February 4, 2009

Introductions & Purpose

Don’t you find it ironic in a world of technological innovation and pronounced globalization that we–as people, as human beings–can find (or make) such very little time for one another? Rarely do we participate in conversations about the little experiences or enormous epiphanies of our lives. Do we even truly take the time to breathe in the scent of roses dewy in the morning air? Or are we too busy priming our wan complexions with more sleepless nights to care?

This blog is an attempt to carry a conversation–between more than just myself and I or even just Stanford HSU, to learn more about the lives and feelings, the opinions–respective or contradictory–that swim around in the heads of Hmong students (and others) and our interactions with one another about what we find to be truths, self evident or not, but that are never vocalized, never surfaced wholly themselves.

Who are you, who are we? What are you, what are we? Just a few of the general ideas of this blog who’s sole purpose is to keep us all connected in a world where our technology is created to decrease the actual amounts of time we must physically interact with one another–(an arguable point, but that of which is not the point).

So, in conclusion, please join me, please join us–in constructing as collectively as an individually based forum possible, the contemporary experiences of ourselves such that we can better understand one another and our places in the continuum of Hmong history. (I don’t know if the above makes complete sense, but eh…it might one day ^_- and in any case, just go to another post. I promise to be more coherent.)

You can scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page and check out posts in categories you find interesting or you can read all the way through. Comments and responses are not required–but greatly encouraged and appreciated. How does one carry on a conversation with oneself if one is not a schizophrenic? If you have any topics you’d like to talk about that are not present on this forum, please let us, let me know.

Participate in our dialogue. Be heard. Even if anonymously.

Also, please note that the opinions represented in these pieces do not necessarily reflect the whole of Stanford HSU. Authors will sign [some more at their own discretion than others] which rants they have come up with alone [as I have done a lot already] and which [when we write them] are written as a whole group en masse.

–Lilian Thaoxaochay

September 13, 2010

Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino

Gran Torino is a 2008 American drama film directed by, produced by and starring Clint Eastwood. The film marks Eastwood’s return to a lead acting role after four years, his previous leading role having been in Million Dollar Baby, and Eastwood has stated that this is his final film as an actor. The film features a large Hmong American cast, as well as Eastwood’s younger son, Scott Eastwood, playing Trey. Eastwood’s oldest son, Kyle Eastwood, provided the score. The film opened to theaters in a limited release in North America on December 12, 2008, and later to a worldwide release on January 9, 2009.

The story follows Walt Kowalski, a recently widowed Korean War veteran who is alienated from his family and angry at the world. Walt’s young Hmong neighbor, Thao, tries to steal Walt’s prized 1972 Ford Gran Torino on a dare by his cousin for initiation into a gang. Walt develops a relationship with the boy and his family.

Gran Torino was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $260 million worldwide.

Credits: Wikipedia

February 5, 2009

The Wealth of One Girl

So my Daddy told me that bride fees were supposed to be like…a gesture of good will from the family of the groom to the family of the bride not only for taking care of all the expenses of the wedding and getting the newlywed couple on their feet with rugs and blankets, food, and etcetera, but also as a gesture of: we are honored by your allowance of letting your daughter to enter our familial folds. We promise to take good care of her, and here is the proof we will [exchange of currency occurs].

But as culture and human ambition, practice and customs have evolved, so have the implicit, underlying reasons for such social processes. And now…although I may be wrong and too harsh: bride fees are merely a sign of how much a girl is worth. A price to be haggled over, the daughter is now bargained over like a piece of property, some smelted flesh. No longer is she priceless, but of a set value that her beloved’s own may not be willing to budge upon.

The General–more on him later–a few years back set a “cap” on bride fees. Something like five G’s. A friend of mine was appalled. She thought–no she knew she was worth more than that. I wrinkled my nose and furrowed my brow: why perpetuate the custom at all? I’m tired of the objectification of women–in general too. Our subjugation to the man must end some time. Can I pay a fee to get rid of you? Buy myself out of this inequality because I’m not so sure I’d pay any price to have you anyways either…LOL. Just kidding.

