As feminists, trans, and queer, scholars working in the Program in Gender and Women’s Studies, we would like to add our writing and voices to the statements already made about the Atlanta shooting.
First, we send our love to the families and loved ones of the victims of the Atlanta shooting. We also send our support and wish to witness the grief of our Asian and Asian-American students, faculty and staff who have their own experiences of targeted stereotyping, racialization, sexual violence, as well as gaslighting and diminution of their experiences. As members of your community we want to affirm that you may be experiencing fear, grief, triggered memories, concern for yourself and loved ones, and we want to validate and witness that these are (re)traumatizing events grounded in a historical experience that is undeniable and real. You are not alone.
We also send our love to students, faculty, and staff, who either have in the past or may be currently engaged in sex work. Sex workers are our community and sex work is real work that deserves the same legal structured protections as other forms of work. We see you. You are not alone.
Among the over 500,000 deaths in the U.S. due to Covid-19 -- a virus which has also been called “the China virus” and “the Wuhan virus” by racist provocateurs and has disproportionately affected communities of color -- we mourn the loss of Daoyou Feng, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Paul Andre Michels, Soon C. Park, Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, Delaina Ashley Yaun, and Yong A. Yue. We understand the murders of these eight community members, six of whom were Asian women, as part of a yearlong upsurge in pandemic-related anti-Asian attacks. The massage parlor shootings in Atlanta must also be contextualized within a longer history of racialized violence against Asian women. To characterize the shooter as having a sex addiction is to miss the specifically racist misogyny that fuels his ideations of sexuality. To point to his having had a “bad day” is to ignore the ways that coercive sex trafficking has shadowed military incursions and occupations in Asia for over a century and has continued to inform how Asian women are situated in the particularly virulent alchemy of racialized sexual economies.
We write in solidarity, rage, and grief with Asian and Asian American communities, women, queer, trans, and nonbinary folks, sex workers, service workers, the unhoused, unbanked, and undocumented, immigrants and refugees, and all who are targeted by racist sexual violence. We note that the framing of sex work as vice or moral turpitude, often with the cooperation of feminists, has produced a legal structure in which violence against these most vulnerable workers is implicitly sanctioned by the law. Sex work is dangerous work because it is criminalized, consigned to an underground economy, and framed as moral failing. As such, we do not condone increased policing as a solution to this racialized and sexualized violence. Instead we assert that sex work needs to be validated as work, and needs to be supported in such a way as to bring advocates for the labor rights and safety of sex workers to the foreground. As Dr. Mimi Thi Nguyen points out, “the criminalization of sex work is central to the criminalization of migrant movements.”
Below we have listed resources to donate to, or to turn to for further education. Even as we expect the national news to move on, and the spotlight of concern to fade, we encourage our colleagues to join us in deepening our commitment to understanding and countering anti-Asian and sex-worker violence in all of its complexities.
Other statements from Gender and Women’s Studies and Ethnic Studies Departments:
University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign: AAS/GWS Statement on Anti-Asian Violence | Department of Gender & Women Studies at Illinois
Barnard Center for Research on Women: Defending Asian women, defending sex workers
University of Southern California: https://dornsife.usc.edu/genderstudies/
Working List of Resources:
Red Canary Song: transnational anti-raid organization working to decriminalize sex work and support migrant and Asian sex workers in New York City.
Butterfly: organization formed by sex workers, social workers, legal and health professionals. It provides support to, and advocates for, the rights of Asian and migrant sex workers. The organization is founded upon the belief that sex workers are entitled to respect and basic human rights. Butterfly asserts that, regardless of their immigration status, Asian and migrant sex workers should be treated like all other workers.
SWAN Vancouver: supports immigrant and migrant women engaged in indoor sex work by providing support services and systemic advocacy.
Sex Workers Project: an organization supporting legal services, advocacy, education, media, and organizing to build a movement to protect the human rights of sex workers.
Monsoon Asians & Pacific Islanders in Solidarity: serves victims and survivors of sexual violence, domestic violence, and trafficking in the Asian and Pacific Islander community in Iowa.
National Organization of Asians and Pacific Islanders Ending Sexual Violence: a program under Monsoon (above) that helps "local and international community-based programs and governmental organizations" in serving victims of sexual violence from API communities in the U.S., U.S. Territories in the Pacific, and Asia.
AAPI Women Lead: supports AAPI women and girls with workshops and and research, and promotes movements such as #ImReady, which addresses issues like gender-based and racial discrimination and sexual harassment in the community.
National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum: empowers AAPI and women and girls through reproductive health, economic justice, immigrant rights, and more. (You can also support the Atlanta chapter to uplift local efforts in the wake of the shooting.)
Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Atlanta: a nonprofit legal advocacy group protecting the rights of Asian-Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in Georgia and the Southeast.
Asian Prisoner Support Committee: raises awareness about arrests and deportations of AAPI people in California.
APIENC: an organization supporting the AAPI queer and trans community in the Bay Area.
Asian American Feminist Collective: an intersectional feminist group that focuses on exploring identity, building community, political education, and advocacy.
Asian American Advocacy Fund: The Asian American Advocacy Fund’s mission is to advocate for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Hawaiians in Georgia. Through a combination of policy advocacy at local, state, and federal levels, and by supporting candidates that believe in our values, we fight to create a better Georgia for us all.