in response to the WSJ about chinese mothers

I apologize in advance again for the text heavy post, but this has been bugging me for the whole week. Enter rant.

Last week Amy Chua wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal about why Chinese mothers are superior to other mothers. I've had ample time to think about this and contemplate my fellow Chinese woman's words on our mothers.

I'm hardly one to take offense at remarks about Chinese people. I've heard it all from our bad driving skills to our weird small feet. I attempt to take it all in stride, and most of the time I'm able to even poke fun at myself. It's not a defense mechanism, I just think some of the stereotypes are funny too. Yes, I play the violin. Yes, I'm good at math (except I hate math. HATE.). Yes, I almost always am striving for perfection and stressed over anything less than an A up through high school. And yes, I do believe a lot of these traits are from the influence of my mother.

See, I'm half Chinese. Not full Chinese. And though my father is white, he's been out of the picture for about as long as I can remember, so I was completely and 100% raised by my mother. So I had a very traditional Chinese American upbringing (minus Chinese school). And I know that my mother is one of the most amazing people in the entire world. I could go on for years about how she is an amazing mother, and I think she's more amazing than your mom, but that's because she's mine and she is amazing. But that was not the point of Amy Chua's article.

See she argues that all Chinese mothers are superior to Western mothers because they are strict, because they push these enlightening activities on their children even if they don't like it, because they say things to their kids without thought but it doesn't hurt their egos. She claims that Chinese parents work not to groom their child's ego by providing praise for a job well done, but rather to humble them into becoming the best through extreme dedication and continuous striving for excellence. And I can tell you right now, it is unrelenting.

But I do not believe these traits make Chinese mothers superior. I don't believe they make a happy household or essentially happy children at the end of the day. Chua writes that she was being extremely disrespectful to her mother once and her father proceeded to call her "trash" in their native dialect. But she says this didn't damage her self-esteem and made her deeply ashamed.

See, I believe that this made her ashamed. Seriously, if you're parent calls you trash, you're going to feel like shit. But I think she is a very special individual if this name-calling didn't hurt her self-esteem. Whenever I had a name flung at me or an accusation about my laziness thrown in my direction as a child, I'd feel worthless. I would feel like the scum of the earth and wonder why in the hell I was here if I was such a disappointment (extreme, I know. But I have extreme emotions, and I understand this now and have it more in check).

And in the next paragraph, Chua goes into weight issues. She claims Chinese mothers can tell their daughters they're fat and need to lose weight and it doesn't cause body image issues and eating disorders. She claims Western parents "have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of 'health' and never mentioning the f-word, and their kids still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self-image."

To this, I can only say one thing to Chua: fuck you. Chinese girls and boys are not immune to the pressures of society and the strong desire to be thin. For six straight years I looked in the mirror and hated how I looked. I don't need to go into the details of these times, but I will tell you it wasn't pretty. It was painful, and it was lonely. Did she ever think that maybe the reason Chinese children don't end up in therapy for their "issues" is because their parents won't send them there? Because they don't consider those issues and maybe because they don't acknowledge what is happening?

I could go on for years about how this article pisses me off and how I think she has it all wrong. I do not believe that Chinese children are superior to their Western peers because of how they are raised. I have seen my fair share of brilliant and driven children born to wonderful and loving Western parents. I don't think it matters what ethnicity your parents are; I think what matters the most is their dedication to their children and their desire to see them succeed.

I love my mother, plain and simple. But I do not think it is because she is a Chinese mother. I think it is because she raised me to be a good human being and to always strive for something better. I am not immune to the pressures from American society because I was raised by a Chinese mother. I am human. That is all.

4 comments:

  1. you do have weirdly small feet...
    I did like some of what she said, about not letting your children get away with not being good students, etc. just because you want to not hurt their self esteem or blame the teachers. I had a really hard time though when she talked about calling her kids garbage like her mom did with her...I wanted to side with her cause she said that no one else got it but I know that would've crushed me if my mom had said that and wouldn't have made me work harder at all. I think there's a fine line between being strict and holding your children accountable and outright calling them names and being cruel.

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  2. Wow, what a scary article! What a scary woman!

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  3. steve printed out this article and is telling me i must read it! and now even moreso since you're mentioning it here!

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  4. hey! so i read the article - and i have got to say i thought it was pretty brutal! i agree with so much of what you're saying here. i do think western mothers can be too soft, wanting to be their child's friend over their parent, but i disagree with that too. there is a balance, but this was soooo far to one side.... it was hard to imagine! go you!

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Oh, herro there.

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