent and all signs indicate that the patterns of leftover women the numbers of leftover women are going to imitate other countries in Asia South Korea Singapore Japan and Hong Kong that already that had a push for education before China did we also see that between the ages of 30 and 34 the number of women remaining single beyond the age of 34 going up in China in nineteen eighty five point seven percent virtually everyone in the entire country in 1985 was married now well in 2010 that's 5.4 percent and I'm sure if you get more recent data it will even be higher so as the stories of leftover women continued to fill my ears I realized that they were an incredibly important population and I began to chronicle their lives in a book I the more I spoke with leftover women the more I realized that their lives were broadcasting a mini diorama of the story of China's rise and development the blueprints of a country that had soared from one economic and social extreme to another I began to investigate the institution of marriage in China and I realized that for centuries it has been a very important institution historically economically socially politically it's been used at the means of sealing alliances brokering deals may enforcing ideologies a former party official who I interviewed about this told me that marriage in China is the wind chime upon which all changes in the socio political climate are announced taking all of this into account I was sold I began to write my book I'm happy to say that that book is now complete and it will be on the stands in 2016 but until then I'm here to talk to you about a very special project that grew out of that book as soon as the first draft draft of my book was done I felt this desire to do something else writing a book about leftover women is a privilege you get to spend time with some of the funniest most trailblazing women in China but at the same time it's very difficult capturing the complexities of their lives and the emotion of their stories is a very tall order I had a desire to show a live audience what I was experiencing as I interviewed these leftover women and so the leftover monologues were born I don't have much experience in theatre but with the tremendous help of leenon think-tank beijing and very a very brave cast of 13 women and three men who volunteered to write their stories very candid very visceral very personal intimate stories that they shared on stage our plague came to be I'll introduce some of the cast you now to shout in the middle is best described by the opening line of her monologue she says I am NOT a man and I am NOT a woman and this is when the audience looks at her funny way and she says I'm a female PhD and actually I should tell you she was being modest she's a postdoc this is Caroline her monologue is about China's very strict ideals for beauty and how when she was a young girl her mom always told her that she needed to study hard because her eyes were too small and she would never attract a good husband suffice it to say that all of that studying has paid off in great dividends kirsty's monologue is called the gap and it's about this idea that when you're young you can fall in love very innocently and with abandon but that as soon as you graduate college it seems like this whole set of of yo Joe of care of standards are imposed on your marriage search you need to think about some ones who call and and someone whether they own a car or whether they own a home and she didn't want to search this way next we have Naomi she does what I call a bit of shownu 101 talking about all the silly things that women do to make themselves more appealing to men they go on crazy diets they try to learn French to be more romantic then we have Yolanda Yolanda is actually in the crowd and I hope she doesn't kill me for doing this but Yolanda is a powerhouse she is the co-founder of leenon think tank Beijing which provided tremendous support for this play and I have to say that one of my favorite lines in her monologue was a quote from her mother who said something like were mates the kandyan me well Ginny yeah you know you're a pong we pulled up wasn't you this is Reggie Reggie was our brave leftover man who told a story about a former relationship in which he had very unrealistic expectations of how his girlfriend should tend to the domestic duties he shares how it was only when he lost this girl that he truly learned to love so before I am this talk today I would like to say that tomorrow is a very important day after four sold-out performances in Beijing the leftover monologues are having their Shanghai debut we will be performing at the pearl theatre tomorrow afternoon now since we first started this play eight months ago in Beijing much has changed in the lives of our performers in fact about half of them are no longer single yes we even have a baby on the way that when you join the leftover monologues good things happen um but we didn't change the name of our play we despite the change in status of many of our performers because we came to realize that more than a label left over is a mindset it is the trademark of any person who challenges social prescriptions for gender roles or four timelines for young adulthood yes leftover women are an incredibly important population with tremendous potential to incite a lot of much needed change in society and yes they do go by many names all around the world but ultimately and more broadly defined a leftover is simply anyone who believes in the right to their happiness and is willing to stand up and defend it even if it means living in a way that is considered unconventional suspect or tragic I believe that there's a tiny bit of leftover in every single one of us and if you listen to it good things happen so before I leave you I'm going to share a quote from kirsty one of the performers you met before when she came to the first meeting for the monologue she was in a frenzy she was 24 years old and her dad decided she needed to get married the problem is he was approaching her marriage search like a football coach go get the man quickly before you're too old and not appealing anymore this is exactly what she was saying she didn't believe in this approach and developed her own she since met someone with whom she's very happy and I'm going to describe a quote from her revised monologue to tell you a bit how she arrived where she is today stick to your values but don't be too picky choose the love that you want but not at the price of the using self-esteem be realistic but don't be cruel be idealistic but don't be a total dreamer we are social creatures so it is difficult not to be influenced by external pressures but ultimately we are individuals we have the ability to make our own decisions to listen to our minds and to heat our hearts and we must ladies and gentlemen that is balanced as defined by the left of your monologue thank you

