Are you a Bad Girl? Mama Says Good Girls Marry Doctors

// 20 March 2010


Retaining Control, Negotiating Roles: Diasporic Women and their Parents

Part 2 of 4. Are you a bad girl?

Are you a good girl? You know what we mean: you listen to your parents, there’s no gossip about you in the “community.” Or are you a bad girl? Were you caught smoking in high school? Did you marry that white boy against your parents’ wishes? This is part one of a four part series about “Mama Says Good Girls Marry Doctors”.

Post #2; Clarifying what we’re NOT saying.

Now that we’ve clarified what this blog is about, let’s clarify what this blog is NOT about. We are NOT about rebelling against culture, religion, parents or heritage. I think this surprises many people. Often people fear that as different immigrant cultures move to multicultural societies that the culture would be diluted. This results in a large fear that the clash of values between women and their families emphasizes this dilution and the disappearance of our heritage.

The two values which clash are both equally important and valuable but people may be forced to choose one over the other. These situations frequently come up in immigrant cultures as families often need to renegotiate their values in a new setting. For example, the Chinese culture have certain favourite types of food which may be seen as strange or unappetizing from outsiders and as a result they may be harder to find these types of food or may not be accessible. The clashing of these two values also can come up in a more intense situation when daughters are at important parts of their lives such as career choices and partner choices.

On one side represents the value of heritage. Cultures are deemed having the right to practice their religion and cultural heritage. Often in diaspora cultures, practicing these cultural heritages are an important symbol of keeping the community together and remembering a set of values which may be unique. Frequently as diaspora cultures may feel under attack from the host cultures, these values are more important than ever to keep alive, for fear of them being swept away and diluted.

On the other hand, sometimes the responsibilities for these cultural values are largely held on women and they may influence her decisions for a career, and future partners. Though understanding that these responsibilities are also held by men, there are differences between men and women in this respect.

The clashing of these values is a regular occurrence in every young person’s life, only it can be emphasized within immigrant cultures. There is no right path or decision. The problem is that EVERYONE has an opinion about it. For example, France is contemplating banning the Niqab. The Islamic culture has an opinion of women wearing the traditional dress but it is opposed by the French government as it makes people feel uncomfortable.

What’s your opinion? On one hand, young women of coloured are considered spoiled brats for wanting things that may not be culturally appropriate, on the other can we really justify a culture which oppresses women from being an active part in moulding their own values?

Stay tune next week for Part 3 where we go through one woman’s story.

Comments From You

Natalie // Posted 20 March 2010 at 11:06 pm

If you are a human, every little thing, every choice binds you. Your blood binds you. The people that keep you alive. The people that keep you sane, they bind you. Yes, culture binds you. It’s all a comforting weight. And it’s lovely. But it’s loveliness lies in it’s CHOICE to wear the millstone. It’s beauty comes in the fidelity to that which keeps you.

Josephine Tsui // Posted 21 March 2010 at 1:13 am

Hi Natalie,

Thank you for your comment. While I do think alot of people believe what this project is about is being against family, I wrote this post to explicitly explain that I”m NOT against being loyal to our culture, family and religion. You are right that it is a choice to be faithful to culture. There are benefits to being faithful to culture.

However I think we need to be critical of our culture, religion and family to ask if the traditions are being biased in a sexist manner. Often culture is seen as strict guidelines which if you don’t follow you’re known as the “bad girl”. How often has any one of us wanted to do something but were afraid to be known as the bad girl within our community? For example, studying a subject in university that wasn’t going to come out with a professional job. Do we ever ask why there are fewer women of colour in certain subject areas? What about the choice of the person you love? Is it possible to be a good girl and still be a lesbian catholic?

However, we are advancing. It is possible to be a good girl and a lesbian catholic. Young women need to redefined their feminist tools so they can be a good lesbian and a good catholic at the same time while keeping their supportive community. We are starting to see many women’s organisations debating the cultural and religious significances and redefining them in a manner which is friendly for women. An example within the UK culture is “Catholics for Free Choice”

How can we redefine fidelity within our cultures so we can keep the beauty of the millstone but at the same time define it in ways that are meaningful to us. The question I am asking is WHO is defining fidelity? Are we defining our own measuring sticks?

Bell Bajao Fighting Domestic Violence // Posted 11 May 2010 at 6:47 am

Culture is something that is embedded in you from the minute you are born. Everything around you is culture. But culture is not static, it is every changing and developing. And it is up to us to decide the direction of change. Each generation adds something new to a culture.

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