The Mandarin term shengnu literally means “leftover woman.” It was coined to describe China’s growing crop of middle-class women who, thanks to new educational and economic opportunities, have been able to rise to unprecedented ranks within Chinese society—at the expense of their love lives. Nearing (or, heaven forbid, passing) the age of 30, these women find themselves materially successful but romantically unattached.
As a female in her mid-20s, living in China with a graduate degree and no significant other, I’ve been particularly sensitive to the term’s use. But while local media and gossipy mothers often use it derisively, my leftover sisters and I have come to embrace it as a badge of honor worn by independent women who know what they want and are unwilling to settle.
And why should we. In 1979, the one-child policy was implemented to curb population growth. Because of culturally engrained preferences for male heirs