Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Thank you, internet, from a sheng nu


(Published in Business Standard on October 20, 2012)

One of the great perks of tuning into the news, recently, was watching anchors try to say ‘Pussy Riot’. I remember, two years ago, tuning in to watch them try to say ‘Eyjafjallaj√∂kull’, but ‘Pussy Riot’ is way more fun. They can’t repurpose their snigger instincts into indulgent smiles about young punk-rocker collectives with weird names (wotchergonnado), since it’s a story about hot young women getting tossed into one of Russia’s very serious clinks. So they struggle with all kinds of syllable stress tricks to help them keep a straight face. Puh-SEE-RYE-t. POO-see Write. PuZY Right. And (from NDTV) Pussy-uh, Riot-uh. No, there’s just no good way to say it without sounding idiotic.

But then, there’s been a lot of weird woman-related stuff on the news and internet recently. During the second US Presidential debate, challenger Mitt Romney told a story about trying to find qualified female candidates to induct into his Massachusetts cabinet, in the course of which he offered an ill-constructed sentence about his aides coming up with “binders full of women”. If we examine our hearts we all know what he meant, but the internet, where bombast goes to have its pants removed, embraced the meme, throttled it to death, and is probably still jumping merrily up and down on its corpse. Good for the internet.

Then there was the internet video clip of Aussie PM, Julia Gillard, who gave the leader of the opposition a tongue-lashing to remember for the rest of his creepy, sexist life. The fact that Gillard was, at the time, lashing out in defence of her own political ally who had been accused of sexually harassing a colleague, might have robbed her message of a little something, but then again it wouldn’t be politics if it didn’t have a little politics in it. Unfortunately, the other Gillard video clip that’s spreading like a fungus is the lady walking along in Delhi and suddenly falling flat on her face on account of getting her heels stuck in the lawn. Hopefully people will lose interest in that one in a couple of years.

And just now someone pointed me to last week’s article in The New York Times, titled ‘China’s Leftover Women', which is all about the website of the All-China Women’s Federation, the state feminist agency of China. Unless the NYT writer has committed a fearsome act of cultural misunderstanding, it seems that Chinese state feminists’ big priority is getting everyone a husband.

The website uploads columns on the problems of being sheng nu, or ‘leftover women’. This category is defined as women who are over 27, educated, and single. The horror! The horror! Here’s a bit of the Chinese state feminist agency’s advice to the poor benighted sheng nu (paraphrased from the article’s excerpts): If you’re pretty, getting a dude should be a breeze, go forth with our blessings. Don’t be all ambitious about your career and wait until you’re too old and ugly for any guy to want you, because that’s going to happen, pal, and when it does, don’t come crying to us, because we warned you. And if you’re not pretty, think about a makeover.

I paid close attention to this story on account of being over 27, educated, and single, though my family and friends hotly contest ‘educated’. I cannot be accused of career ambition, but I’m still not looking for a husband, which means that, according to Chinese feminists, I’m just going to wait around like all of those other “yellowed pearls”, as the website poetically describes old hags. It looks as if I’m sunk. Oh me, oh my. Why wasn’t I told about this before? What will I do now?

As I said: the internet is usually good for a laugh.

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