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Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China

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After China's Communist revolution of 1949, Chairman Mao famously proclaimed that "women hold up half the sky." In the early years of the People's Republic, the Communist Party sought to transform gender relations with expansive initiatives such as assigning urban women jobs in the planned economy. Yet those gains are now being eroded in China's post-socialist era. Contrar After China's Communist revolution of 1949, Chairman Mao famously proclaimed that "women hold up half the sky." In the early years of the People's Republic, the Communist Party sought to transform gender relations with expansive initiatives such as assigning urban women jobs in the planned economy. Yet those gains are now being eroded in China's post-socialist era. Contrary to many claims made in the mainstream media, women in China have experienced a dramatic rollback of many rights and gains relative to men. "Leftover Women" debunks the popular myth that women have fared well as a result of post-socialist China's economic reforms and breakneck growth.


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After China's Communist revolution of 1949, Chairman Mao famously proclaimed that "women hold up half the sky." In the early years of the People's Republic, the Communist Party sought to transform gender relations with expansive initiatives such as assigning urban women jobs in the planned economy. Yet those gains are now being eroded in China's post-socialist era. Contrar After China's Communist revolution of 1949, Chairman Mao famously proclaimed that "women hold up half the sky." In the early years of the People's Republic, the Communist Party sought to transform gender relations with expansive initiatives such as assigning urban women jobs in the planned economy. Yet those gains are now being eroded in China's post-socialist era. Contrary to many claims made in the mainstream media, women in China have experienced a dramatic rollback of many rights and gains relative to men. "Leftover Women" debunks the popular myth that women have fared well as a result of post-socialist China's economic reforms and breakneck growth.

30 review for Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra X on hiatus (or trying to be)

    Review to be reinstated or rewritten when a new copy of the book comes.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cissa

    This is a fascinating look at the difference between reality and social control efforts in modern China. In point of fact, in China there are no "leftover women"; the stats show (depending on area), anything from 110 men to 100 women on up. In some rural districts, as described in this book, unmarried men outnumber unmarried women at over 2:1! One would think, then, that society and the political machine would realize that women are a relatively scarce and valuable resource, especially since both This is a fascinating look at the difference between reality and social control efforts in modern China. In point of fact, in China there are no "leftover women"; the stats show (depending on area), anything from 110 men to 100 women on up. In some rural districts, as described in this book, unmarried men outnumber unmarried women at over 2:1! One would think, then, that society and the political machine would realize that women are a relatively scarce and valuable resource, especially since both promote marriage as essential for society. You'd be wrong. The "leftover women" campaigns are essentially designed to make women feel insecure bout their prospects, and so accept suitors and compromises that are completely opposed to their own self-interests. Let's not try to make men treat women well! Let's just get women to accept increasingly shoddy treatment! Domestic violence is clearly a problem in China, but it's not illegal. If a guy beat up someone on the street, he could be prosecuted; when he beats up his wife, it's OK- except that if she seeks help, SHE will be shamed and often attacked by society at large. It doesn't help that even though many women enter a marriage with assets similar to their spouse's- they don't get to keep them. She will put her saving into the down payment on a house or apartment; as will he, and often relatives of both spouses. However, the deed will be ONLY in his name- which legally means it's all his, even when she's paying half or more of the mortgage. The "leftover women" campaigns tell women that they're lucky to have a man at all, so should not complain about anything. And even if they do- there's usually less than no help. I am deeply interested in the social status and positions of women around the world, and this was an excellent summary of the situation in modern China. It's a bit dry, but has interviews and anecdotes that illustrate and illuminate many of the points, and the footnotes are impressive- I'll be reading more from them. I am also interested in the ways in which media propaganda- often "counter-factual" (i.e. bald-faced lies)- are used to manipulate people in general. Here's an excellent, detailed example. Note: I got an ARC of this book through LibraryThing.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Shen Yang

