This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Midwest Asian American Student Union Conference in Minneapolis. It was, overall, a wonderful conference where I met some very progressive people of color and activists. I was also able to help conduct a successful workshop on the dysfunctional immigration system and how it has negatively affected members of Asian American community. As a city, Minneapolis was awesome and I hope to come back one day. Another important thing to note was that this conference was NOT funded in part by the military, which is unlike other conferences we know of where military funding caused a great deal of controversy.
Just like any other large events, however, there will always be some problems…
One of the first performers to come on stage during the variety show was a hip hop artist and comedian named Traphik. The first things he says for his spoken word speech is that he would, “Choke a slut.” The worst thing that happened afterwards was that almost everyone in the audience started laughing. He went on to say really degrading statements about women, which can all be seen here. In case it is not clear, he also rhymed about getting away with statutory rape, jabs at Mexico, and “throwing away” women who “smelled bad.”
After hearing this, I felt heaviness in my chest. I didn’t know why at first. I later on realized that it was pain. Now that I am sitting here writing, I realized that it reminded me of my own mother’s experiences and the stories of women I have worked with at a local domestic violence shelter. It also reminded me of the countless women who face violence everyday and the endless cycle many of them are subjected to.
I thought about the time my mom revealed to me in high school that the reason she disappeared one night when I was 4 years old was because she was hospitalized after my father beat her during one of his drunken rages.
I thought about the women I worked with at the shelter who live in fear and have to remain in hiding as their exes roam free, due to the faulty criminal “justice” system that does nothing to protect women.
I thought about the stories of the undocumented women from the SB1070 racial profiling hearings I attended who were too afraid to call the police when they experienced domestic abuse, our of fear of revealing their immigration status.
The way this person nonchalantly said these things, as if it did not mean anything, made me think about our current culture that advocates for violence against women. It reminded me that it has been normalized, even in my generation, as can be seen in music, magazines, and television. While many have convinced themselves that it was not his intent to advocate for violence against women, his actions DID advocate for violence against women. The fact that the audience laughed at his comments, indicates that many attendees clearly do not see that “slut” is a derrogatory term, and that violence against women is wrong.
Misogyny within a space of empowerment for Asian Americans made the situation slightly contradictory. By starting the conference off with this performer, it reminded some women in the audience of their positions as sexual objects and their secondary status. One woman, after he performed, yelled, “SEXIST!” to assert her voice as an individual who refused to take the verbal abuse lying down. I stupidly yelled in conjunction, “FUCK YOU!” not knowing what else to say. He replied by acting like he did not hear her, and just laughed it off. Apparently, he has done this many times in other venues, and when womyn confronted him, he would disrespectfully ignore them. Discussions with other folks later made me feel defeated at how easily everyone acquiesced to this verbal abuse. One man said it was merely, “Fun and games,” and that it should not be a big deal.
Real artists go against mainstream devaluing of women and spit rhymes that speak of the resilience and fierceness of their APIA sisters. Traphik is not a real artist, and it is apparent that he will never get it.
It is up to members of next year’s MAASU and event planners of other APIA events to understand the importance of finding real performers who work to positively contribute to the community. By simply finding any wannabe artist with the least bit of talent is counterproductive to the mission of these events.
We want to counter the structures that bring down marginalized communities, but we cannot do that if we do not recognize what is disempowering us. The first step is to transcend our internalized oppressions.
Recognize all forms.
No one has the right to oppress others based on race, genders, sexuality, ability, and beliefs.
In understanding that violence against women is not a humorous matter, here are some statistics:
- 41 – 61% of Asian women report experiencing physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime.1 This is higher than the rates in a national study reported by Whites (21.3%), African Americans (26.3%), Hispanics of any race (21.2%), people of mixed race (27.0%), and American Indians and Alaskan Natives (30.7%), and Asians and Pacific Islanders (12.8%).2
Domestic Violence-Related Homicide
- In a six-year period, 160 cases in Asian families resulted in 226 fatalities, of which 72% were adult homicide victims, 10% were child homicide victims, and 18% were suicide deaths.
- 68% of victims were intimate partners (current, estranged, or ex-partners), of which 111 were women and 14 were men.
- 83% of homicide perpetrators were men, 14% were women, 3% unknown.
- Children were the second largest group of victims, and the parents of wives and girlfriends were the third largest group.
- 56% of Filipinas and 64% of Indian and Pakistani women had experienced sexual violence by an intimate in a study interviewing 143 women.
- 68% of Filipinas and 50% of Indian and Pakistani women reported being stalked by an intimate partner.
- 5,200 – 7,800 Asians and Pacific Islanders comprise the largest group of people trafficked into the U.S., out of an estimated total of 14,500-17,500 individuals trafficked in 2004.
Children’s Exposure to Family Violence
- 70% of Cambodians, 61% of Chinese, 80% of Koreans, 79% of South Asians, and 72% of Vietnamese men and women reported being hit regularly as children.
- 28% of Cambodians, 18% of Chinese, 30% of Koreans, 8% of South Asians, and 27% of Vietnamese witnessed their fathers regularly hit their mothers.
(Note: Stats refer to Asian immigrants)