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Must-Have Goods For China’s Leftover Women

If there’s one thing most Chinese girls don’t want to grow up to be, it’s a “leftover woman”. The term — which sounds just as blunt in Chinese — has emerged over the past decade to become a popular classifier for women who aren’t married by thirty (or sometimes even younger). The term might seem sexist but it has been spread and legitimized even by the Chinese government, which uses the term from time to time in official media. Needless to say, there’s a whole market on Taobao that has sprung up around the term and the spin-off term “leftover man” (which refers to the male equivalent).


For ladies who consider themselves “leftover”, there are a variety of products available. There’s this in-your-face t-shirt (pictured), for example, which simply reads “leftover woman” (and helpfully comes with a “leftover dog” shirt for your canine companion, too) and is clearly targeted at those who want to say it loud and proud. This bumper sticker, which reads “Old leftover woman, tailgaters must marry” may appeal to those hoping to take advantage of China’s infamous traffic jams to change their marital status once and for all. There are also a variety of jewelry items and good luck charms that are advertised by Taobao vendors as “must-haves” that will help their owners find a man, like this image of Kurukelle, the mother of all Buddhas and an auspicious symbol for everyone, especially women. And for those who have truly given up, there’s this gigantic candy-cane-shaped pillow to snuggle with at night.

T1CaRfFXhbXXXXXXXX_!!0-item_pic.jpg_310x310But of course, a lot of the Taobao trade is targeted at those who are hoping to avoid becoming a leftover lady in the first place. Youngsters can buy these notebooks, for example, inscribed with the inspiring message, “firmly resolve not to be a leftover man or woman.” Notebooks not inspiring enough for you? Try these faux propaganda posters (pictured, “eat all your lunch, don’t be a leftover woman or man”) or these motivational mousepads (“I can definitely get married!”).Of course, there are lots of actual books with dating tips, which Taobao sellers often advertise as helpful in preventing becoming a leftover woman.

The fact is that if a term gets popular in mainstream Chinese culture, it’s bound to be used for marketing by some of Taobao’s enterprising shopkeeps. And of course, with so much pressure from friends, relatives, and the media not to become a leftover woman, some people may well turn to Taobao in search of the product that’s finally going to align all the stars for them and help them find Mr (or Mrs.) Right.

Search for your own “leftover” gear here!

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