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Tiger Mothers 4.0

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Michelle Lee

on 13 June 2013

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Transcript of Tiger Mothers 4.0

Li-Young Lee, a first-generation Asian-American poet, addresses the issue of remembering and forgetting in “For a New Citizen of the United States," from his 1990 book, "The City in which I Love You." In his poem, Lee recounts the pain of leaving his memories and past behind when he immigrates to America. At first, it seems that he has come to terms with this loss, remarking that "there is no need for alarm. And / there is no need for sadness, if / the rain at the window now reminds you / of nothing." He almost views it as a natural and necessary part of the immigration process. Yet as the poem progresses, his tone becomes more vivid and angry—he illustrates in detail the things "[he] won't mention," casts off his treasured items as "meaninglessly preserved," and sardonically remarks, "After all, it was just our life / merely years in a book of years." The reader senses his sharp pain as he realizes that the rich details and memories of his past life have become irrelevant. Even more, they have become obstructive to his life in America. For with each mention of what he will not, but secretly wants, to do (e.g., "I won't mention that house," "I'll mention none of it," "I won't show you letters," "I won't hum along," "I won't...recall my mother"), he hints at the necessity of moving on and carving out a new life, and reveals the illicit nature of such memories. As a "new citizen of these United States," he must therefore forcibly forget his past. (Interestingly, the title reflects this feeling of displacement: "these" points to several states or identities, while "the" alludes to one unified front. It also reflects his general dissonance, since "these United States" sounds off to the American reader.)
“Tiger parenting,” as described by Chua (2011, Battle hymn of the tiger mother. New York, NY: Penguin Press), has put parenting in Asian American families in the spotlight. The current study identified parenting profiles in Chinese American families and explored their effects on adolescent adjustment.
In “Does ‘Tiger Parenting’ Exist?,” a study published in the March 2013 issue of the Asian American Journal of Psychology, Su Yeong Kim illustrates that Tiger Mother parenting is not as conducive to academic success as assumed, and even more, that it may not be as prevalent or simply defined as we believe. Kim analyzes over 400 Chinese-American families and ranks them according to four parenting categories: “harsh,” “supportive,” “easygoing,” and “tiger.” Kim finds that the children of “supportive” parents are the most academically successful, while the children of “tiger” parents are not as academically or socio-emotionally well off. She also finds that parenting styles change over time and that “tiger” comes to define fathers more than mothers—a fact that challenges classic notions of “Tiger Mothers” and “Goose Fathers.” Ultimately, Kim concludes that high academic achievement and high psychological adjustment come hand in hand, such that “supportive” parents produce low academic pressure, high GPA, high educational attainment, low depressive symptoms, low parent–child alienation, and high family obligation, while “tiger” parents produce worse developmental outcomes on all counts.
In this NY Daily News article, “Bruno Mars, Far East Movement lead Asian-American pop music wave taking over the Billboard charts,” columnist David Yi fixates on the Asian-American presence (or lack thereof) in the American music industry. He calls the Far East Movement the “the first Asian-American group to break into the mainstream” and deems it a “historical moment.” However, in the article, Suchin Pak notes that the group’s success has nothing to do with race. The group has remained surprisingly ubiquitous, in that they have kept their Asian identity just as it is—a private identifier, rather than a public image booster or political platform. Many people do not even know they are Asian until they see their picture (myself included). In such a way, their minority status remains all but absent from their commercial persona.
"Stress-Less Parenting: What Everyone Can Learn From Lazy French Mothers"
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pamela-druckerman/french-parents_b_2638488.html
"Just Say 'Non'"
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pamela-druckerman/just-say-non_b_2867045.html
"You Just Have to Taste It: Getting Your Kids To Eat Like The French"
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pamela-druckerman/picky-eaters_b_2768810.html
Tiger Mothers 4.0
Creative Tree & Interviews
Sources 1-2:
Steven Lim
For A New Citizen Of These United States
For A New Citizen Of These United States
Sources 3-5:
Does ‘Tiger Parenting’ Exist?
Does ‘Tiger Parenting’ Exist?
Youniverse
Bruno Mars, Far East Movement lead Asian-American pop music wave ...
Sources 6-7:
The Tiger Mother is a myth in China
French Moms
Bibliography
Labels - The Asian | American Divide
Like the video, I want to examine the divide between Asian and Asian-American culture in immigrant families. Among the questions I want to address are: How is it that parents and children who live together, eat together, and work together can be total strangers? What assumptions and barriers separate them, whether cultural or generational? How does one break down such barriers?

