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Why Do Asian Mothers Hate Their Daughters?

by CX

"I am asian and I don't treat my kids like shit."

- cakeGirlLovesBabies, their final line on Reddit post Why are Asian parents so horrible?

"That is one last thing to remember: writers are always selling somebody out."

- Joan Didion, in her preface to Slouching Towards Bethlehem

… and sharpen the blade

I guess you could call it unlucky—unlucky, perhaps, on the account of Victoria—that I should have met her, Victoria, at the same time of my burgeoning interest in (or rather, grasping desperately toward) some kind of Creative Nonfiction, if you want to call it that. Like a deer falling, unknowningly, into a hunter’s line of sight. Some things will, necessarily, have to be invented (certain meals and drinks eaten and sipped, quotes not quite exactly to the adverb and such, for example, since I didn’t write everything down, couldn’t) but everything else checks out on a factual level that can only be recognized as a betrayal. No one involved knows I’m selling them out. Of course, you, my anonymous reader, could tell yourself—since this is in writing and you don’t know and probably never will meet these people—to treat this whole thing as mere invention, these people as mere characters. You could tell yourself this. But, sadly (for them), and profitably (for me), these people are real people and have real hearts and fleshy backs. Watch me stab these backs. I will reach for the knife now…

V.N. I

Victoria Nguyen—half-Vietnamese by her father and half-Filipino by her moms—sits in front of me (we are in her room, on the floor of her room) on a hot and severe mid-August day. In her head, she is a painter (I’ve hardly seen her paint, but I’ve seen the materials strewn about); in real life, she works at my local boba joint (which is how I got to meet her). She has her hair shorter than most boys and more tattoos than most men. She has just told me that, if it was within her power, she’d shoot every single Asian parent into the sun, as they have, collectively, caused more hurt and psychic damage over generations of human history than “fucking, I don’t know, Hitler.” Naturally, my ears perk (wouldn't yours?) and I figure this will be worth writing down and reporting to you, here. (Tell me what you think.) She looks at me and asks me not to tell anyone else of her hot takes. I nod and tell her I will not.

A brief justification

For what it’s worth, I am also prone to megalomaniacal aspirations and petty self-indulgences. Most of the artistically-inclined, I imagine, would have to be, if they want to make a career or at least a decent living of it, because both are hard. A little delusion can go a long way. In this, I think Vicky and I share an affinity. She wants to be a painter and I want to be a writer. She’s tried her hand at painting me, without telling me so. I’ve caught her staring a little too hard, studying my ugly details, and noticing those same ugly details again on abandoned canvases on the floor of her room. My glasses, my acne, my thinning hairline. I didn’t press her on it then; I’m just going to write about her now, as revenge, and to also satiate my own hungry curiosity, because I’ve needed a subject to write about for too long, and what better/juicier subject than my friend Vicky, and, through unethical yet honest journalism, my subsequent betrayal of her (i.e., Vicky). This essay is the attempt of its own making. Like Bashō, the home is the journey.


After she graciously provides us her hot take, I look up from my phone (I had just typed her quote down into my notes to use later, which is now) and ask what, exactly, does she mean. She sighs and glances out the window (there is nothing but a brick wall of the apartment over) and mentions her therapist cried, or more like she made her therapist cry. How? By Being There and Listening to her, Vicky. When? The other day, one or two or three days ago. She doesn’t exactly specify, and I don’t push directly so as to come off as intruding too much. I work around it in this way:

“Oh? What does that mean? Or can I ask?”

She looks at me again, I think now to question why I’m probing, and probably to steal another face-detail to paint. A mole? A slight yellowish discoloration of my incisors from when I had to wear braces for a third time? I feel, now, in reporting this, more of a justification to carry on.

She explains. I reach for my phone, as if to check it but only glancingly (my eyes still trained on her), a gesture that suggests that, yes, while you still have my full attention, I don’t want this moment to necessarily be a Whole Thing that you, as a person expressing vulnerability, need to aggregate yourself of any more stress of, that this moment can still be Casual but Serious. In reality I’d loaded up my microphone app to record her story, which I shall now transcribe for you, here, verbatim.

