I came across a blog post by chelseyx asking why Hmong men are not up to par with Hmong women in terms of education and career. Her observations are that we do not push the males as much as the females. Because of the oppression females go through in our culture, they have more support—either from family, friends, or organizations—whereas the males have been neglected and pushed to the sideline. I agree, but I also have to add to this thought. (I started to leave a comment, but it ended up being an essay, so that’s why it’s a blog post instead).

If you have read my previous blog posts (here, here, and here), you have learned that in the patriarchal Hmong culture, the males are valued over the females. And when gender bias happens, many may not be aware that they’re enabling those they’re favoring. In Hmong families, the behavior of caring so much for the sons enables them to be unmotivated or be satisfied with life as it is and not strive for better. Why? Well, because every time they need something (money, food, a car), someone hands it to them. Who wants to work (or have a better-paying job) when your family provides everything for you already? Honestly, I wouldn’t. This may be the cause as to why more and more Hmong men do not have college degrees, are not working, and spending their days on COD or DotA.

Hmong society expect Hmong men to be breadwinners. Once married, Hmong males—regardless of age—are expected to grow up and take responsibility of their parents and the home that their parents have built—this includes bills and unmarried siblings. It is a huge responsibility for one person to tackle. I have seen this expected obligation lead to bitter resentment, but that’s besides the point of this blog. Maybe another time.

Unmarried Hmong men, however, do not have many responsibilities within the family. I believe this is due to the belief that a man does not become a “man” until he is married. A 13-year-old married boy is considered a man. A 30-year-old man is not considered a man if he has never been married. How do Hmong society expect Hmong men whom they have enabled to uphold the responsibility of a patriarch? Responsibility shouldn’t just be thrown onto a person the day after marriage, but should be taught gradually since birth.

Additionally, the more education a man has and the better the pay of his job, the more responsibility he will be given by his family. I have heard one to many comments from parents to their children, “You’re the one with a better-paying job (or education), so why do you expect your brother (who is a high school drop-out and plays video games all day) to get a job and help you with the bills?” This goes back to enabling. Why would Hmong men want to better themselves when they’re getting the golden treatment? Of course, we know that this is detrimental to one’s growth as a person, but the caring parent does not see it.

Hmong females, on the other hand, may see how oppressive the Hmong culture is and strive for better. Some girls do not have family support and have achieved (or are achieving) their life goals solely by themselves. Others are surrounded by family during their struggle to break through the cultural barrier that prevents a female from attaining a college degree and becoming a professional. And we would think that in today’s time, we all should encourage our boys and girls to strive for higher education and successful careers. However, there are mixed feelings about females in academia and professional careers in the Hmong culture. Some see it as uber important, while others view females as merely wives and mothers, nothing more.

When you hear over and over again that you’ll never amount to anything but a uterus that will be married off to another clan and bear a household full of children, what would your response be? Most likely, it’ll be “Hell-to-the-effin-NO!” And you will do whatever it is to prevent yourself from becoming the “typical” Hmong woman. And because many Hmong females have walked the life that others have paved for them (their husbands, in-laws, parents), they encourage and try to empower others to be free from the constraints of traditional norms and live their lives how they want to.

Education, in my mind, has always been the key to a better life. Education opens up so many opportunities that would have never been possible—away from the cultural restraints that I grew up with. And maybe this is the reason for many women as well.  Maybe this is the reason why Hmong women are doing better than Hmong men?

(3/28/12) Note: Not all Hmong parents/families give sons the golden treatment.

25 thoughts on “Why Are Hmong Women Doing Better Than Hmong Men?

  1. Is this still applicable for Hmong men living in U.S. now? Or can we assume that things are changing ….slowly? Or some men just crave to carve their own space and independence by living in their own home before they marry?

    Yes, education plus afterwards the will power and drive to apply the education to a job or any job to pay off tuition debts, would be great. 🙂 That cuts across all cultures, all countries. No parent wants an able-bodied adult child lounging around too long without paying “rent” or contributing to the household. At least not in North America.

