THE RISE OF NÜHANZI IN CHINA: MANLY LADIES WHO CHALLENGE CHINA’S TRADITIONAL FEMALE IMAGE

Offbeat China-Staff

She is strong (psychologically and possibly physically, too). She is firm, decisive and open-minded. She is independent and responsible. She is nothing like the traditional “as soft and tender as water” image of a Chinese female.

She hates high heels, dresses, make-up and the color pink. She’d rather spend the day play video games than shopping.  She spits out curses rather than shedding tears. She doesn’t know how to act like a cutie to win over men’s love.

She is a Nühanzi (女汉子), literally meaning a manly woman or a tomboy – a woman who thinks and acts like a man and is yet more than just an unceremonious woman. Nühanzi is an extremely popular term that many Chinese young ladies now proudly label themselves. In contrary to the traditional Chinese female image of a cute, submissive and clinging lady,  a Nühanzi is tough enough to take care of herself without a man. The emphasis here is on “without a man” – a Nühanzi can easily get buddy-buddy with men, but seldom is she able to turn her male friends into boyfriends.

The rise of Nühanzi in China is no accident. Unlike in rural areas where boys are still favored over girls or in old times when women were told to follow the orders of their fathers, male siblings, husbands and later, sons, China’s urban young ladies were born the only child of their families and were raised as “little empresses.” They don’t need to grow up being soft and submissive. Quite the opposite, they are in constant competition with their male counterparts from play to work.

Another contributing factor is China’s increasing number of leftover women – mostly 3-high (highly-independent, highly-educated, highly-paid) urban professional women who are still single after their late twenties. Their 3-high status and busy professional life keep them from finding a satisfactory matching man, therefore they are left. And guess what, a very high percentage of leftover women are Nühanzi. A long single life forces these young ladies to take care of themselves like a man in the concrete jungle. From fixing up plumbing to sorting out computer problems, they have to be tough to survive.

In the past week, a list of the 20 habits of a Nühanzi went viral on the Chinese Internet. It’s said that whoever meets more than 10 out of the 20 items is a Nühanzi. A Nühanzi is not necessarily only defined by the list, but the sentiment is real – young Chinese ladies take pride in labeling themselves so.

  1. If unable to unscrew a tight cap off of a soda bottle, she’d keep trying, instead of asking for help.
  2. She’d strip naked if it gets too hot at home.
  3. She often complains about the troubles of being a woman.
  4. She’d pour crumbs left in a bag of chips directly into her mouth.
  5. She often curses when chatting on and offline.
  6. She’d eat hot pot in a scorching summer day.
  7. She changes water barrels for water dispensers herself.
  8. She loves playing computer or online games.
  9. She’d go to bed without brushing her teeth or taking a shower if it’s too late.
  10. She hates wearing make-up and seldom takes pictures of herself.
  11. She easily becomes buddies with men.
  12. She likes to sit with legs crossed or to shake her legs while sitting.
  13. She thinks it’s a hassle to go shopping.
  14. She seldom visits hair salons, nails salons or beauty salons.
  15. She eats an apple with skin/peel on.
  16. She doesn’t bother to wash her face or hair when staying at home.
  17. She carries her own luggage when travelling.
  18. She doesn’t like women who act coquettishly and thinks they are bitches.
  19. She’d chase a leaving bus even with high heels on.
  20. She’s perfectly fine with ordering big portions of food even with the presence of men.

Unlike the label of leftover women which many Chinese young ladies are trying hard to get rid of, most take pride in calling themselves a Nühanzi because being a Nühanzi means being strong. For example, one netizen 采花大盗Vip commented: “No matter how ungirly they are, Nühanzi are the most beautiful because they are independent.” Another female netizen 请叫我西瓜小姐er commented: “I only meet less than half of the 20. How I wish I can have a heart as strong as that of a Nühanzi.”

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