Where Being a Single Woman Is Not OK

Feb 11, 2020 · 428 comments
Solamente Una Voz (Marco Island, Florida)
Ms Qiu, Those who criticize you do not want what is best for you. They are miserable and want you to be miserable too. I am 65 and divorced for 45 years. Never sorry. I go and do what I want, where I want and when I want with no questions or explanations to anyone. I meet many others on the daily journey thru life. I am not alone and neither are you. You must plan ahead for elder care and invest wisely. All the rest is to be enjoyed now. Signed, Older and wiser
SGC (NYC)
Well, although America pretends to embrace singledom, women of a certain age are also considered "leftovers." Marriage rates are declining and singles remain so for longer periods of time. Thanksgiving conversations focus on politics sometimes, and "when is she going to find a husband," most of the time. Self-love reigns supreme!
Anna B (Westchester, New York)
I think her family is envious of her independence. Misery loves company.
CMR (Florida)
There’s a shortage of women in China due to sex selection abortion. If the Chinese government wants to address that imbalance, it’s simple - increase the status of women in Chinese society. It will encourage the birth of girls.
Cynthia (NYC)
Ah yes, the family pile-on, I know it well. You do have to scream to be heard. And yes, in a sort-of traditional family, if you're a single, intelligent, and independent, you will be designated as the problem, because you're not fulfilling your role as responsible sister/aunt/daughter, etc. Bad girl, baaaad! You will be labeled, in your independence, as 'selfish,' and 'only into yourself." To redeem yourself in your eyes, you have to bend to their manipulations, and even then, they'll continue to bully you because they can! Dear Qiu Huamei, You are beautiful, You're just fine. Don't give in an inch. Live your life for yourself, and I wish you happiness. I went through all that here, and came out on the other end, happy, independent, and in a relationship of my choosing. xoxo
FLT (NY)
Oh my god, this broke my heart. She's pretty and smart and has a good job and no one appreciates all she's accomplished. Her sister basically admits that just being married to be married is horrible. The US has its issues, but come here! (Or go to Scotland or Ireland or someplace better than the US!)
James R Dupak (New York, New York)
This interview is a reminder of how brutal the Chinese can be to each other. The lack of compassion that I have witnessed living in China is oftentimes less than what an animal deserves. There is a fine line between honesty and earthy bluntness and a lack of feeling; you are just one of so many so why bother with anything as demanding as empathy. There are very sound reasons to be kind to each other.
memosyne (Maine)
Legal slavery is pretty much gone from the world except for women. Marry a man you don't love and who doesn't really love you. Cook, clean, earn, and bear children for him. Oh, yes, and sex on demand too.
Not Married (NYC)
I can relate to this lovely, accomplished woman, and the undue pressure her government and society has put upon her. She may as well have a large S sewn onto her clothing. Why is a single woman’s relationship and marital status fair game? Over the years, I have had friends and family members frequently quiz me about my dating situation, fix me up with unsuitable men, and by their well-meaning looks, wonder what I had done wrong to be sentenced to a single life. This went on despite my successful business career that elevated me from lower middle class roots into a comfortable New York life. Marriage is often not a good deal for many women — I have seen this play out for female friends, colleagues and family members, including my mother.
Ge (Newtown)
This video was hard to watch. The woman who told her she was old and "not conventionally pretty." That woman should be shot for bad customer service, and the whole system should be changed for dated and misogynistic views. The man telling her he wants to be "dominant" in the relationship, and she's just sitting there like, "Can you believe this guy is really saying this?" And I just couldn't believe he was saying that. I felt sorry for her and sorry for myself since some Western guys still have these attitudes even if they say so more discreetly.
Connie (Canada)
It’s changing... I work in China and many of my late 20s/early 30s colleagues (from good families) aren’t married. They travel (3 even did a road trip Vancouver-Jasper and return last year), they have hobbies, they are dedicated to their professions and enjoy time with their friends. The pressure is there to marry - but some tell their parents, if you pressure me too much I’ll move away. It seems to have worked for many... that being said, I want at least one of them to get married so I can attend a wedding!
A Single Woman (San Francisco)
First off, love her. It hurts me to see her hurt so unnecessarily- especially since the guys are so not on her level. I started the full doc - it’s clear that getting married still has a lot to do with “security” and having family support as one ages. We don’t take care of our elders the same way - so the parents/sister may be thinking about the family more holistically (considering that care likely falls on the woman’s shoulders). I feel lucky to be able to make my own decisions (no family pressure; try to ignore society’s...it gets easier the older I get, I’m 35) but do worry about how I will live when I get older. Right now, I am happily, yes happily, single and not looking to marry anytime soon. Wish her all the best.
Amy Luna (Chicago)
2020 is the centennial of women's suffrage in the United States. This is exactly what life looked like for American women before the 70+ year suffrage campaign by fierce, independent women of all colors shamed men into realizing that women are people, too. Bless all women who fight male supremacy. There but for the grace of Goddess, go I.
Christine (Cedar Rapids, IA)
She is the same age as my daughter, who recently received her PhD and is working, not dating. She is still young & I hope she can eventually find a much better man than the ones in the video. IF she wants to. Way too much pressure on a very successful woman, way too soon!
NKB (Youngstown Ohio)
She is such a lovely and talented woman. Marriage and children are not guarantees for happiness or even care. I feel so badly that her skills and desires are secondary to her place as “obedient wife.” I hope her finds someone worthy of her - but only if that’s what she wants.
Daniel (Nebraska)
This woman is beautiful -- in her intelligence, her outward appearance, and in her convictions. It broke my heart to hear another woman degrading her, telling her she was unattractive. Infuriating! I agree with so many others who have commented here: come to the US; we would love to have you. We cannot promise you a world free from misogyny and stultifying tradition, but you stand a better chance of finding a supportive community. But, then again, I wonder: are women in the US really faring much better?
APFB ERMD (CA)
She is a gem and deserves much more than what her family & prospective suitors have to offer. The male chauvinist societies like China & Japan will continue to have plummeting fertility rates, with rapidly graying demographics, unless women are valued.
stoosher (Lansing Michigan)
Wow, that might be the most depressing story I have seen in a long, long time. A pretty woman with a wonderful smile, articulate, assertive, and a lawyer, so presumably making a good income, struggles to find a decent long term partner. In a society with millions more single men than women. She should be an incredible "catch". It points to a seriously disturbed government supported culture. Her family was beyond awful. 'Life is awful, so join us !'. Wow.
MsOD (SFO)
This was hard to watch and really felt for this woman. The anger and pressure from her family, the pressure to settle, is so strong. The family expectations are much heavier, but even here, women who stay single too long or don’t have children are considered either selfish or pathetic,regardless of their other accomplishments.
L. (Vermont)
I can personally relate to her experience as an educated, independent American woman who has never married. The pressures from family and friends are intense, especially during one's late 20s and 30s, and at times I wasn't sure I would survive watching one friend after another succumb to those pressures even when their relationships were far from satisfying. For me, the difficulty finding someone who genuinely felt like a compatible life-partner increasingly pushed me to the periphery of society, as so many social events still revolve around couples and families. That said, I've had opportunities for personal growth and the cultivation of hobbies and passions, and I live a peaceful, contented life most of the time. I treasure my solitude as well as my time with loved ones, and don't take kindness or love for granted. It's taken a long time for me to come to terms with being single, but now that I'm 50 I'd say it's turned out quite ok.
0rangeCat (Valley Forge, PA)
Seriously. Get the heck out of there. You can do better for yourself elsewhere. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t. Be yourself. Be true to yourself. Because if you aren’t, no else will be.
Rustamji Chicagowalla (New Delhi)
But the government has done such a good job briefing the world on the coronavirus! And Awkwafina did a whole movie telling Americans to respect Chinese culture. How can this be bad?
hammond (San Francisco)
I think it's hard for most Americans to understand the enormous importance of marriage and family in Chinese culture. For millennia your family was your first obligation, beyond yourself. Children were your only retirement plan. Qiu Huamei's family appears to live a rural farming life. I suspect they've marinated in the cultural narratives of marriage and children and family for as long as anyone can remember. And though I don't agree, I understand their concerns. Huamei is challenging them on several fronts: marriage, parenthood, and filial obedience. She has her own life, and they can't accept that. It's tragic, really. But not uncommon I suspect. And that matchmaker? She was just the messenger for a cruel culture, a spokesperson for the traditional masses. But China is hardly unique in its ability to inflict cruelty on women. I hope Huamei leaves. That culture will never change in any meaningful way in her lifetime. I've known many Chinese women in similar situations who emigrated to the US. Mostly, their lives blossomed.
sg (nj)
What a devastating and heartbreaking portrait, which will haunt me for a very long time. This young woman is bright and beautiful, accomplished and (otherwise) happy with her life. The result of her family ganging up on her to break her spirit and force her to conform with societal norms is evident from her tears. I wish she could come here or to Europe, where her confidence would be viewed as a desirable thing, professionally and personally. If you're reading this, Ms. Qiu -- LEAVE! Best wishes!!!
TechMaven (Iowa)
I've been happily single my whole life. The marriages I saw when growing up in the 50s and 60s - the wives were totally dominated by their husbands. They gave up a huge part of their autonomy when they married. They became housekeepers, helpers. I concluded that when a woman marries, her life is over. I did not want that for myself. Now even though women have careers and lives of accomplishment and achievement, most of my married friends do the majority of the household and parenting chores and often defer to their husbands in decisions. I rarely see equality in the partnerships. Even outside of marriage, men in all sorts of contexts expect women to be their helpers. Although most of my friends consider themselves happily married and love their husbands, there's resentment at the second class treatment. There's also loss of respect for the husbands who behave like children unwilling to do their fair share at home. They act like selfish, bad roommates. It damages the relationships. It breaks my heart to see Qiu Huamei, a beautiful, smart and capable woman, being pressured about marriage. And it's very sad that so many men are still incapable or unwilling to be full partners, fully responsible humans.
skshrews (NE)
Most Americans have no idea how chauvinist Asia is. When it comes to inheriting the parent's business, wealth, real-estate, daughters are often not even mentioned. When they are married they "leave" their birth family.
Jmart (DC)
Leaving the birth family is an idea left over from when towns and villages were mostly organized by clans. In order to marry outside the clan (and avoid incest), you had to leave the village. There is a ceremony still practiced in some rural areas where the bride's family makes the "journey" to meet her new family and hand her over. At one time, this meant she would likely not see her birth family again. It's kind of sad and romantic to think about. Anyway, I would love to see a comparison of how an urban-based family (ones where the woman was born in a major city) deals with this situation. I'm guessing the parents would feel the same but be much more polite about it?
A (Vermont)
That beautiful lawyer needs a husband like a fish needs a bicycle.
RCJCHC (Corvallis OR)
All China needs to do is start a campaign encouraging single males to be better at doing housework, taking care of children, doing laundry and cooking. Voilà, you will have women interested.
Dean (NH)
@RCJCHC i agree wholeheartedly!
Jmart (DC)
Right. The quality of her suitors seems very poor. And I mean their personalities and mentalities. She's better than that.
Sharon (CT)
She's intelligent, hard-working, accomplished, and beautiful, despite what that other woman tells her. She should come to the US or another more progressive country where she can be treated and valued how she deserves to be. I couldn't believe how those boys could say straight to another human's face "I want to be dominant over you. I will make all the decisions. You don't have to "worry" about thinking."
Quakertowncooper (Quakertown PA)
Is there any way we support her?
Jody (Maine)
This pressure exists in the U.S., and I am surprised so many Americans in this comment section are acting as though it doesn't. There is a very strong message in the U.S. that single women are deeply problematic: careerist, selfish, man-hating, entitled, the list goes on.
Sophia (California)
@Jody : exactly, I am a 48 years old (almost 49) Indian immigrant who has experienced the same pressures and inability to find a good partner. Its true for women worldwide and even in developed countries.
Jmart (DC)
The pressure exists, but not to the same degree. In the US, I've never seen government sponsored advertisements telling you to get married and have kids or else you're not contributing to society. I've also never heard of parents yelling at their daughters until they cry, because they're still single. The pressure here is more like "so, when can we expect a grandchild?" or "So and so's son is a doctor. You should meet him." Or maybe you notice more of your friends are getting married and you feel left out. Perhaps, situations like the one in this video do occur in America, but it wouldn't be the norm or the average.
Trista (California)
The sight of this innocent gal crying just broke my heart. What has she done to earn such opprobrium and pain? My daughter is 40 and unmarried. I do everything I can to make her feel worthwhile. But the sight of her friends with their kids and double incomes is a bummer for her. She is a beautiful girl who hasn't met the right guy, I guess. I met the "right guy," at 22, and he is now on his fourth wife. I didn't remarry either; the offers I got were unsupportable. But the financial hardship is a definite factor. One of my best girlfriends married a man who beat her with his fists, the way he would another man. But she hung on. Now they are approaching 70 and are very well off and seem to be at peace. Of course she'll never tell me the truth. When it works, it's great, hearts and flowers. But when you find yourself stuck in an abusive or unfaithful relationship, which happens so often, it would be better to be single.
hammond (San Francisco)
Sometime in early adulthood I began to notice how often women get blamed for the failures of cultural institutions: marriage, the nuclear family, child welfare, workplace harmony. For a gender that historically has been considered to be less powerful and capable, we sure do hold women to an unmercifully high level of responsibility.
Patrick (Nyc)
The sad thing is, this beautiful girl would have men tripping all over themselves to date her, here in New York. Come to NY! forget all those crazy people! Be happy! married or not! Jesus.., family sometimes is the real ball and chain. "I want to be the dominant in the relationship" said one of her dates..Wow, I am not even a feminists fan or a metoo fan but that's outrageous. I thought, I was not progressive enough, jeez!
Cali (California)
My family treats me in a similar way. Someone mentioned that Ms. Qiu is now in Germany. Good for her! When I was younger, the constant criticism affected me much more than it does now. In Germany she should be able to use her education and intelligence to make a better life, free of such toxic influences.
Maloyo56 (NYC)
I commented on one of the comments to this video this morning at work, but I couldn't watch it there. I'm home now and just watched. This is heartbreaking, but she is between a rock and a hard place.
kerri (lala land)
Really, it looks like all the old married women are jealous of her. She's beautiful, smart and makes her own money. Misery loves company. I hope she stays single and happy.
Dean (NH)
@kerri maybe not jealous , just wholly concerned. Families are tight in asian culture. uneducated poor women dont know any better, because they dont the struggle of an educated woman. But they do look out for each other even if it an extended family , something that you wouldn’t find in a materialistic and a selfish western culture where a millionaire brother would not spend a penny in his poorer sibling. That is a cultural difference that western people dont get.
Beyond Repair (NYC)
Lordie! My radar tells me she's not the typical case over there. She definitively shouldn't get married. Not to a man at least... And who would want any of those chauvinists losers they showed on here? Not if you have the skills to support yourself and are in you right mind! Stay single. Date if you find a person that sparks you interest. Build your career and save for your future (you may indeed have to master your old age by yourself). Norms may develop and change in the next twenty years in China. Things are moving fast there. And who knows, maybe in 30 years the family will be glad that their old spinster auntie went to the city, built a career, and made some money, while they had stayed put in the sticks, made children, lived hand to mouth, and drowned their misery in rice wine. Enjoy life, smart woman! Look at some old photos of the young Audrey Hepburn. You remotely remind me of her.
JEB (SF Bay Area)
It was hard to see the look of anguish and pain on the face of Qiu Huamei when she was told she was not beautiful and would not find a mate; the pain when she realized her parents did not value her for the educated and successful woman she had become as they expected her to raise children; the anger when her sister insisted a loveless marriage and joyless child raising was to be expected. I celebrated the strength and her resolve she showed when prospects told her they expected her to be subservient and/or obedient. If she were in the USA or Europe or other countries, this educated and beautiful woman could lead the life that she aspires too and without the expectations that having a family and children are required, regardless of wanting love, equality and joy in a marriage. I hope she finds what she is looking for, solace and acceptance.
Darin (Portland, OR)
While it's certainly unfortunate that women are treated so badly in China in the context of respect for their intelligence and accomplishments, the deeply societal issue (worldwide) is that educated career-women become more like men who are educated and career-driven. They don't get married, and worse, they don't want a lot of children. Personal freedom is great and all, but China is going to have a population crash if they don't get their birth-rate up and I mean NOW. If things continue on this way either China has to start importing foreigners to marry and have babies with their people or there's and/or there's going to be a generation with no children who are cared for by robots as they die alone. The United States isn't far behind but fortunately up-to-now the problem has been kept at bay with LOTS of immigrants who have kids. With recent crackdowns on illegal immigration to the United States the birth-rate in the U.S. has become FAR more precarious.
