SK II’s new commercial challenges traditional attitudes towards marriage in China

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The commercial aims to empower the single “leftover women” of China.

By: Roshni Kapur

The latest heart-wrenching commercial commissioned by Japanese skincare brand SK-II to remind Chinese women that it is okay to be single has become an internet sensation.
The four-minute long documentary-style video called “Marriage Market Takeover,” shows the traditional Chinese attitudes towards marriage. The video has provoked a debate about societal obligations that pressurise single women to find a husband as they reach their late twenties.

Unmarried women above the age of 27 are derogatorily labelled as “sheng nu” or “leftover woman”. The advertisement aims to remove the stigma from the term “sheng nu” and empower these women to find pride in their careers.
[fvplayer src=”http://youtube.com/watch?v=irfd74z52Cw”]
Leftover woman
The terminology “leftover woman” was defined by the Chinese government to refer to any unmarried female above the age of 27. The ruling Communist Party has been urging single women to settle down to offset the gender disproportion caused by the recently ended one-child policy.

However, a vast number of female working professionals especially those from the urban areas are not settling before the age of 27. They are career oriented, financially independent and moving up the corporate ladder. Their prime focus is on professional development rather than tying the knot and assuming matrimonial responsibilities.

According to Leta Hong Fincher, author of “Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China”, unmarried Chinese women are at “a real turning point” where many are starting to embrace singlehood and fight against the stigma.

She was quoted in an online article on the BBC: “These are young women with strength and confidence, who are being specifically targeted by the state’s deliberate campaign to pressure [them] into marrying.”

“Chinese women today are more educated than ever before and they are increasingly resisting marriage.”

Chinese women are also starting to acquire a bigger chunk of the country’s wealth. According to the research agency Hurun, eight out of 10 of the world’s richest self-made women come from China.

As the commercial continues, it shows many unmarried women sharing their conflicting emotions- while they feel a sense of pride and accomplishment because of their professional success. Simultaneously they feel sad for disappointing their parents by remaining single.

“In the Chinese culture, respecting your parents is the most important quality. And not getting married is the biggest sign of disrespect for them,” says one of the unmarried women in the commercial.

The commercial also show parents visiting a largely packed marriage market. Marriage markets are a commonplace in China where parents leave photographs and personal information of their unmarried children in hopes of finding a marriage potential. Their height, weight, occupation, salary, principles and personality are revealed along with their photographs. In some cases, children are unaware that their parents have listed them on the market.

In the end, the unmarried women decide to attend the marriage market- not to find a husband- but to send a self-affirming message of independence across to their parents

In one poster, a woman tells her parents: “I don’t want to get married for the sake of marriage. I won’t live happily that way,” said one of the daughters, according to the video’s English translation.

“As opposed to the term “leftover woman. I have a great career and there is another term called ‘power woman,” says another.

The commercial wraps up on an uplifting note when the parents’ traditional stance softens upon reading the messages from their respective daughters.

“The “leftover women” are outstanding. The “leftover men” need to try harder,” says one mother after reading her daughter’s message on embracing singlehood.