Hate crimes against Asian women are not coincidental

Gender, race, class… #StopAsianHate addresses violence enmeshed in intersectional discrimination and hatred

Annie | 기사입력 2022/05/27 [14:18]

Hate crimes against Asian women are not coincidental

Gender, race, class… #StopAsianHate addresses violence enmeshed in intersectional discrimination and hatred

Annie | 입력 : 2022/05/27 [14:18]

One Tuesday in March 2021, a white man opened fire in Atlanta, Georgia, an incident which resulted in eight people dying. Six of the victims were Asian women. The assailant was found to have intentionally targeted three massage parlors whose owners and workers were known to be Asian. This 21-year-old white man told police that the shooting was meant to “eliminate the temptation" that exacerbated his ‘sex addiction’.


The Atlanta shooting spree made many Asian-Americans face reality again, amid frequent anti-Asian hate crimes since last year. Hate crime against Asians and Asian Americans is not a completely new phenomenon in the United States, but a series of anti-Asian utterances and actions by former president Donald Trump ignited long-standing anti-Asian sentiment and stereotypes.


The types and degrees of hate crime against Asian Americans are diverse and serious. The reported cases include not only racist verbal abuse but also physical violence leading to hospitalization or death, spitting, denial of service, vandalism (destruction of cultural heritage or public art), urination on people, arson and so on. The number of female victims of such violence is 2.3 times higher than that of male victims. And older people are also frequent victims of it.


▲ Source : https://www.gofundme.com/c/act/stop-aapi-hate


The victim was not selected ‘randomly’


The Atlanta spa shooting spree makes one heartbroken yet outraged, and feeling emotions that make it complicated to know what to say. This incident also shows that we should start talking about the intersection of anti-Asian hate, racism, misogyny and class.


The assailant’s targeting of Asian women who work in massage parlors is definitely racist violence and the result of criminalization mixed with racist misogyny, hypersexualization of Asian women and sexual objectification. Contempt and hatred for massage workers who are victims of stigma also cannot be considered unrelated.


The assailant supposedly committed this incident simply because of "having a bad day". However, the process of deciding whom to victimize was absolutely not done randomly. Race, gender and class are deeply involved in this case, and should never be erased when we think about this incident and discuss it.


The racist-in-itself "over-sexualized Asian woman" stereotype played a direct role in deciding whom the shooter would kill. Moreover, the female victims were people who were marginalized because of a variety of reasons (gender, class, immigrant status, language accessibility, and the stigma of working in massage parlors) even within the Asian and Asian American communities.


"China doll, please satisfy me": the fetish for Asian women


Othering, hatred and violence against Asians in the United States have a long history. From the slaughter and lynching of Chinese Americans to the quarantine of Japanese Americans during World War II, hateful violence against Asians has always been repeated. This practice was able to be maintained through cultural practices and the policies and institutionalization of the United States government.


The practice of over-sexualizing Asian women dates back to the first restrictive immigration law created by the U.S. government. The Page Act in 1875 was enacted because white people regarded Chinese women as sex workers, or "immoral women". At that time, the migration of all Asian women was considered an "infiltration" of sex workers who hurt the values and lifestyles of whites and carried sexually transmitted diseases to the bodies of whites. For this reason, the Page Act prohibited Asian women from immigrating to the United States, while strengthening the over-sexualization of and stereotypes regarding Asian women. Seven years after the Page Act took effect, the U.S. government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited male Chinese workers from immigrating.


▲ Source : PBS NewsHour https://youtu.be/e5UuX-vFGm8 ©1996-2021 NewsHour Productions LLC. All Rights Reserved.


Up to this day, Asian women are still victims of this stereotype at the intersection of racism and gender discrimination. Asian women, as described in the American media and reinforced by policy, are no different from "lotus blossoms" or "China dolls" who are ‘exotic’, ‘overly-sexual’ and at the same time, sexually obedient. Asian women are imagined as either ‘lily flowers’, who are always sexually excited and obediently follow men’s sexual fantasies, or ‘gold diggers’ or ‘dragon women’, who are aggressive in order to achieve their goals, mysterious, cunning and sexy.


Surprisingly, many people accept these stereotypes as facts, and do not even realize that they are racist, sexist, misogynistic and hateful towards Asian women. Today, jokes that Asian women have 'sideways vaginas' (meaning the body of Asian women is a new sexual adventure which is exotic and to be experienced) and utterances like 'Sucky sucky five dollar, me love you long time', 'Me so horny' (meaning Asian women are always sexually excited and, again, “exotic”) are frequently used as punchlines on TV, in movies and in everyday life. Like ‘yellow fever’ (sexual obsession with Asian women), terms referring to having a fetish for a particular race are commonly used without any problems, and even understood as a kind of praise that Asian women can receive.


