Good Girls Marry Doctors

// 25 October 2011


As Asian diaspora, we’ve all heard the story before. Culturally there is a small range of acceptable careers, partners need to follow strict guidelines of gender, culture and religion. It often results in heated arguments amongst family.

I think that’s true for most diasporic women, and sometimes for Asian-American women in particular. Anyone who has grown up as woman in a minority Asian community knows how difficult it is to walk the line between the world of our parents and the world of our school or work environment. Our parents often have unreasonable expectations of our behavior.

Many times, Asian parents in the diaspora have a sharpened sense of what family or society in the “home” country might expect of them. Even if they left Asia decades ago, the older community rules by which they grew up is what is replicated as a model of behavior for their daughters, even if things in the “home” country have changed quite a bit with the times.

Most importantly, it is made clear to women in particular that they are the bearers of their culture, and that if they fail to impart tradition to the next generation, they will have failed in their duties. The stress this creates often leads to these girls loving and feeling totally loyal to their parents, but also feeling like their parents don’t necessarily understand them.

The project “Good Girls Marry Doctors” was first introduced on the F-word last year, the project has grown tremendously. The title, meant to be a tongue-in-cheek jab at the things Asian-American mothers sometimes say. While not trying to throw the baby out with the bathwater, this project’s goal is not to chastise culture for limiting women’s choices, but rather we hope this project will give strategies and ideas of how girls can find new ways of finding their own path while still being able to honor our cultural background.

As the project has grown, women flock to me with their own stories. I met a women who was held in financial hostage over her education while she was forced to obey every word. While talking about this project at a random party last year, I met a young woman who had survived a forced marriage. And I have a close friend whom I’ve grown up with, who’s parents struggle with her choice of career have ostracized her from her family. But there are positive stories as well! As at the end of these personal conflicts, the women are able to find a way to reconcile their feminist strengths and their cultural heritage.

Before I knew it, the conversation had morphed into not only a blog, but also a book that Piyali and I started co-editing.

This book is about what it is like to grow up with those expectations, and the kind of tightrope walk we as Asian-diaspora women are constantly performing.

This is NOT a book about resentment. It is a book about love, and the ways in which we love and honor our culture, while at the same time questioning and molding it to our needs!

So included here is our website and facebook group. I hope you will all join and support our cause!

Check out:

Make sure to join us on facebook !

Comments From You

SexierThanThou // Posted 25 October 2011 at 7:09 pm

“Most importantly, it is made clear to women in particular that they are the bearers of their culture…”

That’s not true at all. Sweeping generalisations like that overlook the amount of cultural baggage that ‘all’ second and third genartion Asian-Americans and Asian-Brits (and I’m sure other peoples) have to endure, regardless of sex.

“…find new ways of finding their own path while still being able to honor our cultural background.”

Maybe this is why it seems unfavourably skewed for most Asian women. Perhaps some socially constructed need for psuedo-diplomacy has prevented some women from just coming out and saying “Screw my cultural background.”

Josephine Tsui // Posted 25 October 2011 at 10:37 pm


1) I agree that everyone has cultural baggage regardless of sex. However the point of the project is to highlight the specifics of women and their cultural weight.

2) The problem with “Screw my cultural background” is that its not the most favourable solution. There are many strengths to cultural backgrounds and the lats thing we want “Good Girls Marry Doctors” to be about is asking women to forgo their cultural heritage.

The problem with the last answer is everyone, regardless of culture has a cultural background. The issue is when you come from an immigrant background where it may not coincide with the one you’re living in (American or British). We forget that people from anglo-saxon background also have a cultural heritage that is mostly integrated into society or is forgotten.

For example, Catholics also have a large problem integrating their British identity with their religious background. The notion of a good Catholic is a theme we can find many references to in popular media.

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