SouthernstarBrit (Sydney)
Actually...maybe the trick is to make it easier for women to have access to affordable childcare and support and for a lot of men (not all - I admit) to be equal in carrying the family burden. Then guess what? Educated women might start having more kids.....
Oli Maria (Honolulu)
The planet could use less population, don’t you think? Rather than to worry about underpopulation in developed countries we might want to encourage less populating all around.
Texas Tabby (Dallas, TX)
I don't feel that far removed from these women. While there's no government campaign (yet) to pressure me to marry, my family put tremendous pressure on me to "get a man." It doesn't matter that I'm a successful science and technology writer who put myself through college and supported myself for 30 years. All that matters is that I, as my aunt put it, "ain't got no husband, no babies." There are probably thousands of American women who are also dealing with antiquated views of their roles.
RS (Mass)
Qui Huamei, you're beautiful, smart and strong!! i'm so sorry you are faced with criticism, unfair expectations, and probably resentment. You're also very young!! i wish you the very very best in life, which you wholly deserve!!!!! <3
Stephanie Hubbard (Los Angeles)
I feel so badly for her, being shamed and put down at every turn. She is so smart and attractive I hope she moves here to Los Angeles and finds a great partner! (I hope I find one too... and in the meantime I’m grateful not to be hounded, and gaslit by my own family)
KBronson (Louisiana)
This is socialism. The individual doesn’t matter except in service to the common good. The authorities are there to make that decision for the good of all.
Wharf Rat (NYC)
Incorrect. This is an example of the difference between a “Western” version of human rights, which focuses on individual rights, and the “Eastern” conception has f human rights which focuses on the commonweal over the individual.
Texas Tabby (Dallas, TX)
@KBronson This from someone in a state that until recently had no minimum age for getting married.
Bill P. (Albany, CA)
@KBronson Give us a break.
vbering (Pullman WA)
Huge woman shortage in China. Some men there have resorted to essentially stealing women from neighboring countries. Unhappily single men are bad for society and for the men themselves. I know. I used to be one. Getting married might be worse for these women (they're single for a reason, after all) but fewer single men is better for society has a whole in the short run. Single men fight, drink, commit crimes. In the longer run more marriage might be worse because of more children and worsened population pressure.
Barton (Minneapolis)
@vbering So... women should suffer because men suck? m'kay....
Maloyo56 (NYC)
@vbering Learn how to act and stop expecting to be rescued from yourselves.
Texas Tabby (Dallas, TX)
@vbering Um, my current significant other was a single man for about 8 years after his divorce. He didn't fight or commit crimes, and except for an occasional glass of wine at dinner, didn't drink. He worked. He volunteered for animal rights groups and food banks. He built homes with Habitat for Humanity. If single men can't find something better to do with their time than drink and fight, maybe they aren't worth marrying. (And BTW, my SO still volunteers every weekend.)
Karen (USA)
Come to the US! We will welcome you with open arms! You are not "left over", and you will be greatly valued!
Beyond Repair (NYC)
Yeah, right!!! When was the last time you checked US immigration requirements and procedures? Back in 2016???
Erica Smythe (Minnesota)
Nothing wrong with Social Index Scores to force residents of cities, states and countries to adhere to a doctrine that is for the common good. We should try it in Minneapolis. They already have a Nationalist Socialist City Council and Mayor yet have 50% of kids entering 9th grade every graduate from high school with grades that would put them at level with their peers. In other words, they just loewred the standards to push 20% more of the kids out into society without an ability to read or write. Putting these heavy handed government policies in the hands of central planners could be the solution to crime and homelessness and poor academic performance. If Beijing can do it and get tremendous results, why not Minneapolis? I'm with Tom Friedman on this one.
Beyond Repair (NYC)
The only difference is: China educats their kids. They are graduating in record numbers and are flooding universities worldwide. Not exactly the outcome here in the US... So it's not Chinese-style socialism that's at fault, but rather the lack thereof...
Anne Hajduk (Fairfax Va)
And China--in fact, the entire planet--does not need more people. These women merit praise, not derision.
Bryce (Syracuse)
What a lovely person. What stupid traditions!
Tom McVeigh (Concord CA)
The campaign is fairly new, hardly a tradition.
Snowball (Manor Farm)
Come to America to study for an LL.M. or advanced legal degree. I am sure that a bright, funny, secular Jewish guy is just waiting to meet you and marry you. You can raise bilingual American children in the best country for women in the world. Hopefully you can have a bunch of daughters.
Kiska (Alaska)
@Snowball America is far from being the best country for women in the world.
Beyond Repair (NYC)
Yeah sure. I can totally there father bankroll her 4 years at Harvard @ 100k a pop...
Wanglu60 (San Francisco)
The Confucius based cultural has always thought women should marry, take care of the parents, husband and family. Even in these “modern times” these cultural norms still prevail. I saw the PBS special last night and I felt for her. She is from the same province both my parents are from. If she lived in America like me she would not have to face the societal pressures that she’s going through. You go girl! Be strong! I’m rooting for you.
Just Ben (Rosarito, Baja California, Mexico)
This is shocking and disturbing. High praise to the New York Times and the filmmakers for this eye-opening film. You learn a great deal about China from watching--and what you learn isnt good. First of all, has everyone who appears in the film lost sight of the starting point: That there are far more women than men? That means that some of them won't marry, no matter what. Duh! So maybe her single status has nothing to do with her herself. Regardless, the attitudes portrayed in the film are appalling. The interviewer is presumptuous and insulting, does not perhaps even understand the purpose of an interview. But the family members are no better. They seem to think that her only purpose is to give them what they want. Her father acts as though he deserves payback for having raised her. Is a family nothing more than a transaction group? How much of the scholding that her female relatives give her is motivated by jealousy of her freedom? i wish that she was strong enough to brush off what they say to her, but the cultural mores have penetrated her consciousness as well, even though she is independent. Say whatever you want about the shortcomings and contradictions of Western culture--would you trade it, for this?
0rangeCat (Valley Forge, PA)
Sometimes you just have to move in another direction from your family and/or friends. It’s a tough decision and sticking with it takes all kinds of guts you may have never known you had but in the end you have to take care of yourself.
Joyce Sciusco (Cary, NC)
No, there are far more men than women. Boys were wanted by parents;girls were disproportionately put up for overseas adoption or aborted.
Laura (Collrado)
A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. - Irina Dunn
KR (CA)
Well this is China what do you expect.
Matt (VA)
That poor woman. The way those people were talking to her is inexcusable.
K.Walker (Hampton Roads, Va)
Believe it or not...Single men of a certain age have a similar problem. Perhaps not to the extent that women have but the same pressure to marry does exist. A man who is not married by 40 is classified as either 1) a player...2) a loser....or 3) gay. Most families are not being mean...they just want their son or daughter to find someone special and experience marital love and happiness. A nice career and freedom are great when your young...but when your 70...not so much. Growing old all alone is a fate that you do not want yo wish on anyone. Don't hold out for a soulmate...perfection doesn't exist. Find someone before it's too late.
GFE (New York)
That woman interviewing her in the opening was dreadful. Bluntly stupid and totally unaware of it. Qiu Huamei would be so much happier in America. That said, if the Christian Taliban, including Willam Barr, Pat Cipollone, Mike Pompeo and their army of militant authoritarian religionists in the Trump cult have their way, our own country will be a lot more like China than the America we grew up in. We shouldn't focus exclusively on what's wrong with China to the exclusion of what's going wrong right here.
Andre (Vancouver)
Brilliant!
Lily (Brooklyn)
Single women with children are a primary target for pedophiles. If you ask most knowledgeable lawyers, in private, they will tell you that once you have a kid, you should put your dating desires aside until the child is an adult. Sorry, no one likes to hear the truth.
Robin (New Zealand)
Isn't patriarchy amazing?! First, it organises a system where nearly half the population (the female half) is destroyed, then when the limited pool of baby makers/slaves chooses to not buy into the system, they are castigated for not submitting. And as this opdoc clearly shows, everyone (slaves and masters) is so brainwashed they can't see how everyone has been diminished. I think this strong woman would be happy to get married if she could find someone who would actually see and value her as a complete human being, not as a piece of some man's puzzle to complete his life.
Oriflamme (upstate NY)
I fervently hope Ms. Qiu reads these comments and takes encouragement that the medieval, coercive patriarchy of her society is just that. She has a right to live her own life as a professional, contributing member of society. How DARE anyone try to tell her otherwise!
Elizabeth (Cincinnati)
Being a single man in China may well be even harder. There are more men than women. To marry, a rural family must provide land, a house, and other forms of financial support to their son to attract a prospective spouse. The same applies to males living in the cities.
Chris (Knoxville)
I think this women is attractive and physically fit. She seems thoughtful and didn't rise to the "bait" from the reporter. It is time for this woman to leave China and go the US or Canada. I think she would be a very attractive mate to men who are more egalitarian. Also, if she had children, which is not a requirement, I feel she would be a sensitive, caring mother.
Sarah Verneuille (Suffolk County)
So sad seeing this accomplished young woman crying and trying to defend herself as her family berates her. Imagine becoming a lawyer and your family and society are so dissatisfied with you. Very sad. She is a lawyer and a man wants to be the dominant one in the relationship. It is the cultural and societal expectations that are so impossible to live up to, as if some man is doing you a great favor.
Daniel Kauffman (Fairfax, VA)
I think the term “leftover” is as misguided for all the malice and angst it might cause, as it is potentially useful for demographic purposes in support of understanding the needs of a population. Good reasons to marry? A bad label isn’t one.
HoneyBee (America)
OK. That's a problem for China, not the US. Are we supposed to get a petition together, or a bake sale, or make really mad faces and force China's problem to disappear?
Ambrose (Nelson, Canada)
I've just been reading some Jane Austen novels, where being an "old maid" was regarded with considerable anxiety. But that was over 200 years ago. China, you haven't come a long way, baby.
Kay (Melbourne)
This is horrifying because it’s extreme and driven by the social consequences of the one-child policy and subsequent shortage of girls. But, it’s hard being a single educated woman in the West too. The difference is one of degree, rather than kind. Western women are still valued for their bodies far more than their accomplishments and the social world is still built for two. When I was a young single career woman (only 15-20 years ago) I was constantly asked “still single? Still studying?” Did I have a boyfriend yet?” and reminded about the biological clock that was ticking and “when was I going to get married?” I certainly got the message that no matter my achievements I was incomplete without a man. It was also lonely. You get less invitations because your friends are busy with their boyfriends and husbands. You are “spare.” Going out on your own at night is difficult. You’re constantly trying plan how to get home safely without being left walking the dark streets or public transport on your own, or driving in your car without being harassed. As soon as you’ve got a partner, that problem’s solved, you suddenly have a bodyguard.
Wanglu60 (San Francisco)
Oh so true! I love being a singleton old maid!
Elex Tenney (Beaverton Oregon)
As an attractive, intelligent, independent woman she is welcome in America. Come on over and be yourself!
Nicole (Thornton, colorado)
How sad it is that when a trapped woman goes searching to fit into another mold, to make others feel more secure, the woman who is there to help her tells her she is ugly and puts her in yet another box. I'm supposed to say that I appreciate our culture in America for being more free of boxes. I'm not 100% sold on it though yet. It's better but we have a lot of work yet as women to move forward TOGETHER. Qiu, don't settle. It's my best advice and your biggest voice.
dga (rocky coast)
My gosh. That woman is gorgeous, thoughtful, and intelligent. What is wrong with men? It's as if women continue to evolve as a species and men do not. It's like a worldwide phenomenon and happening here in the U.S. as well. I wonder if hetero men will die out and be replaced by something else.
Laume (Chicago)
Did you consider the possibility she wasn’t interested in them?!
boji3 (new york)
China needs more births after the one child policy fiasco. This seems to be a reaction to that.
Dean (NH)
@boji3 give the planet a break, it doesn’t need more humans.
Ludovico (Canada)
The reality is that while she may be productive she is not reproductive. And China is aware of the demographic winter that awaits if they don't make more babies. Women can do what men can not, make babies. So for her to imitate what any man can do and not what only a woman can do is suicidal for the whole society. You have to see the big pig picture. The reality is that those who make the most babies will win.
Dr. M (SanFrancisco)
@Ludovico Huh??? If they want women to want marriage, the problem to fix is the male attitudes, sexism and discrimination and lack of discrimination in jobs.
Kris (Bellevue, WA)
Being single is much better than being in a bad marriage. Look at America’s divorce statistics; half don’t work out.
SW (Sherman Oaks)
Well since the governments in both the US and China see women as brood mares, they need her to get on with buying into the system that reduces women to the status of brood mare- get married to your captor. If women don’t willingly participate, we will force them to have children-no abortion, no matter how impregnated. We see no need to consider life or lifestyle-like a hog or cow on our factory farms- no need to be consider anything so long as they stay healthy for reproduction. It is time to end these abuses of our animals and accept that women are something other than broodmares...(not to ignore, we have enough people).
Maureen (New York)
This made me sad first and then angry! First the marriage broker - she only gets paid when a marriage happens, so she is tearing Qiu Huamei apart so that she ca be manipulated. Qui, ignore this manipulative fool! Parents and the sisters are more of a challenge - but remember, they, too are manipulating (and they are not doing this “for your own good”, either. Could Qiu explore employment outside of China? Canada could be a good option or employment in a law firm that has clients in China. If that family sees Qiu is serious about leaving, they might cease their badgering - if not Qiu would be far better off leaving them to stew in their own misery. Canada, Australia, the UK and the US. Qiu is young, healthy and educated.
Earth Citizen (Earth)
Yup. That experience applies in the USA as well. Men want a sex object, an incubator and a maid no matter how intelligent and talented and educated a woman is. And far too many men want a punching bag as well. Been there done that and feel grateful for my age (70) and my non-marital status.
Carol (Atlanta)
Ms. Qiu Huamei, my message to you: Be strong and don't let anyone tell you what to do with your life. It's your life, your decision. You are the one who has to live your life--you should not live it for your parents, your sisters, your government, or a husband. Find other women in support groups that want to remain single. Have a family of friends to support you in your decision. If you think you want to marry, keep looking until you find someone that you like, who values you for who you are, who will be your partner in life, 50-50, not your dominant. If your family continues to make you unhappy with their demands, then may be best to not see them very often until they learn to respect you more. I am 55 years old, never married, living in Atlanta. Like you, I am independent and have my own career and have single friends. I am so happy to not have married. I have many friends around my age who never married, don't have any kids. It is becoming more normal around the world and accepted. If you can't have the kind of life you want where you are, then move to a place that has more respect for women's choices. You don't have to be miserable and certainly don't settle for anything less than what will make you happy! Good luck, best wishes!
Joseph John Amato (NYC)
February 11 2020 Being the best person you can be is all. Then becoming a parent is the greatest gift of life that is shared with the lifetime. Then all is well and anything not so, or considered less is doctrinal obsessive possessiveness that is a waste of time. For the river of time and space and loving is one word, magic and more so should one / both parents live to achieve the primary joy of living right, true, and for all times.
Krystle.Klear (Albany, NY)
The film on Independent Lens was amazing, and sad and triumphant both. Yes, we don't know why the woman featured who became a lawyer was perhaps the main child who got an education and moved to a cosmopolitan city. I can say,her father honored her at the end when she makes a radical decision. Life in the village looked hard and impoverished, but surrounded by family. Life in the City was independent and free, and more isolating, with pressure for marriage. Both have plusses and minuses, and we Americans can't begin to understand a different and complex culture and should not judge it.
Adele (Montreal)
This isn't just China. Men in North America want to be dominant in their relationships too. It's so weird. One works hard for accomplishments - a career, independence, success. And since these are the things we value, these are the things we look for in men. But men do NOT value these qualities in women. Even though it's obvious that an intelligent, resourceful partner would be an asset. As a result of this, there are now many more single women than there used to be. If the choice is to pretend to be less than you are so that you don't threaten a man's masculinity, or to prioritize his life before yours, why wouldn't women choose to remain single? It's a better life. It's hard to respect men who think women should be less than they are in order to romantic prospects. It's far more fulfilling to remain single than to submit to men like this.
Fascist-Fighter (Texas)
Wow, talk about sexist. Your generalization about all men is the definition of discrimination.
