Tag Archives: women

Celebrating International Women’s Day: My Role Models

Dear Readers,

Happy, happy International Women’s Day! In order to appropriately mark this day, I’ve decided to spread some girl love, or should I say woman love, by listing the women that I find most inspiring. This is by no means an exhaustive list and it changes constantly. Without much ado, here are (in no particular order) the outstanding women I look up to and who give me hope for a more equal world:

Emma Watson

She has grown from Hermione in Harry Potter to an outspoken women’s rights activist, addressing the UN and most importantly handing an epic comeback to the people trying to police her body.

Her response to the criticism of her partially exposed breasts in Vanity Fair is both eloquent and hilariously blunt at the same time.

“Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom. It’s about liberation. It’s about equality. I really don’t know what my tits have to do with it.”

Thanks, Emma. You rule.

Miranda Hart

Oh, where to start with Miranda Hart? She is one of the most singularly funny women I know, one of the rare, but growing breed of female comedians that are taking on this world. Her awkwardness in social situations and her struggle to fit into the narrow mold of what society considers “one of those women”, the ones with trinkets, who always know the laugh of the season and the appropriate appetizer for each social occasion is so relatable. She will have you spewing your beverage all over the room with laughter as she farts, gallops and falls off chairs. If ever you need cheering up, Miranda’s comedic talent will certainly save the day.

Carrie Gracie

If you are an avid follower of the BBC, especially with a focus on China, you would have come across Carrie Gracie. She is my favourite journalist of all time. She was out reporting on China when China wasn’t the place to be yet; in the mid-90s she does a series on White Horse Village, where the villagers are affected by urbanization. Then, last year, her documentary the Xi Factor takes on China’s Big Papa, culminating in a visit to the very same dumpling place he had blessed with his presence, where the “presidential set” fails to impress the seasoned China expert Gracie. And in her latest coup, she is attempting to untangle the web of a certain Chinese politician, his wife and the murder of a British business man in 2011. The woman is fearless. And, incidentally, also was married to a Chinese man at one point in her life if memory serves. If I ever meet her, I might end up stammering “I want to be you when I grow up.” Too weird? Yeah, I thought so.

Okay, before I run on for too long, I think I’ll have to stop here. But not before giving a shout out to a couple of other amazing women and their achievements:

Elizabeth Warren, succesful politician taking on Trump and his administration in a serious & viral way

J.K. Rowling, who gave us Harry Potter and one of the best feeds in the Twitterverse

Superwoman, a.k.a. Lilly Singh, Youtube Mega-star, bawse and girl power advocate

Oh, and one surprise woman you can find right here

And finally my Mum, tomboy in her own right, who taught me there’s no need to fit the mould

Who are your female role models? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Women’s Day 2017!




A Love Letter to my Chinese Mother-In-Law

Looking back at some of my posts, I realise that most the quirky anecdotes and the weird stuff tends to involve her, my MIL. That might give the impression that we don’t get along but that’s actually not the fact at all. The main reason that most of my funny and weird China stories, such as rearranging wardrobes, happen with her, is simply because she is the Chinese person I am closest to and spend the most time with. Mr Li doesn’t count, as his long time in the West and my terrible influence have turned him into as much a confused culturally non-identifiable mashed potato as I am. After five years of having him in my life, and thus her by association, I have come to learn a few things about her in relation to other Chinese mothers-in-law that make me thank my lucky star that she is indeed the MIL I ended up with. So, here we are. My love letter to my MIL:

Being Supportive of us Dating

To start off, I have to say cudos to my MIL for never once suggesting to my husband that dating a foreigner was something bad. I know a few other WWAMs, such as Jocelyn, whose potential parents-in-law had misgivings about their son dating a Western woman, since we stereotypically tend to be seen as “loose” and heartless monsters who will abandon their duty to look after their parents. My MIL was never anything but welcoming to me, even when I could be a total bitch when I was struggling with culture shock.

