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Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender…

Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China (Asian…

by Leta Hong Fincher

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3912292,072 (3.88)1



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I've learned many horrifying things about gender relationships, particularly heterosexual marriages, in urban Chinese cities. For instance, it is considered inappropriate and emasculating to have a woman's name on the deed to marital home, so the vast majority of homes are owned exclusively in the man's name. If they divorce, she has no claim to the home unless she can prove she contributed equally to its purchase -- and unsurprisingly, it is also considered inappropriate for her to keep receipts showing that. Chinese banks do not permit married couples to have joint bank accounts, so women who do not work cannot access any money other than what their husbands give them.

So, who would ever be dumb enough to marry in this society? The government started a propaganda campaign telling women that they are old maids past the age of 25 and they need to settle for a man or they'll be alone forever. Oh, and the recent increase in birth defects? Caused by advanced maternal age (over the age of 26), and definitely not by all of the pollution. Thanks, propaganda!

This is not a perfect book; it is quite repetitive, with chapters frequently re-introducing facts or ideas already introduced in previous chapters. I also thought several of the topics were pretty shallow, and for a PhD student, under-analyzed. But I learned a lot from this book and would recommend it to others with an interest in women's rights. ( )
  sparemethecensor | May 29, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book brings up some very difficult points and has done a very good job of finding out the data when the government in question is doing its best to hide it. That said, after the first chapter it becomes a very tedious read with multiple references to other chapters and points back to things said in the first chapter. It almost reads, at times, like a college student struggling to make a word limit. ( )
  goldnyght | Jun 22, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I was very interested in reading this book because my family is traveling to China this summer and I work with Chinese families from time to time as a community health nurse. I did ask one young Chinese woman (born in Bejing) I work with if she knew the term, "Leftover Women" and she kind of laughed and said yes, but brushed it aside and changed the subject. It was hard to say if she was just uncomfortable talking about it, or if she thought the issue wasn't as big of problem as the book made it seem.

The author did a great job of researching the issue in detail and I enjoyed reading her interviews with the women and couples. I certainly learned a great deal about gender inequality in China and it made me appreciate how lucky I am to be a woman who happened to be born in America.

I did find the book becoming somewhat repetative and I lost interest in finishing it. I did pass the book along to a family member who is also traveling with us to China. Hopefully we'll be able to ask some of the local women what their experiences and views on marriage and property rights etc., are. ( )
  Danean | Jun 14, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This timely and well-written book examines growing gender inequality in China, primarily through the lens of property ownership. Hong Fincher demonstrates through quantitative and qualitative data how societal resistance and women's resulting reluctance to insist that their names be included on property deeds--even when they've made major financial contributions to the purchase--is locking them out of one of the largest accumulations of wealth in modern history. More disturbing still, as recent court cases have ruled that only those whose names are on property deeds have any right to the asset following separation or divorce, this can have ruinous consequences for the women. Many of the women Hong Fincher interviews are either dangerously optimistic ("My marriage will never fail!"), unquestioning of cultural norms ("Of course my parents will help pay for my nephew's apartment but not mine--he's a man."), exhausted from fighting the tide ("I wish my name were on the lease, but my husband and his family are so opposed."), or some mixture of the above.

Hong Fischer does an excellent job of linking this with another prevailing societal trend--that of the "leftover woman": portrayed as an over-educated, overly career-focused, overly picky aging biddy whose pride and foolishness prevented her from marrying while she was "young" and "desirable" and who now faces a lifetime of regret and loneliness now that she is not. The message, obviously, is that had they been smart, these women would have "settled." The book convincingly demonstrates that the "leftover women" phenomenon is primarily driven by China's Communist government, with its fetish for social stability and growing fear that the massive male-to-female gender imbalance in the country is a huge and ever-growing threat.

Leftover Women does have a few faults. The chapters on the historical status of women, the prevalence of domestic violence, and the situation of LBGT individuals are interesting but deserve far more than the superficial treatment Hong Fincher gives them here. That said, this timely and topical book should be required reading for anyone with an interest in China, economics, or gender studies.
1 vote Trismegistus | Jun 12, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A sobering and fascinating look at gender dynamics in present day China. It is absolutely amazing to me how people can be pressured into doing things that blatantly go against their own self interest thanks for governmental, family and media influence. This book reminds me yet again about the major differences between China and the West and makes me doubly appreciate living in the United States. Written in a clear way appropriate for both scholars and non-scholars alike, Leftover Women was a relatively quick and interesting read. ( )
  palmaceae | Jun 2, 2014 |
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A century ago, Chinese feminists fighting for the emancipation of women helped spark the republican revolution, which overthrew the Qing empire. After the communist revolution of 1949, Chairman Mao famously proclaimed that "women hold up half the sky." In the early years of the people's republic, the Communist Party sought to transform gender relations with expansive initiatives such as assigning urban women jobs in the planned economy. Yet those gains are now being eroded in China's post-socialist era. Contrary to many claims made in the mainstream media, women in China have experienced a dramatic rollback of many rights and gains relative to men. This crucial book debunks the popular myth that women have fared well as a result of post-socialist China's economic reforms and breakneck growth. Laying out the structural discrimination against women in China will speak to broader problems with China's economy, politics, and development.… (more)

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