    Leta Hong Fincher was a journalist before completing a PhD in Sociology at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. This book is based on her PhD project on the under-researched connections between leftover women, China’s property market, and gender inequality. Fincher has previously written articles discussing similar issues for the New York Times, CNN, and Ms. Magazine, through which these topics have already gained some popularity. With an abundance of interview quotes and contemporaneous media reports Leta Hong Fincher was a journalist before completing a PhD in Sociology at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. This book is based on her PhD project on the under-researched connections between leftover women, China’s property market, and gender inequality. Fincher has previously written articles discussing similar issues for the New York Times, CNN, and Ms. Magazine, through which these topics have already gained some popularity. With an abundance of interview quotes and contemporaneous media reports, this book is quite readable and has the potential to attract a wide audience. According to Fincher, the term ‘leftover woman’ in China ‘is widely used to describe an urban, professional female in her late twenties or older who is still single’ (p.2). In Chapter 1, Fincher examines the leftover women discourse mediated through ‘state media news reports, surveys, columns, cartoons and television shows’ (p.15), and argues that two reasons account for the state promoting the leftover women discourse: one is to maintain social stability in the context of the persisting sex ratio imbalance – China has 32million more men aged under 20 than women – that prevents a lot of men from finding wives; the other is to upgrade the ‘quality’ of the populace by urging well-educated women to marry. It is an insightful observation indeed that the state serves as a latent driver, disseminating this stigmatizing ‘leftover’ women discourse, which arguably has a profound impact on unmarried women over the age of 25. Chapter 2 considers how Chinese women have been ‘shut out of arguably the biggest accumulation of residential real-estate wealth in history’ because the pressure they experience in trying to avoid becoming ‘leftover’ means that they often ‘give up too much bargaining power within the marriage’ (p.12). Chapter 3 further deals with how ‘many parents discriminate against their own daughters by buying expensive homes for their sons only’, leading to a gendered wealth gap in house buying. The book is written in an accessible style, allowing general readers access to the subject. It also adopts an inclusive approach in that it covers a wide range of issues in relation to women’s property rights, including the rights of LGBT groups in Chapter 3 and Chapter 6, and the relationship between domestic abuse and women’s lack of property rights in Chapter 5. These issues are rarely discussed together when considering gender inequality in China, so the author is to be congratulated for this effort. However, I did find that in places the evidence provided is insufficient to support the arguments presented. For example, readers are introduced to a female informant who has a university degree but left her job because ‘she wanted to make herself a more attractive marriage candidate, less intimidating to suitors’. She is quoted as saying “my most important duty is to find a good man to marry” (p.39). The author analyses the case by noting that ‘the state media campaign regarding “leftover” women has prompted some highly educated women to quit their jobs even before they get married’ (p.39). Aside from questioning how rare this case is, I find a lack of coherence between the analysis and the quotes as the informant did not explicitly suggest that she was influenced by the ‘leftover’ discourse. The imprecision in analysis can also be identified in Chapter 3. The author reveals that the informant Shang got married because she believed that she was getting older. The author links her anxiety with ‘the “leftover” women age threshold’ (p.107). Again, the informant did not specify the connection between her anxiety and the prescribed age of ‘leftover’ women advocated by the state media. By adopting the ‘leftover’ women discourse in a one-size-fits-all fashion, it can be argued that the author not only exaggerates the influence that the ‘leftover’ discourse imposes on women, but also ignores the intricate complexity of the reasons for their anxiety. It is not difficult to recognise that unmarried women’s anxiety around their increasing age existed before the emergence of the ‘leftover’ women discourse, and furthermore that it is seen in other countries where the ‘leftover’ women discourse does not exist. The author cites a remarkable amount of online sources to support her argument, showing engagement with a variety of sources. However Fincher doesn’t acknowledge that they may not be completely trustworthy. In Chapter 2, the author cites the 2012 Horizon and iFeng.com Report, noting that women’s names were endorsed on only 30 per cent of marital home deals (p.46). First, there are perhaps questions as to the credibility of the report, as it did not suggest how many informants were involved, nor how the survey was conducted. Furthermore, it is a pity that the author did not mention the trend indicated by the report, of a 10.2% increase in the number of women’s names on home deeds compared to the time prior to 2006, which can be interpreted as women’s rising power in property rights. Although there are thought-provoking points throughout, I find some of the findings intrinsically contradictory. For instance, in Chapter 3, Fincher reports that a daughter’s parents ‘often decline to help buy a home’ for their daughter (p.78). The author implies that it is because the parents consider buying a home to be man’s responsibility (p.83). However, the author finds out that many women contribute their whole savings to help their partners to buy homes without putting their names on the deeds. The daughters’ behaviour is in contrast to their parents’ perception that men should be the home provider. Considering the author’s finding that a daughter has a sense of filial piety to her parents (p.82), I cannot help but wonder how the parents view their daughters’ behaviour of contributing their savings without being entitled to the property? Does it lead to any intergenerational conflicts? The book unfortunately does not discuss this. Finally, the use of the word ‘resurgence’ is somewhat problematic in this context. As suggested in the Introduction, ‘this book argues that the state-sponsored media campaign about “leftover” women is part of a broad resurgence of gender inequality in post-socialist China’ (p.3). Resurgence here implies that gender equality was once achieved. I consider gender equality to have never been achieved and indeed that gender inequality has been persistent throughout China’s history (see Liu, Croll and Stacey for further reading). In Chapter 4, Fincher conceptualises ‘resurgence’ by tracing back to the Song dynasty (960-1279), upholding that women at that time ‘had substantial, independent ownership and control of property’ (p.110). She then compares the women in the Song Dynasty to those in contemporary China, claiming that ‘Chinese women’s property rights have steadily eroded in the post-socialist, rural-to-urban transformation’ (p.131). The way in which she compares the women in contemporary China with the women one thousand years ago is problematic; although the author quotes historian Bernhardt, it seems that she disregards Bernhardt’s conclusion that ‘there was no “half-share law” in the Song and indeed could not have been. Instead, the principles of patrilineal succession applied, and women enjoyed inheritance rights only by default, in the absence of brothers and sons.’ (p.8). Chapter 4 leaves itself open to critiques of reductionism by merely discussing property rights without considering the corresponding social economic context. The dominant discourse among the Chinese media and public currently focuses on how women strategise to add their names to the deeds without paying for or paying very little for property. This book engineers to reverse the abovementioned discourse by discussing how women are disadvantaged in the real estate market. Unfortunately, by intertwining the ‘leftover women’ discourse and real estate market, the author’s intention to create a novel approach to demonstrate how women are disadvantaged in contemporary China fails to meet its purpose due to its reductionist approach, the not well-grounded evidence, and the insufficiently supported arguments. Above all, this book looks likely to be controversial. Nonetheless it has the potential to be a bestseller due to the timeliness of the topic, Fincher’s eye-catching arguments, and the already established reputation of the author, regardless of how selective the views encapsulated in this book may be. Once again, it is worth saying that the author should be recognised for bringing together the rarely-discussed issues of women’s property rights, the rights of LGBT groups, and domestic abuse. From LSE Book Review http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/lsereviewofboo...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    So angry. A table flipping inducing book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tsenguun Batbold

