My indulged generation

Isabel Lai, Durham University
Isabel Lai, Durham University |

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Hong Kong women are preoccupied with material wealth, consumerism and competition with peers.
At a Public Affairs Forum I hosted recently at Durham, we explored several themes relating to the social phenomenon of "HK females" (港女). These include materialism, snobbery and (a lack of) culture. Have HK females degenerated to what these demeaning words imply?

One might feel lost as to what is meant by HK females. What do these females have in common, which females in other cities do not?

Hong Kong is a chief financial centre, the meeting point of East and West, and a thriving hub of trade and commerce. In other words, it is a prosperous city with a significant nouveau riche population. These are members of our society who benefited from the rapid economic growth during the 1980s and 1990s, such as our parents. If HK females have a materialistic mentality, this might be explained by indulgent upbringings at home. It's been suggested that our parents, given their struggle for a decent wage and their zeal to move up the social ladder, were all the more eager to provide our generation with what they did not have while growing up. Under such circumstances, we can deduce that females, as well as males, are under the spell of this so-called "HK phenomenon". Our new generation is too well cared for, thereby fuelling an unhealthy consumerist mentality and an insatiable appetite for more.

When each of these spoiled princes and princesses begin to take part in society as individuals, the issue becomes magnified as a collective social phenomenon. Peer pressure takes its toll and culminates in a grotesque habit of cross-comparison and competition between young people and their material wealth.

The question is: why do people blindly fall prey to materialistic snobbery? The answer lies in the Hong Kong education system. We're taught how to solve maths and science puzzles, but no emphasis is placed on philosophical reasoning and contemplation. Students are trained to become exam machines rather than critical, independent thinkers. Our new generation is at risk of adopting a mob mentality that deems material wealth the main goal of life.

The term "HK females" reeks of social disaster and moral decay. It is not restricted to females, but to the wider generation born after the 1980s. We need to wake up and rethink our principles. Instead of blaming our parents, governments and schools, let us pause and reflect. After all, I myself (hypocritical as you may think) am part of this social phenomenon.