Episode 002 is up and ready for you to listen and discuss. In this episode our guest Chong Vang joins us for a conversation about the Doua Chialy Her videos, the different responses to these videos we’ve seen, the conversations about violence against women and girls we’d like to see and have going forward, and naming the new patriarchy. Below is a list of links for those who want to learn more about the stuff we mentioned and talked about.
- Bambu – The Queen is Dead
- 3 Stereotypes About Asians That Prevent These Domestic Violence Survivors from Getting Help
- How to Help a Loved One Who’s Being Abused By Their Partner
- On Gender, Masculinity and Rape Culture
- Against Patriarchy: 20 Tools for Men to Further Feminist Revolution
- How Violence Against Women Hurts Men (And 20 Things Men Can Do About It)
- What Raising Our Daughters Can Teach Us About Rape Culture
- 6 Ways to Talk to Your Son About Male Violence and Healthy Masculinity
- 10 Tips for Talking About Sexual Violence With Your Sons
- A Simple Feminist Parenting Tool to Use Today
- 7 Steps On How to Be A Good Ally
- 5 Tips on Being a Proactive Ally
(Intro: Qeej music playing)
Mim Xyooj: Welcome to Hoochim. Today is July 17, 2015. This is Mee.
Sandy Oh: Hello and this is Sandy.
Paj Huab Hawj: Hi, this is Pa.
Linda Hawj: Hi and this is Linda.
SO: We are four Hmong girls talking about things that matter, such as–
LH: And today we have a guest joining us.
Chong Vang: Hi, this is Chong.
LH: So obviously this week our Facebook newsfeed have been blowing up with Doua Chialy and responses to him, right. So at first, you know, I–I had conversations with some Hmong men and Hmong women around what were my thoughts and reactions to–to him. I had chose not to watch the video because this is nothing new to me, this is nothing new that I did not experience or hear or learn or see when I was younger. And now it’s just more public because of gaining access to the media, right. I chose not to watch it because I don’t want to feel the sadness or this pain because it’s really hurtful. You know, it’s very sad. It’s very also violent verbally and triggering or traumatizing in my experiences as a Hmong woman especially as a Hmong queer woman. And so I chose not to listen. I also have been observing and reflecting around how people have been responding to his video and it made me really think around people made this look like or seem as if this was like an individual incident. Again, this is not an individual incident. I’ve experienced this. I’m sure, in the conversations we’ve had, you all have experienced this. I think that it’s because of the practices and the values that are instilled in patriarchy, misogyny, and sexism that we have experienced in my reflection from when people are talking, it seemed more like people weren’t talking about it. People weren’t talking about the violence against Hmong women, the violence against divorced Hmong women, or women who’ve–who don’t fit this typical or gender role of a wife, or married, untainted. And so, what I’m trying to get to is that I feel that this and I experience the discourse of Hmong community around gender, sexuality is lacking focus. And it’s more reactionary. When I say that this is nothing knew, you know like we’ve seen a lot of murders that Hmong women have shown up in the news and everyone was all upset around the the violence against Hmong women, domestic violence, and then it died down. This incident of Doua Chialy is nothing new of people reacting.
PHH: So to give a synopsis, a very general synopsis of what Doua Chialy has said, for our viewers that are not on the internet or not on Facebook. Pretty much what Doua Chialy said in his video that went viral a couple days back was that uh Hmong divorcees and widowers, they’re the way they are because they’re not good people. And the reasons why they’re not valued in our communities is because they’re these horrible people who have no morals and they go out and they cheat and they ask for more money than what their husbands make for child support. And they’re the reasons why men are going overseas to marry young Hmong Laos women. Young Hmong Laos girls. And that, essentially, Hmong women are disposable and that if one doesn’t work out they can all pool in money together and go and marry another wife. And so that was the very general gist of the conversation.
LH: I wanna go back to what you said around the disposability of Hmong women. That–that should be more of a focus and conversation that we should be having, a concern, conversations I’ve seen happen on Facebook or conversations I’ve had with Hmong women and men or people, where it seems like it’s just between Doua and the people who are against him. People who are making it seem it was an individual incident where there’s this selective memory around traditional practices or the modern practices of the family dynamics or treating women that everybody seem not to be accountable that the violence against Hmong women doesn’t happen in their homes or our homes. And that it’s just this Doua guy. I’m more concerned around how we’re having this conversation where it seems to focus more around this debate or these two men, like the good and the bad, versus wait like how are we actually viewing or valuing Hmong women, and highlighting the verbal violence that we’ve seen took place against Hmong women. And I think there’s a loss of focus on that.
SO: Yea, I agree with the idea of the larger picture is being missed because of social media’s obsession with this individual’s rant, and people’s obsession with another man’s reaction to another man, is that, again, the violence that’s happening to women in general. Whatever Doua have said has been said to women all their lives. I know my mother told me to learn how to do dishes and be a good wife so that I won’t get sent back or won’t be a divorced woman. So the fact that no one is realizing the real, real experiences of Hmong women and they’re so obsessed about this one guy is actually very hurtful to the overall conversation about women and the Hmong community.
