Musically Ranting, Quote Quest, September Song Project 2

To Unlearn The Asian Way

“So many things to unlearn.” – The Other Me

In honor of the release of Mulan, I felt it fitting to talk about the Asian culture and how I had to unlearn many things that come with it.

UNLEARN CULTURAL HONOR

When it comes to Asian culture, there are a lot of expectations placed on the children. Our actions can either bring honor or shame to our families. For this reason when it comes to dating and getting married, our families voice many of their opinions whether good or bad.

In the song, Honor To Us All, it says:

“A girl can bring her family
Great honor in one way
By striking a good match
And this could be the day”

It infers that a woman’s way to honor her family is to come home with a “perfect” man. This is confirmed in the verse that says:

“We all must serve our Emperor
Who guards us from the Huns
A man by bearing arms
A girl by bearing sons”

Though, this was written about the Han Dynasty, also known as the Golden Age (206 BC – 220 AD), in many ways Asian culture is the same today. In Asia, men go to work while the wives are at home caring for the children. It’s starting to change a bit and more women are putting off starting a family because the want a career. However, in my time in Asia, most of the women I met were homemakers.

There’s nothing wrong with being a homemaker, but there’s still a lot of pressure on the women to bear an heir to carry on their husband’s family name.

My family is often pressuring me to get married and have kids. My future husband is to be financially well off, but young enough to have kids. He shouldn’t be a divorcee and he shouldn’t enter the relationship with kids of his own. Why? Because, if I marry him, this is not the definition of what a perfect family looks like.

I’ve had to unlearn this ideal. If I didn’t, I would have never met lover. He doesn’t fit the requirements of what I’m expected to marry. But he’s kind and gentle, he makes me feel loved, and I love him. Being with him would not be out of cultural honor, but out of love.

UNLEARN SHAME

There are two versions of the song Reflection and both versions have lyrics that are fitting for this.

The Lea Solonga version says:

“Look at me
I will never pass for a perfect bride
Or a perfect daughter
Can it be I’m not meant to play this part
Now I see
That if I were truly to be myself, I would break my family’s heart”

I’m often hiding who I really am from my family and friends. There’s a lot of shame in not saving my virtue for marriage as is the fact that I let people on the internet see my naked body. If my family knew I wasn’t a virgin or if they knew I posted photos of myself, it would break their hearts as I’m not that perfect daughter. I will never be that blemish free bride because I am not a “virtuous” woman. My virginity was taken by a Tinder date while watching Californication so I’ll never be able to give that first time to my future husband.

Shame is such a big part of the Asian culture and we are taught to internalize our addictions. Growing up, we are shamed publicly when we mess up or don’t live up to expectations. Asian culture is one very much so focused on success so not doing well on tests were often broadcasted. It was a way of shaming us to do better. Yet, our achievements never received any praise.

If life was like that as kid, my even bigger “screw ups” as an adult would be even more shameful. Asian parents gossip like no other. “Did you hear the Lu’s daughter got pregnant before she got married?” “Oh I heard that the Yamashita boy got a divorce.” “But the Kims weren’t able to stop their daughter from sinning with the girl she shared a dorm with.”

I have to unlearn shame in order to live the way that I do.

SHOWING FACE

The Christina Aguilera version of Reflection is longer and many points also show flaws in the Asian culture.

“Now I see
If I wear a mask
I can fool the world
But I cannot fool my heart”

I’ve learned to wear a mask. Even on here, my identity is not revealed. Everyone believes me to be the pristine and innocent little Asian girl, but inside of me lives a darkness. I’m not talking about secretly being part of some satanic cult, but there’s a lot of pain that I hold inside of me. There’s a lot of things that many in vanilla life would chastise me for so I hide.

“I am now
In a world where I
Have to hide my heart
And what I believe in
But somehow
I will show the world
What’s inside my heart
And be loved for who I am”

I hide my heart and stay silent about my beliefs. “Asian women are supposed to be quiet and do as they’re told.” Those were the exact words of a man on a dating site. “But here you are refusing to submit to me and obey. How could I stumble on the worst Asian girl possible?” I guess in way, yes, we are taught to quietly do what we’re told. When I would get hurt as I kid, I was told to be quiet and not to make a scene.

I guess that taught me hide my beliefs. But when I met Sir, he allowed for me to show the world who I was with my words. I didn’t have to hide what I believed and I was accepted as I was or so I thought.

