Keep on Wondering...

What are the connections between social and historical forces and the representations we see?
Why is yellowface still acceptable? When and how did yellowface turn into whitewashing?
How do these representations create and/or perpetuate stereotypes that are present in our world? What is the impact?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Amy Chua: The Tiger Monster

 Amy Chua's recent article in the Wall Street Journal has sparked much controversy and angry outbursts from the blogosphere, Asian-American and non-AAPA. Her snarky essay, entitled "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior," was an explanation of "how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids." And here is how she did it. It's a shocker...
"Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:
• attend a sleepover
• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin."
I'm not sure what's worse, her treatment of her daughters, the fact that her daughters accept this sort of dictatorship, her snooty, higher-than-thou attitude, or the fact that she states that this method is exclusively for Chinese parents. This, in her twisted mind, is the right way, the "real Chinese way" to raise robots (whoops, I mean children). The "real" Chinese way? Amy Chua states that she "[knows] some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise." Meaning that because my mom (and probably lots of other Chinese mommies) didn't raise me the same way Chua raised her offspring, my mom is not Chinese? Um...
Amy Chua is totally buying into the model minority stereotype by saying that "A lot of people... wonder what these [Chinese] parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it's like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I've done it." She embodies this stereotype and, most horrifyingly, is proud of it, stating that "the Chinese strategy (of parenting) produces a virtuous circle" whereas the "Western parents tend to give up" and that they "can only ask their kids to try their best." She praises the (in her mind) distinctly and only Chinese work ethic, saying that is where the "math whizzes and music prodigies" come from. At the same time, she belittles the Western parenting style as being not strict enough and too "concerned about their children's psyches." (Because everyone knows that the emotional stability of your child isn't worth crap next to academic excellency...) Chua turns the model minority on its head by essentially saying that Chinese kids aren't inherently gifted - it's the parents that push their children into being gifted and brilliant. It's the "Chinese way" of having high expectations that gets them so far in academics. Chua, making another grand, arrogant statement, proclaims, "If a Chinese child gets a B - which would never happen - there would first be a screaming, hair-tearing explosion. The devastated Chinese mother would then get dozens, maybe hundreds of practice tests and work through them with her child for as long as it takes to get the grade up to an A." So really, she, as the all-powerful "mother," should be praised for the successes of her children. Chua called her daughter, Luisa, self-indulgent when she was having trouble learning a musical piece - if anything, the way Chua screams for attention and praise for her parenting style is more self-indulgent than her daughter ever was. 

The title that Chua slapped on her parenting method (The Chinese Way) is also concerning. The damages from this newly named parenting style will be enormous and hard to get rid of. Chua's "Confucian filial piety" method on steroids is, so far, the only example of an ethnicity-based method that is at the forefront of everyone's consciousness. The fact that it is so tied to being Chua's interpretation of "Chinese" makes the horrific treatment of the children even worse. This is not an issue of raising children a newfangled way - it's the issue of raising them the (specifically) Chinese way. For people who have never met an Asian person (let alone someone of Chinese descent) or cannot even begin to fathom the existence of this type of dictatorship (sorry, parenting), this title becomes synonymous with Chinese people and therefore, Chinese parents. It may prompt people to think that "those Chinese parents are horrible people who have no love for their children" or something along those lines. It prompts me to think that Any Chua ought to be excommunicated from the Asian-American community. 
Those poor girls...
The dangers of an article like this one is that there are no other Asian American women with that level of fame who are mothers who could contradict her. Sure, there are other Asian American women out there in the media and whatnot, but they aren't mothers or they aren't recognized for being mothers. We're now left with only one representative of an Asian mother, and it's this Mom-zilla who is "happy to be the one hated (by her children)" and resorts to "[using] every weapon and tactic [she] could think of" in order to make her daughter learn one measly piano piece. Even more depressingly, this article was published in the Wall Street Journal, which, last time I checked, was a pretty widespread newspaper. Any rebuttals to her frankly horrifying methods of "raising" children are only showing up in blogs that may or may not have as big an audience as the Wall Street Journal. Therefore the damage that this article has done will be even harder to rectify, and all the work we've done to diminish the model minority stereotype is going down the drain and into the unfathomable bowels of hopelessness. 
This woman is a monstrosity. A smarmy, self-serving, arrogant "mother" with Machiavellian "ends-justify-the-means" and "extreme tough love bordering on abuse" parenting techniques. Ironically, she mentions "all these new books out there portraying Asian mothers as scheming, callous, overdriven people indifferent to their kids' true interests." Was that a shameless, self-indulgent plug for her own book, Battle Hymn for the Tiger Monster? Oops, I mean "Mother." 

Check the comments section below for further discussion!
An elegant rebuttal to Chua's techniques and the psychological damages to children that her methods will have.
More links all over the web - Especially this one.


  1. How many years of therapy will those girls have to go through?

  2. Will "Tiger Mother" enter the terminology for describing stereotypes for Asians?
    Tiger Mother = catch-all phrase for extremely strict and diabolical Asian mothers?

  3. This woman is a total monster!!! SHAME ON HER AND GOD HELP HER DAUGHTERS!!! They do not have a mind of their own!

  4. Those were my thoughts after reading the article myself too; however, she does have the right to raise her daughters however she wants. Remember, the article also just took the most inflammatory remarks and smashed them into one incendiary article with a smug little title. Ms. Chua seems to be a better person based on the way she presents herself in her book - not such a monster anymore in my eyes...

  5. she can only raise them how she wants if its not physically and/or mentally abusing... she forbade her daughter from having water or go to the bathroom and called her worthless pathetic garbage for getting a b-... she should not exist