From the 19th century Page Act, which depicted the majority of Chinese women in the US as sex workers, to US military occupations in Asia to pop culture touchstones such as “Full Metal Jacket,” Sung Yeon Choimorrow notes that Asian women in the United States have long been stereotyped as sexual objects or as being submissive — making them especially vulnerable to harassment and violence.
Racism and sexism against Asian American women intensified with the start of the pandemic as the community was scapegoated, said Choimorrow, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. With people referring to Covid-19 as the “China virus” or “kung flu,” it seemed to her that others felt emboldened to act on anti-Asian sentiments.
She recalls how, early on in the pandemic, a man chased her down her neighborhood while she was on a walk with her young daughter. “Go back home with your China virus,” she remembers him yelling. But while the pandemic might have heightened the violence and harassment Asian American women face, the underlying issue has always been there, according to Choimorrow.
“(There are) all sorts of crazy assumptions people make about how Asian women are docile and submissive and don’t stand up for ourselves or think for ourselves,” she said. “I think that makes us very easy targets.”
It’s difficult to disentangle the racialized misogyny that Asian American women in particular face from the racism that has intensified for Asian Americans overall since the pandemic began. But two years later, Asian American women are still reporting incidents of violence and harassment.
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