Thursday, February 21, 2013

Of Leftovers

An interesting comic strip for you to peruse as it unfurls:

Super Leftover Girl!

It's Simplified but readable enough - the basic idea being challenging the idea that "leftover women" (剩女) are to be pitied because they are single at the ripe old age of 30 (so ancient!!!11!!!!1), that they are unfortunate, unwanted, too demanding, too picky, too "modern", and should be ashamed of the fact that they're not yet married. As if marriage is the only important accomplishment in a woman's life. Sigh.

It's becoming less of an issue in Taiwan - yes, there are a lot of awesome single thirtysomething women, but you'd be surprised how many of them want to be single, or are at least at peace with their singleness. For every thirtysomething Taiwanese female friend of mine who wishes she was married, I can name about three who are either OK with being single, are in a relationship that's as strong as a marriage or who have actively sought to stay that way.

I think this is great - it means more women are realizing that while marriage may be fine (I happen to be quite pro-marriage, as it's been pretty great for us), it's not the only good thing a woman can accomplish in life - a husband and children are not deigned by her fate as a woman to be the best thing she'll ever achieve or have, nor are they they only things she should want. And it means more men might wake up and smell the feminism, and start accepting things like equal partnership in housework and child-rearing, and an equal say in family decisions. It's happening slowly, but it is happening. There's been a change I've noticed even in the last five years, and I'll write about it later.

But really, what I feel about "leftover women" is this: if I were one, I'd be proud to be one. I wouldn't feel any less than I do as a married woman. I'd think of it like Thanksgiving. There's the big meal, the turkey, all the pomp and tradition, people doing what's expected of them regardless of what they actually want, and lots of family issues and generational change issues being forced into the forefront over dinner's invariably cacophonous conversation (well, at least in my family). You don't really get to decide what you want - tradition decides it for you. You're basically a trussed-up turkey, especially if you're a woman (at least men, historically, have had more choice in terms of career and travel, even if they haven't had total choice).

But if you're a leftover, that means you're the turkey sandwich. You're absolutely tasty, you're very satisfying, and you're what's chosen because it is what's wanted. You are food that's desired, not food that has been predetermined by a set menu. You are ultimately more personal, more content, and more satiating. There's no friction, no collective social trauma, over a Black Friday turkey-and-cranberry-sauce sandwich. You make what you want and you get what you want. You choose. You are chosen.

And I'd much rather be the turkey sandwich than the trussed-up turkey!

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