The day we got our certificate

A Strong Woman to Look Up To

I think one of the things that I really appreciate about her is the fact that she is a business woman, who owns her own kindergarten. In a country, where still the ideal role of a woman is to take care of the family members, young and old, it is rare to find a woman who has such a successful career, and a family. Actually, being a divorced woman in rural China in the 90s – that’s some pretty tough stuff –  and she has been through some really intense shit in her life. But she came out of the other end a strong and successful woman, a total trail blazer. I have only two words for that: Absolute Awesomeness.

Giving us Space

I find one of the common worries of dating Chinese men can be the fact that many Chinese family members, particularly the mother, struggle with the concept of personal space in the way we Westerners think of it. Most Chinese parents expect their sons to live in the same city as them, many even on the same street or (scary thought) under the same roof. However, this, from what I hear and experience myself, can lead to conflict very quickly, as two strong headed women from two different cultures often tend to have clashing opinions. Our husbands, the poor sods stuck in the middle, are often not outstanding at managing these cross-cultural issues either. I’m therefore incredibly glad that my MIL is accepting of the fact that we won’t be moving to Inner Mongolia and have our own lives.

Not Pressing Us on Children

While the rest of the family is a different story, I am incredibly lucky since my MIL doesn’t put pressure on me to have child. This is very uncommon in China, and I think it has to do with the fact that my husband’s parents are divorced. Maybe she wants to see if we can make it last? Who knows. All I know is that all I get from her in terms of procreational pressure is the occasional “Doesn’t your husband look cute with his little niece.” Thanks MIL, I really do appreciate it.

After marriage pressure comes…baby pressure!

Being OK with Us Moving Back to Europe

This is a big one. Many Chinese parents I know of, and more so those with sons, are heavily opposed to the idea of their child moving to another continent, because “who will take care of me in old age?” So the fact that my MIL is totally on board with the idea of us returning to Europe at some stage (mainly for breathable air) is not a given. She went to Germany for the first time this summer and overall seemed to quite enjoy it. There is of course a possibility that she would like to join us in Europe but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

Home sweet home.

Almost Always Picking My Side in Fights

This is a really interesting one. From the beginning, when Mr. Li and I tend to go at each other, I’d say 90% of the time my MIL would be the one to talk him down and who picks my side. Especially in the beginning of our relationship she was the reason we didn’t break up many, many times. I have actually had to force myself not to call her to knock some sense into him when we have had the occasional fight. This has been a massive help to me, since I am aware that especially when it comes to cultural conflict, it’s an easy thing for the Chinese relatives to gang up on the foreign partner. It’s probably the same the other way around. So her being able to see my side is something I really appreciate about her.

Spoiling Me

Yeah, I have to say, my MIL tends to spoil me rotten. She will always buy things that I don’t ask for and often even feels the need, when she buys endless stuff for Mr Li, to buy me something too so I don’t feel left out. She will go out of her way to make me comfortable and constantly feed me food, if I let her. When you are in a country far away from your own mum, it does feel nice every now and then to be showered by such affection.

Being Pretty Cool to Travel With

I think this is the funniest one in a way. After Mr Li and I got married in China last year, I went on a 2-week honeymoon not with him but with my MIL. He was working as usual, the workaholic. And it was actually pretty awesome. She never travelled much in the past but is now in a phase of her life where she is really enjoying exploring the world. And so I know that if I ever want to travel to a cool place and my hubs is busy, I can just ask her if she wants to go. And actually, she is as active as I am, so she is totally down for a busy schedule and looking at loads of places, as opposed to my little couch potato of a husband ;P

Our MIL-DIL Honeymoon at Qinghai Lake

So, yes, while at times certain elements about Chinese culture drive me insane, I have to admit that overall I have been incredibly lucky with my MIL. She’s definitely not what you’d call a traditional Chinese mother-in-law!

Cologne Attacks; Chinese Pragmatism vs German Idealism

“Told you so, told you so.” That is the chorus I am hearing these days in the aftermath of the Cologne attacks. Be it online or talking to Mr. Li, to many Chinese people it seems what happened there was just a matter of time, since Germany opened its borders allowing “all kinds” of people to come in.

