Wednesday, March 11, 2009

racism and sexual violence against api women

In my experience, the people I've talked to who argue that racism or sexism is not a big deal in this day and age typically have the privilege of not understanding why it matters. Except, as Jaemin Kim argues, “[T]hese stereotypes are dangerous.” The ones that she's specifically referring to are “societal norm[s] to reduce an Asian woman to a sexualized stereotype, a one-faceted 'thing' that is exclusively an object of desire.” (This Wikipedia entry provides a quick intro to stereotypes of API women.)

Kim's article (1) discusses recent cases of race-based sexual violence against Asian women:

“In Spokane, Washington, two white men and a woman specifically hunted random Japanese women in an elaborately planned scheme to kidnap, rape, sodomize, torture and videotape them. Their motivation? According to police reports, the rapists had a sexual 'fantasy and 'fixation' about young Japanese women, who they believed were 'submissive.' ...

During a one month period in Autumn 2000, the predators abducted five Japanese exchange students, ranging from age 18 to 20. Motivated by their sexual biases about Asian women, all three used both their bodies and objects to repeatedly rape - vaginally, anally and orally -- two of the young women over a seven hour ordeal.”

Despite a confession from one of the attackers of targeting only Japanese women, indicating the racial-motivations of the assault, they were NOT charged with a hate crime. Why? Because, according to a detective in Spokane who emailed Kim, “'It was felt that there was no hate involved instead he [the lead rapist] was very infatuated with the Japanese race.' (sic).” Kim states, “We, as a society, were told that it's not a hate crime to rape an Asian woman because of her race” in the case of the Spokane assault.

Underlying these incidents are issues of power, but not in the sense of what the survivor could have done or should have done. Instead, it's the fact that these people could assault the women and the fact that these stereotypes exist, and are still considered acceptable. Finally, in this case, I would add that while these crimes are clearly racially-based, there is also a gender dimension; in this case, Asian women were specifically targeted due to sexual stereotypes about this particular group. While issues of sexual violence are unfortunately often associated with women as the survivors, gender should not be left out of the conversation just for that reason. In responding to sexual violence against API women, it is important to acknowledge these intersections (2). How should we as a community organize EFFECTIVELY in response to sexual violence like this?

(source: Racialicious)


  1. That's truly disturbing and disgusting that raping an Asian woman for some twisted stereotypical fetish is not considered a hate crime. That's sick.

    How to organize effectively...speaking up, holding events, making sure people know that Asian American women are not passive or submissive but strong and resilient.

    That shit is not ok.

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