Two Asian women standing next to each other at a protest, one of them holding a sign that says, "End violence against Asians".

Why Asian American Women Need Solidarity Now More Than Ever

Why Asian American Women Need Solidarity Now More Than Ever

Asian American women have long been subjected to fetishization, negligence, disrespect, and indifference. The idea of intersectionality is vital to understanding Asian American women’s position throughout American history. Kimberlé Crenshaw was the first person to coin the term “intersectionality” to describe how an individual’s identities could span across different types of discrimination one could face. The long history of regarding Asian women as submissive and weak have perpetuated brutalities towards them. The recent shooting that produced six Asian American women victims out of the eight total in an Atlanta spa only demonstrates how Asian American hate crimes have not decreased, but rather, have grown exponentially in the wake of the global pandemic. The brutal stabbing of Christina Yuna Lee, a Korean American graduate student in New Jersey’s Chinatown, or the murder of Michelle Go in Times Square station by a homeless man who pushed her into an incoming subway are just a few examples of the growing hate crimes targeted at Asian Americans, and especially “vulnerable” Asian women. 

Some might think that because there has been a rise in appreciation for Asian culture, these crimes might have declined, but recent statistics tell us that this is unfortunately not the case. Hate crimes against Asian Americans have risen by 146%, an astounding statistic, especially compared to the mere 2% rise in overall hate crimes. Many believe this to be a direct result of former president Donald Trump’s proclamation that the novel coronavirus was “the Chinese virus.” 

Anti-Asian sentiment appeared as early as the 1870s during the railroad construction, when many white Americans believed the Chinese immigrants were “stealing” jobs from them. Anti-Japanese sentiment also rose after World War II. This continuous negative perception of East Asians has excluded and limited Asian American participation in the economy and society. Asian men have been subjected to these kinds of racism pertaining to jobs, while women have been subjected to racism pertaining to beauty standards. 

Even as an elementary school student growing up in the diverse city of Chicago, I have witnessed and even at times (though then, I was not aware) was subjected to racism regarding the physical differences between my white peers and myself. The sudden rise of the so-called “fox-eye” trend seemed to ignore years of racism that I have witnessed, not just of myself but of my other Asian female counterparts. As I saw famous models such as Kendall Jenner or Bella Hadid emulate this “Asian eye” style by stretching their forehead and lifting the sides of their heads, it seemed to only portray a stronger proof that when rich and famous white women appropriated Asian eyes, they were praised for their beauty, but when they were the natural eye shape of Asian women, we were taunted for it. The viral phrase, “My eyes are not a trend” has further shone light to this appropriation. This so-called “trend” seems even more inconsiderate given that the central East Asian beauty standard has been  Western-centric, in that Asians praise pale skin, big eyes, and tall noses. And for many East Asians, especially in my home country of South Korea, a majority of girls are raised in this toxic environment to desire this Western beauty standard, leading many to often resort to double-eyelid surgeries to make their eyes look bigger.

These experiences raise the question of whether this toxic cycle will ever be put to an end. The rise of K-pop, K-dramas, K-beauty, and more certainly help in decreasing stereotypes and negative perceptions, but America still has a long way to go before truly dismantling this type of racism against Asian women. In times like this, it is evermore crucial that all women and Asians stand in solidarity to help protect the population caught in crosshairs of anti-Asian sentiment and sexism.