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This post was edited by StellaSong at 2016-1-26 08:44|
A woman thinks about donating money to Li Shu's anti-forced marriage program on a crowdfunding website. Photo: Li Hao/GT
"You're not young anymore and you should get married as soon as possible." "Don't be so picky. Marriage is a must." "When will you get married?"
During Spring Festival, these are just some of the quotes single Chinese are bound to hear from their parents and relatives, especially for those who have reached their late 20s and 30s.
However this year, Li Shu (pseudonym), an administrative worker in a Beijing-based NGO, decided to start a crowdfunding program with her two friends named "Fanbihun Lianmeng" (Anti-Forced Marriage Alliance) to combat this kind of "forced into marriage" preaching by parents and relatives. They uploaded their program on the crowdfunding website lingxi360.com more than a week ago, aiming to collect 35,000 yuan ($5,320) in order to put their "Anti-forced marriage" advertisement on one of Beijing's busiest subway stations.
"We spent about half a month for preparation, but we had this thought as early as two years ago," said Li.
People can choose to donate from 38 yuan to 498 yuan to their program. In return, they will receive gifts like anti-forced marriage postcards, T-shirts and handbags.
Li told Metropolitan that they aim to inspire people to think about the issue of forced marriage. Instead of just making fun of it, they want to let people, especially young people, know that they can make their own choice about marriage. "The old generation should acknowledge young people's right of choice," said Li.
In China, single women who pass the age of 28 are labeled "leftover women," while single men over 30 are regarded as "leftover men."
During the Spring Festival of 2014, China's matchmaking website baihe.com ran an advertisement which urged singles into marriage to show their piety. The advert showed a young woman who gives in after years of her grandmother's nagging and insistence that she should not waste time "being picky anymore."
The advert aroused widespread public criticism and for the first time turned the "forced into marriage" issue into a public debate.
Li is 24, and considers herself a celibatarian, but she is now under pressure from her parents to get married. "Being single or getting married both have their own merits and problems. We want to convey the message that people are empowered to choose the lifestyle they want," Li said.
Huang Yanna, 30, who is a Beijing-based singleton, has donated 498 yuan. "The program is meaningful considering the contemporary situation in China's society. It says the words that many people want to say," Huang said.
Though Huang herself is independent, and has a supportive family, many of her friends have suffered from incessant nagging at the hands of their parents. "I have a friend whose parents will use their physical health to threaten her to get married. Chinese society now desperately needs to develop the sense that being single can also be happy," she added.
Xiong Jing, a feminist and managing director of Media Monitor for Women Network, a Beijing-based NGO which aims to promote gender equality in media, is supportive of this crowdfunding campaign. "Young people need to make their own voice heard and arouse public attention," Xiong said.
In Xiong's opinion, compared with Westerners, Chinese people are too focused on family relationships, thus leading to too much interference with children's lives by elder family members. "But to have fundamental changes in people's conception about marriage is not an easy thing. Like this campaign, what we can do is to keep using different methods, like opening an anti-forced marriage hotline, to inspire people to think and talk," Xiong noted.
Li had generated 7,666 yuan by January 25. "Whether we can reach our goal or not, we will continue to bring our anti-forced marriage message to the public," said Li. "We hope that this campaign can be a spark that leads to even greater action in the years to come."