Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Amy Chua

Amy Chua. She's probably used to having her name everywhere as she's a woman of many accomplishments, but can I just say? Poor Amy Chua. The past few days (or weeks? It feels like so much longer) I can't seem to avoid her on the internet. My alert to her infamous article (if you've been living on Mars you can read it here) came from tumblr (can you believe it?) and since then it's been raining Amy Chua.

I've been wanting to say something since she tumbled my way, but I always had excuses (as I always do). There is too much to say, I'm not near eloquent enough, what if I don't cover all the bases? There are already 39250825 responses to it out now. I'm on holidays. I'm hungover. Whatever. I'm going to suck it up and be an Asian Tiger Cub. This is just my response—my personal thoughts on it.

I'm not going to cover all the angles. I'm not going to provide a defense. I don't have exclusives from her eldest daughter and I don't hate her. In fact, I definitely want to get my hands on her book.

Then what do I have to say?

Basically, I've misled you. This isn't about Amy Chua at all. This is about "her" article, or rather the stereotype perpetuated from it, and my personal, adverse reaction to it.

As you may or may not already know, I'm an ABC, only not in the same sense as Chua given I'm in the southern hemisphere. These are just my experiences and I'm not trying to "set the record straight" by stating that what I think or have experienced is the "true", "correct" meaning/experience of "Chinese parenting".

My upbringing has been different to most of my other friends (and yes, majority of them were not Asian), however was nothing like the article, which greatly misleads. I can still feel some of Chua's essence in there since there are small instances that I've related to as an ABC child.

For instance the article highlights these two (in my opinion) related aspects, the expected extreme filial piety from the children and total self sacrifice from the parents, but fails to properly link them together using the most horrid, purely for shock-value examples. Yes, this is where the example of Chua keeping her daughter prisoner at the piano for hours on end without food, water or the bathroom comes into play. Being hated by your child and giving up your own time to force them to do things like play the piano is also apparently the embodiment of total self sacrifice. Is anyone accidently growling in vehemence like I am?

Why does this make me so angry? To me this is a complete mockery of the entire dynamics of the ABC child - immigrant parent relationship. It is a complete extremist representation manipulated by the media in which to create difference through being unable to relate/comprehend the "cultural difference". Even worse, it is a complete mockery of all the Asian parents out there (yes, I'm saying all Asians given that the people who will take this article at this face value and run with as fact tends to be the same people who group all Asians as one and the same) including my own.

Even before this article existed my parents and I have been subjected to the "Wow, why can't my kids study as hard as you"/"How do you get your kids to study so much?"/"Asian kids study so hard!" comments. Ironically these are most often given whilst I'm at the family business procrastinating at work and at school work on tumblr or something.

But that's not the point (okay, yes, it is a point and a very valid one, but I'm getting off track). What is the point is that my relationship does not work like that. It is not so shallow, extreme or selfish. In fact, it actually makes sense and I'm pretty sure as fellow human beings people will actually be able to understand and perhaps even respect/admire my parents, as opposed to labeling them as the "Other", which hides under "Tiger Parent" in this instance.

I respect my parents and want to make them proud simply because they have sacrificed so much for my brother and I. No, I am not talking about their precious time because they treat me as a prisoner/trained animal hybrid, but real sacrifices. Like the fact that they came to Australia and left behind all their family and friends. The fact that they struggled to learn English, had to start with nothing, worked their butts off everyday (and still do), look after us, save every bit of money that they can for a better future, prioritise us whether it be academically or not, and most importantly love us.

You might not get it still because you don't me or my parents. You don't know our story, and at this moment it's not something I'm prepared to share in detail, but what really rang in my ears as I was reading that article was this book I'd read a couple of weeks ago by Jean Kwok. It's called Girl in Translation and I highly recommend you read it and hopefully you might begin to understand. The reason we work our butts off (if we choose to) may not be because our parents forcefully pressure us (or pressure us at all), but because we want to help our parents and ourselves by grasping the opportunities that they have opened to us. I strongly relate to the girl in the story for that reason, even though my situation has never been as dire as hers. These are the stories that I've always thought of/related to when thinking of Chinese parents and their children, none of this strict dictator crap. It's weird to me too that this stereotype of the Tiger Mum exists, probably because here in my world I haven't seen it (although I understand in the United States where second and third generations are more common that this misunderstanding could occur), but what I think to be even stranger is that in a place so rich with migrants that these parts of the story are often left uncovered and unrealised given how common these experiences have been.

They're not tales of hardship to be made into sob stories, as they often are if picked up on, but the beginnings to understanding—to the realisation that we're all human too.

Equal Representation. We need more of it!

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