    This is a very good book that states the current issue on single women who are under pressure to get married. I believe, this issue is rising among many Asian societies, but not in the West(they must have overcome it already long ago). Asian traditions and cultures tend to incline to patriarchy and gender inequality, and this has led to issues of Asian women having one more big problem in their lives, additional to many others also related to gender inequality, which I dont want to list here. In This is a very good book that states the current issue on single women who are under pressure to get married. I believe, this issue is rising among many Asian societies, but not in the West(they must have overcome it already long ago). Asian traditions and cultures tend to incline to patriarchy and gender inequality, and this has led to issues of Asian women having one more big problem in their lives, additional to many others also related to gender inequality, which I dont want to list here. In Mongolia, this is a current issue as well, many young women, in their early 20s already feel pressured from the society the obligation to find someone "good" to marry and start a family. I wonder when will Asian societies overcome this patriarchal societal issue, like the Westerns did.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I absolutely loved this book and will never think about gender relations in China the same way. I was skeptical about gender equality there after my own experience, but Hong Fincher shows how much greater that disparity has become in the last decade since the property boom and new laws came into being. The book flowed well and was well organized. It was less about the leftover women themselves than what it would mean to be without a spouse in China or how women go into marriages so they can own I absolutely loved this book and will never think about gender relations in China the same way. I was skeptical about gender equality there after my own experience, but Hong Fincher shows how much greater that disparity has become in the last decade since the property boom and new laws came into being. The book flowed well and was well organized. It was less about the leftover women themselves than what it would mean to be without a spouse in China or how women go into marriages so they can own property, yet it’s never really theirs. This is a quick read and one you won’t forget. Looking forward to her new book later this year.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    This is definitely a four star book! Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Equality in China by Leta Hong Fincher makes me think of the 1950s in the United States. That was when women were encouraged to be home and take care of the family, instead of competing with men for a high paying jobs. Even though they had proved their ability by putting together airplanes and ships, they were suddenly relegated to the kitchen, to take care of the children and to keep their husbands happy. This was a bi This is definitely a four star book! Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Equality in China by Leta Hong Fincher makes me think of the 1950s in the United States. That was when women were encouraged to be home and take care of the family, instead of competing with men for a high paying jobs. Even though they had proved their ability by putting together airplanes and ships, they were suddenly relegated to the kitchen, to take care of the children and to keep their husbands happy. This was a big step backwards for women's equality. But in China, this step backwards is a much bigger step, a more dangerous step. Leta Hong Flincher proves her point about the "sheng nu" or leftover women in China's current society. There is a tremendous pressure to get married while you are still in your child bearing years. In China, only the man's name is on the bank account and on the registration for the house. There is much more pressure to buy a house than here. That pressure is from family and friends but also by the government campaigns. And those campaigns are not limited to that one area. The Leftover Women are those unmarried women or in our culture, "old maid". They can be only twenty-five years or older, vibrant and intelligent professional women but they are portrayed as dried up old women. There is tremendous pressure to not be a leftover woman. What does the extraordinary real estate boom, the consequences of the one child policy and the government non acceptance of lesbians and gays have to do with this backwards slide? The author did two and a half years of care research and found out how this is happening. The writing style is clear and easy to read although just a bit repetitive. I had visited China back in 1998 and think this is a clear change from the way it was then. I highly recommend this book to all who are interested in China. I received this advance reading copy as a win from FirstReads but that in no way influenced my thoughts or feelings in my review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tamar

