For Chinese Harvard women, good men are hard to find

By Juli Min Source:Global Times Published: 2017/1/5 18:33:40


Illustration: Lu Ting/GT

Five young women sit around complaining about their single life. They want to find quality partners, and they want to do it fast! This scene could be from any social gathering anywhere in the world. But only in China would these women all turn out to be Harvard University undergraduates.

At a recent event sponsored by Harvard, my alma mater, alums and current students gathered for dinner and networking. After some light chatter about careers and current events, the conversation at our table took a turn to dating.

One woman asked the lone male seated with us, a 28-year-old single entrepreneur: "Do you think that graduating from Harvard helps you in the Chinese dating scene?"

"I think it does," he replied with a grin, "at least to secure the first date." But for the rest of us females, we bemoaned the fact that the Harvard name is, in fact, a handicap to finding a mate.

Based on personal experiences and buttressed by numerous studies, Chinese men often find intellectual, successful and powerful women less likable - and less feminine. Few want anything to do with a woman with a higher educational background than theirs.

Within that narrow slice of available men, successful and intelligent Chinese women often hope to date "up," finding men who are more successful than they are themselves, which further narrows the candidate pool.

There is a specific Chinese term about - and a Chinese male disdain for - this kind of woman: gaozhi shengnu ("highly educated leftover women").

During my undergraduate years, girlfriends and I would often ponder how dropping the "H-Bomb" (Harvard students' term for mentioning our college namesake among new acquaintances) would impact our dating life outside the Ivy League bubble.

Yet, these complaints were all discussed in the abstract, as we all presumed that, by our late 20s or 30s, after developing careers and meeting many intelligent men, we would find the right one, within that right slice of the population, at the right time.

But while my college girlfriends and I were only concerned at the time about casual dating, the young women seated at my table during the recent dinner already had their sights on finding a mate for life!

It was surprising to hear 21-year-olds talking about marriage so that they wouldn't have to bother with the dating market after graduation. One undergraduate told me she is already under pressure from her parents and grandparents to settle down.

I encouraged her to take her time, as only fools rush in, but of course I must have come across as very "American" in my sensibilities.

Back home in New York, where it is fashionable for women to "lean in" to their careers and where organizations are adapting to growing demands from more females to the workforce, the trend is now for professional women to marry and procreate at a later age.

However, in Chinese cities like Shanghai (my new home), opportunities to climb the social ladder have decreased, as China's income disparity and inequality have risen drastically in a very short period of time.

Finding an eligible bachelor has become not only more difficult for Chinese women, but also an increasingly important determining factor in their social status.

As successful male bachelors will naturally prefer younger, beautiful or wealthy companions, females here are feeling more and more competition to marry, and to do so while still in the first blush of their beauty.

Perhaps someday the situation will change when it becomes more fashionable worldwide for women to hold positions of power and when opportunities abound for those among all classes in China to gain education and alternative paths to success.

Young intelligent Chinese women would then feel less pressure to marry up and marry quickly, as their worth would no longer be tied to their youth. And any man they fancy would be deemed "eligible."

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.


blog comments powered by Disqus