MX: I think he’s put out what two videos now, three? He has gone on this rant about what we would consider traditionally a very vulnerable group of women. Women who are not tethered to men. Women who do not have male protection. They are divorced, their husbands have passed away, or they are women who are deemed undesirable in any sort of other way. So it seems that this rant was about this traditionally really vulnerable group that now has power, or is in a position to create or get power for themselves without the help of Hmong men.
PHH: So the very first video: his rant. The second video, a Hmong woman actually called in and agreed with him and said, oh, like all the things that you’re saying are correct. And then the third video, which happens to be his apology video, right. He just apologized for not being very nice and people signed the petition. They demanded an apology and they got an apology. So I’ve been listening and I’ve been watching sort of the conversations that’ve been taking place on Facebook and maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am surprised, and the thing that really bothers me is that we’re so focused on him, as if like what he’s saying is like this new radical thing that’s like never been heard before. We, when I say we, I’m talking about like us Hmong women, right. And we’re so offended, and this is the first time. Like how dare anybody like degrade us. But I think back to my childhood and I’m sure my childhood isn’t unique to any other Hmong person’s childhood. I remember having a cousin who was divorced and my parents forbidding me to like hand out with her because she was a Hmong divorcee. And Hmong divorcees have this stigma, right. They’re easy and their loose and you know so there’s that and then also like the idea that our parents essentially groomed us and they tell us all the time, you are disposable, these are the certain things that you have to do and if you don’t do them then like your husband will send you back home and he will go off and he can marry another person. So this is something that is nothing new to me and nobody, nobody on social media has talked about this and to me that’s really surprising like or that the conversation isn’t about, how can we come together as a community to talk about these issues and to make sure that further generations or even our kids are–aren’t faced with these certain stigma and this message, right. Nobody’s talking about that. We’re treating this message as a brand new message and we’re all really offended by it, as we should be, because this is the first time we’ve heard it.
SO: From reading the comments and reading the reaction to this video and to people who are calling him out, I am actually really surprised that women are calling for men to address this, or–or not addressing it. Like you said, Pa, like it’s–they–they’re reacting as a brand new thing, they want men to address this or address him, have a debate with him. And then they mentioned like a men’s group to have a debate about this when there are plenty of women organizations out there that have done work on women rights issues, particularly in the Hmong community, who can easily have this debate this individual if there was going to be a debate. Because I know they all signed this petition and he apologized. So I guess there’s a victory there. What I’m saying is that uh why is that we’re so fixated on men to address our own problems. A man humiliated us, now we need a man to save us.
LH: Public reactions around where we’ve seen domestic violence where Hmong women or wives have been murdered and the public had reactionary and then are talking about like violence and then that news piece dies down and no one talks about that anymore until like the next couple years when that happens again then they’re like all up in arms about it. And through all that there are a lot of Hmong women or organizations and a few Hmong men who are doing this advocacy work and speaking to address the violence in the community, yet in this incident you know with these selective memories where Pa as you’ve said, everyone’s talking about it like it’s new. There seems to be this lack of accountability or amnesia that this thing has been taking place in our community, this current situation, a lot of people are reacting the same again, and I wonder months from now will it die down. What kind of accountability will everyone have? Because this issue is happening in our community. It’s affecting all our homes and our family members and our friends or individuals. And I’m really concerned around how we are calling on to one person or a group of people to take care of this issue that impacts all our communities. And going back to the thing about how like the value around patriarchy, how we’ve been socialized, traditionally or culturally, in the ways that we act such as gender roles that are very heteronormative and in where when Hmong women who’ve been speaking about these issues, it seems like oh, you’re complaining or it’s a petty thing or oh yeah that’s really important but I’m not gonna jump on board and help do the work to address this. But when Hmong men talk about this, or that there’s this expectancy for Hmong men to fix this, I feel that, and I think that that’s very concerning if that is our reaction to this current issue. That is not new. And I wonder where everyone who’s made comments, who’s supporting, who’s against Doua, where will they stand or where will they move, or what will they do themselves–in their homes, in their community–to end, to address, to hold accountable people in their family to not say the things that Doua said? There needs to be more than this social media public arena reactionary.
CV: So I wanna point out somethin that the community is very reactive to what Doua Chialy has said, right. And what Doua Chialy had said isn’t sexsist; it’s mysoginist. it’s not sexsist; it’s mysoginist. Okay, it’s misogyny. It’s violence against women in a very subtle, passive, kind of manner, right, ‘cause he’s just sort of saying this with his words, not really doing anything about it, right. But I want us to think about Hmoob men who continue to remain silent about this issue or you know, lack action or continue to perpetuate the same narrative that Doua Chialy has been perpetuating, right. This is the basic foundation of sexism. Doua Chialy by himself is misogynist, okay, he’s a misogynist. But Hmoob men not doing anything, collectively, together, that upholds the system of sexism, right. And honestly, because these systems, these pillars of sexism are held so well that it can not help itself but just manifest into like our institutions. Right, like our marriage institutions or academic institutions or you know uhm institutions that you know decide uhm laws and policies, right. And the unfortunate part about it is that when sexism manifests itself on an institutional level, I don’t think a lot of people realize this but when that happens it reflects in the policies that target and disadvantage women and girls. And I don’t want us to wait until that happens to be reactive about it. I want us to be proactive to prevent that from happening in the first place.
