Since ancient times, males have occupied an important position in Chinese history. In contrast, the position of females has been very low. They have always been considered second class citizens. Because the feudal society lasted for over two thousand years in China, the ideology of “son preference” was firmly entrenched in Chinese families, especially in some uncultured countryside regions. Unfortunately, my family was also influenced by the son preference. In fact, this tradition influenced my childhood and early education.
One effect of this tradition was that I felt very unfamiliar to my parents when I was a little girl. Until the age of six, I lived with my grandparents, and I knew very little about my parents from my grandmother. She told me that my parents would like to give me a younger brother. The most important thing was that our family needed to have a boy to continue the family line. Now I understand the reason why my parents left me. In order to avoid the Family Planning rules, they had to go to a place where nobody knew them to secretly have a baby. Some people may think that it is crazy and stupid behavior to have a son and break the law, but this is reality in modern China. Actually, most Chinese families that would like to have a son all do crazy things like that. When I was six, my parents came back home with a baby boy, and the whole family was very happy even though they paid a lot of money to the government for breaking the Family Planning rules. The first time meeting my parents, I remembered I was very scared of them and hid behind the door. I did not even want to talk to them.
The other effect of this tradition is on the family line. In China, only sons are allowed to join in a family tree ceremony and have a celebrative party. There is a rule in Chinese family trees that only men can partake. Women can join in her future husband’s family tree if she gives a birth to a son. It means that women just have one chance to have a position in the family tree, but they need to have a son. Also, the family that has a baby boy would have a big party to celebrate the son’s coming with sweet potato soup and red eggs. At this moment, all the relatives and friends bring gifts and best wishes to him. In the ceremony, the son is dressed in red clothes will have his first hair cut by his grandfather. At the end, the mother will take the son to walk around the ancestral hall. As I am a daughter, I could not join in our family tree, nor do I have these celebrations and ceremonies to honor birthday.
Despite the economic reforms and opening in China of the past twenty years, the ideology of son preference still influences each family. When many Chinese girls graduate from high school, they stop studying to work to support their family. Many families tell them girls do not need to study too much in the school. They thought that the responsibility of women in a family was just do housework and have a baby. I am so lucky that I could graduate from college in China, even though I am a daughter in my family. My parents have more a modern perspective, so I was able to go to college. Generally speaking, girls who are in the age of twenty-three, will marry some men that were chosen by their parents. However, my parents followed my wish to let me marry someone that I choose in the future. In my daily life, I am still responsible for doing housework and studying, yet my little brother only pays attention to his studies. When I am busy with the housework, I always wish I could be a son in my next life.
Today, I am in the United States where I find many Chinese families still follow the ideology of son preference. I realize that it is not my parent’s mistake that they wanted to have a son. The two thousand year old ideology of son preference only changes little by little. However, thanks to my family, they supported me to finish my college even though I am a daughter, and now they realize that all Chinese girls should get fair treatment in a family. Both men and women serve important positions in the world, and all family need to recognize this.