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Shenzhen’s cat lady could be a sign of things to come

Posted: 10/8/2013 11:04 am

A woman in Shenzhen’s Longgang District who lives with 83 cats that she adopted as strays may be part of a wider societal change.

“Cat Aunt” Yang Dingxian, image courtesy of Southern Metropolis Daily

Yang Dingxian, who is in her 50s, has been labelled in the media as “cat aunt”. Due to constraints on her resources, she may have to start giving away some of her cats, Southern Metropolis Daily reports.

The Chinese-language media appear to have framed the news as eccentric click-bait. But the story of this lady whose balcony, floor and sofa are always covered in cat fur, food and waste may have wider social significance.

This news comes shortly after The Straits Times reported that an increasing number of Chinese women were choosing to stay single, even though they may be given degrading labels such as leftover woman.

Although cat aunt is hardly a model of female empowerment, she has made a conscious decision to go against a societal norm. As The Atlantic wrote yesterday:

Rigid gender roles are well-entrenched in China, a country where young girls grow up learning xue de hao bu ru yi jia de hao, a phrase translating as “it’s better to marry well than to study well.” Still-influential Confucian values dictate that a man should be superior to his wife in terms of salary and education, and as a result many women with college degrees find themselves unwanted in China’s marriage market.

Another related social phenomenon has been the rise of the 女汉子 or tomboy. Offbeat China described them as firm, decisive and open-minded. They are independent and responsible, and nothing like the traditional “as soft and tender as water” image of a Chinese female.

A woman in Guangzhou won herself such a label over the weekend by getting into a fight with a man on the metro. You can watch it here but it isn’t pretty.

It’s an interesting time to be a woman in China.

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