SO: And to go off what you’re saying, Chong, with if men who are silent or men who–who come on social media to join the bandwagon, saying that they’re against this person, but however in their private lives, they support what Doua have said, but in a more subtle and more flowery way. You know, I have a friend who was against what Doua wrote, saying that, you know, it’s not a Hmong men; it doesn’t reflect me. But it does reflect you because you are perpetuating it by saying it does not reflect you. ‘Cause you’re not acknowledging the fact that this is very real for Hmong women and that we hear this on a daily basis. Like I wonder about these men that I’m friends with who are against what he wrote. Do they even take a step back and realize that they actually support everything that Doua have said? It might not be as blunt and as really disgusting as he said it but they support it. I mean they hear it. They don’t say anything about it because it’s the norm.
PHH: Yeah, so I’ve watched a lot of people on Facebook talk about this, obviously, right. What I find really interesting is how we women, like how we’re talking about it, right. And how it’s a us versus them, right. Yes, there are definitely some of those kind of women, and they exist, but we are not like them, right. And then I think about the movement that’s like going on Facebook right now, right, the like Hmong women standing together uhm hashtag movement. I believe that’s what it’s called. I acknowledge that, and I think that has a lot of power, and I think that that’s great, but for that to be the vehicle that separate us from this, I feel like that’s you know I feel like it’s wrong and I feel like we’re like diverting from the issue, right. We’re masking it with something else and for me I find that problematic, yeah. There’s a lot of Hmong women on Facebook who are saying, really think about your status and like if you don’t fall into that category then this shouldn’t affect you and if you’re not a divorcee or if you’re not a bad person then this doesn’t affect you. We’re also policing each other and that’s really real. My mom listened to it and my mom’s like, why are people so offended? What he’s saying is true. So I think that the younger generation that is very reactionary towards this, and I think that there’s an older generation–like I had an uncle who’s like, yeah, like I don’t know why people are offended like what he’s saying is like true and like it’s what we tell our sons and it’s how we use to police our daughters, you know.
MX: So can we go back to the hashtag that was started in response to these videos? I guess I’m not all that familiar with it and if you guys can describe what’s sorts of stories are attached to these hashtag.
SO: Uh, I don’t know the backstory of the hashtag. However, I can tell you the majority of the content basically emulates the We Are Hmong 40 year exhibit. So all the successes. So that’s basically all those women are posting is all their success. They have collected degrees. Uh, they have–they hold high power jobs. And even though some of them are part of the other but they have collected all these degrees and hold all these high power jobs.
PHH: I think the idea of the story or the idea of the hashtag is to counter what Doua has said and to sort of dispel the myth, right. That all divorcees are bad, right. And so–so a lot of these stories are meant to be inspiring, you know. I’m a mother of four. I was married when I was fourteen. I was expected to be the typical Hmong wife. But through perseverance and you know self will power I went to school and was a full-time mom and was a full-time work and have a BS in computer engineering. And now I have–I’m the first Hmong–I don’t know–computer programmer in Silicon Valley. That’s not anybody there, but it’s very general like that. And so for me, I love reading this–these and I think that these are all very inspiring stories. I don’t want to take that away from them, right. But at some point it becomes like a talent show and the viewers that are reading, that are liking these posts, that are commenting on these posts, we become the judge, right. It becomes–at some point it becomes that. And for me that’s very problematic, right, on one hand. And then I think about the things that being written and I wonder if then they are able to like bridge what Doua’s saying as a message that’s like nothing new to all the obstacles that they had to overcome, right. These obstacles are the very same thing that this guy said a couple of days ago. I wonder if people are then able to make that connection. And if they aren’t, I then go, ok, well, am I crazy ‘cause I can make that connection. But why aren’t people able to make that connection?
SO: I read a few of those bios. They’re pretty much bios. Yes, Doua did say bad things about divorced women, basically perpetuating the stigma against divorced women and widows–those who are without husbands. Again like Pa you said these women are coming out on here and saying, oh well you know if you’re not them, you’re not these bad women, then it shouldn’t affect you. But I also feel like that dichotomy that people are trying to perpetuate that uhm separation, us and them, I feel like these bios are also creating that us and them. Like if you don’t have these credentials or if you’re–you’re in the same spot but you haven’t overcome and attained all these credentials, then you’re not good enough to be hashtagging this.
PHH: I think about my mother who’s really–was a real strong woman, too, right. And who doesn’t have a degree and who doesn’t know how to speak English and who doesn’t know how to write a complete sentence. But she’s also this really strong person. You know, I think about those ladies. And it becomes really problematic when there’s a separation, right. The us versus them, and the we and–and the them, right. I’ve been looking at these bios and I’ve been reading a lot of them and it’s like, look at how white I’ve become, right. Like, the whiter you are, and the less Hmong you are, the further removed you are from the situation. And to me that’s what it perpetuates.
SO: Not only the bios perpetuate whiteness but also the pictures. Business suits, straight makeup, well groomed. That’s like, white.
