This is for all the women in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community out there right now who are afraid, sad, and feeling helpless. You’re not alone.
We’re not responsible for your sexual addiction.
The shootings in Atlanta of three Asian-owned massage parlors have brought to light a long-standing issue in the AAPI community that goes beyond the hate crimes — the hyper-sexualization of Asian women. The targets of the shooting were Asian American women whom the suspect wanted to eliminate because of the sexual temptation they represented to him.
You may not know this but there’s been a long history of stereotyping Asian women as sexually subservient and it’s a history that you have written for us. Let’s take a quick stroll down history lane to give you some context.
In the late 1800’s, Chinese men came to the United States as laborers. Because of immigration restrictions many of the women who could come over, came over (often against their own will) as prostitutes. So the first interaction white Americans had with Asian women was as sex workers.
Starting in the 1920’s Hollywood began including Asian women in films, but roles for Asian women (and men) were determined by white America and what they determined was appropriate. So we end up with sexual dragon ladies, exotic, and subservient China Dolls. Examples include “Daughter of the Dragon” starring Ana May Wong and “The World of Suzie Wong” which an English man goes to Hong Kong to find the local women there more to his sexual taste.
In the 50s through the 70s, The Korean War and Vietnam War where Americans landed on Asian soil, introduced American men to sex workers in those countries. It also saw an increase in Asian war brides to America.
Like many immigrant groups Asians coming to America have had to find opportunities where they can. This isn’t new as there has been a history of Asian laborers in laundromats, railroads, farms, transportation, as sex-workers and more recently service areas such as nail salons and massage parlors.
Fast forward to today, Asian women have been a part of American history for nearly 200 years. During this time, we have worked hard to play within your rules. We’ve kept quiet, we smiled and laughed when you asked us where we were “really” from. We’ve put up with your fetishes, your unwanted advances and the psychological burden you’ve put on us when we have to question whether you actually like us for who we are or because of what you thought we were.
But we’ve also broken the rules you assigned to us to create opportunities for ourselves, our families and those who come after us.
We are a diverse group of women who have helped to build this country. We are the Vice President of the United States, congresswomen, CEOs, artists, chefs, medical professionals, journalists, astronauts, activists, award-winning directors, United States athletes, in addition to being actresses, masseuses, and essential workers and so much more. Yet, we still bear the burden of the past you have put on us.
Just because those women worked in a massage parlor does not mean they were responsible for anyone’s sexual addiction. We are not responsible for the stereotypes you have placed upon us. By refusing to call the incident in Atlanta as what it clearly is — a hate crime — is to minimize our worth as the Asian American woman. We demand respect and the recognition for the trauma that you have passed onto us.
The Asian American Woman