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    1. Jean, things are changing, but slowly. The Hmong have progressed when it comes to education. There are Hmong men who are independent, have professional jobs, and are living on their own. And some are fighting the traditional norms.

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  2. I so agree with you. My parents buy all my 5 brothers cars and buy whatever but me and my 2 sisters pay for our own everything. They’ve finally noticed that we are the two more successful ones so now the two younger sisters are treated better. But with women doing better, I think it’s not just in the Hmong community but it’s everywhere now.

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    1. I’m glad your parents noticed and have changed their behaviors towards your sisters. Some parents are too stubborn to notice or listen when their children point out the difference in how they treat their children.

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    2. @ Pa – I can totally relate to what you are saying, because my parents behaved in the exact same manner as yours. Their sons had everything taken care of and paid for, while their daughters had to do everything on their own.

      Whenever I speak to my sisters about why the girls turned out more successful than the boys, I always reference my “Food” analogy where our mother would always give the best parts of the chicken (or so I thought at the time) – the dark meats – to her sons and leave the chicken breasts, innards and carcasses to the girls… Maybe it was a result of all those years of eating leftovers that pushed us to do better in life.

      My sisters and I, from a very young age, have always felt like we had to fight to be noticed in our family – to be appreciated in the same way as our brothers. It is difficult enough as it is already to be brought up in a culture where you are delegated from a young age what your role is as a female. We utterly refused to accept this ideology and probably pushed ourselves to excel and to do better than what had been laid out for us; therefore, developing a fighting spirit to better ourselves in the process.

      Even to this day, no matter how much my parents might say that they love their daughters and sons all the same, their behaviour and actions say otherwise. The incongruency is very much apparent and undermines the truthfulness in how they truly feel about their daughters and how much they value us.

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  3. I completely agree with u here, & not do much with the original written. Boys are a God’s gift in the Hmong culture; whereas, girls are trained to be good daughter-in-laws & housewives. We girls know our parents dnt see/hold value in us. We will eventually be sold like cattles. It frustrates us that we slave around the house; while our counterparts have little to no responsibilty, yet still have the luxury of going out to have fun. We see the differential treatment in the household. I’m not blaming our parents or brothers, but of course this upsets us. The only way out is to strive ourself to do better through schooling. ( I think this mainly applies to 1st & 2nd generations. Some of these kids nowadays, there’s no motivation no matter what sex. That’s another topic in itself)

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  4. Great blogging!

    I came from a family where both of my parents push their daughters to become successful just as much as they push their sons. I understand the expectation and obligation each gender has to fulfill in our culture. Altho us girls has to work extra harder then the sons in some area, there are other gender different fulfillment where us girls cannot fulfill such as killing cow, do the Hmong man stuff at the funeral, wedding and other stuff which is not a proper role acceptance in the Hmong culture. Come to think of it, it just the individual decision to make. Whether you are a daughter or son, you are giving the same opportunity in America; to strive for greater achievement and success. Even if your parents doesn’t support your decision in higher education, it is you who have to take the initiative action. So if you choose to be lazy and lived by the Hmong standard or expectation that as a Hmong girl/woman, you are bound to be a housewife and to bear children only than sorely the chance are you will be one. Unless you take action and refuse to settle for the norm standard it set forth for Hmong woman and define who you are in the society you lived in.

    Many blessing to the Hmong women. We all have came such a long way from our great-grandmother’s generation, our grandmother’s generation and our mother’s generation to define our sense of worth. Continue the awesome work all my Hmong sisters!

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    1. You’re right. The drive and initiative does come from the individual. And we do have wonderful opportunities here, so why not take advantage of them? Many do take these opportunities for granted. Thank you for reading and commenting. Don’t be shy and stop by any time.