White men who prefer Asian women or date only Asian women are simply considered to have such a "preference," and the question of what the preference exactly is is never examined. Even though as a racial category, "Asian" includes dozens of countries, cultures, histories, and languages and much diversity in appearance, and two different randomly selected “Asian” women are likely to have nothing in common.


Asians and Asian Americans are also stereotyped as 'eternal foreigners'. Although they may have lived in the United States for many years and over generations, Asians are always otherized as foreigners. The image of over-sexualized Asian women and the stereotype of eternal foreigners meet each other when a white man says things like this: “Where are you from? Texas? No, I mean, what kind of Asian are you...”, 'I went to Japan last year. I'm very interested in Japanese culture. Japanese women are beautiful, slim and feminine like you,” “You are so pretty. Sexy. I think your pussy must be really tight,” ‘China doll. Make me happy, satisfy me, give me a happy ending.”


The following definitions in the ‘Urban Dictionary’ [website], which covers online slang, clearly reveal these stereotypes without any need to be explained separately.


- Asian Women

1. The most beautiful women on earth

2. So incredibly sexy, even the old ones don’t look too bad. I’ve only seen like 10 ugly Asian Women [sic] in my life out of over 1000.

[Example of word use] Asian Women, [sic] put american [sic] women to shame.

3. Something the webmasters on UD [Urban Dictionary] have an obvious fetish for….

[Example of word use] UD's got yellow fever! Not that there's anything wrong with that.


An obvious hate crime involving race, gender and class


This culture of over-sexualizing and objectifying Asian women lies in the background of the intentional murder of Asian women by the assailant in the Atlanta shooting spree,. And this problem cannot be separated from the military-sex industry, the sex tourism industry, and the phenomenon of ‘mail-order brides’. These practices of dehumanizing Asian women, including [the existence of] U.S. military camptowns in Korea and other places in Asia, perpetuate and normalize physical and sexual violence against and the stereotyping and human trafficking of women.


▲ Source : NowThis News, https://youtu.be/11PQ6FWEtOU


We don't know if the women killed this time were sex workers. Nevertheless, it is clearly sexist and racist against Asian women that the media immediately described Asian massage parlors as places of prostitution. The Asian massage parlors and their Asian female workers were considered to be participating in sexual services. The idea, which was similarly recalled by the assailant, is based on the racist image of an over-sexualized Asian woman.


At the same time, the many strongly denying that the female victims were sex workers or trying to conceal the social class and working reality of these women also reveal stigma and hatred towards sex workers.


Therefore, the Atlanta shooting spree needs to be clearly recognized as racist and sexual violence targeting Asian women, especially working-class women and sex workers, rather than as arbitrary and wanton murders committed by an individual. Regardless of whether the victims actually provided sexual services, the assailant killed them to "eliminate the temptation" because he judged them to be sexual objects.


This incident is related to the alienation, criminalization and violence endured by massage workers and sex workers at the intersection of misogyny, racism, and the dehumanization and fetishization of Asian women. Women in massage parlors and the sex industry must endure sexual violence, stigma, poor working conditions, wage exploitation, criminalization and police suppression. The abuse they encounter is racialized violence against Asian women, migrants, the working class and sex workers.


If the incident were seen from a perspective of either racial or sexual motivation, it would result in missing the importance of the fact that the assailant chose a group of Asian women in particular to be the victims. Sexual objectification of Asian women and sexist violence against Asian women do not just happen by coincidence. They are interlinked with various contexts at home and abroad, including American imperialism, militarism, and sexual violence. Discrimination and violence where race, gender and class intersect are factors that should never be overlooked.


▲ Source : https://stopaapihate.org


Will it end with just mourning? Stand in solidarity with vulnerable people around us 


While mourning the eight people killed in this shooting spree and the countless victims of racial and sexist violence around the world, we must come up with the key to solidarity to protect the survivors.


Asians and Asian Americans have a long history of opposing violence and organizing activities against hatred  and discrimination. While mourning numerous deaths including the victims of this incident, I myself clearly feel that also in Korea there are people who are particularly vulnerable to violence and injury due to the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, class, immigration, language accessibility and so on.


Solidarity starts from understanding that different people can face different situations and problems. This solidarity means working together to try to find solutions that do not leave help for vulnerable groups in society for ‘later’. Women, the LGBTQIA community, the disabled, immigrants, the working poor, sex workers, children/adolescents, the elderly, and anyone else.


The mentioned people live at a number of intersections, but are also people who receive attention only after they die. Finding safety and change without leaving the most vulnerable people behind us [is important]. Right now, when they are alive, they should be supported through the protection of workers' rights, the ending of sexual violence and human trafficking, the enactment of the anti-discrimination law, and the decriminalization of sex work. We must fight as witnesses for those who have left us, and protect those who have survived.


Published : April 6th, 2021

Translated: Kyungseo Kim

Original Article: https://ildaro.com/9010


◆ To see more English-language articles from Ilda, visit our English blog(https://ildaro.blogspot.com).

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