Yi Mao

As Interviewed by Luisa Mao, March 17, 2017

Yi Mao: In Her Own Words

Gender discrimination in China is very severe, especially in ancient China. Girls were forced to wear foot bindings to restrict their foot growth. They would wrap their feet in a strong, thick, heavy cloth at the age of five or six to keep their feet small and dainty. The purpose of foot binding was to keep girls working at home by preventing them from leaving home. Girls couldn’t receive an education or work in the outside world. Their place in life was to take care of children and perform household chores.

As a child, a girl must obey her father; as a woman she must obey her husband; and as a mother she must obey her son. Thus states a traditional Chinese rule known as San Cong Si De. My Grandmother had tiny, bound feet and my Aunt was denied an education and couldn’t read or write. During my generation, the situation had improved a lot, but the gender inequality was still on the minds of the people. When the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949, girls as well as boys were able to receive an education.

Because gender discrimination was a part of every household, every family favored boys over girls, but because of the One-Child Policy, families with newborns who were daughters would try for another child, hoping for a son and the girl would be abandoned. They would then hope for another, kind-hearted family to adopt the abandoned child. With the daughter gone, they were then free to have another child. This practice resulted in many abandoned infants. Many American parents traveled to China to adopt these lost children.

After I finished college in America, I met an American couple at H.E.B. who adopted two Chinese girls who were from different provinces and who were about three or four years apart in age. When they saw me, they struck up a conversation and asked me if I could speak Chinese to their daughters. When the girls were brought from China, they could speak Chinese, but because they were now living in an American household, they were slowly losing the ability to understand their native language. The American couple’s treatment of their daughters was really very kind and watching them truly touched me.

When I was a child, the situation had already improved very much. Girls in my generation were allowed to go to school, no longer forced to bind their feet, and permitted to attend the best universities China had to offer. The gender discrimination was an incredibly unfair happening that should be changed.

I would now like to give young girls a word of advice: if your school offers STEM programs, if they offer Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, you must take them from a young age so you can not only compete with boys the same age, but also grow up to be a successful, working adult.