James (WA)
@Adele Not all men want to be "dominant". Certainly not in the way the one guy in the video was saying, where he researches electronics and women should have no opinion, just tell him want they need. He was ridiculous. I'd rather look into the electronics a bit and then balance ideas off my wife so that I make the best purchase. To be clear, WOMEN want men to be dominant. When I go on dates and try to get the woman to collaborate on planning the date, the woman just acts weird. WOMEN value career accomplishments in both themselves and men. And when women act interested in my career accomplishments, I find it a massive turn off because they aren't being interested in me as a person. I prioritize my life because I have a job. Men are required by society to have jobs. Most workplaces, even progressive ones, still operate as if men have a housewife. Maybe you are single because you just don't like or understand men. I read a lot about you you you. How you don't want to be less than you are. But I read nothing about what it's like for the man or what you will sacrifice to make a relationship work. You sound like you'd mainly be a liability rather than an asset as a partner.
Moni (Cedarburg)
Wow James, you sound like a minefield. Women taking an interest in your accomplishments is a turn off because that doesn’t say anything about who you are as a person? Talking about theirs is “you, you, you.” Then all your comments to Adele? You just make the easy “I’d ask my wife’s opinion on electronic purchases I’d research” statement. Duh? There’s a Progressive ad in your post somewhere.
Lisa (Evansville, In)
She seemed attractive and charming when at the office, and how she stood up for herself in front of the marriage broker (hey, she's a lawyer); however, when on a date, it all fell apart and her awkward body language, eating manners all suggested she didn't fit, there, but as Daniyal pointed out, her strength and beauty would be a good fit here.
Bobb (San Fran)
This cannot be, as the culture prizes male children over girls, one would think the shortage of girls makes them more valued. I think maybe male pride. Marry a woman who is more successful than him? that maybe the real reason.
NH (Boston, ma)
The sad thing is that she probably would like to find a partner but one that is like-minded and not a chauvinist. She may have to try looking outside the culture. I am of a Russian background and got much grief from family for not having a child until 37 (even though I got married according to their desired timeline). I never considered marrying inside my culture and background because of the chauvinism. Many of my friends of similar background have experienced the same thing. Ignore your family. They do not understand your new life and this is all they know. Visit them on the holidays and try to be kind, but do your own thing.
John Bockman (Tokyo, Japan)
Here in Japan, which has its own maybe much worse depopulation problem, there used to be a similar mindset. A 25-year-old woman was often referred to as a "Christmas cake", right on the consume-by date. I used to teach at an engineering and shipbuilding company where it was the practice that if two men were up for promotion for section or division chief and one was single, the married man would be chosen even if he wasn't as qualified. But in spite of this, there were still too many singles who were quite snug in their cocoons, so to draw them out, skiing trips were organized where there had to be an equal number of male and female participants. I don't know if this was in any way effective because office romance was also frowned upon, so if a couple did marry, the bride was expected to quit. The office lady in our department kept her marriage secret and if she ever saw her husband in a hallway, she had to pass him by like a complete stranger. I guess the company had to stop meddling because of its two-faced attitude. That was over 30 years ago, so I don't know how the situation stands now. Generally, it seems Japanese society is resigned to withering on the vine, and as much as they don't like it, the number of foreign laborers was raised to 500,000, but that still seems like a drop in the bucket. Some people say a million more are necessary to keep the economy from slipping to fourth or even fifth place.
MomofEggAllergicChild (NH)
Heartbreaking - tragic. She is a successful lawyer who supports and cares for herself. The eastern societal norms of a woman has no value unless she is married and popping out babies is antiquated and needs to become history. As the mother of two successful single daughters all I want for them is their well-being and happiness. If that includes a spouse that's wonderful. If not, that's wonderful too. BUT I take issue with the text accompanying this article. The text states that Ms. Qiu's FLAW is she is not married. Not being married IS NOT A FLAW. I'm appalled that any western publication would make this statement.
Andy (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Western cultures have a derogatory term for the same thing: Spinster. The male equivalent is much more polite. "Confirmed bachelor." Anyway, I feel worse for the people who want to marry but find themselves habitually spurned. There are few things more tragic than an aging adult who desperately wants love but can't find it. If you have other things going on, consider yourself lucky. Also, relationships are hard work. A committed relationship is a learned skill. I started at 12 or 13. There were a lot of failures before I got things even close to right. As an independent working adult, I can't imagine beginning the process at 27. You're going to work a full-time job AND incorporate another human being into 10 or 20 years of established behavioral patterns? Good luck. I'd rather just be left alone. Get a cat or a plant or something.
Peter I Berman (Norwalk, CT)
Astonishing and painful to watch. But lets remember China has been a coherent well organized nation for 5,000 years with traditions thousands of years old. And not a copy of western democracies and social norms. Those expecting China to become another western styled democracy with conventional norms will be hugely disappointed. China is all about family and service. Not securing individual success and originality. Lets remember all Chinese students learn to read, speak and write English fluently. And China’s public school system outshines every other nation. Duty to the state, family, extended family, village, etc. overshadows all personal ambitions. In another decade or two China will be recognized as the world’s largest and most dynamic economy. Best we learn their language.
lilmissy (indianapolis)
@Peter I Berman cite sources for your claims that their school system is superior. I don't believe it.
akamai (New York)
@Peter I Berman Mr. Xi thanks you.
chrisnyc (NYC)
I am a first generation American single woman in her late forties. A couple years ago I went to a family wedding alone. I danced the entire time and had a lot of fun. When I took a break from the dance floor, my mother made a comment like I was embarrassing myself by dancing so much. My aunt, while clutching the arm of her 90-year old husband, told me I had "no luck". Really? I was having the most fun out of anybody there and felt great in my high heels and body-hugging size 2 dress. It didn't bother me in the slightest that I was there alone (and have no children). Maybe I have the best luck of all?
lateotw (NJ)
Let's not forget this women's background -- coming from a village several hours away from Beijing, that's exactly the kind of upbringing associated with this kind of attitude towards women. I'm from a large city in China and happily single in my late 30's, all of my cousins -- male or female, single, married or divorced, gay or straight, have mostly been living our lives free from this type of toxic social judgement. China is a big country just like America, some parts are very progressive but it also has its own rust belts, mid west and down south. That been said, I'm strictly speaking from a social context, politics is an entirely different story. The totalitarian government is a very sad truth no matter which part of China you live in. And I imagine that's what this article is really about.
michael osadchuk (ontario, canada)
In the second paragraph of the article there is a hyperlink - 'leftover women' - thru which you can access the full length documentary that includes the stories of two other women. (not accessible outside the U.S. however) I think Ms. Qiu will persevere ….. the t-shirt she wore during her meeting with her family was great. The snippet of the documentary shown via NYT would certainly be a great trigger for discussion in most societies, including ones which are more progressive than China apparently is on gender issues.
MrMortensen (France)
It was really hard to watch. I’m happy to see from her LinkedIn profile, she has moved to Germany. She has a law firm with a partner and offices in Munich and Beijing. That’s the life she deserves.
Erin Barnes (North Carolina)
I am from Louisiana. Many still marry out of high school and the majority of the rest out of college. While of course it is no where near this level, the societal pressures to marry in the South and to do it young are VERY alive and well.
Mari (Left Coast)
Yes, in Utah and Idaho, also.
Carrie (US)
This government policy is horrifying. But I can tell you, as a single woman in her 40s, doing a PhD in philosophy, loving living alone on my own terms ever since I broke up with my fiancé 20 years ago, that there are lots of ways that women here also face scrutiny and shame for not being, as my uncouth cousin once told me, "scooped up". From my parents' well-meaning friends who remind me that "it is nice to have a friend... do YOU have a friend?" by which is meant am I making progress on the hunt for a husband, to shaming books about how to treat dating like job hunting... we find ways to make being a single woman humiliating - an indication that we are not living our lives right, that we are too obstinate, too uncompromising. "I just don't get it... you seem so..." as they search you to figure out why you are unwanted goods. But, apart from that annoying social pressure, I tell you, I absolutely love the independence and freedom of living my life my own way.
Stella (Edinburgh)
I am so thankful to live in the U.K. , where choosing to be single and not having children is acceptable. Such a poignant short film
Godzilla De Tukwila (Lafayette)
It seems many Chinese men are stupid. She's attractive, athletic, well educated, independent and seems like a pretty nice person. I don't blame her for not wanting a guy who will want to lord it over her. She's the kind of woman that I sought out and married. I wish her luck. There must be some guy out there for her.
t bo (new york)
A wonderful and moving documentary - much recommended. However, when one views all the personal interactions, it is clear that the pressure on these single women are mainly from their families and friends. The government campaign played a relatively minor role. There is a long tradition of emphasis on family in Chinese culture - this is entirely consistent with its long agrarian past. Thus, the grandparents wants to see grand children. The propagation of a family lineage is a strong priority traditionally and the children feel an obligation to the extended family. So a offspring who decides to not have children is considered a great disappointment. In this context, Ms. Qiu's sisters' comments are understandable even it they seems harsh from the perspective of a nuclear family culture. Meanwhile, patriarchy is not dead by a long stretch, though much diminished. Most illuminate is one conversation with Ms. Qiu where her date commented that "50/50 would be ok. BUT I'd prefer it if I could be 50+ and the wive 50-"
SMcStormy (MN)
What it comes down to is several things. First, across the world, women are tired of being, at best, 2nd class citizens and at worse, slaves. You can’t denigrate and marginalize the roles women play in society as raising children, teaching, community building, (along with other caretaking such as elderly parents), and expect generation after generation of women to continue to sign up for it. Men whose successes in their careers were directly positively and profoundly affected by their spouse’s work, divorce the wife their own age and get a younger one? Frequently stiffing the old wife without alimony or child support? And again, they expect that generation after generation of women will continue to sign up for this?! And after doing this for centuries, the men are complaining that women don’t want to do this anymore? Men have only themselves to blame. Treat these wives, these mommies, soccer moms and teachers as queens to be worshipped, afford them substantial honor and respect, have laws that guarantee them a comfortable life in their dotage no matter what and perhaps you can get more women interested. Not to mention, my single het female friends talk about the dearth of men of quality, who are courteous, who aren’t sitting around on the first date talking about how great Trump is (given he can grab women in the crotch with impunity)…. Not a lot of 2nd dates with these so-called men. Can you blame women for not being interested? .
Zamboanga (Seattle)
After reading your comment can you blame men for not being interested? Why even start if you’re prejudged.
berman (Orlando)
@SMcStormy Thank you!
William (San Diego)
So, China's one child policy is finally working. We have just over 7.5 billion people on the planet, we are expected to grow to 9.8 billion by 2050. My four-score and seven are just about done, I won't see a world with nearly 10 billion people but, my children (child) and grandchildren will see it and try to live in it. With advancements in AI reducing jobs at an already spectacular rate, how are theses 2.3 billion additional people going to make a living. perhaps Wells was right and we'll go with the Eloi and Morlocks solution. Or, a more recent visage might be Soilent Green which is scheduled to be available in 2022.
Victoria Harmon (New York City)
In 9 mins, how cruel people can be. Whether it’s a state (?) worker telling her she’s old and unattractive, or a single man from her home town insisting no matter what, in marriage, he must be the decision-maker and “dominant,” to her own family making her cry because, ostensibly, without marriage, she will have no one to take care of her in her old age....With friends and family like these, while she doesn’t think it now, she will be thankful to remain single and stay independent and successful perhaps, for the rest of her life. If not now, happiness will come.
Daniyal (Idaho)
Equal parts heartbreaking and infuriating! That woman telling her she is old and not attractive, she's internalized the misogynistic culture. The family doesn't worry about her, they are either worried about what others will think of them or are envious of her free will. Come to the U.S., be whatever you want, if you aren't valued there we'll gladly have your strength and beauty here!
jay (chicago)
@Daniyal Love the sentiment, but let's be real, strong, smart, independent women are still saddled by more difficult dating prospects. Egalitarian marriages are the spoken value but the lived reality is far from it. Arriving as an immigrant from China wouldn't improve her odds. Even professed liberal men have tons of unexamined ideological baggage that becomes the stuff of constant conflict, in part, because their wounded egos at the mere mention that they aren't the liberal ideals they thought they were (see white liberals on issues of race). We live during the year of our Lord that President Trump hath reigned, after all...
Jennie (WA)
@Daniyal Not Republicans, they are happy Donny has greatly limited legal immigration.
Ludwig Haskins (Lyon, France)
@Daniyal The answer to Chinese oppressive social mores is the US? What about the rest of the world?
Richard (Honolulu)
We have quite a few single women from Asia, studying at the University of Hawaii. This is wonderful, but also sad, as there are two things that they are doing that greatly lessen their chances of marriage back home. 1. They are getting older, and in Asian cultures, women almost always marry someone older, so the supply of marriageable men diminishes. 2. They are getting more education, and in Asian cultures, a woman should marry someone with at least the same amount of education, so the supply of marriageable men decreases. No wonder that these ladies end up marrying Americans, Australians or Europeans, who are not as fussy about these things.
Passion for Peaches (Left Coast)
@Richard, how do you see any of that as “sad”? I see it as escaping a life sentence.
Susan RJ (Colorado)
@Richard Or who pride in having accomplished educated wives.
akamai (New York)
@Richard Education is never sad. These are the lucky, happy women - in any culture.
CJ (CT)
China is no place for females of any age. As a baby you are unwanted for being female and given away and as an adult you are not free to determine your own fate. I've been far happier as a single woman than I ever was when attached to a man. I feel for Ms. Qui and others like her.
Dean (Cardiff)
It's worth remembering that China has no real social safety net - when you get ill, your family are expected to look after you, when you get old, you're children are expected to look after your needs. So it's not directly comparable to here, but having said that it's a terrible way to treat women. It's a shame she can't emigrate, most countries around the world would welcome her, and she'd be under no pressure to get married whatsoever.
Deirdre (New Jersey)
You think this successful lawyer doesn’t send money back home? Of course she does- her family most certainly asks her for things and depend on her so why shouldn’t she expect them to be there for her in the future?
Ryan Bingham (Up there...)
Why tell us? As if we can influence China.
Mimi Matossian (SF Bay Area)
Just speaking for myself, it makes me grateful to be an American. May all women be free!
Zamboanga (Seattle)
Maybe because some of us enjoy learning about the larger world beyond our own?
Trina (Indiana)
Heart breaking, In some form or fashion men/governments around the world continue to (many nations still succeed) control women bodies, economic power, education, movements, sexuality, and thoughts. I shudder to think what China will do next if pressure campaign to force women to marry doesn't succeed ? Female Infanticide in China - thought out Asia - still occurs. How do you deprogram men and women ( Confucius) who've been led to believe female existence as a burden, for centuries ?
Passion for Peaches (Left Coast)
The attitudes shown here make me livid. Here is a beautiful, intelligent, vibrant woman, derided by men ad women alike (the vile interviewer is horrid) and broken down to a puddle of tears by those who should love and support her. Her entire family — from the guilt inducing father, to the resentful mother, to bitter and malicious sister — are soul killers. It reminds me of my own family. My advice to this woman is to find a job oversea and emigrate. Your sister with the (treasured) son can stay behind and see to the family duties. Don’t let their poison kill you by inches.
Betsey (Connecticut)
Wait a minute. "The orchestrated campaign is a byproduct of China’s one-child policy, which created a great gender imbalance in the population." Don't you mean "a byproduct of China's wholesale give-away and throw-away of its baby girls, and the subsequent pressure to force all remaining women into marrying the men - who are, quite rightly, angry and frustrated about the lack of partners."
Ardyth Shaw (San Diego)
I had a boss, who just happened to be the editor of a major newspaper, tell me I was "selfish" because I refused to consider remarriage. After ending my first marriage after 16 years there is no way I was interested in that status again. That was 20 years ago and he is now dead. Now I've been gloriously and happily divorced for 45 years and have finally met my equal... it's the best relationship I have ever had because he lives in New Jersey and me on the west coast.
James Wallis Martin (Christchurch, New Zealand)
Instead of pushing the responsibility on the women as China has done (and much of the world has before), the effort should be on changing the behaviours and attitudes of men towards women. Focus and effort should be on the man's side as well and given how far behind men are in sharing the efforts of raising children and supporting the house work, men around the world have a long way to go in becoming something women want to marry in the first place. Treat women as equals, take on an equal load of the overall effort it takes to continue to build and maintain the relationship. The effort doesn't end on the wedding day, it only is the beginning and the investment of time and effort into the relationship needs to be carried by both, not just expected of the woman.
UC Graduate (Los Angeles)
Fascinating documentary. As with so many things, Mainland China has experienced the transition into Western modernity (or is it the East Asian post-modernity) in such a short, compressed amount of time. As for women not getting married despite all the social pressures that the society can muster, have no fear and shed no tear. From Japan to Taiwan and Hong Kong to Singapore, this is the reality. With a little bit of time, Mainland China will experience an explosion of bitter divorces and the older generation will realize that being single is a blessing compared to either being trapped in a terrible marriage or going through a terrible divorce. This, too, shall pass.
