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Escape from the country: the gender politics of Chinese women in pursuit of transnational romance

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This study focuses on two marginalized groups in Chinese society: 27-years old (or older) ‘left-over’ (never-married) women and divorced women. Both these kinds of women are subject to discrimination and ridicule by the mass media and even their own families. This essay argues that despite the economic prosperity China has enjoyed over the last thirty years, gender relations in the country are rooted in a patriarchal discourse that reveals a hybridity of old and new ideals – family responsibility and individual self-fulfillment – in which the pursuit of love and marital commitment cannot be divorced from larger social-cultural-economic structures that endorse intergenerational responsibility and obligation, as well as promote gender inequality in the home and workplace. For these two groups of ostracized women, romance with foreign men may seem an alternative to the constraints of this structural framework. Drawing from a pool of evidence, published interviews, media reports, and printed ethnographic studies, this study analyzes the predicaments of leftover and divorced women, the interactions between these women and foreign men, and what their experiences with these men say about gender and racial differences in relation to gender inequality.
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Keywords: China; divorced women; gender inequality; leftover women; patriarchy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Faculty of Humanities, Leiden Institute for Area Studies, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands

Publication date: April 3, 2018

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