SK-II Commercial Celebrates the Independence of China’s “Leftover Women”
Note: Turn on captions if you don’t speak Mandarin!
In China, there’s a lot of pressure for women to get married before they turn 27. Women who stay single are labelled “Sheng Nu,” or “leftover women.” The fear of being “leftover” plagues both men and women (in fact, men outnumber women in China), but the idea that a one’s worth as a spouse can “expire” with age or that being unmarried makes one “incomplete” disproportionately plagues women.
SK-II took a look at some of these “leftover women” in a new video, where the women and their families talked about this pressure. The women talk about dreading family gatherings, the questions that come with them, and how staying unmarried feels like an act of disrespect towards their parents (filial piety is very important in Chinese culture). Their parents talk about matchmaking in their day, and say things like “She’s just average looking. Not too pretty. That’s why she’s leftover,” while their daughter cries. Another father says to her, “Don’t be cruel to me,” as his daughter contemplates marrying for a match rather than love. While I’m still young enough to avoid marriage talks, it’s stuff I’ve heard before in gossip, “concern,” and movies.
At the end of the video, the women show their parents that being unmarried is a source of happiness for them, that they enjoy the independence, and won’t be happy marrying for the sake of marriage by putting statements at the Shanghai Marriage Market, where parents often place postings “advertising” their children for marriage.
Foreign Policy has a piece on leftover women that states women now have “more wealth and education—they have better jobs, and higher requirements for men,” with educated women being the least likely to marry. One of the women calls herself a “power woman,” rejecting the misnomer of “leftover.” One mother’s cry of “leftover women are outstanding!” definitely holds true—many of these women are marrying later, or not at all, by choice.
The skincare brand and shot this video as part of their #ChangeDestiny campaign, which is sharing the stories of trailblazing women breaking stereotypes, “defying age,” and making change. The final words, “Don’t let pressure dictate your future,” are all about celebrating women making decisions for themselves, and I think they could’ve just as easily made an advertisement that centered around “find a husband with your beautiful skin” so I really enjoyed this. I think most Asian children can understand how significant it is to break away from these expectations and the happiness at not just being tolerated, but celebrated for these decisions.
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