Staying Single Not Easy: Women Bucking Tradition in China Stand Strong

As International Women’s Day is coming up on March 8, stories of women who stand strong, particularly when it comes to the headwinds of societal expectations on romance, have been on my mind. Not that long ago, China Daily published a story highlighting the challenges that Chinese women in their 30s and even late 20s face when they’re single — and the courage it takes for them to live their lives.

Titled Staying Single Can Be So Demanding, it highlights several singles, including 38-year-old Feng Xin, “the last single person in her group of friends”:

In China, where conformity and traditional family values have always been highly prized, her solo lifestyle is still considered unconventional. ….

…after dinner a few days ago with colleagues, most of whom are in their 20s and early 30s, Feng came across a phrase she had never heard before-mu tai solo. This combination of the Chinese words “mu tai” and the English word “solo” refers to people who have never been in a romantic relationship. “Unfortunately, I am one of them.

When I told my colleagues I had been mu tai solo for nearly 40 years, they looked shocked and sympathized with me,” Feng said. “It was very embarrassing. I just made fun of myself, saying that my new year wish is to find my first love and then experience my first heartbreak.

“There has always been a phrase for single women-sheng nyu, or ‘leftover women’. Now, there is this new one, mu tai solo, which is disparaging. It’s not my fault that I’m mu tai solo, because when love happens, it happens. You cannot force it.”

When she told her mother about this experience, her 67-year-old parent sighed and said, “See, this is why you need a boyfriend to help get you out of this situation.”

Feng said: “But I really don’t think so. I don’t need a relationship to prove that I am one of ‘them’. I don’t want to get married under any kind of pressure. Finding what makes you happy is the most important thing.”

While not single, I can relate to the pressure felt when bucking societal expectations (such as the fact that I have no children). Not everyone ends up living in a way that follows convention — but, as Feng points out astutely in the piece, you don’t have to prove yourself that way. You just have to seek your own happiness, and be content in that.

You can read the full story here. And to all the women out there who read this blog (and the people who love them) wishing you a happy International Women’s Day on March 8!

What do you think?