By Kevin Zou
In a progressive country like America, where people of different backgrounds unite to form a melting pot, it can be easy to forget the pervasive nature of discrimination. The status of Asian Americans, for instance, has been a game of tug-and-war since the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Aside from their long history of mistreatment, it is clear that racial prejudice is still prevalent in modern times, with many blaming the group for the coronavirus that has plunged America into a state of quarantine and constant fear.
The rise in anti-Asian hate crimes has revealed the vulnerability of a microcosm within this minority group to these scarring, and oftentimes life-threatening, attacks—Asian American women. In the March Atlanta shooting that epitomized anti-Asian sentiments, 6 of the 8 victims were women of Asian descent. In a study led by AAPI Hate, a community support group that tracks anti-Asian hate crimes, Asian American women were reported to be 2.3 times more likely than their male counterparts to face violent attacks. Because many of these offenses are unreported, the actual rates of female victims are speculated to be even higher than the reported statistic.
Aside from physical scars, Asian women are also regularly subjected to toxic stereotypes. They are dehumanized and placed under labels of “submissiveness and exoticness.” This objectification can be seen through the motives of Robert Alan Long, the criminal behind the Atlanta shooting, who described his murders as a way to mediate his “sexual temptation” that was spurred by the Asian spa.
Theresa Luo, a senior at Staten Island Tech, gives a personal take on the prejudice that Asian American women endure. She expresses discontent with their title as the “submissive model minority” and attributes its roots to the “racial stereotypes evoked since the beginning of our country.” She believes that fetishization, when combined with the stereotype that Asian women are “weak individuals,” fuels the perception of the group as easy targets to hate-crime offenders.
Ken, a junior at Staten Island Tech and a fellow reporter, feels similarly about the group’s marginalization. He believes that the increasing hate crimes against Asian women is due to the stereotype that they are “soft, timid, and submissive–making them easy targets.” When asked about the connection between racism and the objectification of Asian women, Ken gives a legal approach: “By using the objectification of women as the motive for attack, the sentencing would be less harsh than if the motive for attack was straight racism.”
Women have been the subject of dehumanizing stereotypes since America’s founding. While it is important to celebrate the social advancements women have made, as with the recent observation of Women’s History Month, it is imperative to acknowledge their ongoing obstacles that go against one of the country’s founding principles — equality. Asian women might only be a fraction of American women, but it takes a whole America to ensure that basic liberties are not obstructed upon. As the famous civil rights orator Martin Luther King once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Abalaka, Ojima. (2020). “Women Face Rising Risk of Violence during Covid-19.” Human Rights Watch.
McDonnell, Guiula, and Sandoval, Edgar. (2021). “Women of Asian Descent Were 6 of the 8 Victims in Atlanta Shootings.” The New York Times.
O’Donnell, Noreen, and Song, Zijia. (2021). ‘Stereotypes, Fetishes and Fantasies:’ Asian American Women Link Sexualization and Racism.” NBC Bay Area.
Yam, Kimmy. (2021). “There were 3,800 anti-Asian hate incidents, mostly against women, in past year.” NBC News.