Note from the editors: The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone.
On Tuesday, Robert Aaron Long shot and killed eight individuals in massage parlors owned by Asians. His victims included six Asian women. Long attributed his killing spree to a sexual addiction rather than racism. However, the shooters’ targeting of Asian-owned massage spas where the majority of employees are Asian makes it unlikely that race played no role in the tragic attacks.
Asian women reported 68% of the over 3,300 anti-Asian hate crimes reported to Stop AAPI Hate in the past year. Western imperialists fetishized Asian women as small, weak, submissive, and exotically alluring objects for White men to subjugate and rape. It is disturbing, but not surprising, that Long saw his victims as temptations to eliminate: the fetishization of Asian women leads to violence against them.
This violence is frequently preceded by microaggressions. Take, for instance, the men who use phrases such as “I love Asian pussy” or “I just want a nice, quiet Asian girlfriend” as compliments, rather than as derogatory, stereotypical views of Asian women.
We are met with gaslighting whenever Asian women raise this issue: Some people simply have different tastes! Is it not flattering that White men like you?
This way of thinking is detrimental in numerous ways. First, it perpetuates the generalized stereotype that all Asian women are quiet and submissive. Second, it dehumanizes Asian women by viewing us as sexual objects as opposed to humans. Thirdly, it conflates privilege and desirability, leading to gaslighting when Asian women point out the racism and sexism we face. Being desired by White men’s gaze does not empower Asian women; rather, it gives White men a sense of entitlement over our bodies. Many men who claim to love Asian women are actually attracted to the hypersexualized fantasy of exotic objects they can dominate, and this justifies their use of violence.
How did we get here? Asian women are overrepresented on rape websites on the Internet, and pornographic videos featuring Asian women are more likely to depict aggression. Apple’s adult filters prevent users from Googling the term Asian because we have become so fetishized. Our existence, it is asserted, is inherently sexual; therefore, it must be censored.
It is not just pornography that places Asian women in sexual and violent situations. In Piccadilly, one of Hollywood’s earliest depictions of an Asian woman, nightclub dancer Shosho is murdered after becoming the object of desire of the club’s White owner. Memoirs of a Geisha presented a whitewashed, sexualized fantasy of Japanese geisha, who were prohibited from performing sexual services in reality. The portrayal of a Vietnamese prostitute in Full Metal Jacket popularized the phrase me so horny, me love you so long, which has since been sampled in Sir Mix-A-Baby Lot’s Got Back and 2 Live Crew’s controversial song Baby Got Back. Me So Horny, catcalls, and awkward conversation starters on dating apps.
Frequently, Asian women are portrayed as fetishized objects that are inferior to White women, whose sole purpose is to fulfill the sexual fantasies of White men and then be promptly discarded. Cho Chang is Harry’s first crush, first kiss, and first girlfriend in the Harry Potter series, but she is eventually replaced by Ginny Weasley, a White female character. In The Social Network, Eduardo Saverin boasts that Asian women are typically attracted to guys like me: Christy Lee gives him a blow job in a bathroom stall before becoming his possessive, overly-attached girlfriend until he dumps her. Ava, the White female robot in Ex Machina, is given a voice, personality, and eventual freedom, while Kyoko, the Asian female robot, is programmed without a voice and used for the sexual gratification of the male scientists until she is killed.
There is so much more to Asian women than what the media portrays us to be. It is demeaning, unacceptable, and inherently sexist and racist to use sexual addiction as an excuse for murdering Asian women. Consider Hyun Jung Grant, a hardworking single mother who devoted her life to providing for her two sons, as an example of a victim who defied the media’s stereotypes. The businesswoman Xiaojie Tan should have celebrated her 50th birthday last week. Sun Cha Kim called her granddaughter every week to encourage her to remain resilient. Asian women are not sexually dependent; we are human beings with families, lives, and aspirations.
White men, if you truly love Asian women, you must respect and listen to us. Correct your friends and family members who fetishize and stereotype us. Be wary of media stereotypes and be aware of how racism and sexism affect our daily lives.
As anti-Asian hatred continues to rise, the lives of Asian women are in danger. Everyone, but especially those with privilege, must educate themselves and stand against anti-Asian hatred and White supremacy.
Katy Ho ( @mskatyho ) is a Canadian-Chinese writer, activist, and the daughter of war refugees. She has covered major events, such as Paris Fashion Week, Vancouver Fashion Week, and the 2019 Global Climate Strike, and writes about slow fashion, sustainability, and social justice.
Featured Image Source: Getty
Editors Note:The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author. Last Tuesday, Robert Aaron Long shot and killed eight people at Asian-owned massage spas. Six of his victims were Asian women. Long blamed his killing spree on a sex addiction, rather than racial motivation. But the shooters targeting of Asian-owned massage spas, where predominantly Asian women work, makes it unlikely that race had nothing to do with the tragic attacks.