When articles and posts about “Gender Equity” and “Hmong Feminism” arises, there is always a handful of defensive comments that plaster those concepts as “White Washed,” “Hating Hmong Men,” “Perpetuating Hmong Men as Bad,” etc.
But it’s not about those things at all. At least, that’s not what I mean. Hear me out brothers, this one's for you too.
May I just start by saying, I’m greatly passionate about our Hmong culture, in comparison to many of my peers who just now no longer know how to cope with the obstacles that come with it. You’ll see my siblings and I at almost every family function, you’ll see us there early, and there late. Doing what we’re “supposed” to do as our respective gender roles, in order to make our parents proud and help the families that do the same for us.
I’m someone who looks forward to every Hmong celebration: New Years, Soccer Tournament, etc, even if it’s the “same every year” just because it’s amazing to know immigrants with nothing in their pockets were able to establish a number of days for us to entirely bask in our culture and our identity.
And if I must add, my mother tongue is still intact. Sure, not pageant-worthy. But I can keep my elders entertained. Txhob @ kuv los nawb (don’t @ me lol).
So by no means do I come from a place of hate or unappreciation.
I love being Hmong, I love who we are, but I don’t love how we do it.
What I mean, is that we can still be Hmong, we can still celebrate our culture and identity, without upholding the specific traditions and beliefs that harm us: for both Men and Women, and all genders.
I know that Hmong Men hurt too. Asking for Gender Equity is not about erasing that fact. Asking for Gender Equity is helping men where they hurt, and helping women where they hurt. But it is also acknowledging that even though we both hurt, whether you want it or not, Hmong men most often benefit from our Hmong societal structure.
Asking for Gender Equity means we can still be Hmong, we just don’t have to be Patriarchal.
Hmong and Patriarchy are not the same things, and do not have to be, but we need Hmong men to acknowledge this, and finally be okay with letting go of the patriarchal ropes, so we can unlearn this way of living, and build a new one, a better one that fits all of us. If we’re all suffering, then why not just let go and work together to heal one another and coexist and live in a way our current versions need us to.
Holding onto patriarchy, is like trying to hold onto time. It no longer fits. As humans, we just naturally progress and grow even if it’s only by inches. Our lives have to change with it.
Asking for Gender Equity is not White America.
Asking for Gender Equity is not Hating Hmong Men.
Asking for Gender Equity is not the Destruction and Erasing of Hmong Culture.
It’s asking us to work together to build a better we, a better us, a better Hmong culture that doesn’t corner our children into suicides and our couples into homicides.
Seeing where we are historically and repeatedly hurt, and disadvantaged, and asking and even proposing new ideas, ethics, and values, to better our relationships, our families, and our community...is not hate and is not White conformity.
Letting men--our partners, friends, brothers, sons, fathers, and uncles, know that we would like to be heard and compromised with through action on how we can make things better for all of us, regardless of gender, does not mean we hate Hmong identity, does not mean we want to be White, does not mean we think we are better than Men.
And Men, we want to hear you too, but tell us without hurting or erasing our pain. Do it while hearing us too. Tell us, from a non-defensive place, a place of partnership and collaboration, where you hurt too and what changes you need to be the best you can be too.
And if hearing these words make you feel disrespected or treated unfairly, I hope you can remember that feeling and think about all the womxn in your life. It’s probably how they feel daily. Being unheard, being stigmatized, and limited to what someone else thinks of them.
Pressuring sons to be strong, emotionless, to carry the family on their own, and that to be successful is to be able to “provide for a wife and children,” does not have to be who we are.
Pressuring daughters to be perfect, obedient, to ua siab loj siab ntev, and that success is to be a “submissive wife who bears children,” does not have to be who we are.
We can still be Hmong without these things. We can still have all of our traditional family functions, events, and celebrations with more conscious intentions and consideration of one another. It can still exist, but how it is done just may change, and that is the possibility of creating new healthy traditions that still represent who we are, that feel good to all parties.
I don’t have thee one answer, one key, one solution. I don’t have all the knowledge or experience. But what I do have, is a voice to keep reiterating these ideas, these sore spots in need of change. I have ran away from writing pieces like these to avoid controversy. But maybe starting is better than never having tried at all. This topic is so much more than just these few words in my essay. It’s more than just the ideas in my head. And I hope someday, more actions would blossom to follow.