But seriously: What do you think? Is this an archaic notion that needs to be eradicated if not reformed? Or are we moving towards some end–bride shops–that I’m not aware of…

FYI: Please don’t try to tell me we must adhere because it is “cultural”. Culture changes, it evolves, it is dynamic, and it is not the boss of me–especially if it asked me to kill my first born or jump off a cliff before my 50th birthday because wrinkles were a major catastrophe waiting to swallow me, my marital potential and ovaries whole.

BTW: Neither of the last couple of comments/ultimatums have any relation to Hmong culture…I just made them up to be overly dramatic and to drive in the point of ridiculously adhering–blindly ascribing to “cultural” establishments.

Controversially Congenial Lilian ;]

February 5, 2009

The Anti-Model Minority

The Model Minority sprang out of White attempt to divide and conquer Colored Empowerment, but one cannot discount the truth behind Asian American accomplishment–that is until they encounter the Hmong.

The Hmong are said to be inedible and unwilling to cooperate with mainstream America. Their secondary migration patterns have disrupted government attempts at dispersing the impact of states absorbing refugee peoples who will consume millions of dollars of SSI and Medicare/Medicaid. They smell, have strange rituals in which they sacrifice animals and they have no sense of family planning or birth control.

But we are more than that.

The Hmong are stubborn–hence they have been able to survive generations without a land called their own. The Hmong are united–they invest a great deal in community and surround themselves with allies, with family. They are never alone. The Hmong sacrifice–to appease the elders and ancestors who watch over us. The Hmong have massive families–they worry about the loneliness of their children.

Am I romaniticizing myself? Or am I exoticizing the Hmong?

Both and neither. I think I just get tired of the Anti-Model Minority label. I mean, that label is inherently in reference to Chinese & Japanese Americans–the early migratory Asians to America. Although we share a history and I am all for pan-ethnicism, can we contextualize? Can we differentiate that (obviously) Hmong were not part of the construction of the term “Model Minority”–although one can admit our complicity in its contemporary existence by virtue of sheer existence.

Anyways, I just wanted to rant…something like the above. I wanted to note our flaws and weaknesses, the idosyncracies of Hmong nature that I have found and the delights, the accomplishments, the strength that can be found beyond the seemingly obtuse surface.

Perfection is a willingness to be flawed.

-Lilian Thaoxaochay

February 4, 2009

Conundrum of Gender & Education

So I must admit that as a Stanford student and a Hmong female, I am constantly bombarded with such questions: “How do you do it? What advice do you have for other Hmong females who aspire to more than just hearth and home or early marriage and 10 kids before 30?” (as if Hmong females don’t already dominate and succeed in the area of education over Hmong males. I’m not trying to get into a conversation about who gets paid more, better jobs or whatnot, but just general representation, educational attainment and participation of Hmong in institutions of higher learning.)

No offense guys, dudes, padre, but I think the numbers, our numbers speak for themselves and that all this question does (early apology for being an anthropology major and having just finished Bordieu’s Masculine Domination) is reinforce archaic denotations of gender divisions–which we admittedly all still participate in reproducing. But why isn’t this question asked as pointedly of Hmong males? Where are they in the ranks of academia? There are currently only two Hmong males at Stanford compared to six Hmong females and for the whole of our history that I am aware, Hmong females have been doin’ a majority of the representin’ at Stanford. Although that is not to say that there were not moments (i.e. the Class of 2008 ) where there were more boys than girls in attendance. :] But general trends…

What’s your take on this question? Should we keep asking of our girls, perpetuating the idea that they have more to overcome, have still a long way to go? I acknowledge the social context in which the question emerged but are we not ready to move past it? It’s a weapon of the weak. Why cling to it.

Also, I worry we are doing our boys a disservice with the question. This is a double edged sword, the question always being posed in a one way direction towards females who have pulled themselves up by the bootstraps (and are doing well), while we fail to notice the sinking ship of boys being sucked off into a vortex that is not institutions of higher education in a society increasingly invested in such notions as denotations of power and wealth.

We girls know where we’re at: UC colleges, State school with our BA’s, Stanford. But where them boys at?

–Lilian Thaoxaochay