On March 16th, a 21-year-old white man shot and killed eight people, six of them Asian women, at three Atlanta-area massage parlors. This racist and misogynist attack marks the most recent in a disturbing trend of violence targeting Asians and Asian Americans in the United States over the past year.
Just hours before the shootings began, Stop AAPI Hate released a report documenting nearly four thousand hate incidents against Asian Americans since March 19th, 2020—a period of heightened anti-Asian sentiment driven by right-wing disinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic. The report finds that women were 2.3 times more likely than men to report a hate incident (trans and non-binary people also reported incidents). Tuesday’s attack, which bears out the specific vulnerability of Asian women, cannot be divorced from this broader context of anti-Asian prejudice and violence.
The United States’ exclusionary and imperial history informs the present culture in which Asian women are othered, objectified, and hypersexualized, and harassment, abuse, and assaults of Asian women are tolerated. It is impossible to separate the shootings on March 16 from this historic and cultural context. Violence perpetrated against women of Asian descent must be understood in relation to both racism and misogyny, and named as such.
At the Institute for Research on Male Supremacism, we are dedicated to exposing and dismantling male supremacism, including in its intersections with racism, white supremacy, and xenophobia. Details of the shooter’s motivation thus far suggest that the attack is a reflection of the misogyny and racism embedded in mainstream society. While it is unclear at present whether the victims were sex workers, as the perpetrator implied, sex workers and women in occupations that are racialized, feminized and sexualized, and low-wage are at particularly high risk of violence, especially when vulnerable due to their immigration status.
We caution against jumping to unfounded conclusions about the perpetrator’s relationship to specific misogynist groups or ideologies before more information comes to light. Regardless of the shooter’s stated motivations, however, misogyny and racism are intertwined ideologies of oppression, and this attack must be understood in relation to both.
For more information on anti-Asian American harassment and violence, see the Stop AAPI Hate report. For resources and to lend your support, visit Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization protecting the civil rights of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in Georgia and the Southeast, and Red Canary Song, a grassroots collective of Asian and migrant sex workers.