Friday, April 15, 2011

Who Loves More, Parents or Children?


(Also posted at bigWOWO)

I caught an interesting dialogue on parental love at Daddy Dialectic and Hugo Schwyzer. In the original post, Jeff at Daddy Dialectic writes about Sam McBratney’s children's book "Guess How Much I Love You," where an adult rabbit and child rabbit frolic and take turns making statements about how much they love the other. Whenever the child makes a comparison, the adult makes a bigger comparison. So for example, in the original book McBratney writes:
"I love you as high as I can reach," said Little Nutbrown Hare.

I love you as high as I can reach," said Big Nutbrown Hare.
Jeff from Daddy Dialectic writes:
Am I the only one who thinks the adult rabbit, like the father in the scenario I laid out at the beginning of this post, is a bit of an asshole? Aren’t the adult rabbit’s constant moves to up the ante on the little rabbit evidence of an ego that’s out of whack? Even when channeled through professions of love, this kind of behavior doesn’t feel particularly tender to me. In fact, it seems to me that the adult rabbit’s answer to the question of how much love it has for the little rabbit should be, “Not enough to restrain myself from besting your every move.”
Hugo Schwyzer read the book differently, and so did I. As Hugo points out in his blog post, it's natural--within this society at least--for parents to love their children more than children love their parents, and he read the book as a comparison of the asymmetrical love between parents and children. Hugo writes about the hypothetical burning building question. Who would you save if you had to make one choice--your mother or your daughter? He says that he would save his daughter, without question.

What I found interesting was what he wrote here:
One of the great truisms in contemporary therapeutic Western culture is that parent-child love is always uneven, or should be. Unlike the love between spouses, where equal affection and passion is the ideal, a parent should always love a child more than the child loves the parent. I know perfectly well that this is not a universal cultural ideal, though I frankly wish it were. It’s not a two-way street: we give to our children unconditionally not to receive the same level of devotion in return, but to equip them for their lives.
Of course he's right when he says that it's true in contemporary Western cultures, but the question then arises...is it true in contemporary Eastern cultures? And is it true in older more traditional Western cultures?

I don't know where I got this from, but somewhere in the back of my head I remember someone asking the same hypothetical of a burning building to a Chinese man. He answered, "I would save my mother. Why? I can always have another daughter. I only get one mother." Granted, this guy may have come from the old culture where people had kids in order to have someone to take care of them in old age, the "traditional 401(k)," and there isn't a right answer that applies to all families--some modern parents, Asian and White, would be risking their lives to save the family antiques and jewelry before either daughter or mother. But what do we know about parental love from a cultural angle?

And fast forward to today: is there a cultural movement for Asian Americans to express love for their children? And what do you think about the original story?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Geena Davis on the Effects of Gender Inequality on TV and in Movies



In today's issue of the Wall Street Journal, Geena Davis talks about why she founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and how gender inequality on television and in movies has a powerful impact on kids. I couldn't find the following quote in the video, nor on the WSJ website, but it appeared on page R11 of today's print edition:
The more hours of television a girl watches, the fewer options she believes she has in life. And the more hours a boy watches, the more sexist his views become.
She also goes on to say,
Negative images can powerfully affect boys and girls, but positive images have the same kind of impact. We know that if girls can see characters doing unstereotyped kinds of occupations and activities, they're much more likely as an adult to pursue unusual and outside-the-box occupations. I really believe that if you can see it, you can be it.
She says a lot of great things in this interview, and none of this is news to us of course. But I post this here in the hope that we can see her initiative as an example of how Asian-Americans might approach the Writers Guild, Animators Guild, and the Casting Directors Guild. I'd like to think that if we presented the facts derived from such research, then perhaps we'd be a step closer to advocating for positive, non-stereotypical portrayals of Asian-Americans in the media.

Imagine if we applied her sentiments to the portrayal of Asians in the media:
The more hours of television a young Asian-American child watches, the fewer options s/he believes s/he has in life. And the more hours a white kid watches, the more racist his views become.
Negative images can powerfully affect boys and girls, but positive images have the same kind of impact. We know that if an Asian-American child can see characters doing unstereotyped kinds of occupations and activities, they're much more likely as an adult to pursue unusual and outside-the-box occupations. I really believe that if you can see it, you can be it.
With that in mind, I hope you are all aware of www.racebending.com and their campaign to avert the whitewashing of the live-action version of Akira.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Canine Dad

Cross-posted at Noraebang

I'm not just a dad to girls. I'm a dad to a girl dog.

