Qiu Hua Mei, a successful 34-year-old Beijing-based lawyer, is considered a “leftover women” — a cultural phenomenon in China referring to educated women in their late 20s and 30s who are not married.
The phrase “sheng nu” or “leftover women” came into popularity a few years prior to the end of the one-child policy — a policy from the Chinese government that prohibited families from having more than one child from 1980 to 2016.
Documentary filmmakers Shosh Shalm and Hilla Medalia wanted to highlight the pressure “leftover women” experience to get married and have children by following three women’s stories.
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By many people’s definitions of success, Qiu Hua Mei, 34, is a woman who has it all.
Working as a respected lawyer in Beijing, China, Hua Mei was the first in her village to get a formal university education and make it in a large metropolitan city.
But as a woman living in China in the wake of the one child policy — a law that prohibited families from having more than one child from 1980 to 2016 — Hua Mei faces a different kind of pressure.
For decades, in an attempt to limit population growth, the government encouraged women to ditch the idea of having big family — or even of having a family at all — marketing it as an opportunity for women to focus on their career instead of raising kids.
Now, with 30 million more men than women and an ageing population, the message has completely shifted.
“If you don’t get married, your happiness isn’t real,” Hua Mei’s mother said during a heated exchange between Hua Mei and the rest of her family during a visit back to her home village, captured in a new documentary, “Leftover Women,” which premiered this week on PBS.
According to the film’s directors, Shosh Shlam and Hila Medalia, Hua Mei is considered a “leftover woman” — a class of educated professional women in their late 20s and 30s who are not married.
Because the Chinese government fears an impending demographic time bomb — a phenomenon that occurs when a country’s life expectancy rate increases and overall fertility rate decreases — it is encouraging people to marry young and have at least two children.
Many of these efforts — including government-supported speed-dating events — put the burden on women to find a husband before they celebrate their 27th birthday, and there can be serious social repercussions when they don’t.
Shalm and Hila told Insider they wanted to bring attention to the stigma these unmarried women face and how it impacts their day to day lives throughout the course of the film. “Leftover Women” follows the stories of three “sheng nu” as they confront their families and social pressures in their dating lives — Hua Mei, Xu Min, 28, and Gai Qi, 36.
Women are invited to government-backed dating events in a bid to re-balance the population after the one-child policy ended
Some …read more
Source:: Business Insider