On Tuesday, March 16th, a man opened fire in three local massage businesses in the Cherokee and Fulton counties of Georgia and killed eight people: 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. Six of the victims were Asian-American women, while the remaining two were classified as a white woman and man. These shootings come at a time where racial tensions and hate crimes against Asian-Americans are at an all time high due to the Asian diaspora being unfairly blamed for Covid-19.
That shooter was later identified as Robert Aaron Long, a white male, and when the police apprehended Long, he claimed he was seeking to address a “sexual addiction” and “was not racially motivated.” The Washington Post news only furthered this false, harmful narrative by reporting that the “Atlanta shooting suspect told investigators that killings of Asian women weren’t racially motivated.” Additionally, there was an alarming sympathy displayed towards the shooter with Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jay Baker making the statement: “He was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope. Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.” As well as a quote from a Daily Beast story describing the alleged shooter – who was charged on March 17 with eight counts of murder – as the son of a pastor who was “very innocent-seeming.”
However, this explanation falls apart as it assumes that misogyny and racism are experienced separately by Asian women when the fact is misogyny and racism are deeply intertwined for Asian women. The theory of intersectionality explains interconnectedness of these two different forms of oppression. Intersectionality, defined by Merriam Webster, is “the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.” The term, coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, sums up why it’s impossible for these shootings to simply be “sexually motivated”
Furthermore, a 2018 report published by the American Psychological Association outlined the ways in which Asian-American women are exoticized and objectified in media and popular culture, depicted as “faceless, quiet and invisible, or as sexual objects.” The surveys conducted for this study discovered these stereotypes “contribute to experiences of marginalization, invisibility and oppression” for Asian-American women.
Historically, the discrimination and oppression Asian women experience have been directly connected both to their race and gender as well. Since immigrating to the United States, Asian women have been subjected to this hypersexualization and sexual stereotypes exemplified through the Page Act of 1875. This law prohibited the importation of unfree laborers and women brought for “immoral purposes'' but was enforced primarily against the Chinese, Japanese and “Mongolian” contract laborers and women. Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of the National Asian Pacific Women's Forum, mentions that this Act “essentially stopped East Asian women from entering the U.S. because they were seen as prostitutes.” She goes on to articulate “So from the get-go, we've (Asian women) always been seen as temptresses and sexual objects….And so the fact that those were the words used by the killer to describe Asian American women cannot be separated from these historical contexts from which we come from.”
The bodies of Asian women are and have been exoticized and hypersexualized, with the perceived submissiveness of some Asian cultures being glamorized and as a result, this trait has become a stereotype for Asian women. Hence, Asian women are simultaneously viewed as both submissive and hypersexual. This fetishization reduces Asian women to just a sexual being and an inaccurate, dehumanizing stereotype, which creates staggering rates of sexual objectification and violence. These stereotypes have established an narrative that violence towards Asian women is excusable as 41% to 61% of Asian women report experiencing physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime. These percentages are significantly higher than any other ethnic group.
Catherine Ceniza Choy, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley, said "killing Asian American women to eliminate a man's temptation speaks to the history of the objectification of Asian and Asian American women as variations of the Asian temptress, the dragon ladies and the lotus blossoms, whose value is only in relation to men's fantasies and desires….stereotypes around Asian women as exotic, hypersexualized and submissive. Such stereotypes create a perception that Asian Americans are therefore less of a threat and easier to take advantage of and that they aren't going to fight back. Echoes of other archaic beliefs can be found in statements authorities attributed to Long.”
Check out this New York Times article which provides information about who the victims were and their lives to remember and honor them.