I was born in a typical Chinese family with super traditional values, and most of them are either sexist, or extremely racist.
However, I am lucky that my own parents are more open-minded than my extended family. Unfortunately, whenever there is a family gathering, it’s very clear that there is unfairness and discrimination present. Please bear in mind that most of the things I’m going to talk about here is about my extended family.
“Why do you want to study so much? Go get married and have kids!”
After my SPM, I was told to stop studying and go get a job. To them, a girl does not need so much education. Just having a SPM certificate is more than enough, it doesn’t matter if you failed all your subjects or aced all of them.
But of course, I didn’t listen to them, and went on to pursue my bachelor’s degree in International Communication Studies with English Language and Literature. From there I realized just how oppressive my family has been and how I was taught to be hidden and silenced just because of my gender.
Before graduating, I told my grandmother who I love dearly that I wanted to pursue a Master’s degree and then a PhD after. I was shamed by my uncle who overheard me, saying that I should go and get married and start a family because it is the right thing to do, and my grandmother agreed with him.
I remember them saying,
“You’re a girl. Why do you need so much education for?”
“So that I won’t get bullied and oppressed by other people.”
This ties back to the previous point. No matter what amazing achievements a daughter gets, it’s nothing compared to that of a son’s. I remember one of my cousins got first class honours in her Bachelor’s degree, and I overheard my uncle saying, and I quote,
“A shame that she is a daughter and not a son.”
Does the gender of your child matter when it comes to achievements like this? Does this mean if a son gets first-class honours, only then would it be considered a great accomplishment?
This does not make sense at all to me. No matter how hard you work and how much you achieve, there’s always a son somewhere who’s lazy but gets praises and celebrated. Now I’m not saying that I’m bitter because my achievements were not being celebrated and praised, I’m just highlighting the fact that the achievements of a daughter in our family is always overlooked in lieu of a son’s.
You must speak Chinese (or Hakka) or you’ll bring shame to the ancestors
When I was small, I stayed with my grandmother who spoke Hakka to me all the time, so I’m fluent in Hakka. My sister on the other hand, did not, so it’s not her fault that her Hakka is weak. She can still understand, but she can’t speak as fluently as me.
And just for that, she was shamed by the family.
The classic You’re-Hakka-so-you-should-know-how-to-speak-Hakka is too often said, that honestly, it’s annoying. I understand that it’s a part of our identity as Hakkas to know the language, but if someone is not as good as you then why do you think it’s okay for you to shame them?
In another situation, my niece is brought up speaking English, therefore she doesn’t speak Chinese at all, although she can understand a few words. She is what we call a ‘banana’ (I feel like ‘banana’ is quite derogatory but the people who are Chinese but don’t speak the language don’t seem to mind that word). And of course, she was shamed as well.
There is this whole Chinese-is-superior-than-all-of-the-languages and if-you’re-Chinese-then-you-must-know-how-to-speak-Chinese-if-not-you’re-nothing thing with my family. They also bring up that ‘China is going to take over the world one day’ whenever they are in an argument about this.
To conclude, although it’s unbearable during family gatherings, but at the end of the day, what they said don’t matter because my own family would support me no matter what, and that’s enough for me.
With their racist and sexist values so deeply embedded in their bones, it’s hard to change them overnight. But I believe with the right education, they would be more open minded to accept other new things.
For more articles like this, read Dating 101 for the Single Dad (And the Woman Who Wants Him) and 5 Annoying Things Our Moms Used to Do That We Now Love.