Multicultural Girls Night
At May’s Monthly Meeting FEW came together to talk candidly about complex cultural identities in Japan. As a bonus, attendees’ daughters were invited to join in the discussion. Japanese-American travel writer and ‘hafu’ active Nina Cataldo came to speak to us about growing up as ‘hafu’, both in the United States and in Japan. We were also joined by Kirsten O’Connor who has an extensive background in education in both in Britain and Japan.
Cultural identities can be complex, and it can be frustrating if not exhausting explaining oneself to a homogenizing Japan. To break up the heaviness that can come with such topics, the night was peppered with jokes from attendees and their daughters.
One great takeaway from Nina Cataldo was that it’s not all bad – although the label ‘hafu’ traditionally holds negative connotations, she feels empowered to take it back. Cataldo is the founder of “Hafu Ladies”, a group that is 300 plus strong and open to anyone who is ‘hafu’, ‘quapa,’ and female identifying. She feels it’s important to get together and talk about the unique elements of identity.
“People are starting to realize that the rainbow is much more rich,” Cataldo noted.
From the educational side, Kirsten O’Connor filled us in on how multifaceted identities can make for complex educational settings. Language barriers and mismatch of cultural knowledge seem to be just the beginning; the real challenge is to achieve bilingualism. Even with a long career in education in Japan, O’Connor continues to be amazed by students who can function fully in two worlds.
“Every family is different, so the definitions are different,” O’Connor said and encouraged tailored solutions.
For a heavier topic, there were lots of laughs and information exchanged. FEW would like to thank Kirsten O’Connor, Nina Cataldo, and all the girls who came with their mothers for an informative night.