“Why must we all conceal
What we think, how we feel?
Must there be a secret me
I’m forced to hide?
I won’t pretend that I’m
Someone else for all time
When will my reflection show
Who I am inside?”

And now, I feel ashamed that I cannot contain my sadness. Many Asians don’t seek counseling because mental health issues are shameful in Asian culture. I walk around pretending to smile, but I’m truly hurting inside. I’ve considered getting help, but professional mental health is not advisable in the Asian community. So I hide how I feel.

It’s something I should unlearn because I shouldn’t have to hide how I feel or who I really am.

Yours Truly,
sass c.

Image from Unsplash

Quote Quest - Unlearn
September Song Project - Unlearn
Musically Ranting - Unlearn

sass c.

i'm just your average girl with a dirty mind. young, asian and submissive...does that pique your interest? constantly in a battle with myself whether to stay confined by my cultural values or to break free like the freak i am.

Instagram: @thesassysubdaily
Twitter: @sassysubdaily

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12 Comments

  1. It’s difficult to un-learn the expectations we are brought up under, even when we recognize how damaging they can be. And it is frustrating that it often becomes such a this-or-that line drawn in the sand. You can’t be accepted by __________ if you do __________. You must be either __________ or __________.

    Asian culture is not the only subset of Conformist Expectations out there, of course. It’s happening more and more, often under the guise of collectivism or with the shame-mongering that goes with “You’re not doing your part.” (Witness: the current state of the world.)

    We all have our chains. They may, at times, bind us. But they don’t have to define us.

    1. Definitely. It’s the reason why I don’t want to continue those patterns of expectations. If I do have kids, I don’t want them to feel the shame or feel like they have to meet certain expectations to be loved like my parents made me believe.

      I guess the American in me wants to move away from that mindset, but it seems like I’m being dragged back into it as now my friends shame me for “not doing my part.”

  2. I get this… from a former evangelical background. I also love how being sex positive, how BDSM, how for me polyamory, all have helped me accept me for who I am and start to unlearn some of those things. Thanks for sharing this vulnerable piece with us.

    1. If the church knew what I was doing with my life, surely they’d try to “exorcise the demons out of me.” I think if my own family knew about this blog or about my “relationships” they’d enlist the church to so which is what makes the unlearning part a bit more difficult.

  3. How long did you live in Asia? It’s so interesting to read all of this and it doesn’t strike me as a surprise, the things you write about the shame in the culture. I hope you can unlearn the shame of being unable to contain your sadness. While I wasn’t raised with an Asian upbringing, I feel a similar shame and often feel like I should just be able to be ok or cope with things myself. It might be a wider societal value that we all have to unlearn. I’m sorry you’re struggling with it right now. I know how hard it can be. We’re all here to support you if you need a listening ear.

    And ps, sorry I had to laugh when i read your virginity was taken by a Tinder date while watching Californication. There’s something satisfying in defying the standards, in my opinion

    1. I didn’t live there, but I visited. I stayed in the rural part of Japan for a few weeks. It seems as though, the Western world is making advancement in withholding shame for somethings, but Asian culture is a lot slower.

      Ironically, losing my virginity also happened on Easter when everyone else was at church haha.

  4. It’s so interesting to learn more about your culture, but I feel sad that it’s also so restrictive. As for the shame of being sad, like ML said, I think that “It might be a wider societal value that we all have to unlearn.” I never want to show my sadness, always feel I have to be strong, to the point where I am too close to a breaking point. And to repeat ML’s words again: we are here for you!
    ~ Marie

    1. With Sir, I didn’t have to be strong. I could be sad and I could show him that I was scared. It’s not something I had with anyone else. I couldn’t even be that vulnerable with past dominants. I think it’s what makes this time harder on me. It’s like I’ve lost the one person I could show that side of myself to. The person who knew all of my fears and doubts.

  5. Fab post, Sassy – thank you for sharing an insight in your culture <3 I hope you find someone that allows you to be that vunerable again. Much love <3 x

    1. Thank you. I hope so too.

  6. This is an impressive piece, what you say and the tie in with the songs. Love the first Christina Aguilera verse. We’ve all got some masks.

    1. Thank you. I think I’m starting to remove some of those masks. Not all, but some.

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