Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: norms

Every culture has jerks

One of my pet peeves is when people excuse abuse by citing culture. “That’s part of the culture” is valid for many tihngs, but not when it comes to abusing another person. I was reading a post on Ask A Manager with the question from a reader asking if they could thrive under a hypercritical manager. My immediate thought without reading the post was, “Yeah, but only if it’s for a evry short amount of time and you have a very thick skin.”

Then I read the post and became more concerned with each paragraph. The ltetter writer (LW) started by saying they were in a competitive technical field and had always been great at it. Until this boss, whom they call Jane. LW said that they knew Jane was just trying to coach them, but then went on to say that Jane made them feel like a complete failure. Jane said their work was 95% good, but LW felt as if 95% of the feedback from Jane was frustrated, critical, and accusatory.

This was when I started to get concerned. I mean, I was already biased in the beginning, but the first few paragrpahs did not paint a pretty picture. “She doesn’t really give positive feedback” cemented it for me. I didn’t actually have to read any more to know that the boss was a lost cause. It got worse–so much worse.

LW’s colleagues told LW that they would never work with Jane and that she made them want to pull their hair out. She’s made many people cry, including the LW. It broke my heart that the LW was trying so hard to be fair to their boss, who was crushing them under her foot. The ysaid they had lost their motivation, their creative spark, and was their self-worth.

I related so hard to this because of my parents. I will get to that in a second. There was one comment about how it might be cultural difference and blah, blah, blah. Obviosuly, I did not agree with this comment. The person claimed they worked with people from 50 different cultures and that French people, for example, were like tihs, more interested in pointing out errors. Someone who acutally worked in France said, no, they were blunt, yes, but not cruel. Another person working in France said that they had a boss who was like this and she got fired.

And it’s interesting that the person making the initial comment of that particular thread was not French (they were from New York). It’s a form of soft bigotry that is annoying as hell. When someone who is not part of a culture broadly stereotypes that culture and ignores evidence to the contrary–even when it’s a purportedly positive stereotype–it’s still bigotry.

Side note: It’s similar to ow Asian people used to be called the model minority and praised for being smart, quiet, and obedient. By the way, there was a time when people used to gush about how smart Asians were. I used to snap, “That’s because oll the stupid ones are in Asia!” Which I would not say now because it’s cruel, but my point was that for East  Asians who came here in the 60s, it was for grad school. It caused a brain drain back in Asia ,and many of them didn’t go back.

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In the name of tradition

I’m always fascinated by traditions because I don’t get them. I mean, I get what they are and that they exist, but I don’t understand why they are so important. my mother once impatiently snapped at me, “Something being traditional doesn’t automatically make it bad!” To which I replied, “It doesn’t make it automatically good, either.” She did not like that at all.

My father has twice commented on me getting married. Once, it was whten we were at my cousin’s wedding (horrifying because she lost both her first AND her last name. And the pastor said that the most important thing for a wife is to be loved, but for a husband, it’s to bo respected. And he compared the wife to a rice cooker. AND he said that the husband should make all the decisions because he could be trusted to make the decioson that is the best for the family. After the wedding, another cousin of mine and I were talking about it. He said that if the husband loved the wife, he would make a decision that benefitted both of them. I said if that’s the case, why couldn’t the wife make all the decisions? Presuming that she loved her husband as well. He looked flummoxed and managed to sputter out, “Tradition”. Not an acceptable answer for me), and my father said that he didn’t think he could ‘give me away’. I managed to repress a full-body shudder and say evenly, “Well, I wouldn’t do that if I ever got married, so you don’t have to worry about it.” What I wanted to say was, “What makes you think you would be the person I would ask to do that if I were so inclined? Which I am not because it’s antiquated, sexist, and gross?”

