Sunday, May 23, 2010

Don't bother me if you are not sincere

"Don't bother me if you are not sincere" is the non-official translated title of a hot new Chinese dating show which is currently one of the most popular reality TV shows in the country. (The actual official translated title of the show is "If you are the one". But I prefer the former simply because it is a direct translation of the Chinese name.) This dating show, together with many other similar Chinese dating shows such as "Let us date", surge as a huge wave sweeping across every corner in China. Why are these dating shows so popular? Part of the reason may be because of the controversial participants that are put on the show. But the fact that these shows are able to stir up a big big turmoil in China and catch the whole nation's attention tells you that there is a bigger reason behind this phenomenon. The root cause of this huge sensation is that there are a large population of "leftover men and women", singles over 30, in china and the issue gets so serious that the whole society is getting worried about it.

It is understandable that many men in china are "leftover" because of the well known imbalance of sex ratio in the country (The ratio of men to women in china is about 120:100). But talking about "Chinese leftover women"?! You would assume that Chinese women can easily find a spouse since their selection pool is a lot bigger than men's. The reality is that many women, especially those with a PhD degree in science, simply can not find a man to date. According to China daily, Beijing has 500,000 single women over the age of 30. In Guangzhou, one of the biggest cities in southern China, the number of single women above the age of 30 is 300,000, while single men only number 200,000.

One of the main reasons behind this phenomenon is that a lot of Chinese men do not like to have a girlfriend or wife whose education level is higher than theirs. They feel embarrassed if their women outsmart them and are more successful in career than they do. It is also unacceptable for many men to have a lower income than their partners'. Therefore, many Chinese men are more willing to date and marry women with at most equal or even lower education and lower income. As a result, many women with an advanced degree in China simply can not find a match since they have to find a guy at similar age and with similar or higher degree. It is not uncommon for a female PhD holder to hear people asking how she is going to find a man to marry since her degree is so high.

Another reason is that women with advanced degree tend to be less competitive than "younger women". After earning a PhD degree, they are almost 30 or even older. It is harder for them to compete with girls at early 20s since men at their age group prefer to choose a younger woman. Aside from the concern of skin tone (in China, skin color and texture are one of the most important determining factors of beauty and many people believe that women over 25 do not have good skin any more), it also has something to do with a Chinese tradition that boys have an instinct to protect younger girls and enjoy being appreciated and admired as a smart, brave, and knowledgeable "big brother". The combination of "big brother" and "little sister" fits the needs of girls' wanting to admire and boys' wanting to be admired.

The third reason is that a lot of Chinese people have this conception in mind that female PhD holders are always serious, nerdy, and unsociable. In china, the competition to enter college is insane. The college entrance exam was compared to thousands of soldiers trying to cross a one-man wide single bridge at the same time. Kids have to be assiduous, persevering, mentally tough, and at least relatively smart, in order to get to a good college which is almost a must for being able to land a good job in the future. Then you can imagine how dedicated a PhD student has to be in order to carry out scientific research smoothly and finally earn a PhD degree in science. Many PhD holders have to sacrifice their hobbies and social lives for their study. A typical Chinese PhD student's daily routine is going between dormitory, dinning hall, and classroom/lab. As a result, a lot of PhD students lack of social skills and find it difficult to socialize with people. Let alone trying to impress the opposite sex.

The solution for this "leftover women" issue? I guess is to wait for another 20 years when the imbalance of sex ratio gets bigger then Chinese men won't complain about women's high degree any more.