BauBau Chung — social worker + positive sex education educator + advocate for women’s empowerment and basketball player recovering from knee surgery — sharing her perspectives on recovery from injury and the need for sports for our at-risk women and girls.
BauBau Chung is a social worker from Hong Kong who currently teaches positive sex education to youth in our city, with a focus on women and girls. BauBau is passionate about gender-related issues and sees teaching sex education as an important way to empower girls and women to understand our bodies and our minds, and by doing so, have more control over our bodies and our minds; and importantly, to learn to acknowledge, accept and love ourselves. BauBau is currently rehabilitating her knee after having surgery in 2016. Growing up, BauBau attended a sport and visual arts secondary school where she was in the Physical Education stream and played basketball in school, but stopped when she reached university when she didn’t want to play in such a competitive environment, and also her basketball friends were no longer with her so she saw no point. She started playing again in 2011 for her work agency when she discovered it was a good way to relieve the stress and busyness of being a social worker, and the emphasis was on HAPPY basketball. Plus it was a way for her to practice her team working skills and to build camaraderie with her colleagues and peers outside of the work context. Despite having played basketball for many years her true love was dance, but an injury suffered from playing basketball hindered her dancing abilities. With her interest in women’s empowerment and gender issues in Hong Kong, she is a co-founder of the Hong Kong Chapter of Lean In and she’s also working on collecting “Women Wisdom Stories” a Zero-Judgment Social Campaign.
Can you share your story of how you got injured, why you needed surgery and what impact has injury and surgery had on you?
I would describe myself as a non-competitive team-sport player. Though I play basketball since 12 years old, I don’t really like the feeling of competition. I like the teamwork, the collaboration, the feeling of getting through high and low as a team. So I stayed on the basketball team for 8 years. My injury was pretty much related to the non-competitive character of mine. I was playing the position as Center in the team, players are always those who are tall, bigger in size, able to jump high so as to get the rebound and there are always body collision among players. I am not physically strong enough and mentally aggressive enough in defense to protect myself in such situation. I lost balance and fell
down. I could feel the twist inside my knee and it was really painful. That was the first year that I played basketball and because I was still very young, I could tolerate the pain and I thought my body was just adjusted to the injury and was not painful after months. I thought everything was going back to normal and I just resume to play. When I get injured at 32 years old and went to the operation, I just realized that my knee problem was rooted over 10 years ago. I have undergone two big operation on my knees, left knee in 2013 and right knee in 2016. Rehabilitation is always a challenge for me, both physical pain as well as mental depression. I won’t regret playing basketball, but if I could choose again, I would talk to my coach and request not to play as a center position.
Now, not able to play sport is somehow depressing since sport is a way to connect to people and connect to inner self. It also make me feel very bad. Firstly, always getting rest make me feel “useless” since apart from going to hospital, I could only just sit there or lying on bed. Secondly, not able to maintain certain level of energy output, I gain more weights, my muscle got loosen, constantly sitting make my bottom bigger, I am not happy about this kind of image. Thirdly, rehabilitation restricted my connection with friends and sometime I really feel very lonely.
How do your sporting endeavours influence the way you behave as a social worker and sex educator?
Playing sport is essential in shaping my mindset in everything. Because of the nature of team sport competition, we always have to be flexible enough to embrace change. We need to make decision within a very short time. This kind of training allow me, as a social worker, to be flexible, open-minded to change. In the light of crisis and stress, I am able to maintain emotional stability to provide best solution to clients and their family.
Being involved in sports for so many years, I am quite energetic and active, this is a benefit for my work since my main service target is youth community.
Most importantly, playing sport combat certain degree of mainstream gender stereotypes. In sport, we do know there are some physical differences between male and female players; school set different standards for us according to gender difference. Apart from this, I remembered in daily school life there are seldom very obvious gendered behaviors; girls still lift heavy stuffs if we can do it, girls still take lead if we think we can handle it (I was the vice president of the house and the president was also a female, my basketball team teammates); girls in the sport stream seldom act very girly, girl vibes and charisma is also related to performance in sports, but not body and appearance.
You work with at-risk youth, women and girls. Why and how do you sports participation is relevant and important to your work and to those you work with?
