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Onelers of the World: China Edition April 11, 2021

Posted by Onely in Great Onelies in Real Time, Great Onely Activities, Onelers of the World, Profiles, single and happy.
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Welcome to the latest installment in our series Onelers of the World (or, as autocorrect deliciously calls it, Omelets of the World). Here we flag stories of interesting, empowered, and unique single people who are not based in the United States. As our Copious Readers know, the progressive singles’ movement remains heavily focused on U.S. white cis-hetero women, and therefore we here at Onely would like to hear more from and about singles who identify as people of color, cis-hetero men, and/or LGBTQA, as well as single people of all stripes who live outside of the U.S. Meanwhile, here’s a little something from big China. Thanks to author and singles advocate Donna Ward of Melbourne, Australia for flagging this article for us. 

Every so often you read a news article about someone and think, “I want to be best friends with that person!” My most recent fantasy best friend is Ms. Su Min of Henan Province, who at 56 left her abusive husband and started driving across China, camping on a tent on top of (on top of!) her car. 

There’s a photo of her cartop tent in the NYT article about Ms. Su by Joy Dong and Vivian Wang. The profile is chock full of gem sentences describing her chutzpah, so my post is going to contain a lot of quotes (with apologies and gratitude to Dong and Wang). Here’s a summary:

After fulfilling her family’s expectations of dutiful Chinese womanhood, Ms. Su is embracing a new identity: fearless road-tripper and internet sensation. For six months, she has been on a solo drive across China, documenting her journey for more than 1.35 million followers across several social media platforms.

Ms. Su has become a feminist icon in China (and hopefully, eventually, around the world). My favorite sentence: 

She could drive as fast as she wanted, brake as hard as she liked.

I wondered what happened in her previous life that made her so appreciative of hard braking. Maybe, I imagined, her piece-of-shite husband yelled at her for slamming the brakes to avoid a squirrel? Less intriguing than her braking obsession, but still vivid, is her comment about hot peppers. She revels in eating them on her trip, after years of having to “make herself not eat peppers” because her family didn’t like them. 

She meets singlism with humor: 

Wrapping dumplings on camera in a Hainan parking lot in February, she laughed when tourists passing by asked who was traveling with her.


And with bravery: 

She has sometimes encountered hostility. Once, she said, a man asked how she could air her family’s private affairs and said he would beat her if they ever met in person.

She replied, “Good thing I haven’t met you.”

Interestingly and importantly, Dong and Wang don’t just tout Ms. Su’s enlightened, trailblazing side. They show how she’s still working to overcome years of the patriarchal brainwashing that bombards women everywhere. About her new role as a feminist icon, she says:

 It’s something I’m waking up to, not something that I just am.

Indeed. All of us in the singles advocacy movement remember the moment we started to think, “You know, all these people tell me I’ll be a more complete person if I’m coupled up, and I’m no longer sure that’s accurate.” We all went through that process of reprogramming our brains, after having been indoctrinated to believe in the superiority of the couple unit and the nuclear family unit. Small things indoctrinated us, like the word “still” in “Why are you still single?” Big things indoctrinated us too, like the fact that over one thousand laws in the U.S. federal code alone privilege marrieds over singles. (I’m sure PRC laws also privilege married people, although I don’t know any details, so if our Copious Readers are familiar with this topic, please let us know.) For Ms. Su, and for other women in China and around the world, stepping into the role of Independent Powerful Single Woman isn’t necessarily easy or even always possible. The ties binding people, especially women, to socially-sanctioned but oppressive relationships can be tight and strong. As the NY article says about Ms. Su:

There are limits to what she is willing to change. Though she is determined to move out if her husband continues to treat her badly, she says she doesn’t want a divorce, knowing that her daughter would feel obliged to care for him if she left.

Meanwhile, though, Ms. Su is hundreds or thousands of miles away from her shite spouse, planning to spend several more years traversing her country. And inspiring single women in northern Virginia to get themselves a cartop tents and mobile dumpling recipes. 


Photo credit: Brady Bellini on Unsplash


1. Singlutionary - April 11, 2021

I saw this and loved it! Thanks for writing about it! I wonder how y’all are doing quite often. I know it has been years now since I was active on my blog.

– Singlutionary

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