For the Hmong men who need to read this:

Skydaillest
7 min readMar 24, 2021

But you probably won’t anyways because you have better things to do — A conversation

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

Look man, first off, I don’t want this to be a lecture or to empty virtue signal how men should be better. Because we all know that only leads to defensiveness and dismissal and the whole “not all men” jazz. I think what we’ll try to do here is to talk about how the current Hmong men mentality manifested and how we can reflect on our shared Hmong male experience moving forward.

Deal?

And if you wanna league afterwards, my username is: nomnomyoface and I’m a hardstuck silver 4 back when I used to play ranked but I played since launch (I know, right?).

If there any ladies reading this, you’re more than welcome to read along.

With the rising crime against Asians finally get national attention, there has been instances of domestic violence deaths in the Hmong community recently. I’m pretty sure you heard. Just this past weekend, Bao Yang was murdered in her front yard in east St. Paul by her estranged ex-husband, Doua Por Lao. Then he turned the gun on himself and died a coward. You might think how asinine this act would be even justifiable but let's jump into the details that lead to this day.

Reports show that Doua was a raging narcissist, a repeat sex offender, abuser of his wife. They divorced of course, but he never gave up. He was arrested many times, still returning to torment his ex-wife who had seemed to move on without him, even attaining a nursing degree for herself, raising her two boys, and a new boyfriend.

You see, when you see your ex doing well without you, it fucks with you a bit. I’ve been there, it sucks. It just seems to amplify your problems and bruises your ego. Do you think you have an ego? Nah, right? You’re just being.. you? I ask because at a young age, Hmong boys are revered in our culture. We’re tasked to carry our clan names and one day, potentially lead it. We’re raised to do no wrong, well, we sometimes do wrong, but as long as we come home at the end of the day, we’re good.

Photo by Rainier Ridao on Unsplash

We’re valued by merely existing. Some of us are truly ambitious but many of us resort to video games, vices like porn and alcohol, clan parties and ceremonies, mixed with a bit of lamentation of where we aren’t where we wanted to be in life. This is a gross generalization, but you get the picture.

The Hmong women play into this role in our lives as well — our mothers are often referred to as their first male born mother rather than their own name. Our sisters, female cousins and aunts are taught to balance home life maintenance and school work while we’re just reminded not to join gangs. They, in turn, mature faster and are able to code switch into American society better because of this. Meanwhile, our parents don’t mind too much about our Call of Duty obsession because at least, it keeps most of us out of trouble.

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh from Pexels

But you see, that unconditional love shapes our reality of how we view ourselves, and our bubbled world. Some break out of it, some don’t. The problem I see is that some of us view our relationships with women as like with our moms — Unconditional. I have hardly seen Hmong mothers disown their boys, no matter the crimes or violence they commit. Wartime trauma where people disappeared to be never seen again could be the cause. Or the inherent worth as a male is to our culture could be too. Girls will be married off eventually, severing responsibility to the clan that raised them in favor of their husbands clan, furthering lowering their worth to the family at large. This is the way, as Mando would say.

Photo by Michael Marais on Unsplash

In the case of Mai Rue Vang, aka Lily Vang, who’s only crime was being too empathic towards everyone including her boyfriend, Umberto Lo, who shot her to death at 2 am in the morning of March 22, 2021. You may think her something stupid to get involved with someone so violent. But that is the case with many Hmong women who chose to enter relationships with Hmong men to maintain their culture, but also why many more Hmong females are not intentionally engaging relationships with Hmong men because of stigma and entrapment by cultural standards. Being single seems to be the move, for both Hmong males and females nowadays.

But the real truth is relationship love isn’t unconditional, and for relationship to work over time, it must come at a compromise for both people involved. Others realize this early on, others after many failed attempts, but for some it can be earth-shatteringly unbearable. Some of us have this notion that the women we love belong to us. An obsession that Hmong movies have drilled into our heads about your first love being your last and any detraction from that is adultery, even if the women are no longer are active in the relationship with you. You broke up with me, I didn’t break up with you, they say. Love is unconditional, and on our terms. Heck, we even have cultural/religious rules that help prohibit divorce in our culture. Want to divorce me, they’ll say? Well, say bye-bye to your actual soul when you die.

A typical Hmong movie cover

I’m sure the clans came up with this marriage system to maintain Hmong society back in Southeast Asia. A dysfunctional family unit is still a family unit and the clans needed able bodied male clansmen to navigate and barter deals with other clans for resources while the women kept everyone fed and produced offspring. But the Hmong clan system falls short here in America, land of the free. Hmong women have rights and freedoms beyond our wildest ancestors’ dreams. Because of the extra strain we put on the young Hmong women, it seems to be the perfect catalyst to handle the collegiate workload, catapulting them into masters and doctorates degrees in record numbers. Some of us Hmong males meanwhile, barely made it out of high school and that high school graduation might be the only educational achievement we receive for the rest our lives, if that. Now what? It seems to be the consumption of popular media that inflates our egos even further without repercussions because the Hmong women of our lives will continue to forgive and cater to us.

What I’ve been explaining to you this entire time is how patriarchy works. I know, I know, it’s the phrase these liberal fancy pantsy college educated Hmong females have been throwing in your face for awhile now. But what they fail to realize is how do you tell a Hmong man to dismantle the patriarchy, when he doesn’t even know what the word means? Don’t they understand its the duty of blue collar Hmong males to to be stalwarts of Hmong culture? How tough that position can be in spite of the acculturation we’re facing with every passing generation? They need to be taught, they need to be subdued, how out of pocket these females are. Nobody respects the old ways anymore, you clamor. It’s because this patriarch system is antiquated. And as we become more educated and aware, we as a people can finally see the cracks in the system as unjust and obsolete, and develop new ways to promote gender prosperity within our community to continue to pursue the Hmong American dream.

But the biggest takeaway from all of this, my dear Hmong male reader, is that no one will ever love you as much as your own mother, because you are of her flesh and blood, and no amount of gifts, pleas, persuasion, manipulation, coercion, abuse, and murder will make that a reality. No matter how much you don’t want to believe it, you will always arrive at this same conclusion. The sooner you realize this, the sooner you break from the delusion you’ve been living your whole life. And start to value your own masculinity for what it’s worth — To take charge of your own life and not be a victim of false validation, but to hold yourself to your own achievable expectations and actions. It’s scary because most of us haven't been raised that way, but I promise you it will pay off if you work at it.

If we Hmong men are to inherit any sort of responsibility for the the course of our own Hmong culture one day, why not choose a progressive future where all, men and women, can benefit so we all can prosper and thrive. Because right now, it feels increasingly like the role of the millennial Hmong man is to be the shining embodiment of the toxic pride of Hmong culture and the role of Hmong women is meant to weather it, some with their lives.

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