An article recently appeared in the Boston Globe written about adoptive parents who over-do the cultural heritage thing. I instantly recognized the father in the family photo of the article as Mr. Hopgood, my ceramics teacher in (I can’t remember if it was late Jr. High or early High School) school.
OK. So one girl from Taylor lived her life in abuse and obscurity and four decades later, woke up (or nervous breakdown – whatever you want to call it) writes this blog. And another girl from Taylor becomes cheerleader and reporter and author on adoption, her book titled, Lucky Girl. Two sides of the adoption coin. Same town.
I remember her. She was probably about four or five when I met her. Her dad made me feel like I had some extra talent in the art, and then he would tell me – in total non sequitur – that he had an adopted daughter from China. That’s just great. I didn’t understand how that had any relevance to anything and chose to ignore it.
He kept telling me how he’d have to have me come over to his house some time. I thought this was a special honor, because he was a very popular teacher, and I imagined maybe we would work on some project together or maybe he would teach me some special techniques.
But the day finally came and I went to his cool house and met his beautiful wife and was deposited in his living room alone with Mei Ling. And then he and his beautiful wife disappeared and I was stuck there with a preschooler, a teenager who hated kids. Expected to lessen the actual minority of her existence. Expected to be some role model. Expected to help this child who had everything I didn’t have. Expected to give her something I would never have.
About an endless hour later he returned. I think he realized we hadn’t bonded, and his little social experiment was a failure. He drove me home and that was pretty much the end of my relationship with the coolest teacher in school.
My talks with Chinese adoptees and their parents are both irritating and interesting. They think their case is so different. But really, the model for international adoption is the same. Mei Ling is the beginning of the Chinese adoptees having to reconcile their birth culture with their skin in a new culture and make a different path on their own, and it is all the same as the Korean adoptee experience that preceded them.
Even the one child law has parallels here. There has always been female infanticide. There has always been throwing away children. There has been primogeniture for centuries. In China, the government’s limited resources dictates this. In Korea, personal economic pressures cause the majority to also have only one child. But here, nobody wants to adopt a boy whose blood is not theirs. Boys of other blood, second children, and children born out of wedlock get thrown away. It’s STILL all about blood lines here, and even domestic adoption is often “faked” as a pregnancy in pretense of the child being of the father’s blood. And then there is the horror of the “full” adoption – where the adopted child’s real mother and father are never recorded and the adopting parents names are entered instead. It is 100% erasure of the child’s real identity. Inside sources say something like 90% of Korean domestic adoptees have zero idea they were adopted…
Another thing the same is that international adoption has allowed the Chinese government to turn its back on its own citizens, shirk their duties on social services, and make a buck at the same time.
And adoption agencies have been there from the beginning, offering this relief, becoming the catalyst, making it more possible and more attractive as a “solution” to this problem of women being born in equal numbers in a patriarchal society.
Adoptive parents I talk to ask, well, then, what are we supposed to do? Give up on China?
Yes. Don’t let the patriarchy win. Don’t support their efforts to cleanse their world of females. “Saving” a few lucky girls means telling the patriarchy it’s okay to hate women. And nothing changes the view of women more than economic power. So if you really want to save China’s girls, give the women a dollar and help them turn it into two dollars. Just like Korea’s women are working and becoming more powerful and asserting their rights, Korean parents are learning that empowered women take good care of them when they are old. Just as good, if not better, than their spoiled sons.