Imagine living in a society where the worst thing a woman could do to her parents is remain single past the age of 25.

In China, these women are known as sheng nu, which translates to ‘leftover women’. Not conforming to their society’s norm of being married by a certain age carries with it a cloud of shame and disappointment.

The 7th April saw the Japanese skincare giant SK-II unearth a society that prioritises marriage and motherhood. Their viral ad, Marriage Market Takeover, targets the prejudice that single women over 25 face in China on a daily basis.

The four-minute long documentary-style video follows five women and their parents, as they expose the heartbreaking reality of unmarried women being seen as incomplete. The women hold back their tears while revealing their personal testimonies.

In a statement to the BBC, SK-II President Markus Strobel said the advert was part of “a global campaign to inspire and empower women to shape their destiny.”



“The film brings light to the real-life issue of talented and brave Chinese women feeling pressured to get married before they turn 27, for fear of being labelled sheng nu. He also said the company was adopting “a positive approach in helping women face pressures.”

In our Western society, Hollywood capitalises on the ideals of marriage and that it is the ultimate goal of every relationship. However, this is not always the case. Marriage Market Takeover ends on a note of encouragement offering an escape from the pressures of society to be married and not allowing that to define a woman’s future.

Thousands of Chinese social media users praised the video and its empowering message for women. This video not only sheds light on a regressive ideology that is present within Chinese society, but it is also the start of a conversation that desperately needs to take place. Women are not just wives or mothers. They are, primarily and above all, individuals who are capable of deciding their own future.


This article was contributed by Laura Schembri.