The second time was after he visited a castle in Banff, Canada. Apparently, they rented out a room for weddings. I know this because my father mentioned it and said he would rent it for me if I got married. I looked at him in horror. It was as if he didn’t know me (which he did not). Again, I had to repress a shudder. A castle? What the fuck did he think I was? A princess? That was so unlike me, it actually creeped me out. The idea of me in a castle was horrifying. That was the exact opposite of my jam, and anyone who had even a rudimentary knowledge of me would realize this. But this is the same man who offered my brother a sports car if he married a Taiwanese woman, so there was that.

This is to show that his idea of weddings was sexist as fuck and very traditional. I had no desire to get married and even if I did want to get married, I would never do it in a church or a castle or anything like that. I would probably go to the Justice of the Peace and just do that. Or elope. But I have no desire to marry. I honestly don’t see the point. This is just me, and I’m disparaging other people who do want to get married.

I don’t understand how it makes the commitment greater. Especially since so many people get divorced. I know people don’t go into marriage thinking they’re going to get divorced, but it’s a big possibility. I read somewhere once someone who reviewed their vows with their partner every five years. If they agreed they were on the same page, they updated contract and agreed to review it in another five years. I get that it seems too clinical and cold for some people, but it makes sense to me.

I also don’t think relationships ending necessarily means it’s a failuure. Same with ending friendships. Some relationships just run their courses, and it’s the best for everyone involved to call it a day. I guess I just don’t understand the need to spend thousands of dollars (the wedding I mentioned above was $100,000) for one day.

I do understand about wanting to celebrate a new milestone in your life with family and friends. But I don’t get why people get so caught up in it if it’s not exactly the way they want it to be. Like, isn’t the rest of it (the marriage itself) way more important? From what I’ve heard, you don’t even remember most of the day beacuse it’s such a blur.

I read about all the people (women, mostly), who get so caught up in every little detail. There’s a reason Bridezilla is a thing. But, it’s also because women are expected to care about this kind of thing. Not just for their wedding, but in general. Women are judged so harshly for how they look. Too fat, too skinny, too hot, too dowdy. Too made-up, too granola. There is no just right because that’s the point. If you can keep women constantly trying to live up to the ideal vision of what a woman should be, well, then they may not notice the inequity or have the wherewithal to fight it.

Plus, from the time they are little, girls are told that their worth are in their looks. I have mostly stopped reading Slate’s advice columns both because the advice itself is horrific, but also because the commentariat is, well, terrible. But there was a recent letter from a man who did not want his wife to get their baby girl’s ears pierced. As in three months or so. The vast majority of the comments (including from the columnist herself) said that this was normal–having a baby’s ears pierced, I mean. I was horrified. I know there are cultures that do this, but this was mostly American people who did it ‘just because’.

It really bothered me on many levels. One, why only the girls? That’s inherently sexist. Two, it’s so needless. why not let them choose to do so when they are older? Yeah, this is partly because I have had so many piercings get infected, but there is jsut no reason for this. It’s purely decorative, and it’s not letting them have a choice as to what to do to their bodies. I was aghast at how many women (and, yes, it was mostly women) just glossed over all this. “It’s cute” is not a reason to punch holes in your baby’s ears.

They tried to defend it by saying that it was easier to keep the holes clean in a baby than make a preteen do it on her own, but that’s not the point. If that’s the case, why not give them a belly piercing and a lip piercing while you’re at it? Or tattaoo eyeliner on their eyes? I am not shocked by much, but this really, well, not shocked, but surprised the fuck out of me. It’s so…unnecessary. There is absolutely no reason to do it. I don’t think it’s the same as putting your kid in a cute dress or something. This is branding them as GIRL at an age when they can’t consent to that. And treating them as GIRL from the moment they’re born. I do not get this at all. And I don’t think it’s because I’m agender. Or maybe it is. But your kid is not your possession to be stamped with what you think is their gender.

It’s so bizarre to me that I had to read it several times to actually understand that this was an OK thing for many people. Just another way in which I am weird, but I’m fine with  that.


