Chinese Men and "Leftover Women" : How do Chinese Men Position Themselves in Relation to the Concept of Labelling Women as "Leftover"?

University essay from Högskolan Dalarna/Kinesiska

Abstract: In recent years there has been a resurgence of gender inequality in China. Today, women are pressured to get married by the state and their social surroundings, as they told if they remain unmarried and have the "three highs"; high age, education and salary, they will become leftovers on the marriage market. Previous research on the concept of labelling women as "leftover" has 4 shown that labelling women as "leftover" can have several different negative impacts. In this thesis, both the theory of masculine hegemony and the theory of symbolic interaction have been used. The concept creates a hegemonic masculinity as it is a normative practice that promotes the subordination of women. However, as the concept is based on the notion that all Chinese men, or at least those of relevant social standing, would find the "three highs" undesirable, it is relevant to see how Chinese men in fact do position themselves in relation to the hegemonic masculinity on an individual level. In symbolic interaction, the concept of gender is created through social construction when people attach special meanings to the sex of a person, a process which is called "doing gender". Therefore symbolic interaction is used to see what special meaning Chinese men attach to women having the "three highs" and masculine hegemony to put their answers into a larger context. If it could be shown that Chinese men do not comply with the hegemonic masculinity, Chinese women would not have to feel obliged to adjust to the hegemonic masculinity and thereby making it easier for them to pursue higher education, high paying jobs and marrying at a later age. However, as this thesis is a qualitative study, and therefore a limited number of data subjects, the generalizability of the result should not be exaggerated. The interviews that were conducted for this thesis showed that the data subjects were familiar with the concept and that they considered it to be natural for there to be women China labelled as "leftover". Nevertheless, in relation to their own marital choices, the data subjects did not attach the negative meaning as set out by the hegemonic masculinity, a result which to some extent was confirmed by the data subjects’ experiences and other control questions. The result is interesting, and enforces Connell and MesserSchmidt’s theory, that even though a hegemonic masculinity is normative, not everyone has to comply with it. As the cornerstone of the concept is that Chinese men find women with the "three highs" undesirable, the result of the study shows that there is a need for the concept to be further examined and questioned.

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