Rolling my eyes so far back they might stay stuck there

The issue I have with Ms.Chua is that she is promoting the idea that one can be socialized into being “Chinese” or a “Chinese mother”. Using the theory of social constructionism she can be redefining what it means to be Chinese (I say “can be” because I’m hoping not all people who read her nonsense actually believes all of this). So according to Amy, you don’t even have to even be born Chinese, you can be “made” Chinese.

She is reinforcing old stereotypes that Asians have been facing already. We’ve all heard of Asian women given the title of “Dragon Lady” if she is domineering, assertive, or coldly wielding her power in the workplace. Now there’s a new term, “Tiger Mother”, if she is essentially a “Dragon Lady” at home. I can just see all the non-Chinese mothers now, saying to other non-Chinese mothers, “I would never be a Tiger Mother…not like those Chinese mothers”. Can you see what I’m getting at here? Also worth mentioning is how Ms.Chua uses the term “Chinese mother” as social construct, not a mother who happens to be of Chinese descent.

I’m using the term “Chinese mother” loosely. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise. I’m also using the term “Western parents” loosely. Western parents come in all varieties.

Hey great news to all mothers across the globe, you too, can be a Chinese mother! Just think, if Amy can redefine what it means to be a Chinese mother, than what does it mean to be a Chinese kid? The stereotypes are already there; studious, overachiever, having overbearing parents, math geniuses, etc…

Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn’t get them, the Chinese parent assumes it’s because the child didn’t work hard enough. That’s why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and to improve from it.

That’s why Chinese daughters can’t have boyfriends in high school and why Chinese kids can’t go to sleepaway camp. It’s also why no Chinese kid would ever dare say to their mother, “I got a part in the school play! I’m Villager Number Six. I’ll have to stay after school for rehearsal every day from 3:00 to 7:00, and I’ll also need a ride on weekends.” God help any Chinese kid who tried that one.

Following up with where I stated earlier that Amy Chua is redefining what society interprets as “Chinese” by use the constructionist theory, her words can prove to be damaging to those of Chinese descent or those who are lumped in together with that ethnicity (eastern Asians usually).

There are all these new books out there portraying Asian mothers as scheming, callous, overdriven people indifferent to their kids’ true interests.

For a person that graduated from Yale, she’s not that smart when it comes to connecting the dots. It’s people like her, publishing nonsense like this, that give people distorted views for Asians and Asian-Americans. Only time will tell if her new-found meaning of “Chinese” will take root in the American vocabulary.

Having been raised in a predominantly Chinese household, let me put in my two cents and say that Amy Chua does not speak for all Chinese mothers and I only hope that people who read her book take her words with a grain of salt.



2 responses

  1. raining247 says:

    I understand your point of view or semi-disgust. I had nearly the same attitude when I saw the cover and observed all the hype on television and in featured articles about Chua’s Tiger Mother debut. However I gave her leeway because I realized that one, the book is written by someone of Asian descent, two, the author hails from Harvard (authority and the notion of what books are valued more [internal bias of mine]), and three, the entire book resonates in me because she hit the hammer on the nail with many Chinese values similar to my parents.

    Regarding her point of view and her motive throughout her book or upon completion of the book I think it relies solely on reader interpretation. I interpreted her novel as just another tale about Asian American life. I may have been won over by her heartfelt lines and her delineation of her parents’ dreams settled upon her. But I did NOT feel that Chua was talking about the promotion or the superiority of raising her two daughters the way that her parents raised her. I say this because I interpret: Chua wrote this book to pay homage to her parents whom, in retrospect, she cared slightly about her parents’ ways of rearing her. So the book is a way to pay reverence to her parents. She continues a “legacy” or whatever you choose to call it, of Asian tiger mothering/Tiger parenting.

    Now in outside-group interpretation, YES this may be detrimental to demolishing Asian American stereotypes and eradicating the myths of the model minority, however, STEREOTYPES should not be seen entirely as bad. In fact we use stereotypes to our advantage as SELF-INTEREST. Why would you NOT want to be considered smart or HAVE strict parents to point you in a direction worth being pointed to? I think parents are most integral part of our lives because they are our “authors.” Yes I am constricted by filial piety to say that, but is that not true via parents who have loved in some form or another? If anything, I want to pay homage to my parents. Chua did it by parenting her kids the same way. I may even adopt FACETS of my parents’ strict parenting.

    What is the worst part about being classified as having strict tiger mothers? Is it flagrant and unattractive to have controlling parents? I believe that people may regard Asians as this or that, but once they make contact, they will reevaluate their own stereotypes. If these persons do not alter their stereotypes/mental schemata of Asian persons, then they’re not worth being friends with.

    I may be swayed by the emotions that were elicited while I read the book, but I truly believe that Chua’s book reverberates more than simply Asian parents, but Hindi parents, a few Russian parents I know as well. However, their stories are not heard because well, Chua’s book (ASIAN AUTHOR) has been published and reviewed as hype. This over-plays the presence of Tiger mothers, but there are other races and ethnicities that “police” their children and “rule them” nearly the same. Stereotypes are stereotypes if they are promoted, but it is now up to the individual to imbibe it or the deflect it. Just another idea to either consume or refute. =)

  2. You begin with the claim that “Ms.Chua… is promoting the idea that one can be socialized into being ‘Chinese’ or a ‘Chinese mother’…So according to Amy, you don’t even have to even be born Chinese, you can be ‘made’ Chinese”. I, along with almost every sociologist, would agree with Ms. Chua’s assertion. Race and ethnicity are both socially constructed meaning they are made up. It means Chinese people are not born “Chinese”, which means that every people who is considered/considers themselves Chinese was “made”. Chinese (or any other ethnicity for that matter) children are “made” Chinese everyday through interactions with fellow classmates, their community, use of their language, and so on. I do not agree that one kind of parenting is better than another, but I do have to agree with Ms. Chua that you can be socialized into being Chinese, since in fact, every Chinese person was.