LH: The social media hashtag, you know, some of them can become like these movements, right. Or some of them campaigns, pretty much like countering. What I would like to see, the responses to Doua, the hashtags to Doua, or the hashtag just because they want to uplift the positivity of Hmong women–what I would like to see is now we’ve created this foundation or this campaign–and you know I’ve worked on campaigns and it’s very short and it’s working towards a goal. Now that we’ve achieved these goals by uplifting a group of women, debunk what Doua had said, what do we do after? What are some of these action steps? Do we actually now address the violence that are inflicted on women? What are Hmong men doing besides arguing against Doua? What are everyone’s individual actions or commitment? And I hope the folks who either are reacting, or creating these campaign, creating this conversation to end these sexism and misogyny against Hmong women to continue to be accountable, to actually have community conversations, or in their homes. At the end of the day, those who are not Hmong women divorcees, or widow, or not married, or those who are not Hmong women can walk away from all of this violence, can walk away from these stigma, can say their piece and walk away. So what are we going to do after the situation cools down?
CV: So, yeah, I wanna–I wanna touch a little bit on what Linda had said and what everybody else has said too and then uhm I also want to go back to talk about this idea of what a Hmong man should be. And–And how that idea manifests to I’m different than Doua Chialy is. I’m different than him. I encounter this argument a lot. I was hosting a workshop last year at my school and it was a workshop about sexism, misogyny and really like drawing out those experiences from the women that were in the workshop. And one male, in particular, got very upset at me when I had you know continuously been targeting and scrutinizing the men. So let me explain what I did. So I had the men sit in the middle and then I had all like the women or anybody that was female identified sit around them in a circle. And then the men, I–I told them to put away their cell phones, I told them to sit down, sit cross legs, you know treat them like little boys. I gave them like tools. I gave them like hammers and nails and screws and things like that, right, to hold onto and because it was going to be a part of the exercise. I also cut out some little pieces of sentences and statements that I wanted the young men to say when it came to their turn, right. So what happened was the young men who were sitting in the middle of the circle had to read their statement and hold up their tool. And it goes something like this. With this tool I can go out at night without fearing that someone will kill me, rape me, or sexually assault me because I am a male. And they were supposed to say that and it was really shocking for a lot of these guys that they didn’t realize that that was something they do, like, they could go out at night without ntshai ntshai, tsis muaj dab tsi ntshai na. It triggered a lot of emotions you know within the group within the workshop, right. And as a result of that you know going back to what I said, one of the young men got really furious because I was–I kept on treating them like they were little boys and you know making marginalized right because that was a part of ex–whole experience. And he told me, not all men are like that. I’m not like that. So you need to make sure that you say some men only. Or refer to those men only, right, ‘cause not all men are like that. I wanna break this down to what I often hear is Hmoob gay men who also say this. I’m surprised that in the light of the situation, right, that I’ve not seen a single Hmoob gay male say anything, or have done anything, or plan to do anything about this, or have been doing it in the past or whatever, right. Like I have not seen anyone and it’s the same narrative. I’m not like those straight men. I’m different. I have friends who are females, women. I love my mom, I love my sisters. Okay, cool, I’m glad that we have some sort of shared experiences that we love women as gay men. But particularly gay Hmoob men have to realize that at the end of the day lawv tsis yog ib tus ntxhais Hmoob nyob hauv peb lub Hmoob community no. At the end of the day lawv yog peb ib tug tub es nws yog Hmoob. Txawm koj gay, koj tsis gay, whatever, at the end of the day koj yog es tub nyob peb lub community es koj yog Hmoob na. Koj tsis yog ib tus ntxhais Hmoob na. So kuv xav kom cov es Hmoob gay men know the difference between these two things. Yes, we share a common experience of being subordinates, having been cast as effeminate, or subordinate. But there’s a between what my sister goes through and what I go through. And what we both go through is not related to each other at all. And so I just wanted to you know explain a little bit so most Hmoob men do not understand that the root of like homophobia in the Hmong culture is not about like the sexual practice itself. It’s also not about being in an intimate relationship a partner of the same sex. It’s not that. The root of homophobia in the Hmong culture is the fear that Hmoob men, or men, will lose power and control over Hmong women and girls. I never realized that until I had a conversation with a Hmong woman and she told me that. She told me that they don’t have a problem with gays and lesbians and all those sexual minorities, but they have a problem when they lose control over women and girls.
LH: Going back to, everyone is like, yeah, let’s speak up against Doua. Or let’s create a campaign to uplift Hmong women. Those will be the small steps, but what you said there, Chong, is the actual that we need to address, that is not being addressed. And I fear that it’s gonna be the same thing again, like I said earlier, the incidents in the news, in our homes. Hmong women are murdered, killed, and then people reacting to that and say, we need to end these violence. Or, it’s because she cheated or she wasn’t behaving that’s what she deserves, what she did. That ends, next couple of years, same thing. And then now this event happened. Everyone is now all up in arms and being selective around this real life experience can continue to exist without even addressing, acknowledging this is the reality that we live, and then very sugar coated feel good way uplifting–which I think we need–but there needs to be multiple fronts or multiple steps happening at the same time or happening one after another by the folks who are calling an action to end these sexism and misogyny stereotypes of Hmong women. It’s about time that we actually address these root causes and not react and feel good and celebrate. Because when we celebrate we actually don’t address the struggle that we’re currently living and going through and that is the most difficult part that we need to do. We need to talk about what is accountability for each and everyone. What is transparency when this is happening. What are we committed to? Is this just going to be a short campaign, short sighted goal, and we achieve and there’s victory and all of a sudden we succeeded, we–we made Doua apologize, and end of story. It’s about time that we continue this momentum but actually address the root causes of the values that we have, the silence we have when we see these things happening, and develop those conversations, develop examples, or develop ways of knowing and talking about this because it’s–it’s really hard to talk about this but we need to start.
