They are subject to immense social pressure because they choose to focus on their careers rather than look for husbands to settle down with. Family gatherings, especially during Chinese New Year, become these women’s worst nightmare. They are questioned and judged for being “old and unmarried”, as a woman is considered incomplete if she is not married.

BE PROUD: Those who focus on their careers shouldn’t be stigmatised

THE age of social media has revolutionised the concept of information sharing.

Every day, pictures, videos and news are shared among Netizens across the globe. People have become more aware of what is happening to others on the other side of the world.

Sometimes, we think that something we go through may be unique to our culture or ourselves, but through social media, we are made aware that there are many others like us who share the same experiences and hardships in life.

This was how my eyes were opened very recently.

As I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I saw a video shared by a friend — an infomercial by skincare company SK-II. The caption, “This is what it’s like to be a ‘Leftover Woman’”, immediately caught my attention, so I played the video without hesitation.

By the time I was done watching the four-minute video, I was in tears. But, they were not tears of sadness. I felt empowered and more confident than ever before.

According to the video, many young women in China suffer emotional abuse from their families and others around them if they aren’t married by the time they are in their mid-20s. These women, termed “Sheng Nu” (loosely translated into “Leftover Women”), are mostly career women over 25 who aren’t married.

They are subject to immense social pressure because they choose to focus on their careers rather than look for husbands to settle down with. Family gatherings, especially during Chinese New Year, become these women’s worst nightmare. They are questioned and judged for being “old and unmarried”, as a woman is considered incomplete if she is not married.

The video mentions the famous “Shanghai Marriage Market”, where parents advertise the profiles of their sons or daughters on umbrellas in the hopes that someone would be keen on the information posted: a stable income, and in possession of a good job, house and car.

What got to me the most was what came after. A few of these parents were interviewed, and they said their daughters were average looking and nothing special, thus, the reason why they were “leftovers”. One father said if his daughter didn’t get married, it would lead to him having heart problems.

All this was uttered in the most insensitive manner, in front of the young women. To see the hurt in their eyes, their mouths twitching in agony, holding back tears, was heartbreaking, almost cruel. I felt their pain because I too am just like them.

The women then went to the “Marriage Market” to raise awareness and send a personal message to their parents. They posted blown-up photos of themselves, with a little note at the bottom, telling their parents that they are happy with their lives and do not need a man to make them feel complete. These women want to be known as “Power Women”.

That’s when I realised this wasn’t a problem only in China. It is a problem in many parts of the world. One would think that, perhaps, this problem would affect only those in developing countries. One would think that, perhaps, this problem would most definitely not affect people in countries such as Malaysia, where people are considered modern and forward-thinking.

But, oh, how wrong of us all to think so.

This is something common in Malaysia. It doesn’t matter what your racial background is; the social pressure for women over 25 to get married and have children is widespread. I know of many women who go through the same anguish and emotional torture inflicted by their relatives and peers.

To these women, I have one bit of advice for you: do not let society dictate what’s good for you.

You are in control of the way you want to live. If you choose to focus on your career, do it, and be proud. Be empowered by what you’ve achieved in life. You’re independent, strong and outstanding the way you are, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

The writer, Ashley Greig a lecturer at Sunway College, is a Malaysian-born Eurasian with Scottish/Japanese/Indian lineage. She believes in a tomorrow where there is no existence of racism and hatred

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