    A sobering and fascinating look at gender dynamics in present day China. It is absolutely amazing to me how people can be pressured into doing things that blatantly go against their own self interest thanks for governmental, family and media influence. This book reminds me yet again about the major differences between China and the West and makes me doubly appreciate living in the United States. Written in a clear way appropriate for both scholars and non-scholars alike, Leftover Women was a rel A sobering and fascinating look at gender dynamics in present day China. It is absolutely amazing to me how people can be pressured into doing things that blatantly go against their own self interest thanks for governmental, family and media influence. This book reminds me yet again about the major differences between China and the West and makes me doubly appreciate living in the United States. Written in a clear way appropriate for both scholars and non-scholars alike, Leftover Women was a relatively quick and interesting read. Note: I received this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers Program.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Anne Bradley

    I learned some few things, but this book - which seems to be a PhD dissertation - reads like one.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Holly Rose

    I read this after reading Betraying Big Brother also by Leta Hong-Fincher, as it's one of my favourite non fiction books, about an area I previously knew very little about. I don't think it is clear from the blurb, but this book is mostly about real estate in China and how the gender division of this is both a problem in itself and indicative of the larger problem of a resurgence of gender inequality in China. Overall, very accessible and interesting, well worth the read, particularly if this is I read this after reading Betraying Big Brother also by Leta Hong-Fincher, as it's one of my favourite non fiction books, about an area I previously knew very little about. I don't think it is clear from the blurb, but this book is mostly about real estate in China and how the gender division of this is both a problem in itself and indicative of the larger problem of a resurgence of gender inequality in China. Overall, very accessible and interesting, well worth the read, particularly if this is an area you're just starting to learn about!

  11. 4 out of 5

    gazi

    I had to read this for class (all I read nowadays is for school) and it was clear enough, but it was 100 pages too long.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Wilson

    Very interesting and depressing read about the womans rights struggle in china.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Annabelle

    I really wanted to love this book - in the Venn diagram of women's rights and contemporary China I am firmly in the middle. There were several aspects that held me back, and would have likely deterred someone with less of an aggressive enthusiasm for the subject matter. The text is not about the resurgence of gender inequality in China as much as it is about specific ways in which a particular subset of women in China are being commodified and denied rights. These are urban, affluent, educated, I really wanted to love this book - in the Venn diagram of women's rights and contemporary China I am firmly in the middle. There were several aspects that held me back, and would have likely deterred someone with less of an aggressive enthusiasm for the subject matter. The text is not about the resurgence of gender inequality in China as much as it is about specific ways in which a particular subset of women in China are being commodified and denied rights. These are urban, affluent, educated, and assumedly (although this is not mentioned) Han women. Leta Hong Fincher's overarching narrative, albeit unclear at times, is that such women are desired as suitable mothers to future populations by the Party, and as such the furious propaganda efforts that created the concept of 'Leftover Women' causes them to feel intense pressure to marry and have children. She goes on to discuss at length the way in which women often don't include their names on houses purchased with their husbands, and as such are denied legal protection. I couldn't help but feel that this is somewhat of a privileged scenario for many. The book does go into the unique struggle for lesbian and bisexual women, which was great, but where were the minority women, or the rural women, or the women in urban areas who couldn't afford to go to university? They form a critical part of the picture of gender inequality in contemporary China, too. It took quite a specific gaze in a way that was quite repetitive at times, as mentioned in other reviews. The book at times read like a thesis, which is what it was, at one point. The best part of the book is the smattering of personal testimonies by young Chinese women, although I felt these could have been organised more clearly. I also really enjoyed the way that Hong Fincher examines the way that the Party utilises female bodies through the lens of biopolitics, although I felt this deserved to be fleshed out more, particularly considering how much attention was given to a discussion of housing prices in Chinese first tier cities. All in all, it's a good not great, which may come down to my interest in the area more than anything.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    An important book. Offering a close look at the real estate boom and how property rights are practiced, Leta Hong Fincher offers a comprehensive overview of the ways women's rights are undermined today in post-socialist China. It's hard to read without feeling overwhelmed by outrage by the constant discrimination women face. Hong Fincher clearly documents how the forces of the market economy, the authoritarian state, and old-fashioned patriarchy converge to undermine women's autonomy, support ma An important book. Offering a close look at the real estate boom and how property rights are practiced, Leta Hong Fincher offers a comprehensive overview of the ways women's rights are undermined today in post-socialist China. It's hard to read without feeling overwhelmed by outrage by the constant discrimination women face. Hong Fincher clearly documents how the forces of the market economy, the authoritarian state, and old-fashioned patriarchy converge to undermine women's autonomy, support male power, and maintain compulsory heterosexuality. She clearly shows the institutional nature of women's oppression, such as in the lack of protections from abuse and in the case of divorce. I appreciated that her discussion touched on the lives of lesbians and gay men, in addition to heterosexuals. Her prose is very readable, and the inclusion of ample real-life examples and direct quotes adds to the urgent and persuasive nature of the narrative. Her writing does, at times, feels slightly repetitive; some sentences that offer glimpses into future chapters crop up later with very similar wording. Overall, it was an excellent read that I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in women's rights. NOTE: I received a free advance reader's copy of the book through Goodreads' First Reads program.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Chan