SO: I agree. Before even addressing, I think the Hmong community needs to acknowledge that this happens in our community because people don’t want to acknowledge it. Like how they don’t want to acknowledge that racism exists. They need to acknowledge the fact that what Doua says happens so that we can move forward and address it. If we’re willing to address Doua, we need to address the issues that he’s talking about and acknowledge it.
PHH: I feel like when we celebrate our success as Hmong women we’re not holding men accountable and we have a history of not holding Hmong men accountable for anything, right. And I feel like we’re perpetuating that history and that is really problematic. Yeah, Sandy, you’re correct. Before we move on we need to acknowledge that this is something that’s been ongoing, it is ongoing, uhm, what he’s saying is nothing new, and find ways to have healthy discussions around this, amongst ourselves as Hmong women and then also to bring in Hmong men and hold them accountable so that they can be held accountable. I listened to one of the reaction video that was put up and this individual said you know, I can’t believe you, like, how dare you like encourage Hmong men to go overseas and marry 16, 17 year-olds. You’re not a real man. A real man would not do that. A lot of WTFs came out ‘cause I’m just like, yeah, it happens all the time and yeah, he’s telling people to go overseas, but by you not acknowledging this happens in our community and that maybe not in public but behind closed door, Hmong men are high-fiving each other and talking about their trophy wives from Laos like, by you not acknowledging this, you are the problem, like you are the problem. And how do you define a real Hmong man? Does he uphold a western ideology and I wonder what a real Hmong man is. Because as far as I’m concerned, Doua’s real. I mean, he has a heart, it beats, he’s been able to make kids. So he’s completed the Hmong circle of life. You know so like what is a real Hmong man?
MX: I think also we’ve been looking at this person as like a shameful relic of the past that doesn’t exist currently. And we–we think that we’re progressive, and we’re liberal, and we’re quote unquote feminists, and we’re quote unquote allies, and we’re quote unquote educated, and we’re beyond this and. But I–I want us to think about how we continue to participate willingly, unwillingly, knowingly, unknowingly, in these systems of oppression.
LH: Yeah, Mee, I agree with you. I think that this is the new patriarchy in this we are conscious, educated, and we’re beyond this relic of an old man who’s just something of the past. But isn’t Doua our father, our grandfather’s age? Don’t we know someone’s dad who agrees and wants to go abroad to bring home a wife? I want us to think and be more critical and asking more questions and holding our own selves accountable. How will we take some of those and critique ourselves, assess ourselves, so that we can further understand, are we actually participating in this? In what ways? Is this the new patriarchy that we are participating in but then we’re creating this image like no, I’m–we’re totally not like that because we’re so progressive, we’re educated, we’re beyond Doua, we speak against him so we must be for Hmong women but at the same time how often in a month or the year do you actually support Hmong women who are marginalized? How intentional are we having these conversations?
CV: Yeah, I wanna–I wanna touch on that, too, about this new patriarchy. I feel like it should like be like a t.v. show or something. The new patriarchy.
LH: There’s actually–There’s actually a song by uh a Filipino rap artist by the name of Bambu who has this song called “The Queen is Dead.” He talks around how a lot of the men who are calling their female partners or mothers as queen, but also participating and perpetuating in patriarchy in a very subtle way. This new patriarchy. So he says the queen is dead. Don’t call them queen if you’re just going to treat them like bitches and hoes.
CV: You know I’m–I’m glad that you brought that up because that’s a really, really great way to transition into what I wanted to talk about because the problem is we’re so focused on these two guys battling one another. And for me it just looks like an argument of who has the bigger dick. I do or he does. It really is a childish, boy battle, sib qw, tham li ntawd xwb na. And I don’t care about that. I want to talk about the gender-based violence that actually takes place. What Doua Chialy has claims, those are actually gender-based violence that Hmoob women and girls experience, if not on a day-to-day basis have experienced or will experience. And so, the thing is, this new patriarchy still wants to control and dominate Hmoob women and girls. Many of the ways that it chooses to do that is through gender-based violence and I’m going to pick on specifically because this one impacts me as a individual because I have experienced it myself and not only that but I also know victims and survivors of it too. And I want to talk about rape. We know that rape is a weapon of war. When war happens, rape happens. It’s inevitable for rape to not happen when a war takes place. And so, rape serves as this very effective of domination, conquer, and divide. It’s a very effective tool to do that. And so I want us to think about how rape impacts that idea. Historically, we know that Hmoob men have gained access to power during the war in Vietnam through women. And when we talk about rape as a weapon of war, that means that when you conquer women you conquer the whole country. And so with that, you know, in talking with Linda earlier and Linda really wanted me to share something that I had specifically said. So there’s a quote, when women wake they move mountains. And if that quote is actually true and you have used a weapon of war such as rape to conquer their women, that makes you invincible-like. And I just want to reemphasize that this is the image that we have created for women, that they are these things that make our society who we are. Yet at the same time, we’re okay to dispose them, dispose them at our use. They’re replaceable. They’re objects that we can use to pleasure ourselves or cook for us or do our laundries, or things like that, or bear our children. And we have to move away from that because that contradicts our values that we have about our people.
LH: Yeah and I you know I want to talk more about how we as Hmong Americans or Hmong people understand gender or sexuality. These traditions or values or these histories that we claim but at the same time we don’t know very well. And that, you know, we’ve been talking a lot around Hmong culture or the experiences or these values that are really deeply instilled in misogyny and patriarchy, devaluing Hmong women. At the same time saying, oh no, we don’t devalue women. We–we love women but at the same time, uh, go cook for me ‘cause that’s your job. Pretty much defining what they should do at the expense of what you want to happen. I think that we should be having more conversations about this, putting the focal around cultural practices, Hmong scholars, educators who critique or investigate the traditional practices and the modern practices, that they–they have been trying to understand how we as Hmong people in America are perpetuating, experiencing patriarchy, these ways of living. Yet, I think that every day people who don’t talk or study gender and sexuality or race or class, that these campaigns or these conversations that are happening on Facebook or social media, how do these affect me and not just like oh those people? And so I want us to focus more around talking about how we participate in this and how we can also be the ones to stop this from happening.
PHH: I think the thing that’s really like really important right now to be critical and to ask ourselves these questions, right. And how can we further this conversation, right? So–so he’s apologized, now what, right. So what happens when we’ve collected all these of Hmong women? What do we do with them? How do we bring it back to the topic, the gender-based violence? You know, how do we do that? I think we’re not doing that and I think we’re not asking ourselves these questions. And I don’t know if it’s because it’s not time yet, or that we need a gatekeeper to say, guys, it’s time, right. Like, you know when I first heard this I was like, we should be asking ourselves how we could change this you know message. I have younger siblings and especially sisters that are younger than me, and I don’t want them to be afraid of getting out of a bad marriage if it’s a bad marriage because of the stigma that comes with being a Hmong divorcee. Or like I don’t want my parents telling my brothers that wives are disposable and are easily replenished, right. I don’t want my parents to tell my brothers that and I don’t want my sisters to feel boxed. So how do I go about that? How do we as a Hmong community go about making sure that our siblings and that we and our friends don’t feel like this?
LH: Yeah, Pa, what you said is really true. True in where it’s so difficult to imagine where we can actually have those conversations and I do know some–some folks who do have these intentional conversations with their parents and have shown their parents or their parents have come to an understanding, oh yeah, that doesn’t make sense. That we–we should continue to limit our daughters. I keep going back to, how do we move beyond decentering the issues at hand when we see this happening? Which is in our everyday lives, right. Do we have the courage? But when we do have the courage, do we know what words and what ways to have this conversation or to continue having these conversations? It’s difficult and I think a lot of people don’t know how to because in order to change what you said earlier, our parents telling daughters, giving these messages that their disposable, how do we change the ways that we talk to our daughters? How do we change the ways that we talk to our sons? We’re waiting for gatekeepers to create this change because I think that we’ve been doing that; we’ve been waiting for a leader or leaders to take lead. We let them do all the hard work and go through this process of understanding how to end this but we ourselves are not even a part of that process to unpack or understand what ways that we need to do, whether it’s when we have children we don’t treat our daughters and sons differently because either they’re–they’re girls or boys, trans, lesbian, gay, bisexual. What are we committed to in what way are we practicing? Are we having conversations? Are we trying to changes these practices that we’ve seen exist of the different treatment of Hmong daughters and Hmong sons, as well as Hmong women and Hmong men.
SO: I agree with the both of you, Pa and Linda, about you know having conversation within our own circle and talk about very real topic. However, I come across this a lot because I have this conversation on a normal basis with people around me. I have people said to me, you know, Hmong women are leaving men–Hmong men behind. We understand that Hmong parents love their sons more than their daughters but, you know, they’re getting educated and then Hmong women are dating outside their group or they’re becoming gay ‘cause they’re no longer want to be with the Hmong men because they’re no longer desirable. But then that’s critical thinking. You know like if we’re asking people to think critically, what does that mean and what does that look like because what I’ve said right there, saying that Hmong women’s leaving Hmong men behind because of all of these sorts of crazy reasons, that’s critical thinking to some people. Because that individual person has argued with me that that is critical thinking. And I’m like, how is that critical thinking when you’re like creating this image of a particular gender in our community–a picture that is not true ‘cause only in the eyes of a man that you see that they’re leaving you behind. And yet you truly believe that that’s critical thinking.