In my short story, I thus focus on a mother-daughter pair that maintains the sort of distance that the two characters in the video experience—though one that is cultural and generational, rather than linguistic. Unlike the typical Tiger Mother text, the preconceptions are inverted: The daughter thinks her mother is too liberal, and the mother thinks her daughter is too hardworking. Nonetheless, they judge one another without trying to understand each other’s motives and thought processes. It is not until the end when they engage in storytelling that they begin to chip away at the barrier.
In this video, Asian-American filmmaker, Steven Lim, sets out to explore the divide between Asian Americans and Asians in modern day America. The video features two individuals—one an Asian American, the other a first-generation immigrant—who unconsciously label each other based on appearances and external characteristics. They assume to know each other, despite the distance and apathy they maintain. The sticky notes that accumulate throughout the video represent the danger of such assumptions; for just as the sticky notes encroach over their bodies, threatening to overwhelm them, assumptions threaten to supersede one’s true identity, so solidifying the cultural barrier. Ultimately, it is only when the two characters are forced to work on a project together that the barrier begins to break down. The labels are replaced by factual descriptors, and assumptions by truth.
Li-Young Lee
I want to look at how the immigrant experience impacts one’s life in America, as well as the divide between immigrant parents and their American-born children. On the one hand, the divide between their lives (past and present) may not be so clear, because parents undergo assimilation of their own. On the other, there will always remain some part of the parents' lives that the children cannot understand—in particular, their feelings of loss, sadness, and/or regret. Among the questions I want to explore are: Are these feelings generational (i.e., can they be passed down or communicated), or are they truly inaccessible? Can they be translated through writing (as Lee seems to do in his poem)? Finally, how does being on opposite sides of the immigrant experience impact the child-parent relationship?

I also want to invite the non-immigrant reader into the text, as Lee does through his use of second-person narrative. While I ended up changing most of my story to third person, I kept it accessible by creating a modern day narrator who grounds the story in the present, thus neutralizing any sense of exoticism or mysticism. The divide between speaker and reader is therefore minimal.
Su Yeong Kim
Abstract:
In a three-wave longitudinal design spanning 8 years, from early adolescence to emerging adulthood, adolescents (54% female), fathers, and mothers from 444 Chinese American families reported on eight parenting dimensions (e.g., warmth and shaming) and six developmental outcomes (e.g., GPA and academic pressure). Latent profile analyses on the eight parenting dimensions demonstrated four parenting profiles: supportive, tiger, easygoing, and harsh parenting. Over time, the percentage of parents classified as tiger parents decreased among mothers but increased among fathers.
Path analyses showed that the supportive parenting profile, which was the most common, was associated with the best developmental outcomes, followed by easygoing parenting, tiger parenting, and harsh parenting. Compared with the supportive parenting profile, a tiger parenting profile was associated with lower GPA and educational attainment, as well as less of a sense of family obligation; it was also associated with more academic pressure, more depressive symptoms, and a greater sense of alienation. The current study suggests that, contrary to the common perception, tiger parenting is not the most typical parenting profile in Chinese American families, nor does it lead to optimal adjustment among Chinese American adolescents. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)
View the entire study at http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&id=2012-31072-001.
Like Kim, I want to debunk the myth that Tiger Mothers necessarily engender superstar kids. I believe that the Tiger Mother ideal is not an accurate portrayal of typical parenting practices, and further, that it is a result of fetishization. That is to say, popular media has fetishized Asian mothers into a particular typecast, without the backing of actual evidence. I therefore hope to examine Asian parenting in of itself, without categorization, and without prejudice. Granted, it is not possible to wholly devoid oneself of prejudice, especially as a second-generation Asian American myself. I simply hope to integrate my interviewees’ experiences into my story as honestly as possible, without typecasting my characters or mimicking the stylistic approaches of previous Asian-American works I’ve encountered. Last but not least, I hope to examine what role the father plays in a Tiger Mother family, considering that Kim's study found parental styles to be ever-changing, and fathers and mothers to hold indistinct roles.
Tam Tran
YOUNIVERSE (2010). Digital print. Collection of the artist. © Tam Tran
Tam Tran, a first-generation immigrant, tackles themes of gender, identity, and objectification in her evocative photograph, "Youniverse." The photograph is only one in a series of self-portraits called "Accents," as part of a National Portrait Gallery exhibition. Each portrait in her series distorts and transforms her appearance as she poses against a white wall. I wanted to focus on "Youniverse" because the picture perhaps objectifies her the most: The angle of the photo accentuates her slanted eyes and small mouth (i.e., the Asian ideal); the black lighting, often found in red light districts, evokes a sense of illicit exoticism (perhaps referring to the sex trade prevalent throughout Asia); and her body twists in such a way so as to draw attention toward her chest—all the more emphasized by her rolled-back shoulders and scoop-necked shirt. All in all, Tran is transformed into a highly sexualized China doll. The unlikely proportions (e.g., thin neck, large breasts, and rounded shoulders) further suggest that she may have been photo shopped to achieve this doll-like quality, emphasizing the artificiality of her objectified state.
Ultimately, I want to use this photograph as an inspiration of what not to do—namely, objectify Asian-American characters. Compared to Tran’s photo on her biography page, the figure in the photo is barely recognizable. Her face and eyes are turned away, such that the reader cannot access her emotions, and her shadows hint at a perspective beyond the viewer's reach. Tran thus entices but eludes the viewer at once. She is replaced by a representation that prevents the public from knowing her, and perhaps more dangerously, creates a divide within her own knowledge of self (public self vs. private self). Objectification, as such, does not simply distort the individual; it initiates a process of otherization that alienates the individual from both the mainstream and his or her identity.

