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The vroom of its motor gets louder as it approaches me. The engine gasping, it pauses and trawls next to me as I walk.
I keep my eyes forward. My breath Asian women only, my fists tighten on the straps of my backpack, and my jaw clenches. The guy hanging out the window has his eyes on me — I know this even without engaging my peripheral vision. I say nothing. The man continues his script. Eventually, he and his friends get bored and drive away — probably to look for other victims. To grow up as an Asian-American woman in America is to face a very particular type of hatred. Though some might just call it fetishization, there is a violent, sadistic element to this hatred.
You might think small incidents of othering are no big deal, and not at all connected to large-scale issues like these murders. You would be wrong. In college, I had a partner who told me my skin looked like it was painted over with honey. He was fascinated by it. I was confused. It was normal. My skin color was focused on by many racist fetishists for years as I tried to wade through the muck of what dating in America as an Asian-American woman is like.
If I responded with criticism, these men unleashed a torrent of anger and mockery replete with racism and misogyny. Are you listening, dating apps? Are you responding and booting these users? Forget your celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month — I want to see you post a zero-tolerance policy for racism, homophobia, and misogyny. You need to show us you care about women of color and their safety as users. In fact, of nearly 3, anti-Asian hate incidents logged with Stop AAPI Hate68 percent were perpetrated against women, with 29 percent against men.
Anya Liu, a woman in her early 30s who lives in New York City, has struggled against street harassment in her city. But this fear of violence is heightened for women of Asian descent, who are expected by these fetishizers to be submissive.
To be an Asian-American woman is to experience this submissive expectation in the unwelcome advances, the unsolicited stories about travels to Asia, or as targets for Asian-language practice. Like all women, one can Asian women only predict the directions of these interactions.
Mary Pastrano, a home-schooling parent in Riverside, California, has found that even friends perpetuate hypersexualized stereotypes casually. I had just immigrated from the Philippines. He told me he hoped that he would be stationed in the Philippines after boot camp. I was confused; we left because life there was so hard and uncertain, but here was this young, white American male who just had to go there. Fetishistic violence against women of Asian descent has a storied history in Western cultures, coupled with the long history of U.
We cannot fully fight for AAPI justice in this country until we analyze and deconstruct the long legacy of fetishizing Asian-Americans that is directly responsible for this violence. Those stereotypes echo into American culture and affect Asian-Americans in their daily lives. Esther Mollica, a freelance coder who lives in New Jersey, experienced fetishization at the hands of women she dated and had relationships with.
Sexual violence is also a pervasive crime against members of the trans Asian-American community. A study published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence found that trans women are at higher risk of sexual violence than cisgender women, with trans women of color reported to be at the highest risk level.
The study examined harassment in public as well as in the workplace, along with sexual assault in relationships, and by strangers and in sex work. The dual blade of misogyny and racism means that any woman who is a sex worker is seen as lesser than, if not worthless, in our society. Women Asian women only Asian descent are subjected to Asian women only particular onslaught of sexual violence, witnessed in study after study, and echoed in digital media, pop culture, and even comedy.
A post shared by Red Canary Song redcanarysong. Organizations like Red Canary Songa New York group that fights for migrant and Asian sex-worker rights, endeavor for the decriminalization of sex work, and fight against trafficking and raids. Regardless of whether any of those murdered in Atlanta were sex workers or not, it was the sexual stereotypes of Asian women that the shooter held that led him to commit targeted violence toward them.
The murderer of these Asian women fetishized them at the confluence of the stigmas of race, gender, and sexuality. This is an intersectional issue wherein we must examine critical junctures of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and language. We must work to defetishize American views — or violent, hateful, devastating crimes like the Atlanta murders will continue. In fact, they happen without being reported much of the time, so more attention must be paid. Stand with her. Condemn and censure locker-room talk and misogynist racism against Asian-American women wherever you witness it.
Intervene if you see hate happening. And educate those who have harmful ideas about Asian-American women, so we never wake up to another headline like the Atlanta murders. Dakota Kim is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles. Change Makers. Type keyword s to search. Today's Top Stories. Caterina Scorsone on Finding Her Path. Getty Images. Related Stories.
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The history of fetishizing Asian women