V.N. transcript, cleaned up here and there, but not totally

‘I mean, it wasn’t even anything serious really, we were sitting and talking and I was just going over, um, this one story about me and my moms [sic] when we were in the Philippines I think a year or so ago. It’s not even really a story but more like a thing that happened. But anyway I was just freaking out the whole time, like on the flight and the general going-around, because I kept masking, like wearing a mask, and my moms just didn’t, I don’t know, like give a shit? About my health at all? Nor of the people around her? And it just freaking sucked because we’re, in her words, ‘galavanting’ around in markets and malls and stuff, meeting relatives and other random people and just her not having a care in the world about what would happen if she got COVID or gave me COVID or whatever and I just knew that if I tried to say anything, even just a light suggestion or reminder, she’d blow up and ask why I was ruining her trip or always living in fear and worrying about a “stupid flu”—her words again—instead of being in the moment like her. Because she always does that. Blow up. At any kind of possible suggestion that I might be right or know something more about something than her. So I keep my mouth shut. But of course if my kuya said anything oh wow okay now she has the ear to listen, even if still just slightly. She’d listen at least. Of course my kuya didn’t go to the Philippines with us this time around—he had the genius idea to get a computer science degree and move out far and away while I decided to try being a fucking artist—and my moms needs help getting around now and it’s not like I have a high paying job to stay home for—and not to mention I still lived at home at the time—so I have to come with her. Well. Well, I don’t know but it was one particular night after a dinner with family, cousins and nephews I barely know, who, by the way, all treated me as “the American one” and not, like, you know, a whole-ass person and just stared—well the littler ones stared and the older titos and titas said I was way prettier than my moms said I was, because apparently she, my moms, was sharing pictures of my brother and calling him handsome and pointing at me saying, “Unlike her, but at least she’s got good grades!” But I only learned that later because I don’t know the language, so fuck me, right? But I don’t know I don’t know [sic] why I decided to mention it that night, after dinner at the big family house, my whole spiel about why you still wear masks when you can—especially since she was cough [sic] all over my old-ass lola, like cool for caring about your own personal moms, Moms—and I don’t even remember if I mentioned that part but I doubt I did but and [sic] of course I got the expected blow up about “always pestering her” and “not respecting her time with her family,” as if they’re not my family too and I’m trying to keep all our best interest [sic] and health in mind, but it’s like, really? It’s always, always a fucking blow-up and never some kind of pause on her part to consider that, hey, there’s a person here, never mind that it’s your own goddamn daughter, who is trying to tell you Something and to communicate Something and to respect my legitimate concerns and worries and recognize my whole-ass personhood but no you’re just going to explode like dynamite through a mountain for some railroad or something. Or something. Like I swear she does this on purpose because she thinks I can take it. Like she’s mining my psychic resources for her own personal psychic-bloodthirst. And I do. Take it. I just sat there in the hot hotel room, staring at a cockroach skitter by and then go under the bed where I’m going to have to sleep next to her coughing-ass that night, great, I just sat there and take this blow-up like the good little girl she wants me to be. And I swore that night, both of us coughing now, that I’ll never exchange more than a few words with her, like if I need her to grab me a plate or something, if not never talk to her again—which I do now, thank fucking God—and I’ll never go back to that shitshow of a country again. Fuck the Philippines, it’s not like I was born there anyway, that’s not my home. But anyway, yeah, I sort of got into it like I did just now—sorry—and when I looked over she was dabbing at her eye with a tissue. My therapist I mean. So I sort of got to her, I think. So yeah, that’s why I mean [sic] when I said we should shoot all Asian parents into the sun. All parents, really. And I didn’t say that to her, my therapist, then, but I think, or at least I’d like to think, that she got the weight of that, or at least some part of it, that billions of children have to be raised in that noxious special parental hell. Different levels and degrees maybe, but the same hell. The potential psychological ramifications can never be fully taken into account, insofar as they’re, yeah, institutional and systemic and generational. It’s a ripple effect of no possible accounting. I don’t know. It just makes me feel so fucking small.’

