After Doua Chialy’s rant on Hmong TV, I suppose we need to explore individual sexism as well as institutional sexism. It’s a problematic topic when one discusses individual sexism, particularly because it’s so delusional. I’m going to do my very best to articulate the psychology of the people who participate in hate thought, speech, and actions, but I’d be the first to admit that the mentality of a sexist or racist is hard to try to interpret and understand. What I’m writing here are largely assumptions based on observations in my life and frameworks I’ve read in the past, but I think it should give an accurate picture where Doua Chialy is coming from. I guess it’s best to start with what is most obvious…
1. Doua Chialy’s rant scapegoats women in order for Hmong men to run away from their responsibilities
It’s easy to say that this is all about husbands who want to cheat. Although that might be partly true, it’s not the whole picture. Right now, we’re experiencing a whole generation of fathers and husbands who won’t acknowledge their struggling families and refuse to take the steps necessary to help make their families healthy and functional. When I was forced to play the part of marriage counselor of my parents’ failing marriage, I experienced an odd dynamic. My mother was wholeheartedly trying to make the relationship work. She was communicating clearly, looking for compromise, and calmly engaging with the intention of the working things out. My father on the other hand was lying, making illogical arguments, becoming aggressive, and was actively trying to disrupt any form of meaningful connection and communication. Although it was veiled, it was clear to me he was intentionally disruptive in order to ruin their marriage and our family.
Doua Chialy is also doing something similar. If you listen to his rant, he states he is “helping Hmong men and the community” in the beginning, but the reality is he’s doing the exact opposite. He’s trying to end all conversation, particularly in a confusing and hateful way. The anger, blame, and negativity are all means of trying to hide or avoid something, just like how racist White Americans who want to blame people of color for the problems in society today. Their arguments and ideas are nonsensical, illogical, aggressive, and emotionally charged. Their behavior is more of an act of covering something up, rather than genuine attempt at finding common ground and understanding with others. So if Doua Chialy doing something similar in his rant, what is he and other men hiding?
2. Many Hmong men have committed wrongs that they cannot admit to
There’s many possible things that men can be hiding through sexism, however two always come up when dealing with inequality; guilt and shame. I’ve talked about this concept to a number of friends of all different backgrounds, and they too have seen and dealt with these kinds of fathers. It’s always fathers who were selfish, unsupportive, and mean to everyone, willing to use their position of privilege and power to abuse and intimidate their family to the point of cruelty. They’ve beaten, cheated, and lied to their wives and children. No one in their family trusts them, cares for them, nor is willing to invest in a relationship with them, and these men cannot admit to their mistakes and ask for forgiveness. As these men get older, their children distance themselves away from their abusive fathers. Their wives may support and be faithful to him to fulfill her marital duties, but she is unable to maintain any form of intimacy or connection with him due to his years of abuse and neglect. These men then end up living in a family that neither respects them or connects with them, leaving them lonely and bitter. But why must they be that way?
3. Culturally, Hmong men cannot resolve their guilt and shame with their families
Hmong men who’ve created all kinds of problems in their families and have destroyed all their relationships are stuck in a strange place. Culturally, men are conditioned to act and believe that they are superior to all women and younger people. But that comes with a heavy price; they can never lower themselves to doing something like apologize and ask for forgiveness. To do so, they would become equals to their family members. That issue alone may be the cause of many, many dysfunctional families and relationships. One has to remember that our sexist and ageist culture limits what kinds of interactions we can have with each other. Because of these barriers, relationships between men and their family members often degrade over time. Men get away with irresponsible words and behaviors, and their family members carry hurts that are never able to heal. This eventually puts men in a position where they cling to the culture that reinforces their position of authority and power, but at the cost of genuine relationships to the people closest to them.
On the other hand, men still must maintain the cultural responsibility of being a person of value in their clan. The only possible option then, is to try to bend the culture so that it reflects their escapism, such as to claim that the culture accepts polygamy or that women are at fault for failed marriages and men have the right to remarry. Co-opting culture becomes a means for hiding their own inability to resolve their relationship problems, in addition to escaping into infidelity or a second family. If that doesn’t work and the clan doesn’t support these Hmong men, they are willing to break all the rules of the culture. They create irrational arguments similar to Doua Chialy’s as to why they can shatter their bonds with their family members and community in a desperate attempt to absolve their guilt and shame.
4. Doua Chialy’s rant hides the solution to the problem of men’s guilt, and shame
Well this is pretty much all that inequality boils down to, people who have abused their power and privilege and cannot deal with their shame and guilt, and so commit even worse acts against those they oppress. It doesn’t help much that the Hmong culture is so institutionally sexist, but many weak men have allowed themselves to be corrupted by the power they were born with and oppress their own family members. To stop this problem, men need to let go of their “hwj chim,” or position of privilege in order to reconnect to the community and to their families. They need to lower themselves to the level of everyone else so that they can do simple things like apologize, listen and learn from others, receive help, and be in open and honest relationships with their families and community.
I don’t know what we can do with these men, I have simply cut off my father in my own personal situation. I can’t help him, because he can’t be honest with himself. Although I’m a deep believer in compassion, I have yet to see a process of engaging people who are so thoroughly delusional as to use sexism and oppression as a way of avoiding reality. When these men are dishonest with themselves, it’s extremely hard to communicate and engage them productively. Much the time, they only look for validation of their twisted perception of reality rather than confront the truth of the things they’ve done wrong.
I write this article in hopes that young men might avoid this trap as they start to build families. It’s sad that so many young men hate their fathers for going overseas, getting second wives, or abusing their moms, but end up doing the same exact thing. We as Hmong men can’t rely on the culture or masculinity to guide us on how to be good husbands and fathers, due to men like Doua Chialy who have bent and broken the values in those institutions. Using anything regarding our culture or gender values is a slippery slope towards repeating the mistakes of our elders in oppressing those closest to us. The only way to avoid that trap is work really hard at becoming a decent human being who is honest, humble, and respectful of others, especially his own family.