Racism and Misogyny in One: Sexualization of Asian Women in America | Teen Ink

Racism and Misogyny in One: Sexualization of Asian Women in America

March 6, 2023
By SofiaL BRONZE, Pomfret, Connecticut
SofiaL BRONZE, Pomfret, Connecticut
3 articles 0 photos 0 comments

       As a young Chinese woman, I find the Women’s History Month a particularly fitting time to reflect on a long-standing issue Asian women face in America, the sexualization of Asian women. Although the horrific Atlanta shooting incident and the hate crimes against Asian women during the pandemic have seemingly been behind us, we must keep the issue in public consciousness if we are to eliminate it.

       The U.S. has a long history of sexualizing and fetishizing Asian women. The term "Yellow Fever" is used to describe this phenomenon of a sexual fetish based on racialized and gendered stereotypes. Ever since the Vietnam War, Asian women have been seen as hypersexual, submissive, and docile. These stereotypical images of Asian women have made us the target of violence and sexual abuse. I am a Chinese student who has studied in a boarding high school in the U.S. for three years. Before I was here, I was aware of the concepts of racism and sexism. However, I had never known that misogyny could be accompanied by racial discrimination. Having been informed of my disadvantages and the dangers I could potentially face, I became cautious and fearful. I learned to step back and observe before starting to build relationships with people here that do not identify the same way that I do. As some see the incident as a pinnacle of racialized misogyny, the shooting in Atlanta in 2021 sparked a round of discussion on this topic of violence against Asian women. Instead of learning about the oppression and sexualization of Asian women by the deaths of innocent people, society as a whole should recognize and discuss this topic as a crucial issue, with the goal of eventually eliminating the problem in the United States.

       On March 16, 2021, Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white male, shot and killed eight people at three spas in Georgia. He murdered four people in Young's Asian Massage in Cherokee County, and four people in two different spas in Atlanta. The victims were Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; Suncha Kim, 69; Yong Ae Yue, 63; Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Xiaojie Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; and Paul Andre Michels, 54.[1] Six of them were of Asian descent, and seven were women. Within hours after the attacks, the suspect was arrested on his way to Florida, where he was planning to kill more. He was charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault. Long confessed to the four counts of murder he was charged in Cherokee County, but pled not guilty for the other four in Atlanta. Even though people suspected the shooting to be a hate crime, Captain Jay Baker of the Sheriff's Office in Cherokee County said that, in Long's own words, the attacks were "not racially motivated," but caused by "sexual addiction." Long claimed that he saw those "locations ... [as] a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate." Captain Baker then noted that the investigation was still in its early stages, and therefore it was too early to label the incident a hate crime. He implied that Long had to be motivated by racial discrimination or misogynistic mentality, but not both.[2] Jenn Fang, the founder of a long-running Asian-American feminist blog, wrote on twitter that, "People on here literally debating if this was a misogynistic attack against women or a racist attack against Asians. What if — wait for it — it was both."[3] Captain Baker also suggested, in the briefing of the crime the day after it was committed, that the suspect, Long, was having "a really bad day." His remarks on the incident raised suspicion among people that he was expressing empathy or sympathy for the suspect. Many Asians and women interpreted it as simply another method for justifying violence against them.[4]

       “The way their race intersects with their gender makes Asian and Asian American women uniquely vulnerable to violence,” said Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of the non-profit advocacy group National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum.[5] Stereotypes against Asian women and the issue of sexualizing Asian women date way back to the Vietnam War. Sexual assault and rape during the Vietnam War was not uncommon. American and South Korean soldiers raped and killed Vietnamese women and young girls. The issue of men of all races sexualizing and fetishizing Asian women has been entrenched since then.

       Despite the racialized misogyny that is deeply rooted in American culture, Asian immigrants have already been one of the primary targets of violence and assault since the beginning of COVID-19. When former president Donald Trump gave coronavirus another name, "Chinese virus," it provoked attacks and harassment against Asian-Americans, especially Chinese immigrants. Between March 19, 2020, and June of 2021, 9081 cases of anti-Asian acts have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a national nonprofit organization that tracks incidents of hate and discrimination against the AAPI community in the United States. Women were the targets in 68% of the reports, while men made up 29%.[6] Even though the incidents reported were all hate crimes against Asian immigrants, Asian women made up a disproportionate percentage of those crimes, meaning we are targeted more than Asian men in those hate crimes. At this point, there is no need to doubt that with hate and discrimination against the Asian-American community, there is also a role played by misogyny and gender inequality.

       As a minority group, Asian people, especially women, are often ignored and overlooked by society. We should not have to intentionally establish and validate our existence as we are also a crucial part of what makes up the United States. Our presence is only noticed by this country when heartbreaking incidents like the attacks in Atlanta occur. There are significantly more cases of harassment and violence against Asian immigrants and Asian women that have been left unnoticed.

