Thursday, March 10, 2011
Raising Asian Boys into American Men in a Western World
I've been spending the last couple weeks obsessed by the question of masculinity and manliness. After a long discussion in a blog post on Asian American masculinity, followed by a growing discussion in a blog post on Asian American manliness (please read the posts, but check the comments on these two posts--I think they're awesome), I and some of the people who commented came to the conclusion that masculinity is a form of strong, fast action oriented behavior, while manliness is a culturally determined set of criteria of what makes the best men. I was happy to see that one of my fellow Rice Daddies blogged on a similar topic way back when. It's great that we're all talking about similar topics that are important to us.
What I think surprises me about the whole topic with regards to my own thoughts, especially as it relates to raising boys, is that I'm beginning to develop an appreciation for structure and how we place our boys in that structure. To be recognized as men, our boys need a place in society to become men and to "act like men." To that end, they need to both define their own masculinity AND assimilate to the masculine ideals of the culture in which they live. An Asian American man like General Eric Shinseki cannot realize his full manliness without being part of a structure that allows him to reach his full leadership potential. Manliness is culturally determined, and the way we become men depends on large part in how we fit into society.
This question of manliness also plays a large part in many of the questions that we ask about how we raise our sons, as well as in many of the questions that we ask about how we view ourselves. The interracial dating disparity, for example. When Asian women who don't date Asian men explain their race preference for White men, they'll often say Asian men aren't manly or masculine enough. Many people who ponder these issues reached the conclusion (correctly) that manliness is cultural, and that perhaps Asian cultures have different criteria when judging manliness.
It's a hard one from our angle. Many Asian American men have been raised on Western standards in school; Asian standards at home. To be fair, these standards aren't all bad either. Western manliness focuses on expression, physical sports prowess, and standing up for oneself. At the same time, there are more typically Asian standards of manliness as well--having the ability to crunch numbers, obligation to family, etc.
What values are important to you in raising your sons? Sound off like a Rice Daddy below!
(picture of Asashoryu from here)