[I swallow and blink. Then she dabs at her eye and asks if I want to go out and get a coffee. I close my phone, and of course I say I do.]

Prelude to this essay’s Big Question

Vicky’s comments here, after I’ve just typed them out and have taken pause to read them over again, after having listened to them so many times that if they were on tape the tape would be by now well worn out and dead from overuse, gives me another pause to think on my own relationship with my own personal Asian folks. For what it is worth, we’re fine. It’s not like I call them or talk to them all the time, and I’ll probably see them this next Christmas, probably (but, probably, I will not), but it’s got me thinking, a mental wetting-a-finger-and-sticking-it-in-the-air. Is Vicky’s situation a unique thing? Or the distant call of some psycho-crazy death whistle, creeping closer?

And now the Big Q

Do Asian mothers hate their daughters? And if they do, why? A quick and cursory Google search gives us several avenues to pursue: you can’t ignore a whole genre of posts on the subreddit /r/AsianParentStories: “what do asian moms have against their own daughters,” “Why do Asian moms hate their first born daughters?,” “Asian parents are horrible to their daughters,” among all-too-many other, similarly titled, tragically symptomatic posts. For something less anecdotal, a blog post titled “The Complications of an Asian Mother-Daughter Relationship: Shared by an Asian Therapist in CA”[1] offers this helpful nugget: “Daughters in an Asian American household are often daughters of immigrants – helping at home goes beyond merely an expectation. It is often a matter of survival because their parents are working or do not speak English. Many Asian daughters have stories of being ‘adultified’ (taking on age-inappropriate tasks around the house) or ‘parentified’ (taking care of their parents’ needs without anyone to address theirs).” (Sounds like a lot like Vicky and her moms, huh? “Complicated dynamics”[2] indeed.) Even recent movies like, say, Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) and Turning Red (2022) sift through the same latent dream content,[3] signifying, if not suggesting, Something. A Something that is being Communicated.

Basically the whole Tiger Mom thing.[4] And the fantasy of that tiger bowing down and recognizing its stripes, for once. Recognizing that it has stripes. It is a steep slippery slope, however. Even bringing up the archetypal Tiger Mom can potentially reinforce some irksome stereotypes, my personal folks’ cold hearts notwithstanding; not every Chinese or Filipino or Vietnamese or Japanese or Asian Parent is like “this,” or like Vicky’s personal “Moms.” Terrible parents come from all stripes, tiger’s or no. Parenthood, as it is, is its own terrible institution. (No wonder Sophie Lewis, author of “Abolish the Family,” wants to do just that. Abolish the family, I mean). Could it truly just be up to cultural differences? The insistence of a Confuscian-esque respect for elders and discipline up against Western self-actualization?[5] Perhaps I may humbly put forth one metric for consideration, here. If it is causing kids a special kind of psychic and/or real hurt, the kind of hurt that lasts, it might be worth reconsidering some parental tactics, no matter what nationality or immigration status.

So, back to the question at hand. Why do Asian mothers hate their daughters? Because their Asian mothers hated them. But really, the answers are varied and so complex. But the very fact that the question exists—that it can even be put into words—suggests an underlying, base-like antagonism that does indeed exist. The hatred an Asian mother feels toward her own personal human daughter.[6] The question, as it comes to my mind when I think about Victoria Nguyen, floating like bubbles to the surface from a parent’s hatred’s heat, seems like a question worth at least just raising. (But maybe you, reader, maybe you can better direct us all to a more proper and direct answer, instead of these messy sketches outlined here!)

