China's demure "good for marriage" trend sparks feminist furore

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds her marriage certificate, as couples participate in a staged mass wedding in Shanghai

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A fashion trend in China dubbed "good for marriage" has generated a social media storm, with scores of women saying the demure, feminine style plays to gender stereotypes and discourages financial independence.

The trend recently became popular after several social media influencers promoted ways they said would make women more attractive to potential husbands, as officials grapple with ways to boost the number of marriages, and births, which dropped to record lows last year, leading to the first decline in the population in six decades.

The number of newborns is closely tied to marriage rates due to official policies that make it difficult for single women to have children.

"I'm desperately working towards the "difficult to marry style". I love exercising, shopping and I'm a super feminist who loves to argue," one user posted on China's Weibo social media platform.

Another Weibo user posted: "I am so happy alone. Super happy! Be a hard-to-marry girl, sensible, self-interested, loves herself."

The pastel make-up and modest clothing that are the hallmark of "good for marriage" style are based on "Brilliant Girls", a 2021 drama that centres around a woman who wants to get married as quickly as possible.

In Chinese, the trend literally translates as "good family tradition". Traditionally, women are seen as the primary carers for their children and households.

Many young Chinese women cite high childcare costs, a disrupted career and not wanting to get married as the main reasons for not wanting children.

Angel, a user on China's Little Red Book social media site said she was working hard to be "difficult to marry".

"In the end the most important thing is to be rich and financially independent," she said.

(Reporting by Farah Master, Dorothy Kam and the Beijing newsroom; editing by Miral Fahmy)