Hmong Sisters, Are We Obligated to Bear the Burdens of Our Brothers?

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On Thursday, April 20th I attended the Asia in Fresno: A symposium on Campus and Community Partnership. Sponsored by the College of Social Sciences, Asian Faculty and Staff Association, the Central California Asian Pacific Women, and the CSU AAPI Initiative, the purpose of the symposium was “to facilitate partnerships and shared experiences between API/Asian-American communities and Fresno State faculty, staff and students.”

Some of the common themes that came up in the discussions on students and higher education were the lack of resources and the lack of inclusion. I think Fresno State has amazing resources and I say this from the perspective as a Hmong student and a student who worked as a service provider for a resource center on campus. However, there is a narrative that the University is lacking culturally competent resources for our Southeast Asian students, and even more specifically our Southeast Asian male students.

One of the attendees told a story about a Southeast Asian male student who knew about a resource he needed but he didn’t want to look like someone who needs help so he didn’t seek help. This isn’t the first time I heard about a male student not seeking help for the sake of not wanting to look like a victim, an uneducated person, or a “loser.” One of the questions that came up was: Hmong women has many support systems, such as women’s groups and women’s conferences but Hmong men don’t. Should we create a Hmong men conference?

From my experiences, I join Hmong women’s groups because I can relate to other Hmong women because of our shared experiences as the lesser sex in our culture. Despite the popular belief that women are catty toward each other, women have been the most supportive of each other. We naturally come together because we had always had to support ourselves. Since a very young age, our mothers raised us to be good domestic house wives so we find out other women who can relate to our struggle. Even when we entered higher education, many of us still must go home, cook, and clean after our brothers.

Our conversations continue to involve helping our brothers. So, I’m asking you Hmong sisters, are we obligated to bear the burdens of our brothers? We raised them, we were told to wash their dishes and their clothes, we were told to cook for them and help them with homework; and when they grow to be men; we come up with ideas like organizing Hmong men conferences because we are concerned about the lack of Hmong men in higher education. I wonder if they are even thinking about this, because we are.

A handful of community partners attended the symposiums while a handful of students came and in and out. It was a week day after-all and students have classes so it was understandable to not see many student faces. Therefore, most the people in this discussion were women. There were no male students in this discussion. A group of women discussing about how they can help male students? It must be in our nature as mothers and sisters that we want to see our sons and brothers succeed. I wonder if they are even thinking about this, because we are.

A Hmong men conference is a great idea. It wasn’t the first time I heard women discuss convening men for the sake of elevating the success of men. However, why must we? Why must we feel the need to take the initiative to help the boys and men in our lives? I don’t know what they’re talking about or if they are convening a group or conference to elevate the educational success of Hmong men, but I know we are thinking and discussing about it.

Hmong women are attending and graduating from college at a higher rate than Hmong men and we know that well. However, Hmong men in leadership positions on campus are not lacking. If you look at faculty, staff, and student leaderships, there are Hmong men. The Hmong Language Club and the Hmong Student Association are led by Hmong men. There’s even a Hmong fraternity on campus, which has existed for many years. So, just because we don’t know what they’re doing doesn’t mean they’re not doing anything to elevate the educational successes of Hmong men. Right? We are quick to think about how we should support them.

I want to leave you with these questions. There are a good number of Hmong men working at Fresno State, but why are the recruitment and retention of Hmong men in higher education behind their sisters? Is this a community problem? Is it a cultural problem? A university problem? I don’t know the answers. Hmong brothers, can you tell me? If your mothers and sisters are discussing about how to elevate your educational success, what are you talking about?

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