Dissertation Abstracts

“LEFTOVER WOMEN” OR SINGLE BY CHOICE: Societal Perceptions and Individual Perspectives of Unmarried, Professional Women in Contemporary China

Author: Gui, Tianhan , tianhan.gui@ufl.edu
Department: Sociology, Criminology & Law
University: University of Florida, USA
Supervisor: Tanya Koropeckyj-Cox
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Leftover women , Gender , Marriage market , Contemporary China
Areas of Research: Women in Society

Abstract

During the last thirty years of reform and opening-up, China has experienced great social changes and rapid economic development. In this dramatic social transformation, women’s status has been significantly improved. In today’s Chinese society, we can see more and more well-educated, well-paid and independent career women, especially in China’s urban areas. However, due to deeply rooted, cultural expectations and ideals of gender, gender male chauvinism, many contemporary Chinese men still expect to marry women with a lower socioeconomic status than themselves. Within this context, single successful career women are facing a new kind of social judgment and discrimination; as traditional femininity has been associated with subordination and sacrifice, well-educated career women are perceived as less feminine and less like proper “women” or prospective wives. Career women who still remain single until their late twenties have been referred to within Chinese popular culture as “leftover women.”
The current research will explore how the notion of “leftover women” is socially constructed in contemporary China. The study will involve the integration of three approaches: content analysis of media portrayals of single professional women, field research on parent-organized matchmaking markets, and semi-structured interviews with single, professional women who may be considered as “leftover women.” The media content analysis will be used to examine the social constructions and perceptions of these “leftover women” in Chinese society. Field research will be used to investigate how parents see these women as well as their own roles as parents in seeking to influence or assist in marital matchmaking. Through in-depth interviews with single, professional women, I will examine whether these women are really “leftover” on the marriage market and how they perceive their independent, single life. I will explore how these women see themselves, their attitudes and preferences with regard to marriage, and their current and future lives.

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