“It’s because we come from a developing country”, believes Mr. Li. “We know how bad people can be when they are surrounded by poverty and misery like that. You guys in Europe are so idealistic because you have such a great standard of living.”

Is it really as simple as that? Many a time in China I have found that people are much more pragmatic and the “better-you-than-me” mentality still prevails. The general lack of compassion for strangers has often been criticized with the countless cases of hit-and-run victims who did not receive help by passers-by. Yet, at the same time, arguably it is this type of thinking is result of historical factors designed to ensure self-protection and survival in a rough environment.

Maybe I am naïve and idealistic. In the end, if you have to chose between life or principles, wouldn’t it be foolish to pick the latter? Or would it be heroic?

For the first few days, the Cologne incident left me utterly speechless. I didn’t know what to think. I felt worried about the changes my home country is going through, I felt enraged that these men would even dare to act like this, on such a large scale as well, irrespective from where they are from or how they came to be in Germany.

I still believe that opening our borders was the right thing to do. I still know that I should not condemn the many for the actions of a few. Well, I guess you can’t call 1000 a few anymore can you? Luckily, the outrage expressed by Arab social media users is very helpful in putting things into perspective. But the attacks not just in Cologne, but also two other German cities on New Years have made me ponder my standpoint.

PC is over; there need to be consequences

No, I still don’t think that Merkel was wrong to save all these people, even if some of them might not have deserved it.

What I do think is that the perpetrators must feel the full force of the law. The gloves need to come off. I think it is unacceptable that the police tried to actively stop the information that there were Syrians and asylum seekers among the attackers from getting out because of the “political climate”. It’s a sad truth that needs confronting. I don’t want to hear any arguments of “cultural differences” or “lack of knowledge of local customs”. If a country gives you an inch, you don’t take its women. Germany has saved these men’s lives and this is the way its people are thanked? Talk about ungrateful.

What’s worse, two of the people arrested were found with notes that had been translated from Arabic; aside from reading “I want to have sex with you”, they also announced “I will kill you”. In what world is that a cultural difference?

These people need to be deported. There are no if’s and but’s, there is simply no discussion. Yes, their lives might be in danger if they return to the war zone, but they had their chance and they made the decision to destroy their opportunity at a peaceful life.

Of course Germany’s bureaucratic wheels, its PC-ness and its “original sin” mentality will all stand in the way of this move. I’ll say one thing; China would handle this without batting an eye.

Germany needs to stop letting historical obligation push it down like this. Any psychological debt has long been paid. Enough is enough. How can German tax payers expect to pay to put such individuals into a German prison? That is simply asking too much. And it tells other potential aggressors this: “Hey, come to Germany, they’ll save your life, let you grope their women and then put you up in a prison with three meals a day and no need to work.” It’s a land of paradise.

Angela Merkel, I think you are an amazing woman and I think you have shown much strength and compassion by opening the borders but now you also need to be strong enough to say “no”. Otherwise you make Germany look foolish and put its citizens at further risk.

No one is asking the women in Cologne

Aside from the question on what to do next, I found this article by DW very to the point. It points out how the whole debate in Germany to no one’s surprise has been focusing on the refugee crisis. What it is ignoring completely is the women who experienced these horrendous acts of aggression. At least the BBC is giving them a voice; kudos. But yes, Germany, why are you again forgetting about the actual problem of sexual assault?

Cologne mayor Reker’s comment perfectly sums up exactly what is wrong in the whole discussion of sexual violence towards women. Her suggestion of a “code of conduct” that women only travel in groups and keep an “arm’s length” from strangers was met with much ridicule but actually it is shocking that she, a woman herself, would push the responsibility to the victims and suggest they should limit themselves in their freedom. Stop the slut shaming, woman, this is the 21st century!

Here’s my code of conduct, ladies: go out, live your lives, don’t let misogynists stop you from doing anything you want to do. Oh yes, and bring pepper spray and take some kung fu classes, so you can crush their balls. I beg your pardon for the language. On second thought, I don’t.



