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Some Hong Kong Parents Are Worried That Their Sons Like Disney Princesses

Image remixed from Flickr user Amy's photo (CC: AT)

Parenting issues have always been a hot topic on Hong Kong social media. Recently, a video interview clip in which Cantopop diva Miriam Yeung touched upon her parenting experience has gone viral online and sparked another round of debates.

The interview was conducted in 2015, but reappeared online as a short clip about two weeks ago. In the video, Yeung described how she stopped her son from developing tastes that are considered stereotypically girlish, including liking Elsa, a character in the Disney hit “Frozen”:

「有陣時佢鍾意Elsa我鬧到佢死」
「咁佢男仔嚟㗎嘛,攞隻Elsa做乜鬼嘢啫?」
「我將佢張相key落白色(Elsa)度,跟住我個仔即刻話『No, mammy no!』」
「佢好鍾意玩廚房嘢,咁我就好奇怪啦,喂!咁樣會唔會變乸型㗎?」
「我成日驚佢鍾意粉紅色嘢,我就話『NO,Mammy唔鍾意呢啲嘢,唔准睇』」

Whenever he expresses his liking of Elsa, I scold him.
He is a boy, why play with an Elsa toy?
I pasted his face on Elsa's image and my boy immediately said, “No, mommy, no.”
He likes playing with kitchen toys, I find that strange. Won't such play turn him into a sissy?
I am worried that he will start liking the color pink, so I told him “No, mommy doesn't like it. Don't watch that.”

Her words attracted criticism for her parenting style and for playing into gender stereotypes.

King Jer, a popular Facebook-based entertainment news channel, highlighted the video clip and commented:

其實2020年都嚟緊,好難想像社會仲有「女仔先鍾意粉紅色」呢啲咁老土嘅 stereotype,更難想像係楊千嬅身邊不乏同性戀朋友和粉絲[…],居然有呢啲想法……

2020 is approaching, it is difficult to imagine that only girls can like the color pink. Such stereotypes are so outdated. More difficult to imagine is that Miriam Yeung has so many LGBT friends and fans […] Yet she still carries such an idea…

A LBGT group, Action Q HK, commented on Facebook about the interview:

鍾意廚房會變乸型,咁謝霆鋒一定好乸
鍾意Elsa會變女仔,咁講千嬅係羞辱過億Elsa支持者

If a liking of cookery means a tendency to become sissy, then [male pop-star] Nicolas Tse must be sissy. If a liking of Elsa means a tendency to become a girl, then Miriam Yeung is insulting thousands who like Elsa.

Yeung finally wrote a long apologetic post on Facebook and clarified that she had changed her mind over the past two years since the interview was originally conducted:

[…]還是忠於他的選擇,更嘗試投入他的世界,終於因為他喜歡Elsa,認識了所有公主系列,培養了閲讀興趣,因為煮飯仔,他學懂造Brownie,今年吃到他親手做給我的蛋糕。 其實最終不用想太多,路是他們自己走出來的。今天大家在網上的留言是正是負也好,都是一種提醒,陳年訪問,抱歉引起不安。父母這條路,絕對不容易,一輩子,我也學習中,但是快樂的,感恩的,讓我們一起努力,互相打氣

[…] eventually I allowed him to choose and tried to understand his world. And because he likes Elsa, he gets to know all the stories about princesses and develops an interest in reading. Because he likes cooking, he learns how to make brownies. This year, he baked me a homemade cake. We don't have to worry too much. They eventually have their own ways. Whether comments are positive or negative, they are all reminders. Sorry that this old interview have upset many. Being a parent is not easy, it is a life-long endeavor and I am still learning. It is a happy experience and I am thankful. Let's support each other and work this out together.

Yeung may have changed her attitude, but her previous parenting style is still the mainstream. On social media, many parents feel there is nothing wrong with stopping boys from playing with toys marketed to girls. For example, here are some comments from the Stand News Facebook:

為人父母亦好難怪佢,因為踏上呢條同志路,一定受盡歧視可能親戚朋友都遠離你唔會開心,人生道路崎嶇難行

We should not blame the parents. If your kids becomes gay, they would be discriminated against and your friends and family would stay away from you. You won't be happy. Life becomes difficult.

父母都有對子女嘅期望,好正常吖,點解要鬧佢地唔應該有嗰個期望呢?

It is natural for parents to have expectations for their children, why should we criticize them for that?

Stereotype個個家長都有架啦
只不過佢咁啱做左岀黎 俾你地見到啫
我總唔信 個個人都會叫自己小朋友接觸並嘗試每項新事物

All parents have stereotypes.
But Yeung lets you see what she did.
I don't believe others will encourage kids to explore new things.

Moreover, it is common to see parents in Hong Kong worrying about whether their kids “perform” their gender correctly. For example, on Baby Kingdom, a well-known parenting forum, you can see parents discussing issues such as “How do we know a boy is sissy?” Most of the answers end up labeling certain bodily gestures or tones of voice as “sissy.”

Even if the parents are liberal, they might be pressured by friends or extensive family members to make sure their children conform to gender norms. A parent wrote on Baby Kingdom:

阿囝就快4歲,自小就鐘意玩女仔玩具,例如鐘意Disney princess, Elsa Anna , 曾經都有玩過車之類,但去買襯玩具就會揀公主或女仔d嘅玩具,由始至終我都冇刻意迫佢玩男仔玩具,我覺得玩具唔應該分性別,亦唔應該強迫佢玩d咩玩具,所以每次佢要買d女仔玩具或公仔我都照買俾佢,當然屋企或朋友會有反對,話我會令個囝第時變乸型,會變基佬 -.-

My son is turning four. He likes playing with girls’ toys, such as Disney princess characters, Elsa and Anna. He has tried to play with toy cars before but whenever he chooses toys, he choose princesses and other girls’ toys. I have never forced him to play with boys’ toys because I think toys should not be viewed in terms of gender and that we should not force him to choose a particular kind of toy. Certainly my family and friends will always disagree and say I am making my son sissy and gay -.-

Elsewhere in the world, people are challenging gender stereotypes for children more and more. In Britain, activists have launched a campaign called “Let toys be toys” to appeal to toy companies to ditch overt gender labels on their products. And online shopping giant Amazon has also scrapped the boy/girl category in the toy department's search engine. It seems Hong Kong might have a ways to go if it wants to keep up.

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