What do you call an ostensibly feminist organisation that terrorises women into getting married, criticizes those who have sex out-of-wedlock, and encourages girls not to waste time getting a Ph.D lest they become old and ugly? Meet the All China Women’s Federation.
Leta Hong Fincher, an American doctoral candidate in Sociology at Tsinghua University, has analysed the All China Women’s Federation (ACWF), an organization founded in 1949 to “protect women’s rights and interests”, and found its feminist credentials… rather lacking.
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.
Fincher quotes from an ACWF column published in March 2011:
[Girls who focus on their education] don’t realize that as women age, they are worth less and less, so by the time they get their M.A. or Ph.D., they are already old, like yellowed pearls.
In the same column, the ACWF says that most “leftover women” (which is a highly misleading phrase, as Christina Larson has pointed out, these women haven’t been passed over, they’ve chosen to remain single) “do not deserve our sympathy” because some of them (brace yourselves) have sex.
Fincher sees an agenda driving these pronouncements: China’s increasing sex-ration imbalance.
The State Council names “upgrading population quality (suzhi)” as one of its key goals, and appoints the Women’s Federation as a primary implementer of its population planning policy.
What better way to upgrade population quality than to frighten “high-quality” women into marrying and having a child for the good of the nation?
The Women’s Federation columns on sheng nu all share the same goal: convince single, educated women to stop being so ambitious and get married already.