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


5 Comments to “Conundrum of Gender & Education”

  1. This is a question I’ve tried hard to find better answers to over the years. What have I found out? A lot of Hmong boys do well in school, maybe not all of them can go to Ivy Leagues, but many of them can definitely make it to UC and state schools. Yet, many of them end up not going. Why not? Family obligations, friends, and fear are extremely strong shackles. At least a couple of high school seniors have told me that they don’t want to leave their hometown because their siblings don’t know how to love and don’t take care of their poor and aging parents. Without them, their parents would have an extremely difficult time. To this I do not have a right answer; my response as a deeply family oriented young man myself is that they are in a very unfortunate situation, and that they should consider both short-term and long-term opportunities before making the decision to leave their parents. At least a few others have told me they do not want to leave for colleges far away because all of the people they’ve ever known live in the city. They wouldn’t know how to survive in another place, they say. To me this seems like they have never been exposed to any type of situation where they had adjust to a new life and to make new friends. As for myself I attended a few important summer programs during high school that made living away from home seem easy and even likable as I made more new friends. But I am also aware of the convenience of staying at home. Those that do make the choice to travel far may very well experience a culture shock, but if they are able to get pass that first year, every year after that gets easier. And then some more have told me that they do not wish to leave because life in college is difficult and they would rather work practical jobs, for practical pay, living practical lives. This tells me our young boys lack inspiration. They’ve never seen anything better, or if they have, they haven’t been instilled with the ambition to grasp it or maybe even to surpass it. I once thought that life in my small town was life as it is everywhere. Poverty, gangs, racism, bad schools, wasn’t this just a part of life? I started reading, traveling, and I started really learning about the world beyond my town. The ghetto life as I knew it was not the beautiful life as it could and should be. There are greater things out there for the taking. And that is why I am working hard and capitalizing on every opportunity to make my life better.

    And it’s only through reflection that I realize I am extremely privileged with a loving family, supportive friends, and a hunger for greatness.

  2. i applied to stanford, don’t worry!! us boys are comin up. my name is Lao Thao from Central High School in St. Paul. i’ll see you at stanford =D please excuse my excitement…hehehe…

  3. hey there Lilian!! my name is Lao Thao and i was just browsing through the HSU site when i stumbled upon this blog!! it’s an interesting point that you bring up, and something that i would like to add to. i remember a scene in “Gran Torino” where one of the main female characters , perhaps the only one, said something along the lines of “girls go to college and boys go to prison.” i remember that line because it seems like that is indeed the case. where ARE them boys at? the boys are around, don’t worry. just looking at my high school, it is clear that, in general, the Hmong girls excel in academics more than the Hmong boys–not to downplay the boys because there are those exceptions. i attend Central High School in St. Paul and the highest ranked Hmong student for my class is a boy. he is actually ranked among the top ten of a class of almost 500 students!! all in all, my point is that the boys ARE present in the ranks of academia, as you put it above. by the way i am i guy. and i did apply to Stanford. =) gosh, the wait is terrible!!

    • Hey Lao,

      Congrats on getting into Stanford! Hopefully we’ll see you here during Admit Weekend (?).

      It’s actually really interesting to see how the (gendered) state of the Hmong Community here at Stanford has changed since I first started this blog.

      In our admit class for 2013, there were seven Hmong students admitted to Stanford and all of them accepted! Not only did they set a record in the whole +200 years of Stanford (that I’m hoping 2014 seeks to break), but there were five boys and two girls in that set. It dramatically shifts (meaning: it balances out) the current gender ratio of Hmong students enrolled at Stanford (previously six girls and two boys).

      We also have a Hmong student in the medical school. Joshua is a boy. :]

  4. Hey Lilian, i just want to let you know that I envy you oh soooo much. Your blogs totally hit the spot and I love how you speak your mind so well.

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