A recent study from Lancaster University Management School highlighted the widespread exploitation of daughters within Chinese families that strongly favor sons.
Sustained exploitation: In many Chinese families, daughters are expected to financially support their relatives, particularly their brothers, which often leads to them sacrificing their own well-being. This occurs both before and after they get married.
Dr. Chih-Ling Liu, the author of the study, explains that daughters are conditioned from birth to assume the role of “the giver” in the family. This conditioning leads to feelings of indebtedness, and daughters believe they must repay their family members for the “gift of life.”
About the study: The study, based on around 30,000 comments from online forums between 2016 and 2022, reveals the emotional toll this responsibility has on daughters, leading them to lose friendships and even have suicidal thoughts.
According to Liu, parents employ three tactics to mold daughters into this role: creating a “destined giver,” making them feel like an “unworthy receiver” and turning them into “martyr givers.”
“It is clear that sustained exploitation takes place today and is normalized in so many families,” Liu said. “My research sheds some light on why women may seemingly allow this exploitation to continue throughout their lives. Evidence suggests that daughters are prepared for this exploitation from birth and grow up believing that their role is to ‘give’ to their family and shall not expect to receive anything from the family in return — all because of their gender.”
“Fu di mo”: The research exposes how daughters can lose social connections due to this role, labeled as “fu di mo” or “monster of younger brother worshiping,” as they go above and beyond to support their younger brothers.
This label stigmatizes them and can lead to relationship breakdowns, making it challenging for them to escape the cycle of exploitation they face. Liu’s research also suggests that this sense of duty is not solely for younger brothers as it can apply to older brothers and male cousins as well.