Breaking the (unspoken) rules

One thing I have difficulty with is unspoken rules. It’s funny because when I read advice columns, there are always unspoken rules that commenters get/have that I don’t undrestand. Like there was a letter about celebrating a 30th birthday over at Slate, and one of the regular commenter was derisive about the idea of an adult wanting to celebrate their birthday. How very dare they! Did they not know how unbelievably childish that was? This comes up every time the topic of birthdays are discussed at Ask A Manager as well.

Half the people are pro-celebrating your birthday as an adult. Half are agin it. I’m in the latter, but only for me. I’m pro-doing whatever you want for your birthday as long as it’s not me having to celebrate it with you for a month.

I don’t get people who care what other people do that doesn’t affect them, quite frankly. Something like celebrating a birthday…who cares how someone else does it? You don’t want to celebrate your birthday, fine! Don’t celebrate it. You want to celebrate your birthday, fine! Celebrate it. I don’t undrestand why this is such a big deal. I really don’t undrestand the ‘you’re an adult and birthdays are stooooopid’ mindset. At all.

Other people really can’t elaborate why they feel that way, either. It’s the same with Halloween. There are people who loudly scorn adults who want to dress up for Halloween, saying it’s kid stuff. Why? We don’t think acting is a kid thing, but that’s basically playing dress up. Ok, there is more to it than that, but dressing up is a big part of it.

I guess it’s just difficult for me to grasp the outrage of adults having fun in ways that kids have fun. Then again, some people think video games/board games are kid stuff, too, so there’s that. I think if you (general you) enjoy something, then who cares?

I think this is my feelings about life in general. If you are not actively harming other people, then have at it. That’s why I’m a small l libertarian. I don’t care what people do–if it’s not deliberately harming others. That’s my general philosophy, which seems to be an anathema for most people.

Even liberal people.

It’s interesting. I don’t have a hard-and-fast rule as to how most things should  be. Like, the idea that to be an adult, you have to buy a house, get married, have children, have a 9-to-5 job. One thing that came up often when I talked about not wanting children was that I was being selfish. Again, this was only from women. I want to point out that internalized misogyny works hard to uphold the patriarchy.

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What if we all cared less?

It’s fascinating to me to read Ask A Manager to see what the norms are in the working world. Today, there was a question from a manager who’s college grad hire has made a pillow fort (a ‘nest’) in her office. She’s going to get an officemate soon (a new hire), and her manager wants to know how to approach the topic with her report. The manager has not seen it, but it has been reported to her by other managers.

Alison started out by saying she loved the idea of a pillow fort, which is why I like her so much. Because I, too, love the idea of a pillow fort. In fact, I work from my couch in what could be described as a blanket nest of my own. And my instinct is that if she’s not public-facing and if she weren’t about to get an officemate, let her have her blanket nest

Not surprisingly, most people were anti-pillow fort. But in the ‘I personally have no issue with it, but business norms!’ kind of way. Which is how many of them reacted to other issues such as wearing a bra and not shaving your underarms. I’ll get to that in a minute.

There was another letter from someone who was neurodivergent and did martial arts. He wrote in to ask if it would be seen as weird if he did some of his martial arts practices at work, including some forms, combat rolling to get things off the lower shelf, and standing in a deep horse stance. There were several of us who did martial arts, and we told him that some of it like the combat rolls and practicing the forms in the lunch room would seem odd.

Most of us emphasized that if he wanted to do it, it was fine, but he had to accept that he would be seen as weird, which he did not like at all. I said there are things from Taiji that I do automatically (like breathing and posture), but that I wouldn’t do weapons forms in an office. I can save that for home. Honestly, things like that seem performative. Same with the combat roll to get something off a lower shelf. He was snitty in the comments saying he guessed he’d have to hurt himself and not do it the way he normally would, which is bullshit. You don’t need to combat roll to get something off a low shelf in order to not hurt yourself.

Also, we stressed that he can do any of it, but there will be a perception that he’s being weird. He just has to decide if he’s ok with it or not. Many of us who did martial arts didn’t like the performative aspect of what he was doing. All of us know that guy who struts around the gym/dojo acting as if his shit don’t stink.

