“Your Arts degree is useless. You studied the wrong degree, made a very wrong decision there. You finished your degree, and you still can’t find a job. Should’ve studied something like commerce or dentistry. Like your brother. Maybe he can get you a job.”
That’s what my mum says to me all the time. It’s no secret she fawns over my brother who studies something science-related, holds a respectable office job and has completed Grade 8 piano as opposed to me who, well, is a free spirit.
It’s also no secret in Asian cultures that males are regarded as the supreme sex. The so-called almighty, smart, know-it-all, responsible sex. Many Asian parents prefer having boys over girls and shower infinite adoration over their male offspring.
The history and origins behind this phenomenon is rather sketchy, only speculation at best.
The dominance of white male supremacy eons ago in Asia might explain it. At the beginning of time, the West was more developed industrially and stronger economically. They colonised many Eastern nations, sending predominantly male troops abroad who built houses and towns here from scratch.
Perhaps at the time Asians looked up to, in awe of their male colonisers for laying the foundation for stable Asian societies (although some Asian countries did despise imperialism and colonial rule).
Much physical, manual labour had to be done back in the day. Many emperors in ancient China commanded male slaves to build the Great Wall and construct cities with their bare hands. Bending over and stooping to cultivate and harvest rice also had to be done.
Asian males are naturally physically bigger in size and have significantly more strength than Asian females, two traits that proved advantageous for them in these situations. The men puffed and pant and successfully toughed it out under emperors’ orders and brought harvest home, putting on shows of “can-do” attitudes, determined characters and the sound ability to handle ordered responsibility.
This was all while Asian women stayed at home behind closed doors, fanning pots of rice cooking on rickety stoves and taking care of kids. Behind closed doors, in the privacy of the home, where no one saw just what skills they had and what they were capable of.
Filial piety is highly valued in Asian cultures and is also arguably a reason why males are favoured in Asian cultures. Men keep their surnames when they get married; women “marry off”, usually taking their husbands’ last names. Men in a sense “stay” and “belong” with their birth-right family for their entire lives. Having a son(s) would naturally mean that there will be someone “in the family” to take care of the Asian parents, shower them with gold and cash when they grow old.
Conversely, perhaps it’s because of all these reasons Asian women are constantly stereotypically considered weak, passive, submissive and spineless in Asian families.
What reaffirms the mentality that Asian males are superior to Asian women is the frequent assumption the former are always right. That is, no one really questions their achievements or the legitimacy and ethics of their choices and actions (when Asian males are questioned, it’s usually by other males).
This is the case in my household.
Most weekdays when my brother wanders home in the evening, my mum asks him, “How was today? What did you do in class? What did you do at work just now?”
My brother would say something along the lines of, “Meeting today at work. We discussed a lot of things and we’re doing this, this and this for the project.”
“Wahhh! So impressive! You can do a lot of things! So what happens now? How does it work?”
When I come home, mum asks me, “What did you do today? How was work today?”
I go, “I did this, this and this. Writing the story now.”
“Can you do it or not? Do you even know how to do it?”
With the right attitude, anyone can do a lot of things and achieve a lot of things.