A note on the Big Q

It might be way too on-the-nose to point out that my question “Why do Asian mothers hate their daughters?” and its particular phrasing is in part a twist on Norman Mailer’s 1967 novel Why Are We in Vietnam?, a novel I admittedly haven’t read, but the title has certainly left an impression on me. Mailer, and Didion, and Hersey, and so on, the whole New Journalism/Creative Nonfiction boogie, basically, has been something of a boon for me, as someone desperate to create something/anything in the midst of what feels like (and is) a very long creative drought in the fiction sense, so to come across a subject I don’t need to invent or imagine and can simply just report on and work on the craft of the sentences of gives me a supreme and delusional confidence to try and experiment without having to worry about just making things up. Because it happened, the power is in the telling. Oh, Victoria! How glad am I that we’ve met!


Now, back to Vicky. She calls her girlfriend and asks if she (Bev, the GF) wants to join us (me and Vicky) for coffee. Sounds like Bev agrees. We end up convening at the café next to Vicky’s workplace.

Bev, I think, doesn’t like me. Or at least she’s wary of me, as if she knows what I’m up to. Or it could be some kind of jealousy, since I have been hanging around Vicky as much as I have. Not like I was the one inviting myself over, though. And if I’m going to be around I might as well make use of my time. The responsibilities of being a friend and writer. (So here you are, Bev, if you find these words I hope you see I attempted honesty and sincerity and—though perhaps not total honesty—and with you, reader, as my witness!)

We are settled in now. I am trying to recall more details to exploit. A yellow butterfly had gotten in and landed gently on one of the croissants. The place was busy but not full. I’d let Vicky and Bev laugh and speak. I was just watching. Nothing more here to report than the existence of our own flesh and blood. I had a mocha and Vicky and Bev both had matcha lattes and split a pastry. Bev is Chinese-American. I wonder what her psychic and/or real hurt is. Similar stripes, I’d wager, but Bev is far less willing to divulge her personal tiger's info, and who am I to probe?

A smaller question

Let’s suppose that, in spite of all psychic and/or real abuse and hurt, in spite of all the hatred, that it’s all born from a genuine parental love? If so, what good is love for?


Later at a party that Vicky and Bev were hosting at her (Vicky’s, at this point in time they, Vicky and Bev, were not living together yet) apartment did I ask more about Vicky’s art and how much of it was inspired by her childhood (i.e., the “moms stuff”), or if at all. At any mention or flitting thought of the past does Vicky sigh and sip her fruity drink.

“Maybe. I don’t—maybe? It’s too painful to think about.”

“Sorry. Ignore me then.”

“No, it’s—it’s whatever. I feel like quitting painting anyway, going back to school…”


“Yeah. More and more I’m just not seeing the point.”

“Of doing art?”

“Of doing anything.”

I sip my water. I tell her that it’d be too bad if she did. Quit, I mean. Quit art. But, if I have to be critically honest here, and this part I don’t tell Vicky but share with you here, reader, is that I personally think Vicky’s art is just okay. I mean like really amateurish and lacking in any fundamentals. She posts her art on Instagram primarily (I won’t share it here for reasons that should be very obvious), to her less than 3-digit followers, less than 2-digit likes on her posts, usually attached with (the posts do) dull, posey sentiments. If my heart is in your hands/Like a bird/Will you cherish it or let it fly away? and the post is a portrait of hardly any relation. Maybe I see one of my acne scars on the post’s portrait’s face’s right temple, maybe. Or maybe everything isn’t about me, which is why I asked what I asked. (And besides, who am I to judge another’s art? Is this essay but a copy of Victoria Nguyen’s portraiture style, full of someone else’s freckles and scars?) That being said, it’d be a shame to quit, since a foreclosing of one’s art, no matter how amateur, is a foreclosing of an infinite forwardness, of possibility. And wouldn’t that be a shame indeed? And who would want that? Except maybe Vicky’s mom, who insisted on her daughter’s pursuing nursing, despite said daughter’s preference for arts and letters—despite the lack of skill—than math and science (I remember her, Vicky, telling me this during the same quitting-art-conversation by the kitchen counter where later Bev will break a glass cleaning it during a heated talk between her and Vicky—Vicky will tell me about this even later—about her, Vicky, and me, and how I keep hanging around her, Vicky, but she, Bev, sees me as a vulture, circling overhead, waiting for Vicky to emotionally drop dead so I can feast and regurgitate these remains into a Creative Nonfiction piece after a spell of a lack of creative anything, fiction or otherwise, but Bev didn’t know shit about me, Vicky argued, and then they, Vick and Bev, argued, but later, she, Vicky, did tell me about Bev’s wariness/suspicion of me, and laughed) and forcing her anyway, causing what I hope you can guess by now to be a cause of a lot of mental stress and the later and final blow-up and then the cutting of all contact on the part of her daughter. Vicky tells me she hasn’t seen or heard from/talked to her moms in years (“best years of my life by far, so far”). A glowing recommendation for anyone considering a similar tactic for themselves. Anyway, who you should really be wary of are those who attempt to foreclose art like authoritarians, not we journalists.[7]

