Amy Chua, author of World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, wrote an article about Chinese child-rearing today: Why Chinese Mothers are Superior (Thanks to Jason from RiceDaddies for sending; and thanks to Fai for asking for this post.) In the article, Chua espouses a hard-line “Chinese” way of raising kids. She tells us how strict she is with her kids. She writes about how Chinese mothers, as opposed to “Western” mothers, don’t care about self-esteem. She writes about how Western people coddle their children. She justifies her own ridiculous behavior by talking about how well Chinese kids do in school. She uses her White Jewish husband Jed as a counterpoint to her insanity.
You may see other bloggers get mad at how Chua abuses her kids. I’m mad about that too, but I’m going to simplify my own major thoughts in three points.
1. Why is it that whenever you see an Asian woman talking about how superior Chinese upbringings are, these women are ALWAYS married to White or non-Asian guys? Seriously, it’s always the members of the Asian Female Celebrity Club who are talking how good Asian people are while choosing to shop elsewhere for husbands. For those of you who’ve been in the blogosphere a while, you’ll remember the book “Top of the Class: How Asian Parents Raise High Achievers–and How You Can Too” by Jane Kim and Soo Kim ABBOUD. I mean, really, Asian culture is so superior that NONE of you women happened to choose an Asian guy with whom to carry on that supposedly superior tradition?
Now I know that there are Asian women married to White guys who are just as peeved as anyone else over Chua’s article. I know y’all exist. I support you, and I’m glad you aren’t doing the Chua-Abboud thing. But I think that that’s beside the point. The point is that how can we be superior and inferior at the same time? People like Chua talk one thing and practice another. “I love the culture so much that I searched long and hard for a man who didn’t embody it.” That’s patronage.
2. I find it highly ironic that Chua married a Jewish White guy and then lectures him on raising successful children. Look at the percentage of Jews who have won Nobel prizes, the amount of money the Jews as a group control vs. their percentage of the population, and the almost non-existent Jewish working class. (Great book on the subject here, written by a Jewish American). Check out this review:
Though Chua’s Jewish husband grew up with parents who encouraged him to – imagine! – express himself, he nonetheless agreed to let her take the lead in rearing the children and mostly serves as the Greek chorus to Chua’s crazed actions.
You look at the success that Jewish Americans have had in sciences, Hollywood, politics, literature, philosophy, music, law, and in just about every field. I think that the ability to “imagine” might not be such a bad thing. Instead of raising your Jewish kid Asian, maybe it’s better to raise your Asian kid Jewish. And if your kids happen to be male and look White, they’ll have a $24,000 advantage over Asian-looking male kids when trying to get a date among Asian women. How’s that for a deal?
3. Isn’t this how we Chinese historically get f#$ed up? When we get conceited and complacent about not having to learn from others?
“Oh, we invented gunpowder, so look at how great we are! What do White people have to teach us?”
“Look at how much we’ve invented, so let’s close our doors to the rest of the world.”
“Oh, we know kung fu, so what does it matter if those other guys have guns?”
“Oh, look at those nice people and what they brought us. Opium!”
Really, some people need to open their eyes up to what’s going on. Being cocky and complacent is the first step , as Quinton “Rampage” Jackson might say, to “gettin’ yo’ ass whooped.” Look at how we Chinese are gettin’ our ass whooped in the media, in political appointments, in the arts, and in stopping the pro-White agenda of militant members of the Asian American Female Celebrity Club. We’re almost non-entities when it comes to the impact we’ve had in literature–it says a lot about your culture when your most famous writer is Amy Tan. Obviously we Chinese people have a lot to learn.
Really, imagination is not a bad thing. Other bloggers who say Chua spreads stereotypes are correct–hardly any Chinese mothers behave the way she does. As I mentioned in my last post, yes, there are abusive Asian assholes who are parents, but these parents abuse their kids because they’re assholes, not because they’re Asian. For Chua, I think the logical step is to step back and to look at what she’s doing to her kids. Then she needs to step back and look at the way things really are. Her book World on Fire was great. She’s a smart lady, and she should be able to see the contradictions in her actions and words.
Edit 1/11/2011: Check out Amy Chua on the Today Show. Man, her book is definitely going to be a bestseller. Some say it’s clever marketing, but I wonder why a NY Times bestselling author would need to put this in front of the world to see. In any case, I think Chua has raised a lot of good dialogue on parenting and Asian American culture.
Edit 1/11/11 11:26 pm:
Man, this topic has ignited a firestorm! Even though I’m still somewhat annoyed by Chua’s attitude towards parenting (though I really don’t judge her on her own decisions), this has brought a lot out a lot of excellent dialogue on Asian American mental health issues and parenting. For good discussion, check out my comments below, but also check out these other blogs:
Betty Ming Liu (Heartfelt blog, and great comments too)
quora (heart-felt comments)
Frances Kai-Hwa Wang (Editor of IMDiversity and multicultural contributor)
k12newsnetwork by Cynthia Liu (“It Gets Better moment”)
8Asians (heartfelt comments)
RiceDaddies (Keith Chow)
Omamas (Oregon Mommy blog)
Nikkei View (Gil Asakawa)
Edit 1/14/2010: See a counter-perspective, a wonderful essay that was submitted by a writer who supports Chua’s strict parenting: