Yesterday, we had a panel of three Hmong Concordia students come in to speak to us about their experience as immigrants. They described how they came to the United States, their heritage, and how they view their role in both American and Hmong cultures.
Something that was really reinforced in their discussion was the importance of family and community in the Hmong culture, which we have heard from many sources about the Hmong. Even though all of the students were from families of varying degrees of traditional culture, all three of them espoused the importance of the family. It was evident not only in what they described about their families, but also what they said about their goals in life: to help out the family and other Hmong people.
I thought it was really interesting how different the three students were from one another. Xang seemed much more Americanized, Xia was more in between the two cultures, and Pa Houa seemed the most traditional of all. Not only were their positions different, but their views of their positions were different as well. Even though Xang was the most Americanized, he seemed to be the most eager to become more Americanized (with independence, financial stability, etc.). I saw Xia as in between the two cultures, but she wanted to stick to her Hmong roots because she was brought up that way. Pa Houa was the same way. It was unexpected that the girls wanted to remain close to a culture where they perhaps have less power than men do. However, I can understand if the girls saw that they were brought up well (in not being allowed to go out and having to help the family), then they would want their children to be brought up well also. Of course, as we saw in the discussion, perhaps Hmong women have much more power than we might expect! I ended up seeing the Hmong culture less as one that makes women less powerful, but more as one that gives men and women very different roles with respective powers. Still, it's a little hard for me to break from my Western views of men and women, and because of that, I do think that women have more power in American culture. This, of course, brings back discussion from The Middle of Everywhere about how American culture does not respect women and other cultures do. This is very interesting to think about...we may give women more power in Western culture but not respect, whereas other cultures seem to respect or honor women but not give them as much power.