A lot of dog owners wonder why Korean dog owners raise such delicious, eh, I mean highly successful dogs. They wonder what these dog owners do to hone so many brilliant dogs, what it’s like in the homes and kennels of these families, and if they could do it, too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things that my dog, Boshintang, has never been allowed to do:

1. Have a doggie sleep over

2. Not go to the doggie park

3. Whimper about having to go to doggie park

4. Play any sport other than swimming, running, frisbee, or ball

5. Whimper about not being able to play any other sport

6. Eat cheap-brand food

7. Whimper about not eating cheap-brand food

8. Watch any TV other than Dog Whisperer

I’m using the term “Korean” loosely. I know some Jewish, Australian, and German dog owners that qualify too. Conversely, I know some Korean dog owners (particularly in the vapid pod culture of Seoul today) that are not KOREAN dog owners. Dog owners come in all shapes and sizes; particularly lazy ones, who tend to come in round shapes.

Some dog owners who think they’re being strict are actually being pretty lame excuses for dog owners. For example, we encounter many dog owners at the neighborhood dog park who think they are pretty good at training dogs, but in reality they gives up training when their dogs don’t respond after a few times.

“Well, maybe the dog is just tired today.”

“Well, maybe he / she doesn’t like doing that activity.”

For Korean dog owners, that’s just not good enough. Dog does, or else. Soup time. We never give up.

Despite our reluctance and gruffness in response to “don’t Koreans eat dogs” stereotype, we just look at the stats of Korean dog owners versus Western dog owners. Western dog owners want to be their dogs friend and nearly 70% said that they don’t think stressing good behavior in dogs is a good thing because it takes away from the dog’s playfulness. In contrast, nearly 0% of Korean dog owners felt the same way.

Dog is NOT my friend. I am alpha dog. Dog is my bitch.

Additionally, Korean dog owners believe that doggie excellence is a direct reflection of dog owner excellence. If the dog doesn’t do things successfully, then there is something wrong with the owner. Korean dog owners spend nearly 10 times as long per day drilling dogs into ball retrieving machines. Dogs raised by Western owners are more likely to chase their own tails in circles, or sniff other dogs’ rears for endless amounts of time in a thing Western dog owners call the “getting-to-know-you” game.

If Boshi lingers too long at the poop chute of another dog, she hears a loud “Boshi, leave it!” She is expected to turn her nose at the bouquet and trot back in order to retrieve yet another ball.

What Korean dog owners understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. Games are for losers who earn participation awards. This requires a certain mental fortitude in the owner because many dogs will just turn their noses and refuse to fetch. Some will look at the obstacle and refuse to jump over it, or worse, some dogs will just refuse to sit. But, the persistence of the dog owner in making the dog accomplish these tasks will eventually lead to the dog earning praise and thus becoming a happier dog because it is receiving praise for doing something well. This in turn makes it easier on the dog owner to take the training to the next level.

Korean dog owners can also get away with things that Western dog owners can’t. For the most part, people at your local dog park speak English and maybe some Spanish. Since these are commonly understood languages, you can’t easily say anything mean-spirited under your breath. But, Korean dog owners speak…you guessed it: Korean. That means we can tell our dog things that nobody else will understand. In fact, we might even mumble something about your dog under our breath in Korean that will make you wonder if we’ve insulted your dog.

바보!

And, we’ll be looking in your general direction while pointing at your dog to make you wonder if we’re talking about your dog, you, or both you and your dog.

We are often ostracized for calling our dog names in front of other people, and some dog owners will just walk away quietly and remove their dog from earshot. However, some dog owners will become confrontational and will reprimand you for treating your dog in such a poor manner. They’ll claim that you must be softer and gentler with your dog. Meanwhile, their dog is humping another dog behind a tree.

Korean dog owners can demand the dog to do something. Western dog owners can only ask their dog to try their best not to screw things up. Korean dog owners can brag about all the tricks and things their dog can do. Western dog owners can only make excuses about how their dog “just won’t listen” or “doesn’t like to play that way” or “has never been good at ball.” Western dog owners will forever question their own dog-owner skills and quietly persuade themselves that they’re not disappointed that their dog can’t do back flips to catch a ball in midair.

