(London Telegraph) Around a year ago, both Chinese and western media went into a frenzy over the term “leftover women”, officially defined as “unmarried women over the age of 27″ by the Chinese Ministry of Education in 2007. The label, far from being stamped out by enraged feminists for its derogatory categorisation of women, has instead been popularised by the Chinese media and is widely used in today.

But a more insidious relative of the “leftover women” label, one that has failed to generate the same media furore, is “female PhD” – referring to women who are studying for or have completed a doctoral degree. While in the West the term may imply intelligence and accomplishment, its use within China is often laced with a social stigma that infers a headstrong personality lacking in femininity and attractiveness. Perhaps more disturbing is how the phrase has been used interchangeably with “the third gender”, a highly demeaning label that objectifies educated women as sexless and abnormal beings.

With Chinese New Year being celebrated throughout the coming week in China – local families host a weeklong diary of events and activities from New Year’s Day, on Saturday – what is traditionally a refreshing and restorative time has in recent years become a dreaded undertaking for many single women (and men).

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