My work with at-risk youth involves working with those young people who constantly engage in unsafe sex practice and those who do not have enough support networks and engage in risky behaviors like substance addiction. Personally I would rather define “at-risk” is the “ loss of self” — some people lost themselves in an relationship, some people
lost in the pursuit of materialistic gain, some lost in work, some lost themselves in fulfilling other’s expectation and standards. As a woman, a female grow up in a very traditional family, I am very concerned about women’s empowerment. I think our society shape women to a certain “route of life”, some ideologies structurally weaken women power, limit women potentials and the real choices of life; we are at-risk because many of us are not aware of that and some even thought we are born to be like that. Loss of self can cause traumatic consequences, low self-esteems, mental health issues, physical health issues, the looping of devaluing oneself and the looping of toxic relationship.
Sports is important for the young people and girls to get a sense of self-accomplishment and higher self-confidence for sure; finishing one session of sports give the feeling of accomplishing one task. Another aspect would be the connection and re-connection to positive people and to give them a support network.
What is the sports participation like for some of the at-risk youth and women and girls you support? How can we encourage them to participate in more sports? How can we, as a community, provide an environment to support them to participate in sports?
I think nowadays in HK, women sports have been identified as a way for making money. All the sports brand target at female. For women and young girls who are from lower socio-economic status, participating in sports might be a burden since they might need to work for long hours and the cost might be high. Another concern is the purpose of participating in sports, some girls just want to get skinny so they participate in activity like yoga, gym or kick boxing… I see the perpetuation of mainstream body image as the ultimate purpose, frustrating.
To me, sport is for wellbeing, for inner happiness, the connection to self, the nature and the others.
I think we should make good use of space like public space, and I always wonder if there are any private facility that is underused. I always think of collaborating with the more well-off people, they share space and facilities in certain time slots and organize free sport class for women, I would see it as a community development where women come together because of care for wellness, and women in this community could help each other out, not only in sports. It also facilitate understanding among women from different age, races, work background, sexual orientation … etc.
Currently you’re also working on a project that is about Zero labeling and in particular, labeling on women. What is this project about? Are you able to briefly share what you have learned so far regarding the labels attached to women who play sports in HK, or their participation in sports?
Since I am a social worker, I got many chances to get in touch with people from different background. There are many people living not easy life and however they are not being understood by the public. Various labels have long been imposed on some marginalized community like people living with mental health issues, people living with HIV, LGBTI community, domestic helpers in HK …. such generalized labels on people create hatred. Though HK is recognized as an international city where east meet west, I think in gender issues, HK is quite traditional and conservative. Under quite great influence of patriarchal ideology, sexism is commonly to be seen in everyday life.
Since I am very concerned about gender issue and gender equality, I realized that women in HK are also under different kinds of labels according to age, relationship status, sexual orientation, their choice of living, etc. The negative labels on Women is obvious, especially on those who are aged 25+ , single , choose not to get married / not yet find a right person , they are always called 中女 (middle-aged women) and 剩女 (leftover women). Parents, friends, relatives or even strangers would give many advises to them so as to get themselves married by someone. Otherwise approaching 30 would be a dead end for them because no men want 30 year old women and they cannot have children anymore, no hope for family; happiness would also end!!!
Getting married and having children seems the ultimate goal and “happiness” for women. Though I am married, there is nothing wrong if a woman reach 30 and not married; to me, 30 is the new page for everyone woman, they could pursue anything they want. Secondly, women should be able to have more choice than getting married and having babies, they can choose to be single, or to choose stay in a relationship but not married, or maintain an open relationship!
Through this project, I wish I could let more people experience what pressure these women are facing every single day. More than that, by collecting WOMEN WISDOM stories, I would like the people to truly know those ladies stories, how they get through adversity with wisdom, belief and knowledge. In the long term I wish I could expand to men version the wisdom stories, and develop a wisdom inventories so that anyone, when experiencing tough time in life, can learn from other wisdom and get through the tough situation. I hope people could get connected again by wisdom!
Sports is one area I see labeling on women. Young girls are seldom encouraged to play some physically tough sports like rugby, weightlifting. Women who got a muscular body, especially for those who don’t have pretty face, would sometimes receive really bad comments like: she look like a bear (佢身型簡直似隻熊), or she could kill you with one hand (佢一隻手可以打死你), or she just look like a man (佢成個男人咁). There are even more mean comment against such women, most are related to appearance and sex …. and I found such comments are not just from men but also from women. We would see how the stereotypes shape peoples’ ways of thinking and it really make me frustrated to see women being mean to women.