In my last blog post, “Violence Against Women”, I discussed how misogyny plagues our society and results in assault rape and murder and how fear of the same alters the socialization of women and the role of women in our culture.
I want to focus on another aspect of the Atlanta case: the mixing of gender and race into stereotypes that cause hate. For many years, I have brought lawsuits representing African American women who face a particular kind of racial animus at work. They face the expectation that they will act in a submissive fashion, and are labeled as “angry” or having an “attitude” when they show some aspects of dignity and strength in the workplace.
Asian American women face other issues in our culture. Many have been fetishized as sex objects. This obsession that some men have for Asian women is a form of dehumanization. Feminism may be thought of as the simple concept that women are people, deserving of the treatment that any person, such as a male person, would encounter. Asian American women, like all other people, do not want to be reduced to a stereotype. However, many Asian American women face the combined racist and sexist reduction of their personhood into a man’s fantasy of a sexual dream person.
Popular culture and movies have contributed to this problem. The NewYork Times article mentions Full Metal Jacket, but I think of the James Bond film, You Only Live Twice (1967) in which the fictional head of the Japanese intelligence agency brags to Bond that “In Japan, men come first, women are second“ as he beckons Bond to get a massage that, of course, leads to sex.
Many Asian American know what it feels like to wonder if they are being treated differently because of the sexual obsession of the man they meet in a professional or casual setting for her “type.” This kind of treatment wears one down. Asian American women deserve much better.
This week’s horror show of murders follows a string of attacks on older Asian American women in multiple cities, notably San Francisco. It is difficult to tell if the “China Virus” label has contributed to these attacks. But many Asian Americans believe that it has.
What I do know is that we live with increasing tension in our foreign policy towards the People’s Republic of China, and that tension should not in any way affect American attitudes towards their fellow Americans of Asian origin or to visitors from that country or other Asian countries. I fear, as a civil rights lawyer, that the level of rhetoric and acceptance of racial labeling in common parlance has been changing for the worse.
In the 1980s, rage against Japanese auto makers led to the murder of a Chinese American man outside a bar. It seems that we don’t need much to start hating and to act violently.
Let’s stop that hatred in its tracks.
Click here to read the full NY Times article, “How Racism and Sexism Intertwine to Torment Asian-American Women”.