SlipperyKYSlope (NYC)
Wise words
Westwardhothewagons (Japan)
Kudos to the filmmakers. In less than 9 minutes without any narrative you have shown a complicated issue and how it affects one woman. I was drawn into this story and drama more than many high budget Hollywood movies that are being mass produced year in and year out. Brilliant!
Darlene Moak (Charleston S.C.)
I am 64 years old. I have made some decisions in my life that I have regretted. But one decision I have never regretted, not even one bit? The decision not to have children. I have had a professional life, shared my life with many dogs, taken singing lessons, traveled, and was able to spend significant amounts of time with my parents and my sister who lived in a different state. Having children would have changed everything. And I am gay and my partner & I have chosen not to marry. My heart breaks watching this video. I am so very thankful I live in the United States where, at least for now, my decisions are not scrutinized to the extent that this woman’s are. China should be ashamed of itself that it cannot honor these talented, remarkable women.
Frances Grimble (San Francisco)
@Darlene Moak My husband and I have been together for 47 years. We have never had or wanted children. That decision has given us more free time and enabled us to engage in personally rewarding activities in addition to work. It's given us more money, throughout our lives, and enabled us to save for retirement. That said, at 65 years old and well past menopause, I still get comments about what an awful, uncaring person I must be not to have had children. Although my husband never gets such comments..
Passion for Peaches (Left Coast)
@Darlene Moak, I don’t have kids, either. I know plenty of women who had children for the very worst reasons. Something to tick off the list of life accomplishments? Not good enough reason to create a life. An entree into the Parents social group? Terrible reason. Having someone who will love you? Not guaranteed, and pretty selfish. Having someone to take care of you in old age? Absolutely not guaranteed. The only good reason to choose to have or adopt kids is that you want to have kids, for better or worse. If you aren’t sure, you want that, it’s better to remain kid free.
Kiska (Alaska)
@Darlene Moak My husband and I have no children and we've never regretted it. Indeed, when we hear about other people's messed-up kids, we secretly high-five each other for having dodged a bullet.
Deirdre (New Jersey)
If there are so many more men than women you would think that the men out there would try to make themselves as accommodating as possible. But according to this they certainly don’t. If I was a single woman in China I would fear violence - that’s what comes next from unmarried, desperate and angry men. China’s culture blames the women-which makes her safety even more precarious - see how her family treats her? Violence is next.
Philip Greenspun (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
@Deirdre Try walking around Shanghai and Baltimore and then report back to us on which city you think has a problem with violence...
Dean (NH)
@Deirdre america has proved that it is most violent. Too many gun murders and kidnappings and crimes of women.
La Resistance (Natick MA)
I haven't had a chance to watch the video yet, but this phrase from the Op-Doc stuck out: "China’s one-child policy, which created a great gender imbalance in the population." The one-child policy didn't create the gender imbalance. It was the cultural preference for boys that created the imbalance. Millions of families could have had girls. But they preferred boys. China is not alone in that preference, but it's the culture, not the policy. Sexism, not government.
Jody (Philadelphia)
I knew by the age of 5 that unless I was lucky enough to find a mate who valued my independence and equality, that marriage was off the table. I did not find that mate. I am envied by most of my married friends and I have never regretted not having children. My work (in the arts) has been more than satisfying.
Carolina (Jacksonville)
My grandmother was an independent woman, had her own business ( she owned a sewing school 65 years ago) and she married my grandfather because she was 27 years old and society was not seeing her as a good person for that. She suffered a lot. My grandfather was bipolar, mistreated her, let she starve ( he blackmailed her not giving her money to buy food for the children). She suffered a lot. She told me she just didn't jump in front of a train because just after marriage my she got pregnant of my uncle (and after that my dad) and she couldn't left them alone. At that time divorce was impossible, so the only path was resign and live a life way below she could have lived. Not only in China but the actual conservative movement tries to push a path for society that will only allow sad stories like my grandmother exist again.
lmsseattle (Seattle)
Like Qiu Huamei, I guess I, too, am a "sheng nu." I am 56, never married, no children, without a partner. I know several women just like me. We lead substantive lives that include close friends and family, our careers have been varied and fulfilling, we contribute to our communities in significant ways. We are happy. My mother didn't have the choices that I have but if she had, I think she might also have been single, definitely childless. And I think she would have lived a happier life. I want to hold Qiu Huamei close and tell her that she is complete, whole, unique. She is beautiful.
Marilyn Montgomery (Hawaii)
The patriarchy lives. China has modernized it's economy, social and cultural norms are next.
Carl M (West Virginia)
This should make us stop and reflect on the extent to which intentionally single and/or childfree women are accepted in the United States.
Christine (OH)
It is becoming hard not to really really dislike men Why bother to create them in the first place if they use the minds you have given them to not only deny that you ever did so but use them to oppress you and your daughters? Why bother to create daughters who will just be treated as mere things to be used?
Mrs Miller (East of the 405)
This is very difficult to watch, as the pressure mounts from each family member on Ms. Huamei and she tears up. This must be so difficult for her, torn between her family and her values, her beliefs. I came from a very traditional background, and for years I didn't think i was going to be married. I didn't meet my husband until later in life, in my late 40's. He was raised by a strong woman, independent woman and the only woman in her small rural town to go to medical school. So as women become mothers, please teach your children.
JuneSky (California)
It's amazing that a country that suffers from overpopulation and limits couples to one child per household, would be preoccupied with the single status of women. I should think that single people would be appreciated in an overpopulated country. Traditions that don't appreciate social progress inhibit progress and prevent societies from transgressing destructive social behavior. Why not focus on existing families who suffer from economic difficulties or who want more children?
NB (Virginia)
@JuneSky, you’d think China would say, “yeah, stay single & childless”, And be happy about those who do. But this cultural marker really just reveals the underlying misogyny that still exists everywhere.
Martha (Vermont)
I wipe the tears away and think, what a brave woman to challenge such rigid, arcane values! What a small and limiting box within to exist. It's tough enough to go against a society's norm, but to belong to such a mean family who's mother doesn't have the guts to stand with her daughter against the vitriol coming at her from everywhere? I hope Ms. Qiu can remain strong, build a life with good friends, meaningful work and fulfilling interests. But I'm just not sure it is possible in China.
Mariposa841 (Mariposa, CA)
I was a "career" woman. What happened? A lifetime of poison jealousy on the part of siblings and yes, even parents and in-laws. Unfortunately my business was very successful, resulting in heavier and heavier burdens of caring for others until I finally broke free. Then the lies about me started - I 'robbed" the very people who depended upon me for their livelihood. I was accused of crimes never committed by me- the only relief was to alienate myself completely and utterly. I wonder sometimes if there are other women like me.
CL (Chicago)
Yes, there are other women like you; I’m one of them. We’re not alone.
Julie (Denver, CO)
This broke my heart. I can relate in that some years ago i was in my mid-to-late 30s and struggling to find the right partner. It was lonely and crushing at times without being constantly berated. Please send her to America (or another westernized country) where its acceptable to never find the one and be a fabulous single woman with a brillaint career, a rich social life and the occasional boyfriend.
Michael Sklaroff (Rhinebeck, NY)
When I was getting my MA in ESL at Teachers College in the early 90s, there were students from China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea. A Chinese woman told me that all the male students wanted to return home when they were done with their studies in order to find a wife in China. But the women wanted to remain in the U.S. because the opportunities and choices for women were so much greater here.
Robby (Utah)
Chinese government's policies from the 60s and 70s have caused the present gender imbalance, but the current predicament is not because of them. And, gender imbalance causing men to act they do doesn't make any sense either, if anything it should put men more at a disadvantage and willing to make changes. No, this is the story of young women reaching their potential and the men rest of the society still needing to catch up. It's the curse of the pioneers.
RamS (New York)
This is terrible. This woman has everything going for her in life and the first person who tortured her by being "direct" is ugly on the inside. The sisters who worry about her just want to control her life. I've mentored a lot of Chinese students at the grad student and postdoc levels and travelled with them in China and in big cities it doesn't seem to be much of a problem esp. if they can find a spouse who is western educated. My sister is in India and she's currently 45 and unmarried and from what I can tell, super happy (she's not pressured as much but the societal expectations are there). She's quite a (Indian) nationalist so she'd fit better in a western country but doesn't want to leave (I did).
Tara (NH)
@RamS I am in the same boat. Many of my indian girlfriends are over 40 and single in India. They always feel a burden because of the typical judgmental questions they get "why arent you married yet?" Whether it is at a job interview or a social gathering. It is really nobody's business. As though a woman's merit in soceity is only on basis of marriage. I appreciate that as an Indian male you have a different perspective. I hope more males in India will feel the same about the women in their lives.
Christine (Los Angeles)
"Culture is not your friend." Think Terence McKenna said that, but seriously, culture is not our friend. Can't we all be who we want and need to be? So sad. . .
ST (San Fran)
A little confused - if there are way more single men than women, shouldn't that make it easier for the woman to be choosy about who she marries? The film seems to imply it's the opposite.
Tara (NH)
@ST its the same in India, but several women dont want to marry, even if they have a large pool of options. And this is a growing trend. Its not about getting a prospective groom, its about everything else that comes along with it as a baggage. Women just want a fulfilled, happy, peaceful, independent life.
ksb36 (Northville, MI)
@ST The number of men with the qualities she prefers, is a mismatch, and even when she does find one, he is a jerk, apparently. Its not that hard to figure out.
Smithies (California)
While this story is heartbreaking, I think there are fundamentalists within this country (US) who feel the same way about single women. That a woman is less than a man and should let her husband lead, and feel that they should control her fertility, and women should be accessories on a man’’s arm. We all have a ways to go before we are free.
ican’tdrive45 (MD)
I have siblings who believe this. It’s very scary.
Practical Thoughts (East Coast)
@Smithies The conservative ideological core centers around the traditionalist view of family. The perfect situation for them is the woman at home raising kids and supporting her husband. If Trump wins again, they will continue to degrade the opportunities available to women.
Pamela L. (Burbank, CA)
Absurd. A woman without a husband is like a fish without a bicycle. Don't waste time on this ridiculous and misogynistic pressure to "find a man." Live your life. And, if things get too crazy, move to a place that welcomes you for being an accomplished woman. You don't need a man, or to pop out a baby to be relevant.
Chris (Cedar Falls, Iowa)
Come to Iowa, where the state government paid $50 million for dating workshops! (You can correctly anticipate that this is a giant waste of money.) https://iowacapitaldispatch.com/2020/02/10/your-tax-dollars-at-work-avoid-falling-for-a-jerk/
Froxgirl (Wilmington MA)
@Chris Anything to avoid providing cash assistance to poor people making minimum wage.
C (Chicago, IL)
@Chris do you have to live in Iowa to participate?
Snowball (Manor Farm)
China culture okays abortion for sex selection purposes. Barbaric.
Rachael (Berkeley, ca)
Eyeopening. It seems that almost everyone in this woman's life is hell bent on making her feel less than because she isn't married. She is intelligent, accomplished, successful and good looking (though it shouldn't matter) and the men she is meeting are decidedly less so. It is horrific what we do to women in the world, who are continually punished just for their gender.
A. jubatus (New York City)
This is so sad. All I see from Huamei's family is crabs in a barrel: how dare you live your own life of success and personal satisfaction. You should be down here, scraping like the rest of us. And the suggestion that she is not beautiful and that she is old at the beginning of this piece...damn. Nice people.
Karen in (California)
It is hard to fathom the societal pressure that is smashing down on Ms. Qiu. There is something else happening in this story that isn’t discussed.
Former NBS student (Takoma Park, MD)
Better than a one-child policy, educating women prevents over-population. Educated females also have healthier, smarter kids. What China has is a leftover men problem from their one-child policy. So in one generation Chinese women had their fertility patrolled and controlled, sometimes in brutal fashion, and in the next generation, when there are too many males, the women are brow-beaten into marriage and their talents denigrated. Women can't win in China. That was true before the Communist Revolution and it still seems to be true in the 21st century. It's ironic that when the National Ballet of China came to the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, last year, they performed the ballet "Raise the Red Lantern." It's about a college student forced to become the fourth wife of a wealthy man after her father dies bankrupt during China's warlord period. Given the sad history of selling females into marriage and downtrodden wives, it's hard to fathom why the government of a modern China would perpetuate the past by stigmatizing single women.
Bunnifer (Louisville)
Raise the Red Lantern was also a great movie.
PTP (NorCal)
China has a “leftover men” problem; that rings true. She is a treasure - smart, strong, pretty and soulful. I hope a smart, strong, handsome stay-at-home Dad type discovers her.
Kris (Mississippi)
@Former NBS student LEFTOVER MEN...exactly!
audiosearch (Ann Arbor, MI)
Shocking. This video is probably selecting the most egregious examples of the pressure single women face in China, but the casualness with which derision and chauvinism is directed our heroine's way is astonishing. It feels medieval. The matchmaker with her ridicule; the fellow from a similar rural background who never wants to go back there, and seemingly admonishing her because she has family there and values them; the other male expressing his insistence on dominance, and feeling free to say as much, as if that is his right when he won't necessarily be the wage earner, given the professional stature of our protagonist. Maybe many of these sentiments lurk in the minds of most men, no matter the culture, but to consider it acceptable to openly ridicule this woman is truly, truly sad.
DWS (Boston, Mass)
In the film, none of the guys seem to "have any game" when it comes to women. Too awkward, too honest, and too marriage-focused. We need to export some of our huge oversupply of American male "players," who NEVER want to get married, to China.
Back Country Skier (California)
My friends from China married American men. Now, I know why. There husbands encouraged there career aspirations.
doug mclaren (seattle)
This article shows (once again) that the most effective way to avoid global overpopulation is to promote the education and professional advancement of women. Fewer marriages, later marriages and smaller families is the natural result.
nattygann (Washington State)
China should stop calling those women leftovers and call them "treasures" as that is what they are. Not likely to happen any time soon. Hope she comes here, we could use more bright, educated women.
Spencer (St. Louis)
@nattygann China is treating them like commodities, not independent human beings.
Dave (LA)
This was absolutely heartbreaking. My heart goes out to this woman.
Sherry (Boston)
This video is heartbreaking. Why should this attractive, intelligent, and presumably kind woman have to endure the slings and arrows of such a society? Her family, a product of this way of thinking, only works to tear her down further. It’s simply wrong.
ksb36 (Northville, MI)
Control the uterus, and you control the world. That's all this is about, people. Controlling women so that men can continue controlling the planet. Why marry some man who can beat you with impunity, force you to have children, force you to give up your career and forsake your education? Women all over the world are saying "No, Thanks!" and it is driving governments and MEN, crazy.
Sam (New York, NY)
So basically the Confucian patriarchal attitude of Chinese society at large (not 100%), the gender imbalance caused by decades of the 1 child policy leading to a male imbalance due to a family taking care of the man's parents and not the woman's parents, and millions of single men without wives drifting about leads to women like Qiu Huamei being stigmatized for not submitting to being a broodmare and subservient housewife. How very sad and lamentable.
Christine Feinholz (Pahoa, hi)
Wow I burst out in tears at the way the woman was spoken to in the first minute by the matchmaker. What a beautiful woman! How positively abusive And sad.
Tony (New York City)
A sad story. This remains me so much of our own culture. Marriage, old age everything that some ignorant person branded and pushes into the culture. Most married people are miserable because they married for the wrong reasons. Troll me if you want, if everyone was so happy there wouldnt be so many kids without fathers, so many divorces, so much domestic abuse, domestic murders so much unhappiness, so many disturbed children, so many men who don't pay support and the list of horrors inflicted on women and children go on. Till women realize that men are not the answers to completeness and till we decide that we make ourselves complete women will never be happy. Society is never going to be progressive as long as we cling to backward ideas and outdated slogans of what it is to be married. Marriage is no guarantee of happiness or even contentment .women be true to yourself and live the life you were suppose to live and there is nothing wrong with being single
Betti (New York)
Ms Huamei, you have much, much better things to do in your life than to cook and clean for an ungrateful and inferior man. Stick to your guns and keep your well earned independence. If your family doesn't like it, then tough bananas. Believe me, when you reach my age (early 60's) you'll begin to notice the physical and emotional difference between you and your 'married with children' counterparts, with yours being much, much better and happier.
Michijim (Michigan)
Watched this on Independent Lens last night. I recommend everyone watch it to see how a government’s one size fits all approach affects each of the women profiled. One would hope we come away with a renewed belief in the rights of individuals to choose their own path through life.
Darin (Portland, OR)
@Michijim Seems like you are missing the other side of the story just like the Times is. THE BIRTH-RATE IS TOO LOW. If China doesn't start making some babies and I mean NOW their entire economy is going to COLLAPSE. This is not hysteria, this is a fact. The rights of the individual? What about obligation to society? To community? To future generations? There a different between HAVING rights and BEING right.