And now the conclusion to the story of Victoria Nguyen (V.N. V)

For such a story of a real life, like yours and mine, Vicky’s story is only really over when she’s dead (and even then the ripples of any death touch us in new ways, giving us new stories). How, then, shall I report to you, reader, Vicky’s end? By something of a cop-out: I’ve lost all contact with Vicky since starting this story. The last I heard, Bev had finally gotten a new job in her field—something in computer science, I think front-end development—and, at Bev’s behest, they, Bev and Vicky, moved in together into a new apartment, somewhere. I’ve tried texting Vicky periodically to only the black silence of my phone’s screen, no notifications, a dead rectangular abyss. I wonder why. For all she’s shared with me, we were never terribly close; she needed someone to vent at and exploit for her art, someone not too close, and I needed a subject to write about for mine, and same. Simple reciprocation, hardly enough for a true friendship, maybe enough to keep two people from bumping into each other at a train station. In the end, we’d fallen out, as people do, and maybe Vicky and her moms’ falling out was actually less dramatic than she relayed, but somehow I doubt that.

I wish I could report to you of some big twist or climax, but the only clue I have is from a friend-of-a-friend type situation, her ex-coworker telling me that she, Vicky, was doing okay, the last she, her ex-worker, heard. Which is about good enough for me. Maybe she did go back to school. I wish I could report to you about her moms, maybe how her story ends, but considering I lack my only source now, shall I tell you about mine?—I’m sorry. I do not know. It has been too long since I’ve called. But I’m sure she’s fine, probably. (And of that being a consequence of a Something Communicated it is no one’s responsibility to bear but her own, a lesson she inadvertently taught me, because she could never learn it for herself.) Maybe I'll see her at Christmas. But anyway, this essay is not my story.