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  5. As a Hmong guy, I agree with the things that you say. But maybe you shouldn’t say that all Hmong men get the special treatment. I had to work for my own things as well and learn how to adapt to the Hmong male’s role and American male role similarly. I gotta say that I felt a little hurt. lol. I do agree that for the boys who get spoiled, they take things for granted and get too comfortable though. It is definitely the individual themselves that will determine their success. Great blog! There really isn’t anyone to blame, but the adaptation to this culture sure is taking a long time, so I think it is up to our generation to change this mentality.

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    1. I’m sorry if you read my message as all Hmong parents treat their sons more favorably than their daughters. I shall put a note so there’s no misunderstanding.

      The Hmong is stubborn in their ways. Like you said, the only way to see change is for our generation to initiate the change (by changing our behavior towards our children). It’s refreshing to hear from a Hmong man. I rarely get male visitors and if I do, I do not know because they don’t comment. Please don’t hesitate to visit again. Thank you for your comment.

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  6. This sort of seems like a trend in a lot of places. American women are also going further through education and getting more prestigious jobs than men are right out of college. The times certainly are changing.

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  7. Yes, as Posky mentioned, this is not a problem only within the Hmong community. It’s been a problem for the African American community for quite a long time, and in the past few years, it’s also becoming a problem for White Americans too. Here’s a article published in the Atlantic addressing this exact issue: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/11/all-the-single-ladies/8654/1/

    So far, all of these articles, including your blog is from a woman’s viewpoint. I wonder when a man will respond to this topic with his own article or blog and enlighten us with the male viewpoint. At the end, I don’t think the men themselves are satisfied with how things are either. If anything, probably, many of them are lost and not sure of their masculinity or place in a world of powerful women with free choice.

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    1. I agree with you lola and not so much with this article. As a male Hmong professional I believe there is no fine line of where a Hmong male should be and where a Hmong female should be. When you are comparing success to a male and a female, it is like comparing apples and oranges. You can’t compare them because everyone has their own expectation in life. Some chooses a simple life of just a wife and kids. Some wants to conquer the world and that’s not even enough. No one has the right to say that one way of life is more successful than the other. You just can’t measure success by education level or career. Although, society have its influence on what success is, success is more on a personal level.
      Our culture has evolved so much that you can’t even call it Hmong culture anymore. I can’t even remember the last time I understood why my parents do things the way they do it. We as Hmong youth have lost our culture because we can’t explain why we do thing the way we do it. Some examples are baby’s birth and funeral. It sometimes even feels hollow to call myself Hmong because I don’t understand so much.
      If you are referring to our first generation parents, they were clueless about parenting here in the US. In the old agriculture world they just did what they thought was best. I understand if you are referring to your own family but from reading you were writing about the general Hmong family. I don’t see too many families now days that has views like the writer of this article.
      From what I have seen now days, we are more like the typical American culture. Where the girls get treated like a princess and get whatever she want, or so demand it. Same can be said about the boys too, but more chips are put on their shoulders. The American society is more likely to forgive a female then a male. I could go on and on but I will stop. This is such a controversial topic.

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      1. Of course, I agree with you that success (and life) is arbitrary. We should not define how another person lives. With that said, this blog post was a response to another. We are talking about numbers here. The reports from ACS 2010 have shown that Hmong females are doing better than Hmong males in college enrollment, college attainment, and professional careers. The original post asked, “On the professional level, Hmong men and women seem to be equally prosperous. But why are there less Hmong men in higher education than Hmong women?” This is my personal opinion on why we are seeing these numbers.

        And thank you for stopping by. Hmong men’s opinions are always welcomed here. Please come again.