Rachel Owlglass (San Francisco)
@Darin Such a SIMPLE ANSWER ... all the men have to do is treat women like women are asking to be treated No one is obliged to be a brood mare for a society that doesn't respect their autonomy
Judy (New York)
@Darin Is the only way a woman can serve her community and society is by being a breeder? There are over 8 billion people on the planet already. We need more to temporarily shore up the economy? Maybe they could allow increased immigration rather than force women to have children they don't want.
Bill C. (Maryland)
My heart breaks for Qiu Huamei. The look of despair and sadness as she was on the receiving end of the lecture from the interviewer was so demoralizing for her. But Ms. Huamei shines through at the end as an accomplished lawyer and a person in her own right. The looks of determination and her "take charge" attitude as she refuses to settle for whatever is offered her in the way of love or marriage is refreshing and I hope she succeeds under her own terms.
Darin (Portland, OR)
@Bill C. You seem to be missing the point. Refusing to "settle" is going result in dying alone with no one to care for her and people like this will destroy the country because they are dying faster than they are being born. When I was single looking to get married at age 25 the best advice online was "lower your standards". Or to put it another way "If you are only interested in Miss America the whole parade is gonna pass you by." The woman needed to be looking for the kind of man who would accept her, or move someone else where the kind of person she wants actually lives. My personal prediction is that when the population starts to fall fast due to low birth-rate countries like China and America will lax their citizenship laws and BEG people to move there and marry the people who are left, and PAY them to have children.
Rachel Owlglass (San Francisco)
@Darin No YOU'RE missing the point (1) She is happy solo & is only looking because she's being pressured to get married (2) Getting married & having children is the world over not a fail-safe for care in old age, especially if she only has girls A BETTER fail-safe??? ... her own money, lots of friends & a community that she has chosen for herself
MASH (USA)
@Darin I'm pretty sure it's you who missed the point. The message is meant to portray the absurdity which government policies have brought about on the daily lives of its citizens as shown through the lens of an accomplished woman who society is demanding to turn her back on her accomplishments. It wasn't meant to say the selfish woman should quit her job and let a man she doesn't love dominate her as you suggest. The government and her family pressured her (and all Chinese children) to go to school day and night, weekdays and weekends, in pursuit of a higher education. She did exactly what she was told to do and what she thought was best to get to where she is, and now society is telling her she needs to put it behind her and settle for whatever man comes along. Give me a break. China has the highest gender imbalance in the world, with men far outnumbering the women. As such, women should be far more selective than men as men have fewer options. Unfortunately Chinese society favors men over women in a way that is comparable to agrarian societies in developing countries. As for Qiu, she's a smart, accomplished, beautiful woman who is living her best life. She worked hard to get where she is and shouldn't have to give it up for someone who point blank tells her they don't respect her but would be willing to be with her because they've given up on the concept of love.
Mary Blocksma (Bay City Mi)
I've begun to appreciate how unusual and fortunate it is to be a single woman. When in history and where in the world can a woman be independent without harassment? I'm almost 80, and although I've been married twice to good men and am grateful for my wonderful son, I've lived most of my adult life as a single woman and my unmarried years have been my happiest.
Cc (Md)
@Mary Blocksma I have seen this in my family, among my older aunts. Their happiness and well being increased after the death of their (difficult) husbands. Not surprising.
Socrates (Downtown Verona. NJ)
I still think we would make an incredible couple, Mary Blocksma. You can still be you with me.
cl (ny)
@Mary Blocksma Something doesn't quite make sense here. How long were you married to those two good? Yet you maintain that the happiest years of your life were when single.
In deed (Lower 48)
There was lot more going on in the documentary I watched than in what I see in the comments here. The lead character has a lot more going on than the comments reflect. Some of the filmed choices are stunning. The arc from the spat with the other filmees over insulting her and her family to going out to hook up had me wondering if this is a documentary. It is over the top. And there was always a camera crew there. Odd. And how her relation to her father and mother and especially to her father is what matters so much to her is the pivot to the whole thing that about one percent of the comments even notice.
Paul (Canada)
I lived in Asia through the '90s and knew and worked with lots of women like her -- smart, confident, attractive, professionally accomplished, stylish and single in their late 20s, 30s and beyond. Most of their parents -- whether Chinese, South Asian, Thai, Malay or Indonesian -- were pretty much of the same mentality as we see in the film. A large percentage of these woman ended up dating and marrying foreign men, which could make things even worse for them at home, especially if it was assumed she'd slept with the guy before marriage. But once I settled in Singapore, I began to note something interesting: Women realizing that, since little was expected of them apart from marrying and having a family, while it might annoy their family, they could really go for it in terms of career or running a business, having a great lifestyle, making great money and enjoying independence. I also began to see that while these women evolved, local men of their age cohort generally had not. There was no feminist movement in Asia. But most Asian women I knew had grown up poor, so were well-seasoned to thrive in the brave new modern world that came crashing to Asia's shores so rapidly. So ignoring societal obligations, a bunch of them just went and did their thing, unhindered by society, untethered by old mores, and living big with their fellow non-traditional women. Meanwhile Singapore's divorce rate was growing fast, making these choices seem wise and prudent. She'll be fine.
James (WA)
I think the lady in the video is frustrated. She wants a relationship, but everyone is being a jerk to her when "giving advice" and the guys aren't the feminist guys she seems to want. So she doesn't care anymore (read: cares a lot). I'm a single man in my 30s. I understand the frustration of going out to date and seeing plenty of women (for her, men) and yet no woman is remotely right for me. I also had parents who encouraged my studies and career in my 20s... then in my 30s express how worried they are about my being single. I think something has changed for my generation (both genders, globally) where lots of people are single in their 30s and between that and working too many hours something is not right with our lives. We should have been married with a good life by now and it hasn't happened yet. The dating coach and her family is so wrong, 30s is not "too old". (When the coach said that, her look was mine if I was told I was "too short".) And she's okay looking. On she isn't valued for her accomplishments. It seems women value men and themselves for professional accomplishments. As a man, I hate it when women value me for my career. I feel not seen nor valued. I just don't see myself or women that way. I value people for how they treat others. The "I have high standards" thing was insulting. I think our society overall values people too much for their work and we need more balance between work and personal relationships and individual value.
Kris (Mississippi)
@James but it's the work...the "breadwinning" that has been used by men to broker power in marital relationships for an eternity. The breadwinner is the boss, makes the decisions, has the most valuable position in the family...because of the fabulously valuable work they do. It's no wonder women wished to broker equal power in the marital relationship by also cultivating a valuable career and earning a living. If care taking and child rearing were considered even remotely valuable by society or within marriages, this wouldn't be the case and more men would be interested in participating in such endeavors. Being in a relationship like a marriage on unequal footing is something women are simply choosing not to do anymore. The solution isn't that every women who wants an equal marriage should just learn to live alone....it's that men need to learn how to be in relationships that are more equal and where the woman's endeavors are equally valuable, whether they are earning money or having children or care taking.
James (WA)
@Kris Women don't want equal relationship. I don't buy it. Women want to have an amazing career. Then meet a masculine guy who is well-educated and has a good job (read: breadwinner). He asks her out. Definitely not her asking him out! He works 50-60 hours a week and comes home exhausted. She works 50-60 hours too because she loves her job. Nonetheless, he admires her for her amazing career accomplishments. And she doesn't have to do the dishes. I do agree women want equal respect, and are right to want that. But women don't want to pop the question! Many men have long valued women who were homemakers. I certainly do. Men don't need to learn to want equal marriages. Not if society still expects them to be a breadwinner and women expect them to be confident and accomplished. Maybe society should change. But that's another story. It hasn't happened yet. And I doubt whether women truly want that sort of change.
Alan Flacks (Manhattan, N.Y.C.)
The real losers are the men who don't appreciate the accomplished woman and who remain embedded with the stereotype of what the role of women is expected to be.
Jennie (WA)
@Alan Flacks No, the losers are the women pressured into marriage with these men. Not being able to appreciate these women isn't nearly as bad as being pushed to give up not only your hopes but also you're independence.
Ann Dee (PDX OR)
@Alan Flacks No, the women actually lose, living with this stigma.
Passion for Peaches (Left Coast)
@Alan Flacks, they will just look elsewhere for a subservient woman. Many “purchase” wives from Southeast Asia.
GG (New York)
I really have to laugh. The Chinese government created this problem with its stupid one-child policies, favoring boys. The minute I heard about it years ago, I said, "This is going to come back to bite them in the butt." It has put women in the driver's seat. Stay true to yourself, Qiu Huamei. Resist the pressure. Read Jane Austen (her life rather than her works. She never married, despite a good prospect.) When asked, tell the nosy what actress Emma Watson reportedly said when a pre-Meghan Prince Harry came courting: "I'm self-partnered." -- thegamesmenplay.com
Elizabeth Bennett (Arizona)
This is misogyny on a national level. One line in the dialogue tells it all--girls are considered inferior to boys. This concept is not limited to China, and has plagued the human race since the beginning of time. It may explain why progress has been so slow on social policies that better living conditions for all. Men have been too busy fighting to enlarge or maintain their territories to focus on how their own family or village is faring in terms of well-being. Yes, that's a broad general statement, but it's unfortunately too true throughout our history.
The North (North)
Whether they are as heartbreaking as this one or somewhat more light-hearted (I am thinking of the pet chicken in the Indian high rise), these Op-Docs open my eyes to worlds I probably would not or could not see on my own. I applaud the makers and I applaud the Times.
kim (nyc)
You know, folks sometimes say the word "fascism" when describing our present political situation. For the first time in my life, I don't feel that's an overreach. We're getting there. It's a known fact that married women are more likely to vote like their husbands and this is particularly so of Republican husbands and wives. It's those single pesky independent modern women who give trouble. I wonder if this is at least partly why the right supports these marriage schemes instead of focusing on making it easier for women to work, care for their children and themselves.
Kathleen (Limerick)
My heart breaks for her. yes, it was not all too long ago in America when I was "counseled" by my commanding officers my marital status was not a acceptable...doy, like it was a deliberate act of rebellion.
Leroy Windscreen (New Jersey)
While watching Qiu endure her family's insults, I was thinking at her, "Come here! Come here!" She would be a wonderful asset in any law firm in the USA and there is so much more opportunity for a single woman to live as she pleases in this country. I'm sure it would break her heart to leave her family behind, but she'd be empowered to live the life SHE chooses to live.
lilmissy (indianapolis)
@Leroy Windscreen yes, and honestly, if that is the way her family is treating her, she does need to leave. No one deserves that kind of verbal abuse.
Flynn Darby (San Francisco)
Wow, this is heartbreaking to watch. If this is the society this strong, intelligent (and also, incidentally, beautiful) woman lives in, she should get out ASAP. I don't think this community will ever value someone like her as they should.
Sabey (Washington, DC)
As a 40 year-old happily single Asian-American woman my heart broke for Ms. Qiu. So thankful I have the family that I do and also that I live in America.
Mark (Chevy Chase, Md)
History is replete with example of social engineering that had unintended consequences.
Judy (NYC)
The one guy who looks cute and he wants to be the dominant in the family. She is told she is homely and old. I was screaming at the screen. Fantastic doc. Hang in there Qiu!
CD (Ann Arbor)
I watched the video before reading the piece. I kept thinking I hope this is a dramatization because if it's real it's simply too cruel. What a strong, beautiful woman she is. I hope she can get away from her hectoring and unsupportive family and surround herself with people who will love and support her. My heart really goes out to her. I'm so grateful to be a woman living HERE, NOW.
dairyfarmersdaughter (Washinton)
It is interesting that there is no discussion or thought by the Government that the obsession with having male children led to a severe shortage of women to marry - and now the blame is on women who refuse to marry someone they are not in love with, or chastising them because they have no desire to becomes a traditional wife and mother. Of course it cannot be expected the Communist Party would be expected to admit past policies were wrong. Of course there are still many cultures, probably the majority in fact, that view unmarried women as some type of cast off. It's amazing to think that women in China are under pressure to marry when they are simultaneously denigrated as being "leftover" and unattractive.
Chicagogirl13 (Chicago)
Qiu Huamei is in a difficult position and I'm not sure that agreeing to participate in this video helped her too much, altho it certainly helps outsiders to understand and sympathize with her plight. The thoughts expressed by her family and the fellow from Shandong illustrate the conundrum: how can you be educated and independent and still meet the expectations of those around you who want you to conform to their notions of what a woman should be? She she keep looking...
Carl Sollee (Atlanta)
Ms. Qui is very beautiful, charming and comes across as having a real heart. It was painful to watch her family talk her down and make her cry, she loves them. And although they don't say it, it is clear her parents love her too, although they don't understand her decisions and think she is harming herself. There are many men in the US and probably elsewhere who would recognize her as a catch. Surely there must be some older Chinese men in their late 40s or 50s who would be thrilled to have such a beautiful young in shape wife with a good personality, an education and a job. She looks like she would be a great mother too. I wish her the best and hope she finds some encouragement in these words, Carl
g (Michigan)
@Carl Sollee Sorry, but why would she want to marry a 50-yr old man? To take care of him for half her life?
Bunnifer (Louisville)
No doubt! She’d be better off staying single!
gammoner98 (RI)
This was a wonderful and powerful doc. Makes me want to print a T shirt that says "Free Qiu"! The truth is that single educated women are often looked on as pariahs (try being happily divorced in any suburb) that are either stealing the men, or are a bad example of how happy a woman can be without a man. In any country, not just China. I truly hope she is able to rise above the dreadful sister and confused parents. The entire lot of them seem to be suffering from Envy and that sweet soul is still trying to please everyone. Maybe someone here will make her a job offer.....
Shannon (Sonoma)
This is incredibly sad and infuriating. And while I can't speak for that culture's standards of physical beauty, I think most would agree that Qui would be considered very attractive here in the US (unlike that awful woman who interviewed her). I agree with other readers that her sister is likely envious of Qui's choice of a better life. The family scene is especially hard to watch, and I don't imagine their minds will be changed anytime soon. I, too, would like to airlift her out of there! Sure being single can be challenging anywhere, but a least here you are able to choose, and to enjoy its rewards in relative peace. I hope for her that she gets out. Maybe she will find a true equal and have a wonderful marriage, and as a result, have a harmonious relationship with her family (one can dream). It's sad that her talents, intellect, and beauty are wasted on a culture that is unappreciative, to say the least, but the situation with her family, whom I'm sure she loves very much, is the most heartbreaking of all. Qui, stay strong, you are not the problem, they are. You are amazing (and beautiful!), don't give up.
David (Kirkland)
Don't get your morality or control from monopoly central planning and corrupted government. Free choice always works better so you can live your life as you see fit.
nativetex (Houston, TX)
How did her parents get away with having 5 children -- in China?!
Lee (Tahlequah)
@nativetex Rural area and/or ethnic minority.
mls (nyc)
I trust that the authors of this piece will share reader comments with Qui Huamei, as many will offer her encouragement to pursue her own life. It is clear that the deepest pain she feels is the disapproval of and rejection by her family. The bullying by her sister, who is displacing her own anger at finding herself unhappy in marriage, is the most telling moment in the video. How sad it is that the parents cannot see that Ms. Qui has achieved miraculous success given her near impoverished background. And how sad it is that they cannot feel pride in their contribution to her success. As to finding companionship, it must be painfully frustrating to encounter man after man who is obtuse to the most basic notions of respect for women, including a woman's right to self-actualization. Ms. Qui is brave to risk a single life rather than subordinate herself to a patriarchal union. For that she is to be admired. And supported by friends of like mind.
Krysta (Toronto)
I lived in China's Shandong province for almost a year in 2017-2018. I am an unmarried woman who had completed her PhD in education during that time. My female co-workers were incredibly intelligent, warm, and hard-working. Yet they dealt with so many disparaging comments on their relationship status from their families, friends, and even co-workers. It was depressing, to say the least. I won't claim that such attitudes don't exist in Canada, but there was an intensity of expectations that I had never experienced before. I came away thinking that my co-workers, like Ms. Qiu, deserve so much more respect and much less government and family interference. I wish Ms. Qiu well.
Susan (Paris)
What is particularly sad is that I saw the heading “ Where Being a Single Woman is not O.K.” before I saw that it was about a woman in China, and realized that it could apply to dozens of countries all over the globe.
Alex (Toronto)
That last exchange with her father proves she is a really great lawyer. Good for her! This video is a poignant look at the emotional toll of government policy and what it takes to navigate changing norms in society, especially as a woman, especially in China. Watching her endure the insults of everyone around her is heartbreaking. I hope Lizzo was playing in her earphones on that run!
