Wretched? Women's Questions of Love and Labour in the People's Republic of China

Alison Lamont

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    This chapter looks at the stigma of singlehood for Chinese women in their late 20s through the lens of the intimacy argument developed in the 1990s in western Europe. By analysing posts in Chinese made on a "community Q&A" website, evidence for the emergence of an individualised approach to intimacy is found, but the constraints of family and fear of "wretchedness" in old age are too compelling for the individualisation hypothesis to be accepted unproblematically. I argue that the Chinese state has sought to keep "family matters" (that is, reproduction; socialisation and education; old age care) as strictly collective issues bolted onto the nuclear family, rather than the state, via policy and discursive emphasis on traditional virtues of filial piety. Without recognising the intersection between pressures of individualisation experienced in education and the global labour markets, and state policy which targets families not individuals, the experience and structure of individualisation in China cannot be fully perceived. I argue that the case of the stigmatisation of economically successful urban women who have delayed marriage until nearly the age of 30 offer an incisive case through which to explore this matrix of individualised, and "familialised" structures and how it plays out on individual decision making and life planning.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationRomantic Relationships in a Time of Cold Intimacies
    EditorsLorena Arocha, Julia Carter
    Place of PublicationPalgrave
    PublisherPalgrave Macmillan Ltd.
    Number of pages20
    Publication statusSubmitted - 30 May 2019

    Cite this