    Very very insightful book. I've learned a lot just going through it and rereading sections at a time to more efficiently consume all of the information within this book. Prior to reading this, I've had a general idea the concept of "Leftover Women" and have gone to art exhibits in the past that have touched on the idea of "Leftover Women" but never to this extent. I will definitely come back to read this text again and possibly want to dive into more texts revolving the realm of feminism and act Very very insightful book. I've learned a lot just going through it and rereading sections at a time to more efficiently consume all of the information within this book. Prior to reading this, I've had a general idea the concept of "Leftover Women" and have gone to art exhibits in the past that have touched on the idea of "Leftover Women" but never to this extent. I will definitely come back to read this text again and possibly want to dive into more texts revolving the realm of feminism and activism within China and in Asia in general.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kate Walton

    A lot of interesting ideas, statistics, and stories in here, but it ended up being much more about women's property rights than I had expected. I appreciated the chapter on LGBTQ Chinese, though. A lot of interesting ideas, statistics, and stories in here, but it ended up being much more about women's property rights than I had expected. I appreciated the chapter on LGBTQ Chinese, though.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Skincare For Introverts

    4.5 Eye-opening and infuriating.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Stone

    Fincher's Leftover Women offers a rare insight into China's perennially overlooked problem of gender inequality, manifested in the most representative phenomenon of shengnv or "leftover women", a derogatory term which, according to Fincher, referred an urban, professional female in her late twenties or older who are still single -- a definition, albeit not perfectly comprehensive, did encompass most of the problems entailed. The book relies predominantly on interview transcripts, news reports, as Fincher's Leftover Women offers a rare insight into China's perennially overlooked problem of gender inequality, manifested in the most representative phenomenon of shengnv or "leftover women", a derogatory term which, according to Fincher, referred an urban, professional female in her late twenties or older who are still single -- a definition, albeit not perfectly comprehensive, did encompass most of the problems entailed. The book relies predominantly on interview transcripts, news reports, as well as social media contents that were relevant to the topic. As such, the overall credibility of the book shouldn't be questioned -- this, as a firsthand witness of many of the events described, I can verify that as much as Fincher attempted to dramatize the situation, she didn't fabricate or overly exaggerate any of those listed in the book. For the past 2 or so decades, it seems that media focus on China's meteoric rise has concentrated primarily on its economic spectrum; and while attentions were paid to many of the social challenges China has been facing, very few regards were put to the growing tension of gender inequality. Fincher demonstrated that, while China's contemporary obsession of persuading women into marriage at all cost and discouraging females from pursuing higher career goals has its root in Chinese traditions and people's mindset, it also corresponds with China's looming demographic disaster as a result of the prolonged One-Child Policy. More significantly, the subjugation of women corresponds to the level of economic freedom they enjoy, which couldn't be better manifested other than their ownership of properties in the ever-booming real estate market of China. This is indeed a quite novel perspective of looking at the problem, although I do find this particular part of discussion, namely Chapter 2, failed to establish concrete causal relationships between Chinese women's attitude towards marriage and their lack of presence in the profit-hunting process of the real estate mania. Fincher seemed to progress towards two different themes, the social phenomenon of shengnv and women's property rights and subsequent consequences, while trying to form some self-evident connections between the two. This at large does sound reasonable, but the book fall short once the reader looks closer into the chapters for details and evidences. Fincher's observation of contemporary Chinese society was sharp and incisive, she pressed the poignant issue of widespread gender inequality frequently without downgrading to repetitive emotional ramblings or redundant anecdotes. The tone set in the book was amazingly neutral and analytical, which made the otherwise sentimental topic much more readable. The dozens of stories revolving around chapters were truthful and representative; particularly worth mentioning was Fincher's highlight of China's slowly-maturing LGBT movements within the larger context of gender rights, which was seldom covered by western authors and journalists. Although a fairly short book, the contents were highly relevant to the challenging reality of China's contemporary feminism and various other civil right movements. Fincher deserves the praise she received over the past few years, as the awareness she helped raise has then gained quite some momentum not only in China, but across Asia. Personally, I believe the book could also serve as an awakening call for many Chinese youths whose lives have not yet been disturbed by the dark reality of marriage and gender inequality.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jaap Grolleman

