A 4-Minute Video Tells a Heartbreaking Tale of China’s ‘Leftover Women’

“You’re not a kid anymore.”
“Don’t be so free-willed.”
“I won’t die in peace unless you’re married.”
Those are some of the things said by Chinese parents to their single daughters, as highlighted in a new docu-ad from luxury skincare company SK-II that tackles the intense familial and societal pressures put on Chinese women to get married.
The poignant mini documentary touches on the stories of several unmarried women over the age of 27, derogatorily called “sheng nu” in China, which literally translates to “leftover women.” According to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics, one in five women aged 25-29 is unmarried.
Unmarried women in China are seen as incomplete, and in a culture where parental respect is paramount, not getting married is often perceived as a sign of disrespect and failure.
“We always thought our daughter had a great personality. She’s just average looking, not too pretty,” says a mother in the video as her daughter, seated next to her, holds back tears. “That’s why she’s leftover.”
The father of another woman featured in the video says of his daughter’s search: “If she really can’t find the one, it will be a heart disease for me.”
The video takes a positive turn when the women take to posting self-empowering messages about self-love and independence at a “marriage market,” where parents post ads about their unmarried sons and daughters in order to find marriage suitors.
“As opposed to the term ‘leftover woman,’ I have a great career and there is another term called ‘power woman,’” one woman’s message says.
One mother, upon reading her daughter’s message and seeing her photo, tears up and says: “My daughter is beautiful. ‘Leftover women’ should be proud!”
The four-minute video is part of SK-II’s “Change Destiny” campaign, which centers around the stories of women who defy and overcome societal expectations and limits.
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