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How the Hyper-Sexualization of Asian Women Can Be Deadly

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Editor's Note

This story mentions the Atlanta shooting that took place March 16, 2021 that targeted Asian Americans. To support the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, you can visit

I had a bad day yesterday. I had a bad day last Tuesday.

When does “having a bad day” excuse our actions? When does it become excusable to go on a murder spree, targeting minority groups, when we have a bad day?

When I heard of the Atlanta shootings, my heart sank. I had a moment of fear for my own life– do I walk outside my neighborhood alone anymore? Can I even go about my daily life? It brought to light the racism and hatred that has spread over my community since this pandemic started. I am not saying that the racism and hatred have not been present in my community for many years, I am saying that these acts of violence have increased by hundreds of times since the pandemic started.

The shootings in Atlanta brought to mind the idea of the model minority myth. My entire life, I have been praised to stay hidden, to stay focused on my own tasks and not interfere with anybody else and their lives. “Stay invisible” was the message sent to me through my childhood. There is this misperception that all Asian ethnicities fit into this mold, that we all work quietly, achieve at high rates and silently move up the socioeconomic ladder. 

The model minority myth is dangerous in this sense. There are great stories of Asians and Asian Americans working hard, immigrating to the United States, paying their dues and creating a quiet life for themselves and their families yet countered to that are the suppressed stories of individuals who are objectified for their exotic nature, being called racial slurs and being thought of as servants. Many Asian and Asian American individuals work in the service industry and are often seen as servants, or as a lower class than the general public. This seems to give individuals of majority groups the right to mistreat us, to mock us, to dehumanize us.

Recent events have gotten me thinking. I cannot say that I have not been targeted. While my experience of racism has been isolated to encounters with individuals and strangers, I am fortunate to not have experienced violence towards myself or my family. My accent has been mocked when I was younger. I have been told I have “chinky” eyes. I have been addressed in different Asian languages on the streets as people of the dominant racial class have assumed Asians all speak the same and are the same. We are a diverse group of individuals. We make up a rich history in this world and we must be respected as such.

There have been a few occasions where I have gone on dates with people I met on dating apps to only find out that the opposite member of the date was interested in me because I was submissive and foreign. I have been told that I am too intimidating because I am too ambitious for being a Chinese girl. Yes, notice I use the word “girl” and not “woman.” This is intentional. Asian females are often seen as little girls, as young and innocent and incapable. This angers me. I have two master’s degrees and am working on my doctorate degree. I have fended for myself for all my adult years, working to support myself and my dogs, taking on two, sometimes three jobs in order to stay afloat. I am told that I am not submissive enough because I share my views on my Instagram page and have a voice? I am told that I am too ambitious for wanting to better myself and further my own career?

What kind of narrative are we telling our kids? What kind of narrative are we promoting for our future? Why do I have to fit into a mold that society has created for us?

What has happened in this country is inexcusable. Even more so, the events of late have had an impact on my mental health, and I am sure it has impacted the mental health of many other people in our community. 

Cherokee County Sheriff Jay Baker said in a press conference surrounding the shootings, “…and he was pretty much fed up and had been, kind of, at the end of his rope. And yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.” Saying that the violence was a result of a “bad day” excuses the idea that the attacks were racially motivated. Saying that the perpetrator had a “sex addiction” only perpetuates the idea that Asian women are exotic and to be used as tools to advance the interests of majority groups. We are more than a thing to be objectified. We have voices. We have opinions. We have ambitions and goals and aspirations.

Please, call the happenings in Atlanta what they are– racially motivated. Please stop trying to push under the rug what is happening to our Asian and Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities.

Lead image courtesy of Getty Images

Originally published: March 18, 2021
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