Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Blog # 4 Raised by a Feminist Mother

        My mom is the most strong-minded, ambitious, and self-reliant lady I have ever known.  Grew up in a 3-generation combined female-dominant family with no presence of men, she started her first job at 16, got married and raised 3 children in her 20’s, obtained college degree in her 40’s and master’s degree in 50’s.  Currently working in a court and actively participating in public affairs and civil lawsuits, she has won herself a prestige as an “Alpha Woman”, which is exactly her dream! 
        At the same time, she also played her role as a traditional woman in family life, taking care of cleaning, cooking, child-rearing……  The difference is, it was much out of her obligation, rather than her own choice.  For many times when I was little, I heard her regretting having started family (which includes the existence of me!), wasted her time and energy on the mundane house chores that would make the realization of her dream difficult.  Looking back from now, I see the dilemma in which a woman struggled between her role as an independent individual who had a big dream in her heart, and the role as a woman that had been assigned to her by the culture.
        Interestingly, my mom changed when she was older. Claiming her children and grandchildren the most valuable assets and most important traces of her life, she is happily playing her role as a loving mother and grandmother. In her words, she is making “compensation” for not being able to cherish us enough when we were young, and for our tolerance of her endless battles with my dad on “Who is the decision maker”!
        Raised by my feminist mother, I was instilled with the beliefs that women can achieve as well as men.  With her acute observation, my mom helped me make important decisions both in career and personal life.  As most modern women today, sometimes I see myself on the same track as my mom was: trying to find a balance between career and family life, struggling transforming across the roles of the different “caps” on my head.  Then I thought of my mom, I told myself:  It is meaningless to debate on “Man and woman, which is superior?” or whether you are "Fiminist" or "Anti-Feminist", what really count is how you view things as important in your life, you follow your heart and “just do it”!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Blog#3 Make the Connection.

        I just finished reading the biography of Oprah Winfrey, the now "Media Queen", who was born in a lonesome Mississippi farm, and had a humble childhood, in which her mother was always out working as a cleaning lady, and she was sometimes left home alone playing with the cockroaches that scurried around the boarding house they lived in. Throughout the reading, I couldn’t help trying to find the connection between the little girl in the above mentioned gut-wrenching scene and the successful, confident, and glamorous lady shown on TV and magazines of today.
        In 1987, Oprah endowed 10 scholarships to Tennessee State University where she graduated from, in honor of her father, who had always encouraged her to pursue an education, telling her it was the keystone to a successful future.  Oprah’s story perfectly recounted what our textbook states, “A college education is the most reliable step for moving from a low-income to a middle-class and higher status”.
        Another example would be Chinese immigrants.  Of all the minor ethic groups in the U.S., Chinese immigrants are the rare species that managed to maintain a higher socioeconomic status.  Traditional Chinese culture highly values the significance of education.   From the early immigration in the 19th century in which the immigrant were mainly labor workers from southern China, to the most recent immigration that started from the 1980’s in which the immigrants were mostly highly educated professionals, higher education has been viewed as a necessary safeguard against potential racial discrimination and a means to reach affluent life for both the individuals and their families.  All in all, it was education that helped Chinese immigrants make the connection, in the long process of assimilating into American culture.
        Education is helping all of us sitting in this classroom make connections as well.  For me, it helps me reach my career goal and fulfill my dream.  What connections are you making through education?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Blog #2 Jellyfish Salad----"Melting Pot" Vs. "Mosaic"

        In 2002, I came to the U.S. as a visiting scholar at Reed College, Portland, OR.  Before that, I had been teaching international students for 6 years in China, and had some knowledge about western cultures and cross-cultural communications.  I thought I was well-prepared for the year ahead, until......

      A month after my arrival at Reed, there was a "Progressive Dinner" across the five language houses on the campus (French, Spanish, German, Russian, and Chinese).  Residents of each language house would serve traditional and culturally representative food for the visitors.  As the only native Chinese in the Chinese house, I decided to make something plain and authentic.  One of the things I made was jellyfish salad, which was an ordinary and inexpensive appetizer in China. I didn't expected jellyfish salad to make a critical incident in my multicultural experience----most of the college students were shocked at hearing the word "jellyfish", and refused to have a taste. Some of my friends did try a little bit, out of the intention not to hurt my feelings, but they also teased my jellyfish salad in light-hearted banter.

      Jellyfish salad taught me "When in Rome, eat what Romans eat", and it was risky to try to keep your original cultural traits in the United States, the "melting pot", in which immigrants were encouraged to discard their original identity and assimilate to the dominant culture.

      Almost a decade passed.  On today's class, when we were discussing the critical incidents in multicultural experience, I thought of my jellyfish salad again.  All of a sudden, I had this curiosity, "Have people in today's United States started to accept it?"  I tried googling "jellyfish salad", to my surprise, I found quite a number of records, including pictures and recipes.  Looks like there are more people interested in eating jellyfish salad in the U.S. than 9 years ago.  Is it an outcome of multiculturalism, or is it in light of the widespread internet, or both?

      When doing research for our group project on "ethnicity and race", I encountered the term "mosaic" several times in different locations.  In recent studies and publications, the terminology "melting pot" has been gradually replaced by "mosaic". As a conceptualization of culture diversity in today's United States, the "mosaic" model provides people of different backgrounds with equal opportunities to fit together without having to lose their original identities.  I am asking myself, "Is mosaic related to jellyfish salad?"

      Jellyfish salad, melting pot, and mosaic.  These are what I learned today.