Cleaning the blade, or some final considerations, and then The End

Now, some hastily added thoughts at the tail end of this essay that had come to me in the making of this thing, and in no way could I slide them (i.e. these hasty thoughts) in seamlessly during any point of the editing process, revising and rejiggering, cutting and pasting, and moving here and there like arranging a room, to make it presentable.[8] Do (Asian or any, really) parents deserve our respect? After all, parents gave us the atom bomb and the Holocaust. And those parents’ kids carried that emotional cargo on toward the Cold War and the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, and so on, becoming parents themselves to kids dragging us toward who knows what further calamity awaits? Who, then, deserves our respect in the face of this? Those we love, of course, those we choose to love, because, as our parents taught us, love absolutely has conditions. Love is conditional. You just have to find them. Or perhaps those we love don’t deserve our respect at all, maybe no one truly deserves another’s respect, as, again, our parents taught us, just because they love us does not mean they respect us; again, what good is (their) love for? “But weren’t there some good moments?” one might ask (would one ask?). “Some tender memory that’d render the whole edifice forgivable?” Maybe, but again, what good were they, those moments and memories? What good is a regime if only the trains run on time? Victoria is gone now and her moms is alone and sad, as all adults/parents seem to allow themselves to be. Perhaps the family is truly an institution that must be abolished, the idea is as old as Plato, after all. And like a virus, it continues to live on to infect and spread and kill. Was Victoria’s Moms a good person before being a parent? Does parenthood corrupt otherwise well-intentioned women and men? Or is it, the power a parent has over a child—“child” here being more a symbolic role than mere age—a consolation of failed authoritarians, unable to take control of the world around them and so must create a world they can define and dictate, i.e., the child and their world? A parent can never accept—is designed to not accept—that the child will become more than a child but a human, and must continue to oppress, even as that child becomes an adult. Thus, conflict. Thus, war. Thus, Victoria cuts all contact with her moms and I have no pressing desire to see mine. And perhaps you, reader, have no need to see yours too. Another note on Victoria: she cried when she watched Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022), but had one critique: she wished the daughter character actually made good on her effort to cut ties with her mom, Michelle Yeoh’s character; “Sure, she [Stephanie Hsu’s character] could have learned the lesson and accepted her mom, but I think she should have walked away anyway, because what’s left in the end is the family still together, the very thing that generated the pain and hurt and total suck-ass in the first place, it’s only going to happen again.” Will Victoria hate her daughter, should she have one? Will I? For my imaginary child’s sake I hope not. (For my imaginary child’s sake I hope she stays imaginary.) And what about Asian parents’ fate in the sun? And you, reader? Can you relate to these people? Have their stories been painful enough for you? Or is your personal story already enough to bear? Please, then, be careful. Don’t tell your story to just anyone. Be wary who you bleed for. You’ll never know, you might end up telling it, between fruity drinks and sips of boba and coffee, to a writer: a sweaty, acne-ridden, balding, rotund, online-chronic, politically suspect and angry writer in mad need of a story. And that writer might tell everyone else’s yours. And what un-luck on your part! But that would be another lesson to learn.


[1] By Yellow Chair Collective, “a passionate psychotherapist group based in California and New York,” according to their About Us page.

[2] Another borrowed quote (more like a fragment) from the same YCC piece.

[3] I link these movies in part because of Emily St. James’ Vox piece “Hollywood’s hot new trend: Parents who say they’re sorry.” The subheader claims these movies as part of a new (sub)genre: “the millennial parental apology fantasy.” The fantasy and latent dream content connection here not unintentional.

[4] If you know you know.

[5] Falling back into stereotypes here. The “West” is as capable of discipline as Confucianism is of actualization and selfishness; see: Nationalism (selfishness on part of the State to direct its subjects to give up one’s Self for it, the State’s, self-interest).

[6] Never mind what a father, Asian or otherwise, might feel for his own daughter or son! Please don’t think I’m lapsing into some sort of petty misogyny here in this piece, my focus is born from my subject’s (Victoria’s) complexly dynamic situation, one that just so happens to involve her moms more strongly. And so I can say I mentioned it: Victoria’s dad was so out of the picture so early—in fact I’ll let you pick and choose if he died from disease, war, or just straight up left—as to be wholly irrelevant to Victoria now. If I ever encounter someone, daughter or son, who has a similarly prickly relationship with their own personal pops, I promise you, reader, I will betray them too.

[7] And we all know how authoritarians feel about journalists.

[8] Here’s a story for example, or more like quirk: Vicky distrusts fruits. Or more like, every time Vicky and her moms got into it, like had a fight (which was becoming increasingly often into Vicky’s twenties) her moms would, instead of apologizing or attempting a verbal reconciliation (because in Vicky’s therapist’s words: “Words Matter.”) would instead call Victoria loudly into the living room, where, you guessed it, a bowl of fruits would be waiting. Grapes, apples, peaches, mangoes, cherries, blueberries, watermelon, etc. etc. Vicky eventually came to see this as a disingenuous gesture (as she says: “Because, well, there was no lesson learned and the fighting just happened again…”) and would side-eye a bowl of frozen yet somehow overripe strawberries used for the boba drinks and smoothies at her workplace. I’ve seen her do this.


About the Writer:

CX is a fraud pretending to be a writer. All of their attempts can be found also on Many Masks Press, and other places like their trash bin.

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Nov 05, 2023


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