    Through ‘Leftover Women’, Leta Hong Fincher shares an important message and she deserves credit for this, but I have several problems with the book itself. Firstly — and I say this while I understand that gathering quantitative research data about China is difficult — this book takes cherry-picking to the extreme. This is not so much about the women of China, but rather about the select number of women who replied to the author’s Weibo post — a group of around three hundred. The author politiciz Through ‘Leftover Women’, Leta Hong Fincher shares an important message and she deserves credit for this, but I have several problems with the book itself. Firstly — and I say this while I understand that gathering quantitative research data about China is difficult — this book takes cherry-picking to the extreme. This is not so much about the women of China, but rather about the select number of women who replied to the author’s Weibo post — a group of around three hundred. The author politicize their quotes and leads it all back to society’s stigmatization of leftover women — even when the respondents don’t clearly mention it. One women said she quit her job to become more appealing for marriage — which the author uses to prove that government propaganda causes highly educated women to quit their jobs. There is no question about how rare this case is or not. Women quoted saying they want to marry and have kids are also labelled ‘pressured by society’. I understand that dissecting culture is a messy, if not impossible job — but this is careless. And it’s this bias that is felt throughout the book: Regulations that changed in women’s favor are questioned or belittled, but the regulations that work against women never get this same treatment — making the whole book feel extremely one-sided from the start. There’s actually just one chapter about the stigma of leftover women, and it doesn’t run that deep. Two chapters are about home ownership (whereas one would have been enough), and the last two feel like random notes added to push the book to 200 pages. One chapter consists of history; but what’s the point of comparing China 1,000 years ago to now? Again, the evidence is extremely anecdotal, covering dozens of centuries by a few excerpts from books. The other chapter is about LGBT rights, which feels slightly random and biased too. A final annoyance for me; if you’re going to parade your Chinese skills and add pinyin words every now and then, at least do it well and add the tones. It is clear that to be a woman in China comes with many difficulties and reading the book it angers me how unfair women are treated. There’s no doubt on my mind that it is important to share this with the world. But to me the shallowness and bias of the book don’t help. To convince others of the importance, we need strong and realistic evidence that speaks for itself. It is exactly in this where the book ‘Leftover women’ fails.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Erica Strange

    An interesting and important look on gender inequality in contemporary China. Unfortunately, despite Hong Fincher being a former a journalist, this book reads more like a dissertation. This is not an overlook at women's rights in China, it looks at a very specific group of women (urban, well-educated), which is stated early on in the book. The great thing about this is that it does give a deeper understanding of the problems facing this group. It focused a lot more on property rights than I expe An interesting and important look on gender inequality in contemporary China. Unfortunately, despite Hong Fincher being a former a journalist, this book reads more like a dissertation. This is not an overlook at women's rights in China, it looks at a very specific group of women (urban, well-educated), which is stated early on in the book. The great thing about this is that it does give a deeper understanding of the problems facing this group. It focused a lot more on property rights than I expected, which is really interesting to highlight and did learn a lot from this. Throughtout the book, Hong Fincher collects stories and quotes of women that she has met or chatted to over Weibo; they tell of the pressure that they constantly have to fight off and the sexist behaviours they encounter from family, work, their husbands, and the state - these stories are the stronghold of this entire book and makes the book more compelling to read. Some of Hong Finchers arguments are a bit tenuous and narrow, lacking some sufficient supportive evidence. The chapter on intimate partner violence was a harrowing read and definitely lifted up my rating of this book that was getting close to 2.5 stars. It was interesting, but in comparison to a lot of nonfiction that I've read on women and gender in China, this didn't deliver fully.

