Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the blog posts are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Hnub Tshiab: Hmong Women Achieving Together.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


Sophia Vue Lo
I am reading the book Committed, thinking it was just another book by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love). This book is a follow up to the author's real life journey to finding love in this world.

Initially the book reads just like the usual romance novel about every women's search to know thyself better. Then things turn in the book when she comes across a small group of Hmong women who live in the high mountains of Southeast Asia. She is curious by the marriage system in their culture, and spends time talking to this remote tribe of people, hoping to learn more about what it means to be a "married Hmong women."

And this was her simple conclusion; "I would not trade lives with those [Hmong] women."

How does this author have the audacity to make such a statement about an entire group of people that she barely knew anything about or fully understand? The author clearly did not appreciate my people and our vast, enriching and complex lives.

By Sophia Vue Lo


  1. Thank you for your blog. I must admit, I am guilty of it as well. You had raised an awareness in me that I had never realized before. It's so easy to judge someone else, their life and culture but we must have self awareness. Even in her (Elizabeth's) self-awareness she was missing the very message she sought out to explore. I've never read the book and I am not her so I cannot speak for her and her experience. Simply reading your post, I pitied her and the journey she took only to have missed the experience that is true love.

    1. I was very upset about the statement as you were upon hearing it, Sophia. However, when I thought about what she may have seen or heard in the Hmong village that would make her come to that conclusion, I realized that what she saw are probably some of the same things that I find upsetting about Hmong marriages and the roles that we play within our household and communities. It is the reason why we have advocacy groups and blogs so we can support each other and grow together while maintaining our Hmong heritage. I, too, agree that we have a lot of beautiful traditions. I realize that more now as I am older. But, I also see a lot of Hmong women emotionally abused and victimized in marriages, and all the while, the entire Hmong community places the blame of every negative aspect of her marriage on her. She is blamed for not being able to have children... for having children with disabilities... for being tired from a long day at work and not making dinner after she gets home from work... for speaking her mind and being contrary... even for not wanting to have sex with her husband if they are having a fight... the list goes on. More often than not, they do not even ask the woman what her side of the story or perspective is. And then she is made to feel that there is nothing that she can do because the elders and all the "decision makers" in the family are all male. This has made me frustrated to no end! We have a beautiful culture that is infinitely rich, but not every aspect of it is perfect. As an Hmong woman, I can see why Elizabeth would say such a thing. My criticism would be if she did not include the reasons why to bring some understanding into the picture.

  2. "Those [Hmong] Women" is a generalization of a people as if she, Elizabeth, come from a world in which women do not experience similar acts upon them.

    When a person say "I am so glad I am not like this particular group of people", it implies that whatever world or society that person come from must be so much better, as if culture and history have been the same since day one, without evolution of change.

    It is damn easy for westerners to criticize and demonize cultures that they do not know or understand just because those cultures have practices deemed as inappropriate and degrading in the larger western society. A Hmong woman will agree with Elizabeth and say, "I am glad that I live in America where I can do whatever I want. Thank goodness, this isn't a Hmong village" or even worst, "I can't wait to marry someone who is not Hmong so I can escape this hell of a mess called Hmong culture." Really? As if American culture don't degrade women? Why are we still fighting for our rights to regulate our body and equal pay? How about the girl who got raped? Boys will be boys and she was probably asking for it. That... American society... and everywhere else.

    I had never read this book but I agree with Sophia. I am not defending acts in the Hmong culture that degrade women and limit our natural rights, but comparing different cultures by implying that one is better in treatment toward women than the other (especially when one has evolved more than the other) won't solve the problem.

  3. Now I feel that I have to read her second book. I was unable to complete her first book because I couldn't believe what a selfish, ungrateful, and in-genuine person she was. I could not find any admirable qualities about her. I certainly did not want to add to her wealth by buying another of her books, but now I might have to.

    I really hope that her quote is taken out of context.


    1. Maybe check it out from the library if you would rather not buy it.

  4. For those who speak out against the acts of domestic violence that occurs in our Hmong community, I commend you for doing so. It is an issue which must be addressed. But keep in mind also that domestic violence transcends all races. So let's not call it a "Hmong problem" because it's not.

    The criminal legal system is unfortunately flooded with men from all racial backgrounds who are abusers. In fact, some of the most serious crimes such as child pornography, child molestation and murders are committed predominately by white men, but as a society we don't refer to it as a "white community problem."

    So to all my fellow Hmong American sisters who have endured angst/frustration toward our Hmong American community b/c you feel that you have been treated as second class citizens; again I just urge that you look at things from a larger perspective. We continue to live in a racist, sexist and classist world. The larger society needs to do a better job of the way we treat all individuals. The problem does not lay with our community along.

    The HA community is a complex one. As all groups of people are. We can not so easily be boxed into one sentence and oversimplified as "one of those people" as the author wants to do. There is a real danger in do so. Americans and Westerners don't like to be categorized as one adjective, but there seems to be no caution when doing it to non-white groups. Let's not do to it ourselves.

    I have lived the life of a HA woman. My identity has been tied with my race. But I am more than just my racial identity. And I know our HA community is more than just all the negative images and stories depicted in the mainstream media.