Monthly Archives: July 2016

By Pickup Culture

crying woman

Crying woman in China, the basis for the SK-II viral video.

This video has been around for a few months, but it’s still getting a lot of play on social media.  It came onto my Facebook feed just as I was writing up an article about the PUA phenomenon in China.  I couldn’t resist trying to change the tack of the conversation in the comments section, but I still got slammed by a lot of first- and developing-world feminists whilst doing so.


‘Sheng Nü’ is the name for the so-called ‘left-over’ generation of women in China – those who embody everything Western women are taught to be: modern, independent and happily single.  The main difference between the way spinsterhood is treated in China and in the West is evidenced by the comments on social media about the video, a selection of which are featured in the promotional pieces in news stories – they all characterise Chinese attitudes to marriage as backward and ‘patriarchal’.

Though I’m not overly supportive of the shaming tactics the parents use to cajole their daughters into marriage – clearly, they are not successful – I would say that this kind of campaign only works as part of a grand ‘feminist’ narrative in other parts of the world because it plays on the emotional susceptibility of women.

The film invites us to identify with the single, urban, educated women in the film.  They are not rural, poor or by any other means hard done by.  They have a particular freedom that their parents did not enjoy: the freedom to date and be single.  That’s all well and good, but the social pressure to marry is one that burdens them much more than it does the society or their families as a whole.

But seriously – they are not being forced to marry at gunpoint, as some women in other parts of the world tragically are.  It’s not the threat of ‘patriarchal’ violence that brings us into the film, but rather something more emotionally appealing – the tears of a young woman.  For a young woman’s tears evoke such sympathy from both men and women, in a way that the depiction of a man’s suffering simply cannot.

Guang Gun – ‘Bare Branches’

Anyone who knows anything about Chinese society, and can do some very basic maths, will know that the One Child Policy in China has produced far more ‘left over’ men than women.   Though it’s fair to say that their plight hasn’t been completely ignored by the Western media; the lives of these Chinese bachelors don’t make for such interesting social media campaigning.

These men are referred to as ‘Guang Gun’, which translates to English as ‘bare branches’ – a slight on their masculinity, not being able to add the fruit of a child to their deep-rooted family trees.  Though guang gun fall under different demographics, most of them live in poor ‘bachelor villages’ throughout China’s vast countryside.

Consider the following story about one such village in Hainan Island, and how the problem of bachelorhood is framed compared to the story of the more urbane Sheng Nü.


The video touches upon some of the reasons for the guang gun phenomenon, in particular the gender imbalance caused by the One Child Policy.  The ‘expert’ in the video correctly talks about the restrictive cultural stigma associated with being a 30-something bachelor.  But the farmer in the first part of the film also identifies a much stronger biological impetus for the change: women fleeing the countryside to work in the developing cities.

As these young women leave behind their rural menfolk, to pursue better paying jobs and husbands, the society as a whole is temporarily driven forward.  But such development in China comes at a longer term demographic cost, and that cost is one of population atrophy.  This is part of the worry that the parents in the first video share, that their daughters leave no lasting legacy for their families or communities.

Market distortions… emotional distortions?

But such personal stories are hard to contextualise within the much larger picture of national growth and decline – a multi-generational process.  Whilst the effects of China’s colossal labour market decline won’t be felt for some fifteen to twenty years from now, when it kicks in it will be just as devastating as it has been for Japan and Western Europe.

Though the bachelor of Hainan Island struggles to hold back his tears at the end of the film, all to the sorrowful sounds of the Chinese harp, his crying is not a match for the tears of the young Sheng Nü from uptown Shanghai.

Both of these films capture different emotions in post-One Child Policy China – male loneliness on the one hand, and female dejection on the other.  That sense of dejection is more powerfully felt than the blue-pill loneliness of the rural workers, particularly through our feminised social media.  The biological drive for material comfort is stronger in women, and that is perfectly natural.

What is not natural, and what is much harder to convey in a short film, is how these distortions in the marriage market emerged in the first place.  In China that distortion occurred through the One Child Policy, a policy that itself was enacted to deal with decades of disastrous population planning under communist rule.  The distortions in the West, of excessive welfare spending and broke governments, create a very receptive audience that can sympathise with the emotions of this new breed of modern, and very single, independent women.

The origins of emotions

Whist we feel emotions in intensely personal ways, it’s interesting to note just how contextual those emotions are – created through historical, government and economic realities.  The mothers of the Sheng Nü acted on the same emotions that their daughters do today, but were compelled to marry out of necessity and be happy with that decision.  Let’s not forget that their tears also come from a place of deep self-interest.