Kb (Ca)
I was happily single until I met my husband, whom I married at 33. I was also happy as a married women because I had a partner who was intelligent, gentle, hilarious, and shared my values. Finding the “right one” is not easy, and I suffered through a couple of frogs. How sad that these women feel so much pressure to marry. How sad that they will end up settling for a man they don’t really love and may share few of her values.
Heidi (Upstate, NY)
So with a vast shortage of women, men are still demanding a traditional wife from decades ago? Amazing. Going it alone, is better than settling for years of misery with a bad marriage. Especially in a society, where the women can be basically treated like slave labor.
Lisa (NYC)
How infuriating. And, the sheer irony... so sexism in China created the gender imbalance in the first place, with parents putting more value on bearing a (single) son versus a (single) daughter... and then when all their precious little sons don't have enough single women from which to potentially find a wife, their society then lambastes those same women, essentially insulting them as being 'old maids', all to pressure these women to fix the very problem they (Chinese govt and society) created. And this, from the same govt that is more concerned about saving face (Coronavirus) than saving its own citizens? I'm glad these women aren't willing to accommodate the powers that be. Serves them right.
Lazy L (Wyoming)
I want to give her a big hug, exclaim at her accomplishments, strength, and beauty, and tell her my family said the same things—and I’m a 66-year-old happily single Caucasian American woman (first generation). It’s ok. Invest your money, enjoy and live your life, and find ways to override the media (from the govt) and society telling you that you are “leftover.” I wish there was a sister-support organization between Chinese women like this and others of us elsewhere who have chosen the same path...
Blackmamba (Il)
Thanks to the one- child policy and a strong preference for male heirs China is a rapidly aging and shrinking nation with a below replacement level birthrate along with a massive male gender imbalance. Although China has the nominal #2 GDP on a per capita basis it ranks #80 near Bulgaria and the Dominican Republic. Chinese socialism with Chinese characteristics aka capitalism has moved 300 million Chinese into the middle class. Better educated professionals delay having children and have fewer children.
AnnaT (Los Angeles)
The government created this problem, and now they want women to fix it.
Expat (London)
@AnnaT As with most governments, China's government is run mostly by men. As usual, they expect women to sacrifice for their mistakes. It is ever thus.
Ola (nyc)
So incredible!!! Thank you
amyray (wa)
Sending Qiu Huamei all of my admiration and support...
Marie (Luxembourg)
Dear Ms Qui, you are a successful lawyer and fluent in English. I see a fine life for you outside China in a country where you can live your life as you want and where you will be respected.
Leonid Andreev (Cambridge, MA)
For God's sake, this is pretty awful stuff. But, on an optimistic note, being a successful professional and fluent in English, I trust Ms. Qiu should be able to find a job in the U.S., and to afford a one-way ticket out of China.
Jerseytime (Montclair, NJ)
Are single women legally required to search for husbands in China? Do they need to "report in" on such search, like recipients of unemployment here?
Justin (Seattle)
As we have learned from our own experience, it's a big leap from "a woman's place is at home making babies" to "women, like men, should have the freedom to pursue their dreams." Chinese men, and probably a lot of Chinese women, have yet to learn that, but the supply and demand situation is forcing them into a reckoning. Women in China are not just enabled to to more selective, they are compelled to be. One of the traits we can hope that they will select is, as Aretha said, R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Your dreams are as valuable as his. And once they learn that, maybe they can teach us.
Rich (NY)
My broke for Ms Qui as she got the succession of hurtful, judgemental and chauvinistic messages first from the marriage broker, then her dates and finally her family. Here in the US we are far from perfect in our treatment of women, but surely we look enlightened compared to how unmarried women are treated in China. "You know that you are not beautiful, right?" Really?!!! I have 2 beautiful granddaughters who will probably never face such treatment; who will be able to make their own choices about when and if and who to marry. China is so advanced in so many ways, but where it really matters, they still live in the dark ages.
Kelli (NYC)
My heart breaks for her. She is brave and strong and beautiful and smart. Normally I'd say she should look towards single men in academia, ones who are focused, analytical, and egalitarian, but unfortunately those men do not thrive in China either. Free thinking and challenge to the hierarchy is considered similarly subversive and many leave for academic and intellectual freedom elsewhere. Just illustrates how endemic this problem is.
Quickbeam (Wisconsin)
Wow, this is so searing. Just painful to watch. It's much like the pressure women of most cultures feel to have children. The anoxic constant global demand is never ending. It is hard to be who you want to be in the face of it.
JayC (VM)
I saw much more of the excellent, really engrossing documentary on PBS last night. Qiu Huamei leaves China, ultimately, to study in France. I read elsewhere that she started a business in Brussels. A wonderful ending. There are several other women also featured and I highly recommend seeing the entire film.
Rita (LA)
Before she even spoke a word, my first thought was, “Wow! She’s beautiful.” I’m amazed how loyal she is to keep returning to those family judgment sessions. What a loss for a culture to be unable to appreciate and love a whole person. Someone is missing out on an amazing partner. She is the only self-actualized person in the bunch, save for the filmmakers.
larkspur (dubuque)
It seems all too close to home. Is there any country any community where women are treated fairly, paid fairly, given fair choices for their future? It sure isn't Iowa or anywhere near the breadbasket heart of America.
Karen Wieland (Salamanca, NY)
Qui Huamei is a pioneer. I wish she was not being subjected to so much abuse and pressure on account of her choice to remain single until she finds a man who supports her professional choices and commits to being an equal partner. It may take China two more generations to catch up with other nations on this regard. I am a single woman, and though I never expected to be single at my age, I’ve had a fulfilling, joyful, professionally productive life. I would never jeopardize my present state of happiness to marry a man who would want to be “dominant” in the relationship. Neither should Qui Huamei.
Michel Gagnon (Morgan hill, ca)
Interesting, my first thoughts when I saw her was how beautiful she is. She really is.
ksb36 (Northville, MI)
@Michel Gagnon Me, too! She is stunningly beautiful! What are these people thinking??
eheck (Ohio)
@ksb36 They are trying to demoralize her in an attempt to subjugate her. This is a common MO of abusive partners/spouses.
Colorado Reader (Denver)
I know this might be difficult to do in country with heavy restrictions on free speech, but it puzzles me that all these single Chinese women (especially, in this case, a lawyer!) are not verbalizing THEIR terms for marriage and children, especially with the leverage they have to do this given the skewed sex ratio due to historical son preference as well as a developmentally crippling role reversal in the culture and poltiical economy where people have children for the reason of the children supporting adults (psychologically, financially etc.), rather than the other way around. If this woman really wants to be single, more power to her, but if there are terms on which she would marry and have children but she's just not verbalizing them, then something's seriously awry and not just with the Chinese government's marriage campaign. While the son preference has reduced a little in recent years, there are still 114 boys to 100 girls among children aged 0-4. In the year 2000 it was significantly more skewed that that. In a culture and political economy without son preference it's something like 102:100.
Kathy (Washington, DC)
@Colorado Reader Women, even in the US, are still highly socialized not to voice their opinions, needs or wants. It's especially potent in China where deference to elders and males is still very much in effect. And as many woman knows, a guy may say one thing before marriage and turn into a completely different person the day after the wedding.
S North (Europe)
This made me wince. And then I remembered that Japanese women face the same situation. Result? They're marrying later, less, having fewer kids. Everyone in Japan worries about demographics, but men still expect their equally educated wife to play second fiddle. Why would an independent woman purposely demean herself? A society that isn't prepared to treat women on a basis of equality isn't doing itself any favours.
t bo (new york)
@S North Actually, I believe it is worse in Japan. There is a strong believe among Japaneses that woman should not work after marriage and should focus on child rearing. That is the reason you see many young 'office ladies' but few professional women. This is SLOWLY changing, but very slowly.
Edith Fusillo (The South)
I fear American "conservatives," women among them, would like to impose the same rules for women here: marry, let your husband dominate the household, have kids, for goodness' sake don't think you can work outside the home unless it is to help pay the mortgage. I feel proud to have two sons who value their wives and the independence and intelligence of those women.
Bicycle Girl (Phoenix, AZ)
When Paul Ryan was still in office, he very publicly chastised Americans for not marrying and having children. And really, who is assumed to be responsible having children? Women. Who is assumed responsible for the decrease in marriage? Educated women, with careers and the right to control their bodies.
Stephanie (California)
It is crazy how it seems that she is the odd one out, when there is an abundance of men. The comments push for her to relinquish this notion but is is extremely difficult in a society that this is the norm, we can only hope she finds a life that is comfortable for her.
jerry brown (cleveland oh)
Wow. I stumbled upon this movie and I could not move. The social and family pressures on this young woman are immense. I can't imagine adding a governmental layer upon this pressure. I hope and pray she finds a balance and a peace with her decisions. I'm stunned.
Joel (Oregon)
This is the ultimate result of social engineering. China instituted a one child policy in order to artificially induce population decline. In Chinese culture a male heir is desired because parents will move into the eldest son's home and be taken care of him in their twilight years. He is also expected to provide for his wife's parents the same way, if they do not have a son to provide for them. So the result of the one child policy was an increase in abortions of female fetuses. If parents could only have on child, they wanted a child that would provide for them in old age, so sons were favored as a general rule. This resulted in a heavy gender imbalance that may take generations to correct now that the one child policy has been repealed. Regardless of the social engineering ambitions of the communist party, the deep rooted culture in China that expects a male heir to provide for his elderly parents remained in place. For a family with no son, having a daughter that refuses to marry is essentially a daughter abandoning her responsibility to the family. And familial piety is still an important concept in China, in a way most westerners cannot fathom. Mrs. Qui's determination to be single isn't really a defiance of the government so much as it is a break with an ancient tradition. That's part of the reason the issue is so thorny and acrimonious.
Kat Em (PA)
Thank you for framing this woman’s experience within the social demands of her culture. It is easy to view her predicament from a Western perspective and think, “Oh, it creates some family friction, but it’s really no big deal, since she’s ok with being unmarried and has a satisfying professional life, can support herself financially, etc.” But as you gently and eloquently remind us, China’s history and social expectations and pressures are quite different than our Western ones. She is being treated cruelly by both society at large and her own family; they both engage in relentless emotional manipulation to try to force her to surrender her own expectations so that she can meet theirs. How profoundly and painfully isolating. This video was quite moving. It was hard to watch this woman being put down and bullied just for wishing to live authentically. I truly hope she can find whatever she needs to allow her to be content in the midst of so much pressure.
Kathy (Washington, DC)
@Joel India values males over females for mostly the same reasons.
Art’sp (Maryland)
When I was in China in 2010, numerous women in academia made the same complaint to me. Accomplished women in their late 20s could find no husbands because the prospective husband wasn’t interested in them as accomplished professional individuals. Prospective husbands wanted them to be at home instead, cooking, raising children and the husbands being dominant. The article describes a tragic situation, made worse by government pressure to get married. (The ambition of the government to control peoples lives here is quite astonishing.)
Kenneth (Beach)
China has a huge gender imbalance, and a problem with accepting LGBTQ+ persons, and that fuels this policy, more to reduce the number of unmarried men than to do anything for the women who seem quite successful and happy. Given that women have their pick of men in China, it's possible that a lot of these women are just not interested in men, or are asexual, poly, or simply want to remain free from marriage, but are unable to express themselves in a society that doesn't really condone same-sex relationships and demands marriage. I imagine if China lifted official discrimination and family level shaming of LGTBTQ+ persons, they would find that there really isn't a problem here. Also, if China is serious about fixing it's gender imbalance, they could always try actually allowing immigration and taking in refugees, rather than oppressing every minority group they can find. Marx would be rolling over in his grave.
Cami (NYC)
@Kenneth Heh... yeah. Marx wasn't all that into marriage.
dupr (New Jersey)
@Kenneth Being a single woman has nothing to do with being gay or queer. This is another trope that is placed on women who are single especially if they are older. They must be secretly gay.
Kathy (Washington, DC)
@Kenneth I'm not so sure that refugees or most immigrants to China would be independent and well educated enough for this cohort of women highlighted in the documentary. They would perhaps be better suited to the rural folks, but then again, they wouldn't know the language or the customs.
Blaise Descartes (Seattle)
This articles says, "The orchestrated campaign [to pressure women to marry] is a byproduct of China’s one-child policy, which created a great gender imbalance in the population." But actually the gender imbalance goes the opposite way, there are more men than women. Moreover, the authors seem to be blaming the one-child policy for all of China's ills, when in fact the one-child policy may be partly responsible for rising living standards in China that have led China to become an economic powerhouse over the last four decades. Compare China with India, which has been less effective at limiting population growth. For example, China has constructed 18,000 miles of high speed electric rail which connects all of its major cities. India's rail system is primitive by comparison. We have now entered the age of global warming. Shifting to solar energy is not enough. We need to everything possible to bring global population down to sustainable levels. China's one-child policy did have problems---it was too coercive. But we should be learning how to better design programs to encourage lower population growth to mitigate the coming damage from global warming.
Ann (Taiwan)
Blaise, you are correct—there are more men in China than women, and thus a huge surplus of unmarried men. That is part of the reason why women are being pressured by the government to get married with one of them.
Bubbles (Here & Everywhere)
There is no shortage of men in China. Just a shortage of men (& their families) who would feel "comfortable" being with an intelligent and accomplished woman, who could be his equal.
Madeline Conant (Midwest)
The most painful part was watching her get piled on by her own family.
Princess & the Pea (Arlington, Virginia)
A generation of Chinese men will be unable to marry and many will grow old with no relatives. Chinese authorities are keen to discourage women from realizing their inherent value. It is not untoward for Chinese women to expect their government to sweeten the deal.
Lee (Tahlequah)
@Princess & the Pea "A generation of Chinese men will be unable to marry and many will grow old with no relatives." This happened before in the late 19th and early 20th century in the US. Male Chinese immigrants were welcomed to work building the railroads. Then US immigration law barred Chinese women from immigrating so they couldn't find Chinese wives. If an American woman married a Chinese, she lost her US citizenship. Never a great idea when governments decide who you can marry.
Brian (Houston, TX)
Didn't China's (relatively) recent "one child" policy result in more men than women? The continual abuse of human rights in China is amazing, and shows what happens when you put party over people.
Kathy (Washington, DC)
@Brian The one child policy was probably necessary to move the country into the 21st century and alleviate mass poverty. The biggest problems were due to the preference for male babies and probably not lifting the policy earlier.
Lee (Tahlequah)
@Kathy There are demographic studies that show otherwise. Educating women results in declining birthrate due to delayed childbearing. Similar demographic drops occurred in Asia without coercive measures.
Carrie Schneider (San Diego)
It might be more successful if the government focused on improving the horrible social skills of the men.
Charlesbalpha (Atlanta)
I once read a science-fiction novel written in 1960 ("They Shall Have Stars" by James Blish). It is set in the 2010s, and in it one character bitterly describes herself as an "excess woman" in a society where females outnumber males.. Amazing how sci-fi can foresee some social trends 50 years in the future.
Emily (Seattle)
It's still very true that in China women over 26 are considered as "old" and it is regarded as a failure if she is still single. In rural China, girls even get married earlier. The pressure is visible and invisible, it's everywhere. Your relatives would ask you if you have had a boyfriend and when you are going to marry. If you are married, they would ask when you are going to have a child. This pressure has been forcing lots of young girls into marriages that they later on regret. It's not fair, and not healthy for women. The name of "Leftover women" itself says all, it's gender and age discrimination. I hope every young girl enjoy being who she is. If she wants to marry, marry someone who is compatible with her and who she loves. I hope every woman celebrates her career, her achievement, be proud of herself instead of her marriage status.
Laura (San Jose)
Oh my gosh. Look what the poor woman had to pick from. Every date was a loser. "I want to be dominant" is a total romance and marriage killer. The matchmaker needs to work with the men. This story is heartbreaking.
Lee (Tahlequah)
@Laura How about a marriage proposal that includes "at my age, I don't expect love"?
james doohan (montana)
"Most of these women ...lead rewarding professional lives." If this is the case, is there really a problem? I suspect the plight of the rural poor is a bit worse.
Enrique Puertos (Cleveland, Georgia)
The idea of a forced marriage is morally abhorrent, dehumanizing and a violation of basic human rights. Pressure to marry, especially for women, is quite common in many cultures worldwide. I truly hope that Ms. Qiu finds the courage to follow her heart and her intellect.
Danielb (Washington D.C.)
