Gilmore Girls characters, from left to right, Lane Kim, Rory Gilmore and Mrs. Kim.
The Asian parent: Unemotional, stern, strict and never wanting anything but the best from a child. Take The Gilmore Girls TV sitcom for example. Mrs. Kim was a caring, yet cold mother to her daughter Lane, imposing upon her the highest quality of discipline and appropriate behavior enforced by religion. Lane, however grew up ingeniously hiding her secret love of underground music — under the floorboards of her room — achieving academic successes, but never seemingly reaching the expectations of Mrs. Kim. It’s that parental pressure that, stereotypically, most Asian parents inherently master. They set the bar high and when it seems just within reach, the bar is nudged up another ten feet.
Such notoriety of Asian parents has inspired UCLA professor Mitchell Chang to submit his op-ed to the UCLA Today faculty publication, concerned that this kind of parental push diminishes self initiative in Asian or Asian-American youth. Chang focused much of his write-up over the suggestions made by Yale University professor Amy Chua who published an essay in The Wall Street Journal, “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior,” and even a book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Chang explained Chua’s essay…
“Chua’s essay is considered controversial largely because it stresses a rigid parenting style based on tough love — the “Tiger Mother” — that goes against what she considers more typical “Western” styles that emphasize self-esteem and self-discovery. Parenting strategies aside, what has been overlooked is how this essay unintentionally undermines Asian American college applicants by perpetuating an erroneous stereotype.”
Essentially, Chang believes the stereotype of Asian parent tough love can and has hindered the chances of college acceptance for Asian and Asian-American applicants. Because high expectations and parental pressure are directly associated to Asian culture, generalizations are made that the kids, when out on their own at college, cannot be self-starters without the consistent push from a superior. Chua’s primary ideal actually set such style of parenting on a pedestal, tagging it with the “Tiger Mother” label. Such a fierce characterization, however sent wrinkles to Chang’s forehead. He said the Tiger Mother “can advance a one-dimensional view of Asian Americans that minimizes their achievements and overlooks their diversity.”
Another Wall Street Journal blogger, Ilyon Woo, wrote to break this characterization. “An Asian Father’s Gift: Permission to Fail” broke the “Tiger Mother” stereotype with Woo’s personal account of discovering success — and failure — with the life lessons of her parents. She explained both her mom and dad were extremely successful in all senses of the term, wealth, occupation and family, but they raised their daughter to understand that striving for the best and coming up short is not the end of the world. This realization helped her to stop obsessing on perfectionism, allowing her to find success with unstrained care. Sure, this is just one account, but it shows that the Tiger Mother cannot be generalized.
These blogs and insight lay out that, like any stereotypes, characteristics are far too often generalized for the Asian, Asian-American cultures. Each person and family is infinitely different from the next. But, when do you draw the line when making generalizations? Is the Tiger Mother OK to accept due to Asian culture? Will Asian and Asian-American college applicants continue to be discriminated? What do you say?