‘Scattered with inspiring life-stories of courageous women.’
In the early years of the People’s Republic, the Communist Party sought to transform gender relations. Yet those gains have been steadily eroded in China’s post-socialist era.
Contrary to the image presented by China’s media, women in China have experienced a dramatic rollback of rights and gains relative to men.
In Leftover Women, Leta Hong Fincher exposes shocking levels of structural discrimination against women, and the broader damage this has caused to China’s economy, politics, and development.
Journalist Hong Fincher, a doctoral candidate at Tsinghua University, describes a state-sponsored backlash against economically independent single women in urban China, and the growing wealth gap it enforces, in this highly suggestive study. Drawing on secondary sources, statistics, and original research (grounded in interviews, an examination of state media, and publications from state organizations), the author spotlights a state-generated propaganda campaign to stigmatize "leftover" women those as young as 26 who have not yet married. While part of a larger agenda to promote demographic goals and social stability, notes Hong Fincher, this caricature of women who supposedly prefer career over family speaks to their relative gains and hides efforts to reverse those gains through strategies such as hiring discrimination. Because the vast majority of family homes are owned in the husband's name, married women have a disproportionately small claim on China's booming housing market. Traditional gender roles and inadequate legal protections combine, moreover, to leave women vulnerable to domestic violence. However, the author highlights historical precedents and exceptions to this authoritarian patriarchal rule, as well as examples of resistance. The book serves as a vital introduction to gender issues in urban China.