2017-05-25 11:28:18

A recent case involving a woman whose parents would not allow her to get married without helping her brother buy a new marital home has triggered anger on social media, with observers complaining that many Chinese women suffer exploitation by their own families.

Tang Lu, the 32-year-old woman at the center of the story, comes from a poor family in central China’s Hubei province, and has a brother who’s six years younger. She planned to get married two years ago, but her parents stopped her. They were anxious that she should wait until her brother got married first, as reported by Chongqing Evening News, a local newspaper in Chongqing, the city in southwestern China where Tang lives.

Last week, Tang received a call from her father. He asked her to give 100,000 yuan (nearly $15,000) to her brother, who was due to get married this year and wanted to buy a new home for the occasion. “I don’t owe anything to this family; why should I pay such a big amount of money?” Tang said, recalling that she had been raised by her grandmother and that her parents had paid little attention to her.

“He’s her brother by blood — she has to care [about him],” Tang’s father said. “She must give the money, and not a penny less. It’s the responsibility of an older sister.”

Online, Tang was soon dubbed “the real-life version of Fan Shengmei,” as her experience resonated with one of the main characters from the popular TV series “Ode to Joy,” seen by many as China’s “Sex and the City.” In the show, Fan Shengmei, a white-collar worker in Shanghai, comes from a poor family that favors her elder brother. She is endlessly pressed to pay her brother’s loans, gambling debts, and even down payments for housing.

Fan’s storyline has aroused widespread sympathy and invited comparisons with real-life situations, helping to cast a light on the unfair treatment of women in family life. “If you treat [your family] well, they will just take it for granted and ask for more things,” wrote a user of microblog platform Weibo. “It’s a bottomless hole; my parents are the same.”

The social standing of women in China has declined in recent years. In a 2016 global gender gap report by the World Economic Forum, China ranked 99th out of 144 countries, compared with 61st in 2011. The same report outlines how only 17 percent of legislative, managerial, and senior official roles are held by women.

Editor: Luke Sheehan. 

(Header image: A still frame from the second season of the TV drama ‘Ode to Joy’ shows the character Fan Shengmei worrying about her family. IC)