  21. 4 out of 5

    MT

    3.5. I think this is a good introductory book to the topic of Leftover Women and gender inequality in China. The book is divided clearly into 6 different chapters, covering the ideology of Leftover Women, its use by the state media, property rights of women in China, gender wealth gap, the history of women in China, abuse and a conclusion with the women's rights groups in China. Hong-Fincher adopts a journalistic tone in her writing. She has also included the queer community into the topic which 3.5. I think this is a good introductory book to the topic of Leftover Women and gender inequality in China. The book is divided clearly into 6 different chapters, covering the ideology of Leftover Women, its use by the state media, property rights of women in China, gender wealth gap, the history of women in China, abuse and a conclusion with the women's rights groups in China. Hong-Fincher adopts a journalistic tone in her writing. She has also included the queer community into the topic which is a good start to intersectionality in gender inequality. The book was published in 2014 with Hong-Fincher conducting her own research like surveys on Weibo and in-person interviews in 2012. I'm not sure if the findings are still relevant today (2021) or if the laws have changed (even a little) but Hong-Fincher mentioned Leftover Women in her 2018 book, Betraying Big Brother, which was how I found out about this book. Having read both books, I see similarities in the books and Leftover Women can get a bit long-winded and repetitive at times, especially the chapter on property rights and the booming property market in China. However, I recommend this book as it's a great introduction to the traditional and longstanding patriarchal system and values in Chinese culture. (CW: Misogyny & domestic abuse/violence.)

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rishabh Agnihotri

    How I came across this book: A friend of mine recommended to me another book on the same subject "leftover in china" (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3...). I looked at the reviews and curiously came upon this review which referenced allegations of erasure of Fincher's work (https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2...). Naturally, I decided to read this first. Review: It is a wonderful book that immaculately compiles and discusses the author's own research on how the Chinese government has systema How I came across this book: A friend of mine recommended to me another book on the same subject "leftover in china" (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3...). I looked at the reviews and curiously came upon this review which referenced allegations of erasure of Fincher's work (https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2...). Naturally, I decided to read this first. Review: It is a wonderful book that immaculately compiles and discusses the author's own research on how the Chinese government has systematically created conditions such that a woman is placed below a man in society and has little legal recourse to stand up for herself. These are through blatant state sponsored drives labelling successful, career oriented and essentially women over 25 as "leftover". Systematic state efforts to limit a women's rights to owing property, and societal preference to help sons and relatives further undermine their cause. I will not say further in favour of the reader finding out himself. Additionally as the author mentioned, by removing the references to the Chinese state and society, such systematic undermining of women could be anywhere else in the world. My only grouse with the book is its length. I feel that the subject could have been treated just as well in an essay as the author tends to be repetitive and the themes explored in the book are heavily interlinked. But, it does not take away from how well the book is written. Happy reading!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kjo1984

    So many times as I was reading this book, I realized how completely ignorant I am of what is going on in China. While I assumed equality between men and women was improving, this book demonstrates that the state has played a major role recently in pushing traditional gender norms. Women who don't marry by 25 are called "leftover women" and ostracized by society. Rather than wait to find someone right for them, they often rush into marriage which ultimately harms them financially and even physica So many times as I was reading this book, I realized how completely ignorant I am of what is going on in China. While I assumed equality between men and women was improving, this book demonstrates that the state has played a major role recently in pushing traditional gender norms. Women who don't marry by 25 are called "leftover women" and ostracized by society. Rather than wait to find someone right for them, they often rush into marriage which ultimately harms them financially and even physically. The book points out how Chinese culture leaves women behind by the common practice of not including women's names on house ownership deed and how the lack of a domestic violence law seriously imperils women and their children. While not an easy read, it was fascinating and I'm glad I finished it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cee San Luis

    I’m Filipino, and don’t normally pay attention to what happens in other Asian countries. I prefer Filipino authors, writing about Filipino experiences. BUT I’m really glad I picked up this book. In the book, you learn what Chinese women face in the uniquely oppressive cultural discrepancy in China. Their empowerment by being a woman affected by the passage of time, and the shifting roles of power from the Song, Ming dynasties, to socialism in 1949, to post-Mao Zedong....I hope in the years to co I’m Filipino, and don’t normally pay attention to what happens in other Asian countries. I prefer Filipino authors, writing about Filipino experiences. BUT I’m really glad I picked up this book. In the book, you learn what Chinese women face in the uniquely oppressive cultural discrepancy in China. Their empowerment by being a woman affected by the passage of time, and the shifting roles of power from the Song, Ming dynasties, to socialism in 1949, to post-Mao Zedong....I hope in the years to come, more legislation is passed for women to gain more property rights, and for a paradigm shift to happen in regards to how the society/government/culture approaches what is or isn’t acceptable for women there to do

  25. 4 out of 5

    Carole Wai Hai

    I don't often read books based on research paper and I found it hard to stay interested in the first few chapters (felt repetitive) but the focus of the book (media propaganda scaring women into marrying early, the consequences of married women on not having their name on the real-estate property document) is worth learning about in great lengths. The author collected various real people story and I love the historical explanation of how women rights increased and decreased in Chinese history. T I don't often read books based on research paper and I found it hard to stay interested in the first few chapters (felt repetitive) but the focus of the book (media propaganda scaring women into marrying early, the consequences of married women on not having their name on the real-estate property document) is worth learning about in great lengths. The author collected various real people story and I love the historical explanation of how women rights increased and decreased in Chinese history. The main drawback of the book (3 stars instead of 4) is mainly that it feels dated as it was written in 2013. Would be interesting to know how things evolved since (I'm not optimistic but still wondering).

