For Asian American Women, Racism And Misogyny Have Always Been Intertwined

A new report lays out how AAPI women have experienced the toxic combination of racism and misogyny throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March, when a white gunman in Georgia killed six women of Asian descent in a string of shootings, many Asian American and Pacific Islanders, especially AAPI women, were horrified — but not surprised. AAPI women and girls know all too well the toxic combination of racism and misogyny, which is often reinforced through media and culture. And, as a new report released Thursday lays out, AAPI women have experienced the consequences of that toxicity throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since last year, Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition of advocacy groups and scholars that has been collecting incident reports to document the surge in anti-Asian racism catalyzed by the pandemic, has continually found that AAPI women are twice as likely to report racist incidents than AAPI men.

“Racism intertwined with misogyny has always been a part of the lives of AAPI women, and the pandemic merely laid bare what went unnoticed before,” the report, a collaboration between Stop AAPI Hate and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), concludes.

The report is based on findings from Stop AAPI Hate’s ongoing database of self-reported incidents, as well as a national survey of AAPI women that NAPAWF conducted in February.

The majority of racist attacks reported by AAPI women involved them experiencing verbal harassment or being called derogatory names and slurs, according to the report. The incidents most commonly occurred on public streets and/or sidewalks, as well as in businesses. 

Asian women at a protest in Washington's Chinatown on March 27, 2021. One woman is holding a sign that reads "6 women were mu
Asian women at a protest in Washington's Chinatown on March 27, 2021. One woman is holding a sign that reads "6 women were murdered." Another woman is holding a sign that reads "Not your sexual fantasy, not your docile wife, not your model minority, not your scapegoat, not your punchline, not your doormat, not your punching bag."

For East Asian, Southeast Asian, and multiracial or multiethnic AAPI women, the second most frequently reported kind of incident was being shunned or purposely avoided in public. East Asian and Southeast Asian women were also more likely to report being attacked for wearing a mask. 

According to Stop AAPI Hate’s data, South Asian women were disproportionately likely to have reported being physically assaulted, compared with East Asian women and Southeast Asian women. South Asian women also were more likely to report experiencing racism for their language or religion. 

To better understand the experiences of Pacific Islander women, who are often erased or excluded from analyses of AAPI representation, the report highlights the responses of the 415 Pacific Islander women who participated in the NAPAWF survey. More than half said that “anti-AAPI racism had affected their lives in 2020 and 2021.” Nearly 22% said they were harassed or discriminated against at work, and 16.7% said they felt “unsafe while walking outside.” More than 15% said they had been sexually harassed, 12.9% said they had experienced race- or gender-based violence, and more than 8% said they had experienced housing discrimination. 

The advocates and researchers stress that “the true proportion of women experiencing hate incidents is likely to be much higher since many of these incidents are never reported.”

The report recommends that policymakers on all levels make concerted efforts to develop and provide culturally specific resources for AAPI survivors of gender-based violence. In many AAPI communities, there is a stigma around talking about mental health, trauma, domestic violence and sexual assault, which could be lessened if AAPI women have access to resources that incorporate language and cultural barriers.

Many community-based organizations are already doing this kind of work, so the report recommends that policymakers and government officials better engage them and allocate more funding toward their work.

On a more fundamental level, advocacy groups routinely point out the lack of detailed data on AAPI communities, who are often left out of public polling or policy research. And when they are contacted, it’s often not done in culturally competent or language-specific ways, so the data collection does not produce a representative sample. In fact, it often obscures the inequities among different AAPI communities. The report recommends that government entities and other organizations who collect data do so in more specific and granular ways, in order to better capture the diversity of AAPI communities.

Read the full report here.