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Free to be me

I’m weird. I have known this since I was a young kid, but back then, I thought there was something wrong with me. Why couldn’t I just be like everyone else? It wasn’t just a little bit different or in a few ways–it was in nearly every way. I read all the time, which many considered strange. I even read the dictionary (I stopped at ‘I’ because I lost steam) and started calling my bullies ‘unintellectual imbeciles’, which, not cool, but I was pushed to it, and did not do anything because they did not know what I meant (I was seven or eight).

I was fat and awkward, and I knew nothing about American culture. We only watched Scooby-Doo, Fantasy Island, and The Love Boat in our family. I don’t even know what other shows existed at the time. We never went to the movies and I didn’t hear my first pop song until I was in the sixth grade. It was Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant.

Here’s the thing. My parents, especially my father, did not like living in America. My father was fiercely Taiwanese and came here for his studies. He and my mother met in grad school and fell in love. Or rather, my father wooed my mother and won her over. She was engaged to a man in Taiwan–

Fun fact: She was engaged to him because my grandmother had very outdated notions about dating. She refused to let my mother go on a date if she wasn’t engaged to the man.

My parents had a whirlwind romance. My mother finished her MA and would have had to go back to Taiwan if she didn’t find another way to stay in the country. My father’s American housemother urged them to get married, so they did. Then they moved to Minnesota so my father could pursue his PhD in Economics.

I sometimes think about the sliding door version of life where they didn’t rush to get married. I fully believe that if they had dated for another year, they probably would have broken up. Or maybe not. I mean, they’ve been together for nearly 55 years. So, even though it’s deep dysfunction that binds them (not to mention codependency), they have established a lasting routine.

I used to think that my mother would be happier without my father, but now I don’t think that’s true. Her sense of worth comes from the fact that she’s a martyr (and that she’s superior to my father in almost every way). In other words, she needs him to feel good about herself, even though he’s abusive. If she weren’t with him, she would just find someone else like him.

Once in a while, she’ll let the mask slip and display her utter contempt for him and how little she expects from him. Such as when she said she realized he wasn’t smart. It’s true, but it’s not a nice thing to say about your husband, especially to your child. I will admit that it helped me see him in a different light. Arguably, a more realistic one.

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Sexuality is a Meaningful Part of the Whole

Yesterday was National Coming Out Day. I’m a bad bi because I didn’t know, as I didn’t know that September 23rd was Celebrate Bisexuality Day. I don’t generally care about holidays, no matter if they relate to me or not*, so I don’t keep up on all these additional ones. The only reason I knew about today’s was because I saw some of my tweeples tweeting about it, including one particular obnoxious tweet. Not my tweeple, but he was commenting on said dumbass tweet. I was going to embed the tweet, but the original tweeter has deleted it. In essence, it said that I am: followed by straight, gay, bisexual, a person, with a check mark in front of ‘a person’. It was followed up with the statement, “Your sexuality is only a small part of who you are.’ The original tweeter, named DitchtheLabel, obviously got a lot of shit for it because s/he deleted the tweet.  I do understand what DtL was trying to say–we are more than just the labels we give ourselves. We are whole human beings, yadda yadda yadda, but that’s not possible in a country in which there are still laws that oppress us, people who still hate us, and our queer youth still very vulnerable for being kicked out of their houses and/or being bullied.

I would imagine that most queers would be elated if our queerness was not a point of contention or a reason for people wanting to kill us. If we could just go about our lives without having to worry about losing our jobs or being attacked. As I tweeted back, we queers know we are people, but there are others who refuse to accept that. Until they do, we’ll keep reminding them. Loudly. In other words, it’s not us who are putting the emphasis on our sexuality, but the people who hate or fear us. They’re the ones who only see us in terms of who we fuck, even though THAT is just a small part of our sexuality. Well, I should only speak for myself. I love sex more than is probably seemly, but whether I’m fucking a man or a woman is such a small portion of that sex.

I’ll get back to that in a second.

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