       As a Chinese female living in the U.S., I feel a connection to those women of Asian descent that have been treated wrongfully and horribly. I am emotionally wounded to see crimes like the shooting in Atlanta committed, and to read the information and statistics about violence against Asian women that I have found in the process of research for this paper. Racism and sexism are the two most critical issues in the United States that have to be resolved, and it is overwhelming to think that we Asian women are bound to experience the two combined. The thought that the objectification and hypersexualization of our bodies are eventually going to lead to death is even more terrifying. We are making progress in the effort of putting an end to this racialized misogyny by the ongoing discussion of this topic that was sparked by the tragedy in Atlanta. However, it is both surprising and disappointing that it took something as tragic as the deaths of six Asian women to initiate this conversation. The history of oppression, discrimination, and sexualization toward Asian women rooted in the U.S. needs to come to an end, and we cannot eliminate this issue unless we continue to discuss it and keep it in the public consciousness. Tragic incidents or not, the rights of Asian women should be acknowledged, protected, and talked about constantly in this country so that we can live safer and happier lives without the feeling of being oppressed and the fear of being assaulted.


[1] Giulia Mcdonnell Nieto, “What We Know about the Victims in the Atlanta Shootings,” The New York Times (The New York Times, March 19, 2021), nytimes.com/2021/03/19/us/atlanta-shooting-victims.html?searchResultPosition=3+https%3A%2F%2F.
[2] Bill Chappell, Vanessa Romo, and Jaclyn Diaz, “Official Who Said Atlanta Shooting Suspect Was Having a 'Bad Day' Faces Criticism,” NPR (NPR, March 18, 2021), npr.org/2021/03/17/978141138/atlanta-shooting-suspect-is-believed-to-have-visited-spas-he-targeted.
[3] Shaila Dewan, “How Racism and Sexism Intertwine to Torment Asian-American Women,” The New York Times (The New York Times, March 18, 2021), nytimes.com/2021/03/18/us/racism-sexism-atlanta-spa-shooting.html?searchResultPosition=3.
[4] Bill Chappell, Vanessa Romo, and Jaclyn Diaz, “Official Who Said Atlanta Shooting Suspect Was Having a 'Bad Day' Faces Criticism,” NPR (NPR, March 18, 2021), npr.org/2021/03/17/978141138/atlanta-shooting-suspect-is-believed-to-have-visited-spas-he-targeted.
[5] Harmeet Kaur, “Fetishized, Sexualized and Marginalized, Asian Women Are Uniquely Vulnerable to Violence,” CNN (Cable News Network, March 18, 2021), cnn.com/2021/03/17/us/asian-women-misogyny-spa-shootings-trnd/index.html.
[6]The Associated Press, “More than 9,000 Anti-Asian Incidents Have Been Reported since the Pandemic Began,” NPR (NPR, August 12, 2021), npr.org/2021/08/12/1027236499/anti-asian-hate-crimes-assaults-pandemic-incidents-aapi.


Board, Editorial. “Opinion | the Atlanta Shooting Victims Must Not Be Overlooked or Forgotten.” The Washington Post. WP Company, March 23, 2021. washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-atlanta-shooting-victims-must-not-be-overlooked-or-forgotten/2021/03/19/9db55e4a-88e3-11eb-8a8b-5cf82c3dffe4_story.html.

Chappell, Bill, Vanessa Romo, and Jaclyn Diaz. “Official Who Said Atlanta Shooting Suspect Was Having a 'Bad Day' Faces Criticism.” NPR. NPR, March 18, 2021. npr.org/2021/03/17/978141138/atlanta-shooting-suspect-is-believed-to-have-visited-spas-he-targeted.

Dewan, Shaila. “How Racism and Sexism Intertwine to Torment Asian-American Women.” The New York Times. The New York Times, March 18, 2021. nytimes.com/2021/03/18/us/racism-sexism-atlanta-spa-shooting.html?searchResultPosition=3.

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Kaur, Harmeet. “Fetishized, Sexualized and Marginalized, Asian Women Are Uniquely Vulnerable to Violence.” CNN. Cable News Network, March 18, 2021. cnn.com/2021/03/17/us/asian-women-misogyny-spa-shootings-trnd/index.html.

Lim, Audrea. “The Alt-Right's Asian Fetish.” The New York Times. The New York Times, January 6, 2018. nytimes.com/2018/01/06/opinion/sunday/alt-right-asian-fetish.html?searchResultPosition=1.

Nieto, Giulia Mcdonnell. “What We Know about the Victims in the Atlanta Shootings.” The New York Times. The New York Times, March 19, 2021. nytimes.com/2021/03/19/us/atlanta-shooting-victims.html?searchResultPosition=3+https%3A%2F%2F.

Press, The Associated. “More than 9,000 Anti-Asian Incidents Have Been Reported since the Pandemic Began.” NPR. NPR, August 12, 2021. npr.org/2021/08/12/1027236499/anti-asian-hate-crimes-assaults-pandemic-incidents-aapi.

Spolia, Taniya, Edited by Liam J. Afonso / GAZETTE, Erin Grace / GAZETTE, and Liam J Afonso / GAZETTE. “'Yellow Fever': Sexualizing Anti-Asian Racism.” The Gazette • Western University's Student Newspaper, February 9, 2021. westerngazette.ca/features/special_editions/sex_issue/yellow-fever-sexualizing-anti-asian-racism/article_d52a8eda-6535-11eb-934d-9b78d05e4717.html.

Tavernise, Sabrina, and Richard A. Oppel. “Spit on, Yelled at, Attacked: Chinese-Americans Fear for Their Safety.” The New York Times. The New York Times, March 23, 2020. nytimes.com/2020/03/23/us/chinese-coronavirus-racist-attacks.html.

The author's comments:

This is a paper that I wrote in 10th grade but I find it particularly fitting to revisit the issue in Women's History Month and keep it in public consciousness if we are to eliminate it eventually.

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