"Tiger Mom Says" Allows Asian American Community to Share Experiences Over Laughter

"Tiger Mom Says" Allows Asian American Community to Share Experiences Over Laughter

When Amy Chua published her editorial "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior," the reactions were, to say the least, quite mixed. Chua's detractors vilified her as an uptight woman attempting to justify her egregiously harsh parenting practices through the success of her daughters, while some came to her defense and cited how her editorial was but a fraction of a larger publication which provided a more comprehensive explanation of both the forces which led to her parenting skills and the repercussions of such. The opinions which lashed out at one another definitely rang in 2011 with a bang, and continue to raise questions regarding proper parenting, identity politics, and competition among youth as the year reaches its halfway point.

For the Asian American community, Chua's memoir (and the subsequent buzz) takes on a more poignant tone. Reactions to her methods are characterized with a great degree of ambivalence, particularly because for many members of the Asian American community, Chua's rules which said no to extra-curricular participation and mandated three-hour practice sessions for violin and piano represent lived experiences. Though there is no guarantee among the community that such practices reap positive results academically or professionally, the trauma is definite: People may agree or disagree over Chua's actions, but the Asian American community cannot deny that the "Tiger Mom" is a definite phenomenon that continues to play a dynamic role in the development of Asian American youth, for better or for worse.

Rather than perpetuate disagreement among the community regarding what role (if any) the Tiger Mom should play within the Asian American family, many second-generation Asian Americans have in recent months found a new avenue to vent their frustrations over this phenomenon - the internet. Many bloggers have used this information super-highway to provide their perspective and to dialogue. Even Chua's daughters themselves utilized the internet to provide their perspective on the matter (and to prove that Chua's parenting did not completely sap passion out of their lives). Most recently, the "Tiger Mom Says" meme has gained traction as a humorous way of creating community via reflecting on the history of lofty parental expectations.

The directions are simple - craft a funny yet relevant two-liner which calls to mind how unrealistic the Tiger Mom's demands are and paste this two-liner over a picture of the anonymous Tiger Mom, whose unimpressed expression stares daggers at her audience. Memes such as "Salutatorian? Latin for 'First Loser'" and "Minor in English? Double Major in Homeless" serve as quick jabs that conjure up years worth of memories for many Asian Americans - but in a manner that allows the community to laugh at the situation rather than rehash feelings of deprecation. Other memes which feature a White "American Mom" feature two-liners such as "C's? Still get degrees!" and "You did your best! Who's Up For Ice Cream?" to provide a stark contrast and critique the supposed differences in White/Asian parenting from a comedic standpoint. The end result is utter hilarity through a lens that is somehow simultaneously critical.

It is still worthwhile to question what the Tiger Mom means for the troubled Model Minority myth which has plagued the Asian American community for decades. This myth, which assumes that Asian Americans trump over all American ethnic minorities due to their work ethic and preference of academic and economic prosperity over all other ideals, has come under intense scrutiny even in recent years, as budget cuts to higher education lead many to question what sort of merits get students into top colleges. As the memes in Tiger Mom Says indicate, these merits must reach astronomical proportions. As politics, education, and ethnicity reach a crucial nexus, it is nevertheless a sigh of relief that the Asian American community, bearing the brunt of familial expectations and identity politics, is capable of taking that which has been expected of them and turning it into something that the community can share with one another.


Tiger Mom Says can be found at this website.

June 7, 2011
by Maria Scarzella Thorpe