In my short story, I address this issue of objectification though the character of Anne. Anne and Melannie are essentially two halves of the same person: Anne is the classic "tiger" child, while Melannie is the "anti-tiger" child who values alternative modes of success. While this black-and-white approach objectifies Anne to some degree, she ultimately complicates the Tiger Mother relationship by acting as "tiger" child, "anti-tiger" child, and Tiger Mother all at once. She therefore overcomes a larger objectification from a thematic standpoint.
David Yi
Just as the Far East Movement remains commercially removed from their Asian identity, I want to look at my interviewees’ stories in of themselves, and not defined against the larger backdrop of Asian-American literature. I want to escape from the obsession—and subsequent festishization—of minority fiction or minority art. After all, what exactly makes a piece of work “Asian”? Can an Asian or Asian American produce a piece of work that is not Asian? Similarly, can a non-Asian produce a work that is Asian? Ultimately, in my project, I hope to create a Tiger Mother relationship that is unique to its specific context—a story that is complex, rather than classical—and challenges the notion of "Asian" literature.
Tessa Thorniley
Access the article at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/mother-tongue/9611215/The-Tiger-Mother-is-a-myth-in-China.html.
In "The Tiger Mother is a Myth in China," an article published in the Telegraph in October 2012, Tessa Thorniley argues that the Tiger Mother figure does not actually exist in China. She claims that most of the mothers she encountered in China were over-indulgent or absent in their children's lives. The children, in turn, were raised by "ayis," who otherwise catered to the children's every need. The children thus grew up unreigned and spoiled—a phenomenon exacerbated by the one-child policy. Thorniley further posits that Chinese parenting has become less strict by looking at the increase in Internet addiction among children in China—a far cry from the restrictive regime usually laid down by Tiger Mothers (e.g., Chua's rule of no plays or sleepovers).
Pamela Druckerman
In this series of blog posts on "French Moms," published in the Huffington Post this year, Pamela Druckerman examines and praises the way in which French parents raise their kids. Interestingly enough, her conclusions both uphold and contradict the image of the French as being relaxed and aloof in their parent-children relationships. On the one hand, French parents emphasize the importance of free time, as it is a crucial means toward childhood development, and reject hurried lifestyles replete with extracurricular activities—the non-Tiger Mother approach. On the other hand, they are firm in saying "no" to their children and can coerce their children into doing things they don't want (e.g., eating vegetables)—the Tiger Mother approach. Druckerman thus paints an image of French parents that both disables and supports their stereotype, for while they certainly exude a laissez faire attitude, they also believe in shaping their children's tastes and creating structure in certain areas of their life (e.g., set mealtimes).
In such a way, Druckerman provides a backdrop against which we can compare and analyze Tiger Mother texts. With French and Asian parenting styles side-by-side, one realizes that parenting methods are in no way constrained to one culture or group. Rather, each "stereotype" is dissolved by its own set of contradictions and complexities. The implicit conclusion, then, is that Tiger Mothers, too, are more myth than truth—an impossible ideal that is dynamic and contextual rather than definite.

Thus, just as Druckerman characterizes the French as complex parents with possibly conflicting methods and aims, I want to look at my characters and interviewees as human beings whose actions do not necessarily correlate with their ideals—who may not even realize the contradictions in their methodology. I want to look at Tiger Mother relationships without condemning or praising them. Finally, I want to dispel the constricting guise of stereotypes and myths.
Though Thorniley's argument is valid and served as a major jumping off point for my project—especially when viewed in conjunction with Kim's study—I found several problems with her article. First, she bases her argument on personal experiences and casual encounters with Asian moms. It is a subjective (and hence skewed) rather than objective stance. Even her own experience is questionable; she has only lived in China for five years and seems to be embedded within a very specific community—one comprising expatriates, "managers and company bosses," and families wealthy enough to hire "ayis." In other words, it is a population that may not feel the same urgency to raise "tiger" kids as, say, a family of laborers whose child is their only means to success.

While subjectivity is unavoidable in my own project since I am working with interviewees' personal experiences and writing from a creative perspective, I nonetheless hope to open up my work to a wider community. I want to address the conflict of interests that arises between mothers and daughters, beyond the context of Asian-American literature or the immigrant experience. At the same time, I acknowledge that Tiger Mothers are heavily rooted in Asian culture. It is with this careful balance of interests that I hope to dispel the Tiger Mother myth, as laid out by Kim and Thorniley, and focus on deeply personal (yet universal) stories, rather than racial or social ones.
"French Mom" Blog Series
Dr. Agnes Ahn
Interviews
Andrew Ahn
Ling Chai
Jing Chai
Challenging the Stereotype
I am Not an Object
Stepping Over the Divide
Full transcript