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.