Last Saturday, I attended a talk that featured Joy Chen, an Asian-American woman who was the former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles. It was interesting that she wrote a book for Chinese women, “Don’t marry before you’re 30,” that supposedly tells the modern Chinese woman to delay marriage until they can achieve happiness with themselves, success in their careers, and the self-confidence to pick the right mate. While a lot of her advice parallels an increasing trend we see in the United States, it’s still quite novel in China, where age 30 is still seen as a critical deadline for marriage. I found several critical flaws in her ideas and also her book. First, she failed to take into account these traditional Chinese cultural values when writing her book. So maybe it worked out for her to get married at age 38 after achieving incredible success as the Deputy Mayor of LA, but what about Chinese society, which views women past 30 as ‘old maids’ and less desirable? What about Chinese men who see successful, ladder-climbing women as ‘too aggressive’ and also undesirable? What about the fact that Chinese society view too successful women as 剩女 (sheng nu, or ‘leftover women’) because men do not want them? Second, she failed to conduct any of her research in China and did not speak to any Chinese women or men, instead relying on what she calls ‘science’ and ‘psychology’ to form her arguments. Third, she fails to recognize that her case is quite unique and is still not commonplace in the U.S. or China, so for her to generalize based on her experience is flawed. What I found the most interesting were the questions after her talk, where a few Chinese women spoke to these points. “I’m 39 and I’ve followed the exact same path you describe, and yet I can’t find my Mr. Right and my parents and friends only introduce me to men 50 or 60 years old …”

Last Saturday, I attended a talk that featured Joy Chen, an Asian-American woman who was the former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles. It was interesting that she wrote a book for Chinese women, “Don’t marry before you’re 30,” that supposedly tells the modern Chinese woman to delay marriage until they can achieve happiness with themselves, success in their careers, and the self-confidence to pick the right mate. While a lot of her advice parallels an increasing trend we see in the United States, it’s still quite novel in China, where age 30 is still seen as a critical deadline for marriage. I found several critical flaws in her ideas and also her book. First, she failed to take into account these traditional Chinese cultural values when writing her book. So maybe it worked out for her to get married at age 38 after achieving incredible success as the Deputy Mayor of LA, but what about Chinese society, which views women past 30 as ‘old maids’ and less desirable? What about Chinese men who see successful, ladder-climbing women as ‘too aggressive’ and also undesirable? What about the fact that Chinese society view too successful women as 剩女 (sheng nu, or ‘leftover women’) because men do not want them? Second, she failed to conduct any of her research in China and did not speak to any Chinese women or men, instead relying on what she calls ‘science’ and ‘psychology’ to form her arguments. Third, she fails to recognize that her case is quite unique and is still not commonplace in the U.S. or China, so for her to generalize based on her experience is flawed. What I found the most interesting were the questions after her talk, where a few Chinese women spoke to these points. “I’m 39 and I’ve followed the exact same path you describe, and yet I can’t find my Mr. Right and my parents and friends only introduce me to men 50 or 60 years old …”