Growing (and Thriving) in a Male-Dominated Household

Growing up in a traditional middle-class Asian household, my father was the dominant figure who enforced a great deal of discipline upon my siblings and I, while my mother adopted a more passive stance on parenting, but still favored her son over her daughters. Throughout my childhood, I experienced a large amount of turbulence, and have since then credited my ambition to be “internal,” because of my desire to overcome obstacles. But upon further speculation, I discovered that being raised in a male-dominant household became a large factor in what shapes my, as well as many other young girls who live in male-dominant households, mentality today.

I have an older brother who is five years older than me. When I entered 7th grade, he also started his freshman year at UC Berkeley. My sister, who is three years older than me, met the standard that my brother had set by gaining acceptance at UC Berkeley, but decided continue her education at UCLA. From this point on, my parents placed an unbearable amount of pressure on me by continuously telling me that I was unable to meet the standards my brother has placed before me. While not completely disregarding my sisters’ achievements, they still placed little value on her.

 As the years went on, my parents’ faith in me getting into a prestigious college quickly diminished. Our family also began to experience many difficult obstacles at this point; my mother was diagnosed with stage three kidney cancer and my father lost his job. Despite still being in high school, I took it upon myself to help out my family by working multiple part-time jobs, in addition to school, ASB, and sports. Somehow, after sharing these experiences with my parents’ and trying my best to help the family out, my brother still remains number one my parents’ hearts because he is the first-born son.

As a result, a part of me wonders if I developed a sort of inferiority complex over the years. If anything, I wanted to prove it to at least myself that I was capable–beyond just getting into a prestigious college. Here I am today, in UC San Diego, as a freshman who not only works for HUWIB, but also at two ad agencies. As a girl who was raised with the ideals of uniformity, silence, and withdrawal, I urge others who share a similar situation to speak up. I am saying all this because taking action is important, and nothing will come from just fantasizing. As always, let your hardships empower you—not hinder you. Today I stand headstrong at the beginning of my career; not letting traditional values set me back anymore. I wish you all the best. 

Magdalene Cheung

University of California, San Diego

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