Most Western dog owners are concerned about their dog’s self-esteem. First of all, a dog is a dog. A dog’s self-esteem is tied to it’s ability to do things. If you treat it like a poor helpless creature, it will begin to act like a poor helpless creature. On the other hand, Korean dog owners believe that dogs are resilient and tough animals. Korean dog owners assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.

For example, if a dog can’t perform a trick after a few training sessions, the Western dog owner will still praise the animal for trying their best, but most likely will then enroll that dog into a doggie training school. Then, when the dog earns a graduation certificate for completing the doggie training class the Western dog owner will again praise that dog for doing its best. If there are problems that persist, the Western dog owner will challenge the dog trainer that they hired for incompetence despite having to hire the dog trainer in the first place for their own incompetence.

If Boshi ever didn’t do a trick right or didn’t listen – which would almost never happen – there would first be a very low angry yell which would crescendo into a ear-splitting scream. Then, Boshi would be forced to sit and jump over an obstacle again and again until she got it right. Meanwhile, everyone else at our local dog park would stare at me expecting demon horns to sprout from my head.

Korean dog owners demand so much from their dogs because they believe their dogs can deliver. The Korean dog owner believes that their dog is tough enough to take the constant training. Secondly, the Korean dog owner believes that their dog owes them everything.

Boshi, you bad dog. I rescued your lonely dog butt from the pound. You must obey and you must repay. When I am old and can barely walk, you will pull my wheel chair and bring me soju. This is the Korean way.

Third, Korean dog owners know what is best for their dog and can therefore override any wishes or puppy eyes and begging a dog may give. Western dog owners will often say, “well, it’s just a dog.”

Not an option.

At the local dog park, we encounter Western dog owners all the time.

Many of the dog owners are sweet people. That doesn’t always mean they’re good dog owners.

But, many of them just give up or have an attitude of confusion when it comes to their dogs. They don’t understand why their dog won’t always listen, or why their dog won’t do certain things.

There have been many times where I’ve had to step in and tell a dog “NO” because its owner refuses to step in and discipline the dog. A passing dog owner remarked “Bet that dog’s never heard that word before.”

I’ve been scratched in the middle of a dog fight where I reached in and put the dog down on its side until it calmed down. When Nae Yujah asked if I was okay and if the dog bit me the owner, who was starting to slowly walk over after I had already diffused the situation said, “Our dog doesn’t bite. He has papers.”

Just the other day a woman with two small Schnauzers in the big dog park wouldn’t tell her dogs to stop yipping at the big dogs who were rolling around wrestling and playing. Finally, I sat down next to her and just started disciplining her dogs until they started to bark less and less. One of them even jumped up on the bench next to me and sat down. Did the owner say anything? No, she just sat there with a feeble smile on her face.

I’ve grabbed dogs, pulled dogs, disciplined dogs, and yelled at dogs of Western dog owners who do things in their lazy “but my dog is my best friend” attitude. I’ve particularly found that this applies to Western dog owners with small dogs who see them as no threat. Yet, big dog owners are just as culpable.

One couple brings their dogs to the park regularly and continues to try training their one dog to drop the ball. Snow Girl just walks up to the dog and the dog drops the ball in front of her. Nae Yujah walks up and demands the ball and the dog will drop the ball. I’ll walk up to the dog and he’ll sit, lie down, and drop the ball as he rolls onto his back. All of this without me saying anything.

They are amazed that we can get the dog to do these things. They’ve called me “dog whisperer” to which I shrug off. I watch that show because he knows what he is doing. He demands respect, and he gets it.

But, I’m no dog whisperer. He has that title.

I’m more like Dog Dundee. Without the big knife. Without the goofy hat. And, I’m Korean, not Australian. And, I don’t wear leather pants…look, just forget the analogy.

I’m like the Korean Dog Whisperer.

But, I shrug off the their comments because it isn’t about watching the show as much as it is about knowing you can control the dog. The dog must obey.

I don’t believe in babying a dog. I believe you have to prepare your dog for the future and any obstacle they might have to encounter. Boshi needs to understand that she needs to be prepared for different waves, different lakes, and different lands. She needs to be able to sit, lie, and fetch in any situation. She needs to know how to jump over walls or jump over hedges. If I don’t prepare her for the unknown, then how will she survive if she ever gets lost?

Some people don’t understand this and will claim I’m just being too harsh, or I’m overly praising myself. I’m just trying to explain what I do as an Asian dog owner that works. Don’t criticize me. Don’t hate.

It’s not like I’m some Tiger Mom.