“Leftover Women” And The Cult Of Nagging Relatives
In cultures obsessed with marriage, “leftover women” who fail to tie the knot before reaching a certain age are looked at with utter disdain. There is a certain panic which these women invoke in their peers. There is an entire battalion of people – aunts, uncles and distant relatives whose sole task seems to be to pester them. To goad them into marrying the first man who comes in their line of sight. It is like if they do not marry as soon as possible, the mankind may extinct. No wonder women who want to stay single try every trick in the bag, to avoid such exasperating encounters.
- Single Chinese women are asking bosses for extra work to stave off relatives who berate them for being “leftover women.”
- A survey conducted last year by popular dating site Zhenai.com found that 85 percent of 26 to 30-year-old single women in China faced pressure from parents to marry as soon as possible.
- Most Indian women can identify with the pressure that is there for marrying at “right age.”
- While women lose their value if they do not tie the knot by a certain age, men can stay unmarried for much longer.
There is a certain panic which leftover women invoke in their peers.
Single Chinese women are asking bosses for extra work and inventing boyfriends to stave off relatives who berate them for being “leftover women,” as the country’s biggest holiday, the Lunar New Year is around the corner, reports Women In The World. The article quotes a survey conducted last year by popular dating site Zhenai.com, which found that 85 percent of 26 to 30-year-old single women faced pressure from parents to marry as soon as possible.
As patriarchy calls all the shots in both these nations, there are a lot of similarities between Chinese culture and society with that of India. Which means that most Indian women can identify with the pressure that is marrying at “right age.” No sooner than a girl is eligible to get married, parents and relatives begin to bog her down with questions about her future plans. When is she planning to marry? Does she have a boyfriend? If yes, then when is he planning to propose? Their interrogation can put Spanish Inquisition to shame. In India though, parents and families arrange most matrimonial alliances, even today. Thus, fat folders of biodatas of prospective grooms replace the invasive questioning.
The world changes colour when a woman is on the other side of the ‘right age to walk the altar.’
But if you thought the pressure was unbearable when you are in that bracket of ideal age, then wait till you are on the other side. The world changes colour when a woman is past that right age to walk down the altar. Eager suggestions and wide-eyed questions on your future plans are traded with taunts on putting your parents through so much stress. Prophecies are made that you’ll end up alone as an old maiden with no one to care for you or even warnings that with each passing day you are draining the pool good prospective grooms for yourselves.
It is also amusing how standards are different for men and women. While women lose their value if they do not tie the knot by a certain age, men can stay unmarried for much longer. They must concentrate on their education, find a decent job and after that they are even allowed a period of relaxation, where they can enjoy their bachelorhood. Only then do peers begin to bog them down with questions about marriage. It is the sword of the biological clock which is women’s undoing.
Our society still feels that a woman’s primary duty is to make a family.
The pressure isn’t just about marrying at the right age, but also about having a child at the right age. Most people are of the opinion that there are lesser complications and you can produce healthier progenies and have more stamina to rear them, if you have kids early in life. Our society still feels that a woman’s primary duty is to make a family. To bring children into this world and meet all their needs. Higher studies, job, steady paycheck or fulfilling your dreams are secondary, when it comes to women. So for women who have different priorities than getting married and producing kids at the right age, holidays are a nightmare.
They come laden with unwanted encounters who cannot stop taking jibes at you, endless guilt tripping by parents and eye roll worthy prophecies by neighbours. No wonder women desist spending festivals and holidays at home these days. If only they could understand that there is more to life than settling down and producing kids. That there is no right age to marry. That finding a right partner and being in the right state of mind is much more important than compromising to make others happy. If only…
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.