I can still hear the echo of my mother’s voice when I told her I was leaving my job to go back to school full time. In her loving demeanor and ever so softly toned voice, she said, “If you would have focused on education instead of your social status back then, you would be a doctor by now. ” I could not believe my ears! However, I knew exactly what my mother meant and sadly responded with, “you are right mother. ” I was twenty seven, a mother of two, and about to sacrifice so much for higher education. This was not going to be easy but I was determine to do it for myself and my family.
In the past, my parents stressed the importance of education and did all they could to support us through it. However, my priority as a teen was my appearance. It was not easy growing up as a Hmong daughter. Even though education was expected to be priority, the pressure of learning the values of a “good Hmong wife” also accompanied my upbringing. I grew up faster than I should trying to attract the wrong people. Currently, I believe many Hmong teen girls may be going through the same circumstances I faced in my youth.
Hmong teen girls should focus on higher education and not feel pressured to look model thin and change their appearance to build on self-esteem and social status. Hmong Roles and Values The patriarchal Hmong culture has defined the status between men and women long before the immigration of Hmong to the United States. In the past, the sons received education while the daughters remained at home with their mothers. Fortunately, in America, by law it is required all children are admitted into an educational system. However, the traditional Hmong roles and values continue to be practice in the household.
At the young age of six, girls are taught the proper skills to be a good Hmong wife. They learn to cook, butcher chicken and livestock, and care for the entire family. Although these skills should be referred to as personal life skills, it is not interpreted that way. Hmong girls are reminded that achieving these skills would allow for a successful life and marriage. If a Hmong girl did not learn the proper skills, it was frowned upon. It meant she will not be a good fit for a wife, and no man would want to marry her.
In addition, people will spread the rumor of her inabilities and label her as “lazy”. Moreover, the fear of being single past the age of eighteen is not a situation a Hmong girl wanted to be in. With this in mind, Hmong girls are pressured to change their body image in hopes to achieve a desired status acceptable by the Hmong culture. Model Thin Body In today’s society, Hmong teen girls may struggle with body image along with many American teens. The pressure of having a model thin body symbolizes beauty. For many, being thin allows them to feel good about themselves.
Many Hmong girls struggle with body image and feel the need to be thin for many reasons. The pressure to be a good wife ties in with beauty. If you are overweight, it is likely you will remain single and no one will marry you. Moreover, society and social media can be less accepting of people who are overweight. Images of thin, beautiful women flood our media. The need to compare and change the body can affect Hmong teen girls. They become blind to the importance of education, but rather, focus on how thin and beautiful they should be.
One way to reduce the idea of having a model thin body for Hmong teen girls is to educate the parents about the importance of education verses early marriage. Some parents are oblivious of the benefits available for education. Some parents believe through marriage, a spouse will take care of their daughter. However, if they understood the lifestyle changes of the American culture, they will see the benefits of higher education. Make-up Wearing make-up is another form to change the way Hmong teen girls feel about themselves.
Make-up is conveniently available at most retail stores for purchase. The beauty section is not sectioned off or offered to adults only. More often now, the media portrays acceptance of wearing make-up in teens. For instance, there are vast You-Tube videos on how to apply and wear make-up. Young teens, including Hmong girls, wear more make-up than they should. All of these factors influence the desire to change the faces of youthful beauty. Moreover, when | was growing up, it was unusual for Hmong teen parents to discourage the use of make-up.
I started to wear make-up when I was seven. I do not recall my parent’s disapproval of my desires to buy make-up. I believe with more parent involvement and disapproval of this behavior, Hmong teen girls can wait till they are adults to experiment with make-up. Fashion Fashion is also a contributor to body image and may affect a Hmong teen girl’s desire to change. What we wear can show who we are. It was important for me to wear the latest fashion, women clothing and shoes, to allow me to feel older. When | dressed like a women, I most certainly felt like one.
For example, I began to wear my older sister’s high-heeled shoes when I was eight. I wanted to feel older and feel good about myself. Understandably, my desire was to have a boyfriend and enter into a relationship in hopes to marry before I was eighteen. This may still be true for many Hmong teen girls today if Hmong Parents continue to encourage and accept early marriage. One way to for Hmong parents to influence proper dress is to be involved in the purchase process. Regulating the items of interests can reduce a child’s desire to dress like an adult.
Education It is important for Hmong parents to continue to encourage education as a priority. Guiding their teens through career options and providing continuous support toward achieving higher education is key. Moreover, by reducing the pressures of traditional Hmong values, they allow their daughters to gain the respect, self-esteem, and social acceptance through education. All over the world, especially in America, education provides knowledge and skills for a better future. People who have higher education will most likely have more job opportunities and higher incomes.
Not only will higher education bring better opportunities, but it also allows for status and self-actualization. The values of education provide endless opportunities and hope for a brighter future. Most importantly, it can eliminate the patriarchal traditions of the Hmong culture. American Values Equality has changed and the roles of men and women in America today. Most households can no longer support a family of one income. Hmong women feel obligated to help support the family financially and are seeking higher education. They also long for a purposeful future for themselves and their children.
For this matter, the traditional Hmong values have been challenged, especially by Hmong women, to allow for equal opportunities for both men and women. Daughters are encouraged to seek higher education and achieve careers such as doctors and lawyers. Therefore, it is important for Hmong teen girls to understand the importance of education and the benefits it will provide in their life. This can happen through the support and encouragement of parents, teachers and mentors. Hmong teen girls should be reminded that education will lead to a successful life.
Equally important, higher education will support a successful and happy marriage. If I can turn back time, I would have focused more on my education and less on my body image. I would have played with dolls a little longer. In addition, wore less make-up and no highheel shoes. I also would worry less about the number of friends! had or who I was dating. I would have listened more to my parents because they knew more than I could have. All of the things that did not benefit me would be reduced or eliminated. Wow, how different my life would be if all this was possible?
Despite the ill feelings and setbacks, I do not regret my past. The choices I made molded me into the person I am today. God has a plan for me, and all along he was guiding me toward this road Tam on today. I have a beautiful family of my own and will achieve a bachelor’s degree in business management this December. Most importantly, I feel I can be a role model for my children and provide opportunities to allow them to become successful individuals. Moreover, I can continue to guide them to achieve the highest educational experience possible. Today, I can proudly say I have learned many life lessons and wise beyond my years.