Zhang Yufen: Mistress Killer
Changes can be great, and we don’t just mean the David Bowie song
. With Valentine’s around the corner, as well as Chinese New Year next week, the rent-a-boyfriend industry of China is blossoming again, but more women in China are calling out the BS on certain beliefs and expectations. Today the Washington Post
wrote about 57-year old Zhang Yufen. After her husband left her with a young son and a cleared out joint bank account, she wallowed a bit. She did find the determination to get the financial support he owed. This led to new quests, most recently a detective agency called Alliance Against Mistresses. She runs this operation from her apartment just outside Beijing. Last year we wrote about the sheng nu phenomenon
, or leftover women. We looked at the institution of marriage in general, and the divorce that may follow. We quoted Leta Hong Fincher in an interview with the BBC back then. She said despite husbands and wives often buying property together, supported by the parents of both, all data suggest that majority of it is only registered in the husband’s name. Should the marriage end, the person whose name isn’t on the papers sees none of it. The idea of leftover women itself is part government propaganda to keep things calm. Men are meant to be masculine caretakers, women their dependants. The system works to maintain this balance. Zhang herself explains women often don’t want an official divorce. There seems to be a deeply rooted idea of a woman causing her husband to cheat. As a result they may end up as laughing stock. Rather than taking the official route, they prefer to get compensation and quietly move on. Official routes of course have their own issues. Even while government is campaigning against corruption, it’s quite a selective endeavour. A 2012 study showed 95% of officials under investigation for corruption were cheating on their wives. According to Zhang, she’s had evidence ‘gone missing’ by a court. In other instances, those higher up are just keen to keep those things under wraps. The corruption remains concealed, the wives screwed over. Relationships are never straightforward but Zhang’s goal isn’t to stick it to patriarchy, or make men look the guilty parts. It’s to guarantee the (financial) wellbeing of the women left for younger models. Systematically forced to become housewives without careers of their own, someone has to have their back. Cover ph by Simon Denyer for The Washington Post.