Unmarried Women Are Called 'Leftovers' in China: Viral Ad Combats That Sexist Message

Women in China are expected to marry by the time they’re about 27, or else they’re considered incomplete and a disappointment or embarrassment to their families. That sexist sentiment doesn’t just come in the form of insidious advertisements or those not-so-subtle hints from mom during the holidays (the way it often arrives here). In China, there's a special shaming term, “sheng nu,” designed to rub singledom in women’s faces. It literally translates to “leftover woman.”


Can we take a second to think about the social implications of that label? If you happen to be born with a vagina in China and haven’t tied the knot by the time society says you should, you’re told you’re a leftover. Little girls grow up hearing the term, likely fearing it might someday come to label them, too. Worse still, they grow up measuring their worth based on the way men respond to them. 

The Chinese skincare brand SK-II was fed up with this rotten sheng nu business and recently launched a commercial aimed to combat the idea that unmarried  women are incomplete.

The video, which has gone viral, begins with snapshots of parents explaining why they are ashamed of their unmarried daughters. One father says, "If she can't find the one, it will be heart disease for me.” The video hints at the way social pressures on women to marry young can spiral into women being discouraged to explore the world, focus on their careers or have their own adventures, rather than settling into a lifelong relationship before they’re even 30.

The story shifts when the parents in the video visit a matchmaking "marriage market" and read a bulletin full of messages from their daughters. The messages are self-affirmations, like one that states, "I don't want to get married just for the sake of marriage, I won’t be happy that way.” The parents appear moved and the video ends with a single woman who states, "I'm confident. I'm independent. I love life. I'm a pretty outstanding woman.”

Watch the video below:

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