How Racism and Sexism Intertwine to Torment Asian-American Women

Historians in the News
tags: womens history, sexism, Asian American History

After eight people, six of them Asian women, were fatally shot this week in a rampage near Atlanta, a law enforcement official said that in the gunman’s own words, his actions were “not racially motivated,” but caused by “sexual addiction.”

The official, Capt. Jay Baker of the Sheriff’s Office in Cherokee County, where one of the three massage businesses targeted by the gunman was located, cautioned that the investigation was in its early stages. But the implication was clear: It had to be one motive or the other, not both.

That suggestion was met with incredulity by many Asian-American women, for whom racism and sexism have always been inextricably intertwined. For them, racism often takes the form of unwanted sexual come-ons, and sexual harassment is often overtly racist.


The fetishization of Asian women was reinforced in popular culture, most notably with the lines spoken by a sex worker in a scene in “Full Metal Jacket,” a Vietnam War movie, as two soldiers try to bargain down her price: “Me so horny. Me love you long time.”

Divorced from their origin, those lines have become a come-on used in what Ellen Wu, a historian at Indiana University Bloomington and the author of “The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority,” called a “racially specific type of catcalling.”

“A few words pack an entire history into a sentence,” she said.

Several advocates said they had spent the last year combating the notion that hate and violence against Asian-Americans, and particularly Asian-American women, were something new.

“There are many women who have died because of sexual violence directed at them that was also racialized, but it has never been at the scale where the whole country is watching and talking about it,” Ms. Choimorrow said. “And what really upsets me is that it has taken something this tragic for me to be able to tell the story.”

Read entire article at New York Times

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