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      2. Hmong men are expected to carry on the family name, be educated, be cultured, be the breadwinner, be a role model, be an active participant in the Hmong community, and a whole lot of other things. It is a lot of expectations and pressure. Sometimes the pressure can be too much and the person fails altogether; at least that’s my experience with some of the men I know. And yes, some are just plain lazy and unmotivated, just as some girls. I don’t know the statistics for Hmong women and men college graduates nor do I know the standards for success, but I have a feeling the numbers should be fairly close. I think the “news” of a Hmong women being educated and successful travels further and louder because it is unexpected, especially in our parent’s generation. On the other hand, when a man receives his college degree, it is expected therefore, there’s not much oooing and awwing.
        I have to agree with Mr. Hmong. I see my brothers struggle being as much Hmong as possible: learning the Hmong traditions, attending gatherings, funerals; and yet try to have a normal American life. I’m not saying it’s easier for Hmong women, but I think it’s almost like comparing oranges to apples.

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  8. I continue to find this so interesting of attitudes …in North America to go as extreme as to buy a car for several sons but expect daughters to earn it.

    My parents pushes both (5) daughters and (1) son to get their own homes and earn their own salaries after they all went to university.
    No favourites here at all.

    My parents did not complete high school education in China (1940’s) so we are still talking about parents with some hangover of traditional thinking since they came from the rural part of China.

    It’s been tough initially for mother who expected all kids to get married and have children. But what else is new here? Shrug.

    Probably the fact that my mother was born in a large family with more sisters than brothers probably helped her see that women can have their voice, their own paths.

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  9. It seems as though Hmong women are trained, as children, to work whereas Hmong boys are (especially oldest and youngest) get trained to ask for things or get Hmong girls to do things for them. This is on average. Of course there are still hard working Hmong boys and lazy girls. The amount of work foisted on Hmong girls is most likely not fair, especially when I’ve seen childcare duties take precedence over schoolwork. However, on the whole, it probably better prepares girls for success in mainstream America (i.e., education, jobs) as compared to boys (not that the stats, overall, indicate that either group is having it easy). I have a Hmong family but am not Hmong. On the Hmong-side of my family, both the oldest and youngest sons still go to dad to borrow (i.e., take permanently) money to pay for cars, loans, trips, etc. even though they make 2-4x as much as he does and still find ways to live on the edge… and those are the successful ones! More interestingly, they don’t seem to think anything odd about it. The daughters don’t do that.

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  10. Interesting blog entry, Mai. It is very true that women and girls in many societies are doing better than the guys -education and career-wise. You have brought up a very interesting point for someone like me to ponder. My paternal grandmother has time and again condemn and label my younger sister and me for being useless and dumb just because we are born females and the same time, she just harps on my younger male cousin. In the end, we doing okay for someone like ourselves while my male cousin erm not doing quite so well. In the end, I can say that grandma has to eat her words. However, the only other down side is that I am expected to marry by my own mother and have a family in which I think it’s just a blooming big deal when I can look after myself and be happily and satisfied with my singlehood than settling down. What is wrong with been independent and not having to be tied down by dates and guys really when I got the right to choose how I run my life all thanks to education empowering me from young.

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  11. This is a topic that is very complex and multifaceted. There is no one or two reasons as to why Hmong females tend to do better than Hmong males. As someone who has taught high school in the past, I have seen more Hmong females do better as well. The question of why is something that I’ve pondered before but there are so many factors.

    Part of it, I believe, is our Hmong culture and traditions as stated in the blog post above and in some of the comments from others. But could there be also some biological factors, such as behavior tendencies in males vs. females, learning styles, etc?

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  12. This is not only a Hmong issue though, I see this across the board with all races. I feel like it’s more noticed in the Hmong community because our culture (till this day) put penises on a pedestal.

    It’s unfortunate, bc it doesn’t have to be this way. We, women, are stronger and hold more power than we think. If you think about, we’re smarter and larger(population wise) than men. We could make a change. However, the suppression of women is so rooted in our culture and engrained in our minds that if we stray it can make us feel that we’re the bad guys.

    I’m always shunned by Hmong men bc I’m too much of a “feminist” Even though this stuff (being treated equally) is a human right.

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