PhD after 25 equals no husband or family? Marriage pressure on Chinese women

Laura. I’m a graduated student. 25years old. I wanna go to Canada get a PhD. But my parents worries about my age. They think I’m too old when I’m finished my PhD degree. Coz I don’t have a boyfriend n 30 is a little bit old for a female to have child. So what should I do?

Intercultural relationships

This was a question I received on my WeChat account the other day and it made me incredibly sad because it points the things about Chinese culture I struggle with the most – the terrible sexism and pressure on young Chinese women in relation to marriage and family.

This message could have been written by any number of my Chinese friends I know from uni, many of whom are still single but all of them face the incomprehension and mighty pressure from their parents’ generation. The belief that if you are not married at 25 as a woman in China you will not find a husband is still incredibly common, so much so that the media has popularized the disgusting term “leftover women”. The men also face pressure but less so.

Many women who struggle to find partners are highly educated and successful because Chinese men tend to marry down, looking for women who earn less and have lower degrees than them. So, to this young woman, deciding to do a PhD at 25 might well be saying good-bye to her prospects of finding a “good” husband. Staying single though means failing at life in China.

The pressure is so much that many women do not want to go home during Chinese New Year because they will face endless badgering about when they will finally get married. This has even led to the emergence of a new market, the “fake boyfriend market”, where young students will rent themselves out to pretend to be a boyfriend in front of the parents to appease them.

In the past, the dating window in which to find your partner was worryingly small. Of course you were not allowed to date in high-school. University was, and for a dwindling number, still is the time for Chinese youngsters to experience their first romance. Leaving women with about five years to find a partner.

However, many couples break up after graduating university; being from different hometowns they often return to their families and their relationship cannot survive. The phenomenon is so common it even has its own term “毕业分手“, the “graduation break-up”. This leaves most women with about a two to three year-window to find the right guy. And you thought you had it tough, ey?

Despite all the negativity, I chose to see the big strides China’s women are making. Here is my response to the young woman.

Hello dear Li!

Thank you for sending me your question. I felt very emotional reading your words, since after almost two years in China, I finally understand the pressure young Chinese girls are under and it breaks my heart.

I personally think if you want to do a PhD you should DEFINITELY do it. Do not have any regrets in your life when you are old. I am certain you will find your right partner, who knows you might meet him in Canada. If you go abroad you will certainly have more time to look for someone because there is no concept of 剩女. Age matters much less, and there is no idea that you are ever really too old to get married.

In most Western societies it is very common for people to get married after they are thirty years old and many have children in their thirties. My mother had me, her only child, when she was 36. Now that medicine has progressed, that is a very common age abroad to have a child. There is a lot less pressure to get married compared to China, if you do not get married or have children that does not mean your life has failed. You can do amazing things with your life, such as have a great and successful career. Your PhD is another step on the road to a bright and independent future.

Even if you stay in China you cannot be sure you will meet a good guy to marry, so it is smarter to invest as much as you can in your own future, and a PhD will help you achieve your own success.

In terms of your parents, I think you can help them worry less by telling them this: even in China the age to get married is slowly increasing. Especially in bigger cities. I have many friends who are your age and older and are not married. One of my friends works in Shanghai and many of her colleagues are over 30 years and still single. I think your situation is very common in today’s China. Your generation has dreams they want to pursue and it is becoming quite common to focus on career but the older generation is not able to understand that times have changed.

Aside from telling your parents that they don’t need to worry because abroad you have more time and because even here in China it is now common to wait, maybe try to explain what could happen if you do not wait. You might just marry some boy you know very little just to please them, and then you might divorce because you find out you are not a good match. I am sure your parents are concerned about your happiness, so hopefully they will take this to heart.

Finally, you can promise that you will attend some events abroad that can help you find a partner, there are many societies at university where you can meet people and with a bit of luck you will meet the right one.

I hope this helps and I sincerely wish that you can fulfil your dream of a PhD in Canada. I wish you all the luck in the world!


Follow my official WeChat account for shortened versions of my blog posts and Q&A’s at “lauranews”.