New mode of marriage in E.China spurs gender equality, ‘giant infant’ debate

▲A traditional Chinese wedding ceremony is held in Guiyang, Guizhou Province, Nov. 16, 2020. A Confucius School in Guiyang invited eight couples to hold a traditional Chinese wedding, which was based on the ceremony of Zhou Dynasty (1046BC — 256BC). (Photo: China News Service/Qu Honglun)

A “modern style of marriage,” in which both members of a couple continue to live with their parents, and they bear two children, one taking the mother’s family name and the other taking the father’s, has emerged in East China in recent years. Yet controversy about the new-style marriage has followed. 

The new mode of marriage asks neither family to pay for betrothal gifts, abandoning an old-fashioned custom in traditional Chinese marriages. It also specifies that the couple in such a marriage can have two children, one of whom is surnamed for mother, the other for the father. Family assets will usually be inherited by the child who has taken on the family name. 

It has become a widely accepted choice in rural areas of Jiangsu and Zhejiang, Du Peng, a local lawyer, noted, adding that it satisfies both the emotional and financial needs to carry on family traditions without burdening either party too much, China Women’s News reported on Sunday. 

The emergence of the new-style marriage has been mainly caused by the modern pace of work and life, which is often too fast for young people, coupled with a shortage of nannies, which has forced couples to rely on their parents for babysitting and education tasks, observers noted. 

Some newlyweds, usually those from families of wealth, can’t take proper care of themselves and are accustomed to depending on their parents. They would prefer a marriage style that enables a closer relationship with their original families, media reports said.

Some netizens rooted for the idea of a “modern, equal marriage,” saying it is a perfect solution for families with an only child facing the looming challenges brought by an aging society. Others bring up concerns over issues such as pressure on child-bearing and the possible creation of divisions between two families.

“The idea of such a marriage rests on the premise that wives must have at least two children, which puts a lot of ‘invisible’ pressure and labor on women, and this is often neglected by society,” one netizen commented. 

A man surnamed Xu from Huzhou, Zhejiang, who is the husband in such a bold marriage, told Global Times on Monday that he and his wife, married for seven years, are filing for divorce. “She only cares about the child who carries her last name, which is so unfair for my child,” he said.

However, the wife’s family revealed that Xu, knowing that he did not have the burden of supporting the whole family, has never worked hard to provide for them since the very beginning, while leaving the children to his parents or his wife to attend to.

Although the new mode of marriage has seen failed attempts, Luo Ruixue, an expert on feminism and gender equality, believed that the concept still has a positive side on social advancement. “It is a move that breaks free from the marriage traditions that see men as the backbone of the family,” Luo told Global Times on Monday. 

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