Gender & Sexuality
When reading Saechao’s research on Iu Mien women, I begin to make correlations with the struggles of womyn all over the world who have to deal with patriarchy. Although all womyn experience sexism differently, in Saechao’s research, we can see how Iu Mien are affected by multiple oppressive axes of power. Two aspects I think Saechao does well in highlighting is how race and gender both play a part and manifests itself in all of the disadvantages Iu Mien womyn face on a daily basis. Their education is hindered, agency and autonomy limited, their possibilities for personal social mobility anchored by the woes and chains of an oppressive patriarchal, patrilineal, and patrilocal society. On top of this, Iu Mien womyn have to experience and navigate through the overt and subtle oppressions of a white patriarchal society.
This oppression can be seen in Kelly Loves Tony as she tries navigating her Iu Mien identity and her educational aspirations which can be seen as a very white notion. As seen in her narrative, Kelly is reprimanded by Tony, her husband, and his mother, her mother-in-law. They act as anchoring forces that inhibit her ability to completely adapt to her situations because they come as a package with large stains of patriarchal power, gendered analysis and perceptions of what it means to be a woman, mother, and daughter-in-law. In contrast to Kelly’s almost matriarchal upbringing (considering how her father died as a result of the Secret War), this directly clashes and causes problems for the couple—as seen through their argument about how she doesn’t cook and neglects their child. Although Kelly tries her best to balance the multiple systems she’s a part of, we can see the downward trends in terms of her education, their family socioeconomic income, and role as a mother as she is forced to conform to her expected roles. Her second pregnancy serves as a sanction to her expected in-law’s perception of Mien culture.
In addition to these oppressive images portrayed in the film and in the Saechao article, a point that was really heart wrenching for me was the article about the Vietnamese mothers and the history of abuse. This connects to our ideas of normalized struggle and the themes that have hurt so many of our mothers, sisters, and ancestors. The fact that there is a whole foundation dealing with these issues (Mother’s House) also signals to the issues of the SEA community. Unless we deal with our notions of patriarchy, these issues will still persist. We need to find a way to create and make a feminist masculinity to deal with this.