Understanding this, and knowing how these greater forces interact with our very basic biological selves, is a useful place to start when engaging in any Facebook debate about teary-eyed single women in China.  Sometimes you can’t argue with biology.

By Pickup Culture

The feminist sex traveler is a particular kind of female traveler who crops up in the mainstream click-bait news from time to time.  She is, of course, a feminist.

She doesn’t call herself one, but the stories about her make it clear that she is a liberated woman – one who travels on the expense accounts of nerdy, needy and rich guys.

There have been a spate of these stories in the media over the past few years, which always include slightly expressionless selfies with impressive backdrops.  Here are some examples from a couple of recent ‘stories’:


The ‘stunning British jetsetter’ Natalie Wood from Kent in the UK on holiday in the Seychelles.

Chelsea Snow Traveling Feminist

Chelsea Snow, from London and who works part time, and has enjoyed trips to 7 countries.


Monica Lynn, a former financial advisor with Merrill Lynch Alabama, on holiday in Dubai.

From Gold Digger to Feminist

In days gone by, these women would have been labelled ‘gold-diggers’.  Whilst I don’t want to shame them for what they do – I happen to think that traveling the world can be very enriching – I am more than a little skeptical about how their travel escapades are framed in these stories.

All of these women have jobs – they have their own money, and thus can afford to travel.  But their travel-dating takes them that step further, to exotic locations and five star hotels, at the expense of geeky men.

Despite having jobs, these stories all convey the sense that these women are ‘hard-up’ in some way.  Though they do have money, they either have part-time jobs or are studying.  A link in a story on the Sugar Babies Dating site draws upon a study from Durham University showing that ‘20% of students consider sex work at university’.

Looking at the feminist logic behind such a study, it’s not hard to see how we’ve moved from ‘dating’ as a way of ‘paying the bills’ to getting your way into a ‘5 star hotel’ in Rome or Hong Kong.

Rising tuition fees and the cost of living are the reasons for sex-travel in one story, and in the case of the wealthy financial planner – well, she’s overcoming the trauma of being raised by an overprotective mother through her international escapades.

Either way, for rich or poor, slutting it up around the globe is a brave, socially progressive thing to do.

Sex Tourism – The Feminist Cause

In the West, it is feminism that makes this kind of behavior much more acceptable – socially and commercially.  It’s always seen as socially progressive for the female sex-pat to cash in on her youthful looks in such a way; whether she has sex or not is never stated (a conveniently absent fact that obviously drives up her price).

It’s a different matter entirely, however, when it comes to men.  Contrast these stories of female sex-pats to a story about feminism in Thailand earlier this year, where a mainly male Facebook forum was banned for its ‘hate posts’ towards a woman wearing a feminist T-Shirt.

Feminism TShirt

Slow day in the news – a Western woman wearing a Feminist T-Shirt is criticized online.

Being a man, and dating foreign women (in poorer, developing countries) here, is implicitly shameful.  The story draws attention to the fact that these men don’t like western women, especially feminists.  The words ‘she’s alright’ is cited as hate speech – heaven forbid a man is caught sexually objectifying a (western) woman!

A video link in the story (see below) discusses the subject of older Australian men retiring in Thailand, but as a story also about their sexual interests in Thai women the tone is much less celebratory.  The issue is framed as one of necessity – single aged men wanting to lower their living expenses by retiring abroad … and finding young, hot wives in the process.  Many men are ‘lured to Thailand in search of more than just happy smiles’.  Thailand is a place of ‘sleaze and vice’, not liberation or fun.


A focus on inflationary pressures back home might have given this story more of a ‘social justice’ angle – after all, these men are struggling to survive on a fixed income after working hard their whole lives.  It’s these men’s interest in Thai women that makes them less worthy of journalistic sympathy, from western white-knighting journalists.

Feminism: The Great Unshaming

Why do these stories of young traveling gold diggers make the news in the first place?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that we need to level the journalist playing field, and publish more stories of men who go around banging third world prostitutes or hooking up with exotic women in far flung destinations.

The fact is that these women travel the world on their looks, and their looks alone.  By all accounts they haven’t worked hard or saved a lot of money, and they certainly haven’t achieved anything of any significance whilst gallivanting across the globe.  They may have graduated faster from their liberal arts degrees, but they didn’t learn any new languages or pick up useful life skills on the way to the Bahamas or Rio.  They just wrote a blog about where they went, and posted lots of selfies along the way.  That’s it.

Like I said before, there is nothing wrong with this – god bless the free market!  What I do find annoying is the way that a once shameful behavior – gold digging – is now something that is deemed socially progressive by mainstream feminists.


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