Roses and gift ready for the Valentine's Day
A bouquet of roses and a romantic candlelight dinner may be enough to satisfy most Chinese women who observe the Western St. Valentine’s Day holiday. However, women in a serious and committed relationship, such as one possibly leading to marriage, are beginning to demand more than just simple romance.
A recent online poll found that nearly 70 percent of women surveyed "require that a man own a house before marriage," and "the possibility of adding her name to the property deed."
The survey was conducted by a social service association affiliated to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, and asked 50,384 women for their opinions.
Also in the survey, an overwhelming 92 percent considered a man's "stable income" as the basic precondition for her to enter a marriage. Specifically, nearly 80 percent of single women would only date men with monthly salaries of 4,000 yuan (US$635.4) or higher.
In addition, roughly 57 percent of women surveyed agree that "working hard is not as good as marrying well."
Scorned for being both economically dependent and over-demanding, some Chinese women protest the judgement of others by saying that gender inequality forced them to gamble the rest of their life on a wealthy marriage.
Ms. Yang, a philosophic scholar in her thirties, said on the condition of anonymity that China remains a male chauvinist society, and women don't enjoy equal opportunities to compete with men in the job market. Therefore, "women in China have to secure themselves through marriage," she said.
Although its seems that Chinese women have gained an upper hand in this bargain, the latest amendment to China's marriage law implemented last year has dealt women a heavy blow: The new law does not give women the right to property ownership when the down payment is paid solely by the man before marriage.
Yang questioned the law by saying, "Does the law equate a woman's role in marriage to that of a simple housemaid? Society too often deprives women of their rights and decency." Other women spoke out against the new law as well. These women either force men to add their names to the deeds upon or even before entering marriages, threatening to terminate the relationship otherwise. In some cases, women look for men whose wealth is sufficient to make this problem a non-issue.
Liu Xiaojuan, executive director of the Anti-Domestic Violence Network / Beijing Fang Bao, a research institute that focuses on women's rights, said that a woman's demand for property is understandable.
"There is nothing wrong for women to secure their lives through marriage. Women are not guaranteed much in our society, especially after the amended marriage law, which stigmatizes and complicates a couple's relation with property ownership and was drafted without a single public poll."
"We still dream for nobility and integrity, but the choices we have made are the consequences of reality," said Liu.
While a majority of single women are hunting for affluent men only, most men refute this notion and deem it as anything but realistic.
Based on China's current housing prices, especially in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, an ordinary working male living on his salary will have no way of affording a house. Even if a man dares to carry a 20-year-loan, the down payment, which has climbed to around 400,000 to 500,000 yuan, is still beyond his and his family's combined efforts.
Gray Ma, 26, a single male working as a freelance advertisement agent in Hangzhou, said he would never even think of such "materialist girls" to be his future girlfriend and wife. In his view, women who demand financial possessions aren't confident, and are doomed to fail.
"In my community, there are already women either approaching their thirties or are above 30 years old, and are regretting terminating their previous relationship too recklessly," Ma said.
According to his personal philosophy, good women will not be blinded by the financial capabilities of men alone, and would seek other essential qualities from their men.
"They can just spot reliable blokes, even if they aren't wealthy, yet. But the majority of women are ordinary, and their excessive demands will only bar them from the possibility of having a family life," Gray Ma said. He also added that decent women will acknowledge their men, unless “he really has nothing, not even good virtue.”
In this controversial discussion, women who demand a house and car as a precondition for marriage are deemed as "too unrealistic to be happy" by men, whereas men who are dissatisfied with this ideology are labelled as either "incapable" or "too irresponsible to start a family."
While 70 percent of women are unyielding with this demand, the other 30 percent claims to have seen it through.
Yannie Gao, 27, a married white collar working in a child charity foundation in Beijing, rents a house with her husband. She doesn't think it's insecure or humiliating.
"My husband, although a Beijing native, is from an ordinary background. I just love him, and we decided that we would make future expenditures according to our income," she said, noting that she’s from a well-off family in Nanjing and declined a "local well paid job" arranged by her family and came back to her then-boyfriend's hometown upon graduation.
Ms. Gao said excessively materialistic women are just "too foolish" and that "it's their own fault for ending up as left-over singles."
She noted that life is a process of mutual compromise in that perfection doesn’t exist. Being excessive and too persistent in satisfying one's own desire is in essence "selfish; selfish people won't have a happy life," she said.
Part of a larger pattern, this phenomenon isn't just affecting young Chinese singles. South Korea, another Eastern country with a strong Confucius influence, has the same headache. According to Daisy Hwang, a South Korean national working in Hong Kong, single women in Korea also have similar desires and men, the same resentment.
Ms. Hwang explains that men traditionally make more money than women even though the social status of women has improved; women are still at a disadvantage in society.
She said that women in general want their future husbands to provide the housing and the wife’s family will cover everything else, such as decoration, furniture and appliances. However, women with higher educational backgrounds or living in cities like Seoul with soaring real estate prices are not quite so demanding.
She finished by saying that we see an increasing number of women making financial demands – sometimes at the cost of ruining the relationship – there are countless cases of families that have both home and car and fall short, while others start with nothing and last happily-ever-after.