  26. 5 out of 5

    Louise Pennington

    This is an important text on the disintegrating rights of women in China. Frequently, I was so enraged that I wanted to toss the book out the window as it listed the ways in which the Chinese government manipulates and punishes women: through housing polices, a refusal to recognise MVWAG, and creating a fallacious and cruel category of women labelled ‘leftover’. The information in this text is essential, unfortunately it was let down by some repetitive language. The book is based on the authors This is an important text on the disintegrating rights of women in China. Frequently, I was so enraged that I wanted to toss the book out the window as it listed the ways in which the Chinese government manipulates and punishes women: through housing polices, a refusal to recognise MVWAG, and creating a fallacious and cruel category of women labelled ‘leftover’. The information in this text is essential, unfortunately it was let down by some repetitive language. The book is based on the authors PHD & there are places where the book reads as a PhD work, rather than an academic or political text. This is unfortunate as the thesis is so very important.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joelle

    An eye opener on the Sheng Nu phenomena and its dramatic impact on young women in China. In 2007, the Women’s Federation defined “leftover” women (sheng nu ) as unmarried women over the age of 27 and China’s Ministry of Education added the term to its official lexicon. Since then, the Women’s Federation Web site has run articles stigmatizing educated women who are still single. An odd move for an agency in charge of women empowerment in a country often thought as having advanced gender equality s An eye opener on the Sheng Nu phenomena and its dramatic impact on young women in China. In 2007, the Women’s Federation defined “leftover” women (sheng nu ) as unmarried women over the age of 27 and China’s Ministry of Education added the term to its official lexicon. Since then, the Women’s Federation Web site has run articles stigmatizing educated women who are still single. An odd move for an agency in charge of women empowerment in a country often thought as having advanced gender equality since Mao Zedong proclamation that , "women hold up half the sky”.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ming Jiu Li

    Quick, accessible read. Some of the arguments I found a little tenuous and narrow, overly-focused on the inequality in real estate wealth accumulation, which would make sense in a paper but appeared a little drawn out in a full book. I would have loved to read more tangents in the book; for example the discussion of women's status in the Song dynasty on was enlightening. The chapter on intimate partner violence was a harrowing read, and an important reminder of how significant and marginalized a Quick, accessible read. Some of the arguments I found a little tenuous and narrow, overly-focused on the inequality in real estate wealth accumulation, which would make sense in a paper but appeared a little drawn out in a full book. I would have loved to read more tangents in the book; for example the discussion of women's status in the Song dynasty on was enlightening. The chapter on intimate partner violence was a harrowing read, and an important reminder of how significant and marginalized an issue it is.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Hanna

    Hong Fincher has made an interesting link between women's rights in China and residential property. However I note that I'm reading the book many years after it was published, and so based on my conversations with Chinese women living in Shanghai, it seems this connection is weakening. So I'd be curious to see the author to update her findings in light of this, as well as domestic violence policy, three-child policy etc. One thing to note- the book's findings/examples felt repetitive at times (e Hong Fincher has made an interesting link between women's rights in China and residential property. However I note that I'm reading the book many years after it was published, and so based on my conversations with Chinese women living in Shanghai, it seems this connection is weakening. So I'd be curious to see the author to update her findings in light of this, as well as domestic violence policy, three-child policy etc. One thing to note- the book's findings/examples felt repetitive at times (e.g. role of state media in promoting hetero marriage).

  30. 4 out of 5

    Enrique Mañas

    Rather than focusing on the study of the phenomena of leftover women in China (the first chapter deals with this), the book wobbles between a few topics regarding the gender inequality in China (from domestic violence to marriage culture or social pressure over "sheng nu" women). The book provides a good bunch of references at the end, something always worthy of appreciation when reading an essay. It will definitely help understand better the current gender inequality scenario in China. Rather than focusing on the study of the phenomena of leftover women in China (the first chapter deals with this), the book wobbles between a few topics regarding the gender inequality in China (from domestic violence to marriage culture or social pressure over "sheng nu" women). The book provides a good bunch of references at the end, something always worthy of appreciation when reading an essay. It will definitely help understand better the current gender inequality scenario in China.

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