There is an extreme gender imbalance in China where there are at least 24 million more men than women in China. Between the age bracket of 25-29 1 in 5 Chinese women remain unmarried. For men it is 1 in 3. Only 4.6 of Chinese women remain unmarried between 35-39. This is one of the highest rates in the world. I think I hear the world's smallest violin...
eheck (Ohio)
Watching this beautiful, intelligent, accomplished woman be subjected to this kind of emotional abuse by the government and her family is infuriating. If you think "this couldn't happen here," think again: During GWBush's administration, there was a push for this kind of social engineering through the "Healthy Marriage Initiative." https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/marrying-absurd-bush-administrations-attempts-encourage-marriage/ Now that we're sliding into autocracy, what's to stop this from happening in the US?
Doc (Georgia)
@eheck Well, yes. The Handmaids Tale is very much a cautionary tale for us. Just wait until President Pence.
David (Boston)
It's not okay to be single anywhere, including the U.S., unless you're also a mother. Ever heard a politician talk about anyone but "working families" and "single moms"? If you don't belong to one of these groups you have no political or social value.
Mogwai (CT)
The entire world is far right wing and you say what? Hey girls, stop supporting the evils. You can organize and put you feet down, but you never have, in all history. You are the masters who make the grass green, not we men, we men only have the power you allow us to have. When you realize that you are the power, you will win. Doubtful it will ever occur.
SDoyle (Denver, CO)
Oh, this is heartbreaking. She is so bright and beautiful, and all she gets from the people who should be celebrating her is shame and grief.
joymmoran (san clemente)
To me, the most awful part of this story was when her sister is screaming at her, 'who expects a comfortable life?' after marriage. That poor sister believed her fate was a hard life as some man's housewife and baby-maker, and her rage and resentment at being in that box pours out at her own sister, who is escaping it. It's a society that gives women a limited number of doors to choose, and then--surprise!--it's misery behind all of them.
Mary Beth P. (Almaty, Kazakhstan)
@joymmoran That's exactly what struck me---that her sister believed that Qui Huamei was getting away with something.
Michele K (Ottawa)
@Mary Beth P. Yes, me too - but isn't it always so that misery wants company. The parents are bad enough; the sister is appalling. Shame on them. Emigrate, Ms. Huamei - Canada would be glad to have you.
UC Graduate (Los Angeles)
@joymmoran Well, we're entering into this family story in midstream. For all we know, the parents might have poured all their resources to Qui Huamei's education and this could have left her older sister with understandable resentment.
John (Irvine CA)
Why is it that with such a shortage of men, in China women are the ones being asked to make compromises? I hope she finds a guy who appreciates her obvious intelligence, drive, oh, and that cute dimple when she smiles.
Alison Cartwright (Moberly Lake, BC Canada)
@John there’s no shortage of men, there is a surplus. The problem is men who can’t handle a relationship with an educated and successful woman.
Laura (Florida)
@Alison Cartwright I think he meant a surplus of men/shortage of women based on the rest of his comment. I like his point! I guess gender is just not a supply and demand type of problem though.
Hal Richman (Stillwater Lake, Nova Scotia)
@John There is a shortage of marriageble women in China because of the one child policy China had. People only wanted sons, so they aborted or gave up for adoption female babies. It created an imbalance in the ratio of men to women.
Linda Bell (Pennsylvania)
It's not that long ago that the United States was also like this. Any woman who wasn't married by thirty had to accept the fact that they would probably never marry. Women married men they knew were not the one for them because at least then they would be married.
Mr. Darcy's mother (Upstate, but not far enough north, alas)
@Linda Bell -- it is still ongoing in the U.S. and other Western countries-- don't delude yourself. As a professional woman with many accomplishments, including also being a lawyer and serving as a judge, I was always asked by friends, relatives, even casual acquaintances, when I was going to settle down and marry. All my achievements were nothing if I was not claimed by a husband. Why would you think things have changed? I stopped getting invited to friends' dinners because I would come without a date. How rude of me to presume my company alone was enough! This type of response is well-illustrated in "Bridget Jones's Diary"-- the dinner scene-- which is hardly exaggerated, fictional comedy for many single professional women. The reality is that we still live in the 19th century as far as social values surrounding single women are concerned. In Britain in the 19th century unmarried women were called "odd women"-- because they were not paired and, and if over 25 were unlikely to be paired-- thus they made an odd number at any event. Organizations sprung-up to export these women to places like Australia where it was thought there were men in need of wives. There were many novels written about this which still ring true, see, e.g., George Gissing's "The Odd Women." China is not alone is this attitude; it is here in the U.S. right now. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. Alas.
Pam Shira Fleetman (Acton Massachusetts)
@Linda Bell: I'm 72 years old and, when I was raised in the 1950s, my (college-educated) mother inculcated into me that my goal in life was to get married and have children. The reason I was to go to college was to find a college-educated husband, not for my own edification. I was also told that, if I wasn't married by the age of 25, I'd be an "old maid" for the rest of my life. It goes without saying that, as society changed and women became more independent, my mother's teachings did me a disservice.
KImberly Smithsom (Los Angeles)
@Linda Bell "not long ago" = today
KB (London)
It is never easy to follow your own path, particularly in a highly conformist society such as China. I certainly encountered plenty of sexism in both my professional and personal lives, but nothing quite like what one sees in this film. I was saddened to see this lovely, bright, and successful woman being hammered by both society and her family. She is not "sheng nu", she is doing what she finds fulfilling, and she looks great while doing it. I loved her little Mondrian inspired dress. I hope she sticks to her guns. Good luck Qiu Huamei! I wish you a good life, whether it is on your own or with an enlightened partner! If you do want a partner, perhaps look abroad.
Jay D (Westchester NY)
Interesting piece. However, I am having trouble reconciling the logistics of there being more men than women, yet, single women are having trouble getting married. Presumably, this would be the other way around from a numbers standpoint.
Camila (San Antonio TX)
@Jay D I believe that ultimately there are more unmarried men than women, however, in this particular instance the woman is having difficulty getting married due to her desire to remain independent and successful in her career conflicting with the societal expectations of remaining in the home after marriage. It's not that she cannot get married, its that she can not get married in a way that is personally fulfilling.
Rev Thomas Bayes (Miami, FL)
@Jay D the problem is with the minority of women who are highly educated with careers. Once she reaches 30, the highly educated men she probably is seeking may prefer the younger women that he can dominate
Lillian (CA)
@Jay D I can speak from what I've seen from relatives back in China and online commentary. With the single child policy, some girls were given resources and pushed to be successful - to be "just as good as boys" like the woman in this video. Boys on the other hand are more likely to be coddled by patriarchal minded grandparents and parents, and fed the old stereotypes for what a wife should be. It doesn't help that a large proportion of unmarried men are from rural areas where these mindsets are even more prevalent. This is causing a disconnect in the expectations of marriage once these children come to age. I once saw a comment by a woman on weibo: "I have a successful career, bought my own house and car, have enough money to maintain my lifestyle and support my parents. Why would I throw it all away to be an unpaid nanny for a man and his family? A man who may eventually at 50, divorce me for someone younger and leave me with nothing?".
Ms. Pea (Seattle)
I hope that Ms. Huamei will seek job opportunities outside of China. With her excellent language skills and education she should have no problem. She will welcome living in the West, where her accomplishments will be recognized and her marital status will be unimportant. China will lose many women like Ms. Huamei if the country doesn't change its ways.
Patsy (Arizona)
Once again I am so grateful to live here where I am not shamed for being single. That said, my mother was old school and until she died I heard over and over again to go find a man. I hope this young lady gets the respect for her decisions and doesn't have to marry a controlling man. Maybe among the males there is one who believes in equality. Or she can enjoy her single free life and show other young women the way.
SkepticaL (Chicago)
Spoiler alert - there is a surprising outcome for Qiu Huamei, but you must see the full 84-minute Independent Lens presentation. The Chinese men with whom she interacted fell far short of being worthy of this beautiful, intelligent, graceful woman - but where she is headed now is bound to leave all that in the past. May she have the loving future of all her dreams and aspirations. Ten years from now, it will be great if we can revisit Qiu Huamei and find out the rest of the story!
Kein Burton (Milwaukee)
@SkepticaL Thank you for sending me to the full video.
Kalidan (NY)
In the most advanced, sophisticated, liberal, egalitarian, hip real estate in the world, it is a sign of luxury to have lots of children. It says, "I have it all, and I afford this as a lifetime commitment to high expense in terms of money, energy and emotions, and you cannot." This is Manhattan, not backwater someplace else. I am not sure this is completely unrelated to this article, which is about a deep seated human emotion that defines an ideal in a particular way - pretty much all across cultures. Egalitarian cultures seem to make gender differences even more pronounced. We cannot meaningfully think (never mind address) this problem of 'single women as taboo' if we truly don't understand the emotional baggage that is wide, nuanced, and almost impossible to clearly articulate.
Melanie (Boston)
This story is heartbreaking. What a total diminishment of a bright beautiful young mind. In a different context, she would be considered ascending to her full potential, not on the descent toward the horrors that her sisters and parents describe. What is so compelling here is the way the family piles on the shame--Qiu Huawei's thoughtful choices are a badge of dishonor for her parents and siblings, who seem to relish letting her know just how deeply disappointing she is. I understand there is a social and political context, but what strikes me is the mental health angle, the scapegoating, the despair that takes over her lovely face, replacing hopeful smiles with the awareness that living life on her own terms carries a high interpersonal cost. I hope she finds a way to persevere.
Vida (New York)
@Melanie what drives me crazy is that everyone in the family thinks she or he has a right to throw these words onto her.
Teedee (New York)
I remember years ago thinking that the one-child policy in China would end terribly and that women would eventually pay the price, because they almost always do. And here it is. Oh my god but my heart aches for this poor woman. Such negativity thrown her way, from the "marriage counselor" or whatever at the beginning who is telling her she's not a beauty (Did anyone notice Ms. Qiu's face at that moment? I felt so heartbroken for her.) to the devastating conversation with her family at the end. In the meantime you can see right off that she could never be happy with any of the men she meets on dates, and they probably represent 98% of the dating field. She will never be happy being married if she gives into the cruel demands of conformity from society and her family to be less than she is. I think her best bet is to stay single and avoid her family as much as possible. Such a cruel attitude toward women in general can only bring greater social problems to China. I hope Chinese women will band together for support in such conditions.
tms (So Cal)
@Teedee This is more the traditional Chinese culture than the one-child policy. The one-child policy gave the people a chance to have better lives and many women to be able to be educated. Even with the 2 child policy, many people see that one child works better for the future of their family. The old ways and the modern world have a strange relationship in China.
Teedee (New York)
@tms I agree that a lot of what is working against Ms. Qiu is traditional Chinese culture (or traditional culture in general), but Chinese women would not outnumber Chinese men so greatly were it not for the tragic effects of the one-child policy and couples' preferences for sons (also a part of traditional Chinese culture). The destruction of millions of female fetuses and female infanticide resulting from that policy created the shortage of women today. (PS: I am solidly pro-choice, but not for gender selection.)
Lee (Tahlequah)
@Teedee "I think her best bet is to stay single and avoid her family as much as possible." I gather this was indeed her solution, and to do so in Europe.
Pascale Luse (Charleston, South Carolina)
The cruelty of the passive agressive comments directed at this smart beautiful and -yes - young woman are stunning. I hope she continues to fight for the right to be happy as a single woman and doesn’t fall for those mediocre suitors. This add, I bet, will actually succeed in more women staying single and free.
Hunt (Syracuse)
Five sisters?! How did they beat the one child policy?
Carrie Schneider (San Diego)
Because some families got exemptions when the infant turned out to be a worthless girl. Partly this is tied to the practice that brides move to their husband’s towns, whereas grooms stay in their family’s. With no social security, not having a son means an insecure old age.
Ak (Bklyn)
@Hunt minorities and the educated were allowed to have more.
Amy Luna (Chicago)
Where IS being a single woman “ok?” I’d like to live there.
CK (Pacific Northwest)
@Amy Luna Agree. I think when watching this documentary from a different culture it's easy to think we are so much "better" here in the US. But a similar attitude persists in most if not all areas here. The age may be a little older, but being a single female past a certain age here in the US is also frowned upon and questioned.
SchnauzerMom (Raleigh, NC)
@Amy Luna It certainly is not in Mississippi, my home state. Being a single woman is practically a crime there. Luckily, I escaped a long time ago.
talesofgenji (Asia)
@Amy Luna Sweden
DD (Florida)
She is so beautiful and cool.What jerks, being mean to her! Her problem is the same problem for women all over the world: there are not enough MEN who are as cool, kind, smart, generous and funny as us.
richard addleman (ottawa)
I thought in China when they had the one child system that there are now far more men than women,so there should not be a problem for women to find a husband if they really want to.
David (New York)
@richard addleman Did you ever think that it would still be hard to find a *quality* husband without a stunted view of women in a society like PRC?
Thea (NYC)
Qiu Huamei : You are absolutely beautiful in every way! I would love to have a daughter just like you. All women should be treated with respect, married and single. There are no "leftover" women.
Michele K (Ottawa)
@Thea Just leftover misogyny from the dark ages.
jo (northcoast)
Time for her to consider divorcing her family . . . but that is tough from someone who knows (did it for 3 years while getting help to feel/be better). All the men showcased are not for her -- or for any woman with brains and a career. She and other women like her in China are in a bad/sad place, that's for sure. Wish I could give her a hug and help her consider moving out of China. That last is a hard decision, too.
You Made The Bed, Now Sleep In It. (Austin Texas)
Perhaps had so many girl babies not been killed because of the cultural preference for boys, there wouldn’t be such a huge imbalance between men and women. Sounds like a problem for the boys, not the girls who chose careers over cooking.
cynicalskeptic (Greater NY)
wow......... I'm at a loss here. There's a SHORTAGE of women in China, right? The matchmaker is insulting the woman? The little you see in the clip shows well dressed seemingly successful women with t-shirt clad guys that unsurprisingly remain single. Are males in China so spoiled by their parents that they expect perfection? Given the odds, you think they'd be trying harder. Given the ethnic Chinese diaspora around the world perhaps these women would do far better outside mainland China - presuming that they even want to get married
BorisRoberts (Santa Maria, CA)
You are presuming that China will let her leave the country. Last time I checked, China is still a communist country that doesn't particularly want their people emigrating out.
t bo (new york)
@BorisRoberts You obviously did not watch the film. Mr. Qiu went to Germany for an advanced degree at the end of the film.
Ak (Bklyn)
@cynicalskeptic considering the intermarriage rate in the US, and personal conversations, this attitude is present here as well.
Jon Harrison (Poultney, VT)
Just another piece of evidence that the Chinese regime is a monster of tyranny and oppression.
Samuel (Brooklyn)
How could someone possibly be the "youngest of five sisters" in China, unless they were born before 1979? Anyone born before 1979 would be in their 40s today, which doesn't seem to be what this article is describing.
Louise Cavanaugh (Midwest)
There were exceptions to the one child rule for certain populations. I don’t know all the nuances, that seem to remember that in some rural communities, maybe for farming?, they allowed people to have more children.
Mary (NC)
@Samuel one child policy was not equally enforced - it varied region to region.
UH (NJ)
Love the irony of seeing her told that she's no real beauty by a match-maker with buck-teeth.
Laura (Atlanta)
@UH Girrrl!! YELLOW buck teeth!
Roy Rogers (New Orleans)
Totalitarianism is anti-human. Don't celebrate Cuba, Iran, and China. And never forget you, and countless others around the world, do not live in such a society because of the Cold War generations of Americans.
Andy (Paris)
@Roy Rogers the subject of this piece is not a particularly ideological nor political phenomenon, it's entirely cultural. There's just too much ugly way closer to home to be ashamed about, in the US, without imagining lecturing anyone about anti-human, not least the indoctrination your comment illustrates.
Amy Luna (Chicago)
Why not give voice to the Chinese women who are not buying into the need to date and marry? I’m sure they are out there. And their stories would be much more inspiring to hear. Also, why focus on one woman? Focus on the influential voices of the male supremacist culture and how and why they go unchallenged. Shine the spotlight on the people who normalize and enable male supremacy and those women and men who actively oppose it. Following one female around who is enabling the male supremacist system is not how to call out male supremacy. Call out male supremacy by 1) correctly naming it 2)identifying male and female male supremacists by name 3) give voice to women and men who challenge male supremacy. That’s what we do with white supremacy.
Andy (Paris)
You are free to do your own piece, so have at it. But do you think repeating male supremacy/ist 6 times in a 10 line comment makes for a compelling argument or a convincing critique of anyone else's work, let alone this poignant short film @Amy Luna ?
eheck (Ohio)
@Amy Luna I fail to see how Qiu Huamei's predicament is "enabling the male supremacist culture" in the context of this film If anything, she is being victimized by it, while refusing to subjugate her desires for her own life to the pressures mounted against her by her family and her government.
