Shengnü: Find me somebody to love

08:54, April 23, 2010      

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Li Ling

When making a film documentary for her anthropology studies at Yunnan University in Kunming recently, graduate student Li Ling found many twenty-something women share similar anxieties about being single.

Li Ling, in her second year of graduate studies, recently finished a short film that explored the issue of being "left on the shelf," or in Chinese: being a shengnü. At the age of 25, and without a boyfriend, Li is always being asked by family and friends why she hasn't got a partner or when she plans to get married.

She always replies that she is waiting for the right one, yet begins to worry that she might become like a so-called '3S' lady (single, seventies, stuck). She found a number of women who shared the same similar feelings and pressure.

"The '3S' (or shengnü) is a phenomenon in Chinese society," said Li. "They are not old, but failed to establish a stable relationship in their 20s, and their parents worry about marital issues, and we face the same thing."

"It is a fact that the older a woman gets, the smaller the chance she will find a good husband. Few want to be lonely and single for their whole life."

Reel emotion

Li had always wanted to make a documentary about the life of modern women. Aware of the prevalence of shengnü anxiety among young single women, she decided this would be her subject.

To capture the true meaning of what it means to be a shengnü, Li interviewed women aware of the issue, hoping to reflect the thoughts of the group. In mid- December last year, using her own digital video and a tripod, Li began shooting. She found 12 willing to be interviewed, including undergraduates, graduates and office ladies.

"All were acquaintances of mine. We spoke at their homes or in cafés. They all knew that I was making a film and very supportive," she said.

From February to April, Li edited what she had shot into a 15-minute-long film.

Sense of panic

Zhang Ni, a senior at Yunnan University, was one who shared her thoughts on camera.

Zhang said she first felt the angst as a 21-year-old sophomore, when her roommates began seeing boys. She felt a sense of panic that classmates and friends were already in loving and stable relationships.

"I'm not ugly or stupid. And those who are less pretty and smart than me have got boyfriends. I have some guys chasing me," Zhang said."But I just thought they were not for me, either in terms of appearance or personality. I just can't choose one randomly."

Others in the film are more fearful of becoming a shengnü. Some are so busy with work that they don't know when they can meet men to improve their chances of finding a husband. Some were hurt in previous relationships and fear getting into a new one.

Love hunt

After the interviews and on reflecting on her situation, Li concluded that finding a life partner has become a serious quest for many women.

She said the interviewees raised the point that there were no perfect men in the world and women must maintain realistic views about love and marriage.

Most interviewees claim to have suitors, but say they are not handsome, humorous or rich enough, according to Li. She said most women were just too choosy and she might be one of them.

"We always say that we don't demand too much from the other half. But we still hold too many demands of any future husband and too much expectation of love and marriage."

"There might be a man who is handsome, rich and would love you very much. But the Cinderella story is only a fairy tale," she said.

"We should have an objective view of ourselves, focus on the aspects of a person we value the most and lower standards in other aspects."

Although frustrated, Li said she and all of her interviewees still hold a positive attitude to love, marriage and the future.

"When no one is loving you, you should love yourself more and wait for someone pa-tiently," Li said. "Marrying the wrong person would be worse than being single."

By Pan Yan

Source: Global Times/Agencies


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