PHH: I think that that goes back to not–men not having any accountability. I hear that all the time too and to me it’s like well no Hmong man can do no harm. And that no Hmong man are at fault for anything. And if you go out of out of a Hmong man, it’s not because of him, it’s because of you, it’s because you don’t love him enough, and it’s because you aren’t willing to support him. And so it’s you. And so this history of not holding Hmong men accountable is a long history, right. We perpetuate it. We practice it. By default, because we are Hmong daughters, we are at fault for everything. And so how do we dismantle that? How do we say, hey Doua Ly, like here have some fucking accountability. Like, it’s not your ex-wife’s fault that she left you, it’s because you were a horrible person. Like have some accountability. And how do we say to them so that they get it? I read Facebook statuses from like ManForward and they have no fucking accountability. Everything is like, oh yeah we realize that we have power, like we realize this and we want to give you power, right. Like, but it’s like, no, we’re actually the problem. Yes, we realize we are the problem. We are the problem. There is no fucking accountability when it comes to men. And I think it’s in our culture, it’s a thing that we practice, and that’s the thing that gets me, this thing that’s happening right now in our community. We’re holding no Hmong men accountable for any of this. Even arguments within ourselves as Hmong women and then like the larger conversation too. We’re not holding anybody accountable. It’s like, oh yeah, well you know, if we’re not like these Hmong girls then peb txhob khib. Or, cov txiv neej mus li no los yog tim peb, right. It’s like it’s always one of those two things and I think that we need to move away from that conversation.
MX: I agree that most of my experience has been the same, right, similar. But I do want to also be positive and (laughing) talk about some of my–some of my other experiences like with relatives and in talking to like other older Hmong men who are not related to me. And some of these conversations have been, yes, Hmong women are leaving Hmong men behind because Hmong men are not holding themselves accountable for their behavior. They acknowledge that. There’s nothing further than that but there is that acknowledgement. I’ve had conversations with relatives who are like oh koj tseem tsis tau yuav txiv os? You know, and they assume I’m–I’m straight and they’re like oh, you know, yep, I know it because you know–when Hmong women, when they hit eighteen, lawv paub lawm os and lawv tsis kam yuav txiv lawm na. So I’ve had lots of these conversations with relatives. With some of them there’s just no, oh, you should get married anyways or whatever; they get it. And they think, well tough luck to Hmong men who are getting left behind. They have no solution.
LH: Yeah, I wanted to share my experience uhm an–and Chong and I have talked about this. Being a Hmong queer woman, even though I’m queer my parents see me as Hmong woman and daughter. And so, I had this particular conversation with my mom ‘cause I had–when I had came out to them I had left to California and lived there for about like three and a half years and came back–during this one conversation she had said, koj mus los lawm na, tsis zoo rau koj koj yog tus ntxhais na. Yog ib tus tub los txiv neej nws mus ua lwm yam los li cas na nws rov qab los txog peb Hmoob tsis hais li cas rau nws, tsis xav li cas rau nws. Tiam sis koj yog ib tus ntxhais lawm. Yog koj mus zoo koj rov qab los lawv yeej hais lus tsis zoo rau koj na. Yog koj mus koj ua phem koj qab los lawv yeej hais lus tsis zoo rau koj na. I got so upset because these are the messages and experience the majority of my life as well as in the community or extended family. Whether they’re saying it from a place of love or protection of my reputation, we see it as you’re hurting me or et cetera. But at the same time our parents are the older generations, or person’s perspective, their values of women, it’s completely different. And so I got upset and I told her that I left home because I felt that there was no space or love for me because I came out that I’m queer, lesbian. And when I left you should know–and this was also the time when I actually had this personal conversation and informing my mom my life in the past three and a half years that–I went, I didn’t do drugs, I didn’t kill anyone, I didn’t do anything bad. I went to school. I had two jobs and I was living, trying to understand myself as an adult, as I’m growing. That’s been sort of my experience and conversations with my mom around my gender or sexuality. And so Chong and I had talked about our experiences as Hmong gay men and Hmong lesbian woman that even though when we were both younger, Chong was able to experience his sexuality because he was assumed to be this Hmong boy, straight, and have all this privilege of not being policed when he leaves out the door. And when he goes he can have this freedom or this access to develop himself in ways to experiment or do whatever, go work, learn to ride or drive a car, or et cetera. But for me and my experience as a Hmong lesbian, as a young woman, that normal, hetero and gender roles in our community impacts me as a Hmong lesbian in ways where I couldn’t fully develop myself. I couldn’t stay after school if I wanted to play sports. I wasn’t able to learn how to drive a car until I–I was 27. And I couldn’t, you know, even though I had crushes on other women or even pre-gay days, having crushes on boys, I couldn’t go out on dates. I couldn’t develop myself as a person that’s what I’m trying to get to. And it hindered me a lot because of the values of sexism, the policing of Hmong women and girls. I just wanted to share that sexism, misogyny, and patriarchy in our culture it doesn’t just limit to heterosexual straight people but it also impacts us with different sexualities. And also highlighting how we hinder the development of our children or people–Hmong women particularly, and Hmong girls–uh when we police them.