Dee (Boston)
I really hope Ms. Qiu doesn't give into all this external pressure and knows that she should follow her heart and do what makes her happy. I understand a bit how difficult this is because I have a couple of Chinese female friends whose parents impose a similar (although not as tyrannical) pressure on their daughters. The hypocrisy displayed in the video is astonishing. The matchmaker calling Ms. Qiu too old and unattractive, even if it is her "job," lacks the complete sense that just having that kind of judgement makes you ugly personality-wise by default. Ms. Qiu is beautiful inside and out. Her sister looks either jealous or highly insecure herself and doesn't seem to genuinely care about Ms. Qiu's happiness. As a single 31 year old Asian woman who also is cruising and enjoying life the way it is, please be strong and don't bow to this societal pressure!!! Ironically if there is now a much higher ratio of men to women in China, the women should be allowed to be pickier, not the other way around.
Asher Taite (Vancouver)
@Dee Exactly! The scarcity of women in China is a direct result of sexism in a patrilineal, patriarchal society. And now the sexist patriarchs don't want to pay the piper. The woman shortage puts women in the catbird seat! Chinese women, own your power!
Catherine (Seattle)
No, they're not in the catbird seat. When society is sexist, women will be oppressed no matter the background conditions. (Too many men, not enough men, just the right number of men, whatever.)
Dee (Boston)
@Asher Taite Someone should make graphic T shirts saying "Sheng nu." I'd proudly and gladly wear one!!
Paul (Brooklyn)
Pressuring women to do anything is wrong, especially the extremes ie the Neo feminists, women don't need or want men or the right wingers, women should only be in the bedroom and kitchen. Treat everybody equally and then let women be women and men be men.
MK (New York, New York)
@Paul I get there are some women who feel a certain feminist pressure to not want traditional things but globally that pressure is negligible compared to the pressure to get married and have kids. It's also basically confined to western first world countries and probably completely irrelevant in China. So there's really no equivalence.
Lazy L (Wyoming)
@Paul let people be themselves, however they discover it in this creative mess called living.
Lee (Tahlequah)
@Paul You know there are women who are interested dating other women, right? If they want to get married, great. But not everyone has to have a man to have a family or a good life. The majority do, but not everyone. Otherwise we wouldn't have geniuses like Emily Dickinson or Jane Austen.
ML (Washington, D.C.)
If the Chinese Communist Party valued women, they wouldn't have encouraged the gender-based abortions of females for decades. The one child policy plus the social preference for a male heir resulted in decades of infanticide of female fetuses because they were female. Where has this left them? With a disproportionate number of men, many of whom have no chance to find a female partner. It also leaves China, and the world, with the attendant problem of a resurgent country with an access of single, angry men. So or course they are resentful and hateful toward women who choose to not marry - the women aren't subordinating their will to alleviate the social pressure of all these single men.
Chris (San Diego)
@ML I lived in China for 8 years, I don't think that the government ever encouraged sex selective abortion; it was always a decision made within the family itself. It was always an unintended consequence of the one-child policy and official prenatal gender testing was banned once it became clear that was happening. I'm not an apologist for the CCP but it's important not to get stuff like that wrong when there are so many legitimate issues.
Lynn (Greenville, SC)
@ML India never had a 1 child policy but they also have a gender imbalance problem. The lack of a social safety net and the greater earning power of men creates this problem. Taking care of elderly parents is considered the duty of sons, so the earning power of sons is the only "social security" some older people have.
Radhika (Mumbai)
INDIA is deeply patriarchal as is the world right now to different degrees. In a ‘democracy’ like India culture takes care of what the government cannot. It is a well-known fact that across class, caste, community female foeticide is practised and accepted. The reality is that men are raised to be entirely entitled and at the end of their parents life they have no interest in taking care of aging parents and it is usually the daughters who take care and fulfill their responsibilities. In case where there are no daughters extended family steps in. As a single INDIAN woman, living in India, I deeply empathise with the protagonist. The treatment of women by families, communities and culture is a performance in oppression.
Alex (EU)
A power op-ed, one of the most powerful ever. I’m moved, and ashamed by the social requirement imposed on her, a beautiful young professional. Freedom is the key, freedom should be a right of everyone. And, by the way, there are lots of country spot also here in the EU where this is the “normal” way of handling this kind of situation, not so blunt but the pressure is always present.
Sherrod Shiveley (Lacey)
I know nothing at all about movie making, but the close-up camera work and depiction of the family argument at the end was fabulous. The camera kept going back to her angry, silent mother which just said it all.
LS (Spain)
This is one of the most powerful and gut-wrenching Op-docs I have seen in a long time. Qiu Huawei, be strong and keep your standards high. Your intelligence, grit and humanity are inspiring.
John M. WYyie II (Oologah, OK)
What a valuable lesson for those who consider to insist women are second-class citizens, and what a sad story not just for the women of China but for all Chinese citizens and the preservation of their nation as a world force for the future. She seeks a kind of romantic/loving/co-supportive relationship that the government loathes-something she is denied because er possible partners are trained to ignore the very qualities that would make her a huge addition to the right partner's life. How sad.
Max Shapiro (Brooklyn)
It seems like marriage is just an all consuming distraction that brings out the shallowness of fear in us. My parents didn't want me to marry, mostly they said because the knew me to be the kind of person who would make anyone I'd marry quite miserable. I love being single and at the same time, I like knowing I'm not being annoying. Instead of feeling like leftovers in the back of the fridge, I'm able to be fresh and crisp with all my friends, neighbors, and the kids who scan my groceries at the checkout. And Chinese food is the best! All that chopping without the pressures or distraction of kids and spouse. Why else do we live?
BorisRoberts (Santa Maria, CA)
In this country, we live to fill up the pews at our religious institutions! "We've got to get our numbers up!", was how I heard it when my (then) new wife, got me to go to her church for my one and only time, 15 years ago. Sorry, but I'm never going back in there, I told her when they started preaching about how we were supposed to vote in the upcoming election.
Joshua (Boston)
Having dated a few women from China, and certainly knowing far more, I have to say, at least in experience- for every woman like Ms. Qiu, there is another that legitimately wants to be married in her 20s and adhere to traditional values and social norms. The common Western approach is to say, "well, they're brainwashed." But I think this article really bears testament to our myopic, post-modern mindset. We look for situations like these where it's a perfect example to make the call for "female empowerment" and crushing some "heteropatriarchal" traditional system. I have yet to see some even keeled reporting speaking to the countless women who actually like traditional roles, the reasoning behind it, etc.. China does legitimately have a population issue, and having a traditional family structure is as much a choice as going to work and putting off marriage. I really would like to see the other side of the story for once, as opposed to preaching to the choir and painting as much of a caricature of society as we claim the Chinese are doing of unmarried women. Is it not enough to put down the activist blow horn and be able to look at other cultures (and our own) from an impartial, third person view?
SDC (Princeton, NJ)
@Joshua there is nothing wrong with either mindset. And the tradition young women obviously are welcome to their preferences and probably have no problem finding husbands in China. But the government is not advocating against them. There is also nothing wrong with wanting professional fulfillment.
Amy Luna (Chicago)
Do not conflate male supremacist systems with individuals’ desire for family. They are two entirely separate issues.
arty (MA)
@Joshua Joshua, everyone is "brainwashed"--- the question is what the relevant societal norms are to which they are socialized. Here's a question (courtesy of John Rawls, of course): Not knowing if you would be born male or female, would you prefer to be born into a society where 1. Everyone was equal, or... 2. There is a 50-50 chance that you would be in the group that is subservient to the other half of the population. ? It seems unlikely that those women you describe, given that choice, would have picked #2 prior to their birth (and subsequent socialization)-- no rational person would make that choice.
Fromjersey (NJ)
I started watching this documentary last night as was deeply moved, especially by Qiu Huamei's story, and the woman herself. I turned it off after she returned home to her village to see her family and the incredible pressure they were placing on her. She was entirely ostracized. It was heartbreaking. I intend to watch it in it's entirety very soon. It was fascinating and very relatable, as woman who has remained single in the metro New York area through most of my adult life. Powerful stuff. Especially agains the backdrop of Chinese culture, traditions, norms, and expectations upon women, and single people on a whole.
Golly (Texas)
My heart breaks. What a sad commentary on a young, bright, beautiful, educated woman (quietly) standing up for herself. It appears as though she is open to being in a relationship, but is unwilling to settle. Thank goodness! The prospects showed in the film were selfish, oppressive, chauvinistic and uninteresting. And her sister - YIKES! How easy it is for me to criticize the situation as a single middle-aged American woman. I'd like to say that me being a single woman makes me feel strong and empowered but I'd be lying. Sad to say, but I do see the same veil stateside. Perhaps the signs aren't as blatant, but many people continue to judge me for being single. It is as though there is something that is inherently wrong with me. Let's get real. Is being a single woman really okay - by societal standards - anywhere?
ProudBoomer (New York)
@Golly I am single and have quite a few female friends who are. We live in NYC. I do believe here and in other big cities, one can live single and be respected, not judged.
Bobin MA (Georgetown, MA)
@Golly I am a married woman, with children and a grandchild, whose best friend didn't marry until menopause, whose sister married but was childless, and who has several other unmarried and/or childless and beloved friends. They were not so rude as to dismiss my children, and I was not so rude as to talk about my children to the exclusion of all other topics. My children were blessed with the examples of other ways of being women, and cherished their devoted aunt. I am not close to these women to set an example to my children, however; we are friends because we find each other interesting, funny, compassionate, and supportive, each in her own way. They have enriched my life immeasurably, and I like to think I have enriched their lives. We could probably be friends, @Golly, were we to meet. A zest for life is such an attractive characteristic, regardless of marital or child-rearing status. I wish you the best.
Betti (New York)
@Golly it is in New York City and also in Western Europe. Even in traditional societies such as Italy and Spain, single single women are choosing to have children without bothering to marry or even live with the fathers. Why? Because they grew up seeing entitled mama's boys/man-babies and decided they're just not worth their time.
A.K (Canada)
So funny, the same conversation happened in my family except they were unhappy I had children in my 20s instead of becoming a lawyer (like I said I would do when I was 10).
ChristineMcM (Massachusetts)
I initially found this Op-DOC funny in the dating scenes where oafs make such statements such as "you look better than your photo" reminded me of all the bad dates I had on Match. But when Qiu Huamei met what looked like a good prospect from a similar background, it was painful to watch her expression turn from hope to sadness as this educated man expounds on how he expects to choose the type of cell phone his wife should have. In one sense, the problem of highly educated women trying to find suitable suitors is as old as "Little Women." But it's clearly worse in totalitarian societies like China that try to force the issue for political reasons when only one party stands to benefit.
Concerned in NYC (NYC)
This is a very moving film. She is beautiful, intelligent and free. I hope she withstands the social pressure and understands it for what it is. Moreover, hopefully there are support groups in China with other women like her. Ideally she can take great vacations to see the world and otherwise take full advantage of being single. Much of the world does continue to put pressure on single women and make them feel different. Don't buy into it: flourish and appreciate your self-sufficiency and options.
somsai (colorado)
Life is not fair, to men or women. For many the most fulfilling important thing in the world is children, and moms are the best moms. How important are careers compared to kids, for either partner. I feel sorry for the box women are put in. Successful yes, imagine how much happier if they'd married at 18 when they were at their peak.
ChristineMcM (Massachusetts)
@somsai: would they be? I think this film perfectly illustrates the problem educated women face in China, where a similarly educated man has little to offer, with old-school ideas about "dominance" in the marriage. In America at least you have the freedom to be single, pursue a career, and not have children--not everyone is destined for, or wants, motherhood. In the US there is far less pressure and certainly no state pressure to pursue marriage for marriage's sake, as an institution versus a fulfilling union between two co-equal partners.
Mary (NC)
@somsai your view is that from a Western perspective and that is telling. Marriage in other cultures, and the social implications for woman, vary. Many Asian cultures are highly patriarchal, to include China, and you cannot compare expectations of women and wives in the Western World to those of China, Japan, Korea, etc. The expectations for women in those cultures demand that they conform to the patriarchy, if the do not, their lives are miserable. Many choose (such as in Japan, China, etc.) to opt out of the deal, because the marriage deal is not good for them in a way that would be unimaginable to most people in Western culture.
Happy and Proud (Boston, MA)
@somsai - Women are "at their peak" at age 18? Maybe for men whose primary criteria for marriage is a young woman who (presumably) is willing to have sex whenever he wants. For anyone who cares about personality, character, compatibility, and readiness for marriage, unless they are a cult or ultra-religious background, 18 is definitely NOT the "peak age" for marriage. And why would a woman, of any age, be interested in a man whose primary, and probably only, interest in her is sexual? I doubt very much that a woman who marries at age 18 to a man like somsai would be happy 10 or 20 years later. Talk about living in a fantasy world...
Gabrielle (Berkeley)
Her Dad seemed proud of her education and career but seemed to feel betrayed. This is probably the best he can do but with her help he might come around especially if she has a plan to avoid being a burden upon her family. Comparing the family oriented culture of China to the rugged individualism of America is like comparing apples to oranges. I hope she finds a way to make all her dreams come true.
Debra Merryweather (Syracuse NY)
@Gabrielle The "rugged individualism" of America exists in myth. There are many girls and women of my "boomer" era who grew up watching Tracy/Hepburn movies who, in their neighborhoods and sometimes, parochial schools, were, if they were lucky, groomed to be wives and mothers of rugged individualist males, and, if they were unlucky, "taken advantage of" and sometimes locked away to hide the results of that victimization. "Rugged individualist" is a term applied to American men and rarely heard applied to women.
SDC (Princeton, NJ)
@Gabrielle how will a successful lawyer likely become a burden on her family?
Carla (Cambridge)
So interesting, and so sad too. What a poignant vignette. First of all she is beautiful, by any standards, although that's besides the point. The guilt and shame that is thrown on her by everyone including her own sisters and parents. Wow. I hope she sticks to her guns, but somehow I doubt she will be able to withstand the pressure.
dupr (New Jersey)
A very realistic snapshot of being single not only in China but all over the world including here in the u.s. The same pressure campaigns are played out but in non aggressive ways. For most people they can’t imagine someone wanting to remain single and being happy with who they are. Very sad.
no one (does it matter?)
So in China you can be strong, intelligent, vibrant if you're married? My experience is that it is much the same here and who are the most vigilant gatekeepers? Not just men but married women. As someone who never had any ambition to marry, I've had as much and sometimes even worse treatment at the hands of women to whom someone who says no to having to take care of a man, having to have children that buy her her financial security more threatening than a grizzly bear. We don't need a government agency to keep we unmarried in our place. The social stigma is doing that job just fine.
Mary Hannon (Monticello, GA)
@no one My feeling about married women who pressure single women is misery loves company. They are envious or they wouldn't act that way.
Daniel M (Berkeley CA)
I feel the exact way about parents pressuring childless couples to procreate just because they did.
Susan (Boston)
This is so disturbing and so powerful. She's beautiful, bright and spirited. I wish I could airlift her to the joyful communities of "leftover" women in my city. They are having a blast and their friends are family. That this young woman is being punished just breaks my heart. I know women in the U.S. who face the same pressures, and as the subject's sister expressed it, the underlying message always seems to be, how dare you make your own choices, invent your own life, make a mockery of those who did precisely what was expected of us, and even worse, enjoy yourself."
ChristineMcM (Massachusetts)
@Susan: wonderful comment, particularly about airlifting this bright, attractive young women to Boston where she could find plenty of company in a place where she can actually choose her destiny, or not, and reinvent her life over and over, rather than being consigned to a potentially bad choice versus stigma.
James (East Lansing)
@Susan AMEN!
Roisin (Pittsburgh)
@Susan Thank you Susan, I couldn't have said this better myself. Heart breaking and infuriating watching this. I wish she could leave and emigrate to a country where she would at least be left alone. I feel that it's our duty in Western countries to live the life that she and others like her cannot, enjoy our ability to choose a career, marry or not, and strive to live meaningful lives. Thanks also to the documentary filmmakers.
Kay Sieverding (Belmont, MA)
When I was in my early 20's, I concluded that my top earnings potential through employment was significantly less than what it would be if I was a full time wife to a high earning man. I concluded that men who knew they had potential to be high earners wanted helpmates and trophies instead of dealing with competition and time demands from a spouse's career.
Bill (NYC)
@Kay Sieverding I guess sometimes you just have to choose, don't you? Unless your sole goal in life is to maximize your top earnings potential. Whatever, more power to you.
MaryTheresa (Way Uptown)
@Kay Sieverding So, how did that work out? ~Sincerely Curious
kidsaregreat (Atlanta, GA)
@Kay Sieverding I'm with @MaryTheresa... What did you choose?
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