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. Just like all these talks and shows it's always about the women. No one ever asks "what do men want". 50 years of modern feminism come home to roost and millions of men all over the world are just walking away.

  2. Why is this woman so goofy? Seriously. How can she expect people and especially men to take women's issues seriously with her attitude? There is ONE REASON why there are so many "Leftover Women." > FEMINISM.

  3. I don't understand something. She found a social problem, talk about it, showed how bad is gonna get, made a book out of it and a play, but, she helped none of those womens. I mean, literally she showed us that things are going to get worst for them but never cared to explain a way to fix the issue, only about her book and play.

    What is the purpose of this? to just make people feel pitty for a unchangable problem?

  4. Besides your terrible unprofessional speech skills you have lost the point of chinese marriages. Simply is something of the past in our cultures probably at our grate grandparents time. Wrongly your have the belief that your culture's best will solve the problem. Assume that I am from the future and there no marriages or fake double standard eniquality of the sexes should I find comic your my culture knows best? I suggest to let them involve and they do so very fast state your opinion and don't interfere or laugh at what seems to us unthinkable or wired to them the frustrations are real of their real lives and we are just spectators not symptom problem solvers. Their changes are certain but take time as other things change around them.

  5. How on earth is it a good thing? I though we were striving for equality, not for female supremacy. It seems that men are being disadvantaged in the education system according to this video. And why are all those surplus men not compatible because they are in poverty? How classist. How disgusting. Why isn't this video called "leftover men"? It seems to me that the men are leftover, not the women. And the only man you feature is a guy who "fucked up" even thought the leftover women will not date anyone poorer than themselves. How deeply sexist and hypocritical.

  6. Like Franziska Harbich said, the German term Frauenmangel simply means "lack of women" and refers to exactly that: not enough women for the men to get hitched to.
    For those left on the shelf, the spinsters, you could use the term "alte Jungfer". ;o)

  7. Men get carried away and forget how to care for our love. I do not know what women do.

    I feel torn for China. The modern things mangled their deeper feelings too.

    The wariness between men and women is grating for my age group (25-30). Herbivore men and leftover women do exist, but only personally. Makes me want to ride my bicycle.

  8. I never understood why anybody would want to get married in the first place.

    If you look at the few remaining matriarchal societies (mostly small tribes), marriage is not a thing for those people. They fall in love, of course, and they share the pleasures of the flesh, but what we call "polyamory" is the norm for them, relationships are much more casual, bisexuality is widespread, and nobody really cares about who might be the father of any baby, since every child is brought up by the entire village. There is no concept of "family", every child belongs to the mother first, and to the entire tribe next.

  9. If a woman doesn't get married because she chose education and pursuing a career over establishing a relationship, its her choice. It's not any man's fault. It's not patriarchy.
    If a woman doesn't get married because she's just not attractive. She was just unlucky and nature dealt her a bad hand. Blame God! IDK…
    If you're a woman, and you chose education and career over relationship, you're not attractive anymore and don't take care of yourself, and you're a feminist that blames the patriarch for all your problems, maybe you're just a bitch that no man would want anyway. It's a choice to be one of those kinds of women too. I truly think a lot of people, men and women alike are alone because they have some very unrealistic expectations of what a healthy relationship is supposed to look like. If you want a relationship, develop some redeeming qualities and work to make a relationship happen. But the key is you're gonna have to do some work! Quit blaming others for your problems!

  10. So, more women with a higher education and less attracted to having a spouse, might mean less children and maybe… the answer to overpopulation of our beautiful Earth? 😉

  11. Give me reproductive rights,unbiased family courts,Schools and Employment,or give me death!
    Female Own Group Preference,forbids Males,from receiving these rights and Briffault's Law is in full effect,as always.
    Enjoy the decline!

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