CV: Linda, I really agree with you with that and I’m glad that you brought that point up. Because as ib tub es nyob hauv lub es Hmoob community no na, I have choices that you don’t have. I have way more choices than any ntxhais Hmoob nyob hauv lub community would have. And right now I’m guessing that ntxhais Hmoob nyob lub community no they have two choices. You can put up with the shit that they’re giving you or you could put up with the consequences of leaving the shit that they’re giving you. You choose one or the other, right. For me, I can walk out the door and be like, no, I’m done. I can close my eyes and pretend to sleep and you–you–you would tell me what happened and I would be like oh, I’m sorry, I was asleep. I can deny and erase everything that had happened Hmong women and girls if I wanted to because I have many more choices than a lot of the Hmoob daughters that nyob lub community no na. I think it just starts out with a very basic things that parents didn’t give their Hmoob daughters when they were growing up that they just blindly gave to their Hmoob sons, right. Like for example, support. They give that to their Hmoob sons but not their Hmoob daughters. Another one would be trust, particularly with their body. Like Hmoob parents trust their Hmoob sons with their bodies, that they can go out and their body will make it back here in one piece. But until today, my mother still cannot trust my sister with her own body. It’s not my mom’s body it’s you know my sister, right. It’s her body. And my mom still cannot trust her body. And she still calls her wherever she goes you know nws nyob ntawm qhov rooj ntsia nws thaum nws ໄປ hauv tsheb. Nws nyob tos kom nws los txog tsev nws mam pws. Which, you look at it you’re like, oh, such loving things, right. But it’s annoying. It’s like she doesn’t trust my sister with her body. And then you know the last thing is, dignity. Women–Hmoob women and girls need to be given dignity. They need to be given respect for who they are. And that’s just you know the basic fundamental thing that you need to do.
LH: That is very true what you said, Chong, where we don’t trust our daughters or Hmoob women. And we police them. We don’t trust them when they go on a date or they even go with like women friends because there’s already assumption or this fear that oh my gosh, you might go and get pregnant. Or someone will rape–a man will rape you. The focus so much have been around policing or not trusting, defining how a Hmong woman should be that there’s absolutely, again, no accountability, no way of knowing, no way of practicing in the family dynamics or the culture around holding Hmong men accountable. When we talk about rape we always talk about, woman, don’t get raped. But we never talk about, man, don’t rape. We never say, men, or son, don’t do this, don’t do that, because it’s gonna harm Hmong women and Hmong girls. And we lack this conversation, accountability for Hmong men, Hmong sons but we spend all our energy trying to protect–whether it’s said through love or fear–we continue to view Hmong women as this fragile thing but then also demand them to become this like superwoman in the kitchen or at work or at school and we–we need to shift our focus, our priorities, or the ways that we look at Hmong women, Hmong men.
CV: So I think our accountability as Hmoob sons are to challenge ourselves on a day-to-day basis, to a 24-hour truce that ensures no Hmoob women, girls, or daughters, nieces–Hmoob daughters, right, will not face any type of gender-based violence. I think that’s what our accountability is on our end is to hold ourselves on a day-to-day basis to achieve a 24-hour truce that no Hmong woman that we know in our community will not face any gender-based violence. And you know that’s to take risks, to speak up. To say, hey, no, that’s wrong that you said that and that’s not okay. To stop your dad when he tries to beat up your mother. To talk to your mother when she tries to police your sister to come home early and have a curfew on her. To have a conversation with your little brothers that rape is not okay. That whatever you seen in porn or heard from your friends, that is not okay. The okay thing to do is to ask her if she wants this, to ask her how she’s feeling, to check in with her, to have consent and communication. And so that’s what I think that Hmoob men can do on their end. And I think they need to do this without the help of Hmoob women. They need to activate themselves and each other without Hmoob women trying to save them because I think Hmoob women don’t need to do this and they don’t deserve this and they don’t have to do this. It’s not their fucking problem to deal with. They got their own shit to deal with.
SO: When a woman holds a man accountable, there are other women backing that man up for his actions. And that’s somethin that I don’t know how to deal with or but then I feel like maybe we as women need to hold ourselves accountable for perpetuating patriarchy and perpetuating the power and privilege that men have over us.
MX: As much as men benefit from patriarchy, women are also very invested in patriarchy, especially if we represent the most desirable of the pack. Then we are super invested because we have all of these privilege bestowed to us from men.
LH: Yeah, we need, as–as women, identify as women, we ourselves need to hold ourselves accountable, too, as we talked about, not policing other women. I saw recently that there’s this circulating post around this Hmong woman who is a–a victim of rape and had decided to come out and talk about this but there were a lot of comments from other Hmong women and men who were questioning if she actually got raped. To prove how she got raped. Decentering her experience by saying, well it can only be validated if it went through court. Again, these are the real life experiences that we need to check ourselves and hold ourselves accountable and think about we’ve been participating in this Hmong cultural practice and the–the Hmong culture is very embedded instilled in patriarchy; valuing men over women in these ways that we have talked about in the past hour. And that we need to be conscious of the new forms of patriarchy that are existing in our progressive life. What uh Chong has said via Facebook particularly around how Hmong women are being called poj laib or thugs, but really it’s just we’re divorcing ourselves from patriarchy and misogyny. So you know you can call us poj laib or thugs as much as possible but we’re divorcing ourselves from patriarchy and misogyny.
PHH: So go forth Hmong men and have some fucking accountability. This is it for our second episode and we hope that you will come back to our third, our fourth. And if you have any questions you can email us at hashtag dot hoochim at gmail dot com. Again, h-a-s-h-t-a-g dot h-o-o-c-h-i-m at gmail dot com. We’re also on Facebook at Hoochim, h-o-o-c-h-i-m. You can find us, like us, tag us. You can find us on Twitter at hashtag, the real hashtag, Hoochim. Again, hashtag h-o-o-c-h-i-m. Uh, we look forward to hearing from you and until next time.
(Outro: Nyob zoo.)