You hate Asian men, they insist; you hate your own child. You hate yourself. I save these messages in a folder on my computer to document the abuse. Whenever I upgrade my laptop, I copy them over, little packets of poison I must keep and carry forever.
It was a moment when Asian-Americans were celebrating as a community, yet here was a hate message plummeting out of the blue into my inbox. And like most of the harassing messages I receive, it came from an Asian man. In frustration, I shared the message on Twitter, and most people were appalled. Targeted harassment from Asian-American men toward Asian-American women over choosing a non-Asian partner or having multiracial children, I discovered, is widespread, vicious, and devastating.
For instance, actress Hana Wu was targeted on Twitter after she tweeted a film trailer in which her character has a relationship with a white man, and she soon began receiving misogynistic messages on Instagram. Other times, the implied violence is more subtle. The volume and venom of these messages has real-world consequences for these women. They told me they reduced their internet presence afterward — making it harder to share their work and get new work.
Some writers told me they shied away from writing about race, relationships, or identity. Some quit altogether. Although the messages come from many users, one particular subgroup on Reddit seems to be the root for most of this harassment.
The problem is that even legitimate concerns end up entwined with these more extreme views. However, most speak not about cultural representation and activism, but about what they perceive as a dearth of dating opportunities for Asian men. The most toxic posts come from men who argue for racial purity and refer to Asian women as if they are commodities rather than people. I know this all too well myself. They have a valid complaint here: My tweet fed into those stereotypes that Asian men are unsexy, and when people pointed this out, I rethought my own biases.
Growing up, the only Asians I knew were my cousins — so, as I admitted, when I see Asian men, my first instinctive feeling is often kinship rather than sexual attraction. They send a screenshot of that tweet repeatedly at me and anyone who tries to support me, passing the. But for the women I interviewed, the opposite was true. Nearly every woman acknowledged how hard it was to be an Asian man. Several women had hesitated to speak publicly about the harassment, fearing it would make Asian men look bad.
But though these women still felt some solidarity with their harassers — family matters — that feeling is one-way. Even women who explicitly support Asian men can be targeted by this group if their support is deemed insufficient.
Nancy Wang Yuen, a professor of sociology at Biola University, was harassed because she advocated for others in addition to Asian men. Few Asian men speak out, knowing that the harassers turn on anyone who displeases them. One woman said a prominent Asian man privately gave her advice about harassment, but he said he would get heat if he got involved directly. In another case, when an Asian man tweeted against the harassment of an Asian woman, the harassers contacted his workplace and asked to have him fired.
Still others refuse to believe that the harassment is real: After I shared examples of harassment, some people tried to convince me that a white person sent the message to stir up intra-Asian infighting. This could be a very long con — but it seems unlikely. Officially reporting the harassment often leads nowhere, leading many women to stay silent. Asians are not a monolith; we will inevitably disagree on particular opinions or pieces of work.
But empathy and thoughtful conversation must be the goal, and the entire Asian community must work together to end the misogynist harassment that prevents it. It is , in this way, a family matter: We have to support each other. Already a subscriber? Log in or link your magazine subscription. Account Profile. Sign Out. Tags: celeste ng asian americans politics metoo power harassment More. Most Viewed Stories. Best of The Cut. Yesterday at p. More Stories.