China Men Analysis

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Becoming an American isn’t about breaking through walls and recognizing each other’s humanity, but rather concealing and suppressing native cultures and doing the backbreaking and demeaning work that no one wants to do. Maxine Hong Kingston uses the feminization of the China Men in her novel to draw parallels between the symbolic feminization and mistreatment of Chinese men in America and the centuries-long abuse of Chinese women. In China Men, the patriarchs of Hong Kingston’s family—who represent all of the male Chinese immigrants—are alienated in a strange world in which they have become victims of extreme racism based on sexism, and so they are put through trials that are traditionally suffered by women. In “On Discovery,” Tang Ao is…show more content…
Hong Kingston illustrates the absurdity of the feminization and beautification when she says: “He served a meal at the queen’s court. His hips swayed and his shoulders swiveled because of his shaped feet. ‘She’s pretty, don’t you agree?’ the diners said, smacking their lips at his dainty feet as he bent to put dishes before them” (Kingston 5). Ao is forced to endure what is a right-of-passage for Chinese women, and his subjugation brings to attention the reality that is the cruel and unreasonable ideas of beauty and gender. In “The Ghostmate,” a nameless traveler is enslaved by an enchanting woman who lures him into her mythical land and reduces him to a shell of who he once was. This myth also reverses the gender roles, and Hong Kingston uses it to bring to…show more content…
Baba’s masculinity is never questioned in China, but when he moves to the United States of America, he is forced to fulfill all the tasks that women traditionally do. Baba grew up as someone who was proclaimed a scholar from birth in a family of “eighty pole fighters and no scholars” (28), and he became the village teacher. When he came to the Golden Mountain, all his academic and masculine prowess evaporated, and he was only able to find work that was customarily done by women. Bitterly, one night Baba and his friends sang “The Laundry Song”: “The Laundry business is low, you say, washing out blood that stinks like brass—only a Chinaman can debase himself so” (63). The China Men were also unable to enforce their own patriarchal power over their families because of their separation, so they were constantly having to justify their masculinity to both women and men by trying to assimilate into the American culture and embrace the American idea of manliness. Baba tries to emulate Fred Astaire, the quintessential American, by dressing like him and attempting to speak like him. Baba’s sense of male identity is secured in China through his respected profession as a mandarin scholar, but his prowess fails to carry over to America so he’s ultimately forced to mimic a popular American icon to defend his

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