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Thistlethwaite: Hate and guns are a lethal mix

What happened in Atlanta at the “spa shootings” is the product of a lethal, toxic stew of lax gun laws, hatred of Asians and Asian Americans trumped up in 2020, and a specific kind of misogyny that is produced against Asian and Asian American women as hyper-sexualized.

There always seems to be a search for a quick “why?” with mass shootings. But there is no quick and easy answer.

Mass shootings hold up a blood drenched mirror to American society. It’s all of it.



Lax gun laws are a big part. On the same day, a young white man, aged 21, bought a gun at a gun shop outside Atlanta and allegedly shot and killed eight people.

Georgia requires no waiting period between the purchase of a firearm and its transfer to the buyer.



The shooter was not just “having a really bad day” as a Georgia sheriff captain opined. That’s a common dodge to deflect attention away from what is actually happening when white males commit mass shootings.

Instead, it is likely this mass shooting that clearly targeted Asian women is part of the increase in anti-Asian hate crimes. In 2020, reports of hate crimes were down 7% nationally but increased 150% against people in the Asian community, according to a recent study.

Former President Donald Trump often stoked blame against the Asian community for the COVID-19 pandemic, referring to it by racial slurs such as the “Kung Flu.” This was an obvious ploy to shift the blame for the catastrophic failures of his administration to act quickly and effectively to stop the spread of the virus.

Human rights groups have repeatedly pointed out that law enforcement has failed to take hate crimes against Asian Americans seriously.

But it is also the case that it seems to have been particularly Asian women who were targeted. This fits with the pattern of mass shootings that shows hatred of women often motivates mass shooters.

A common denominator among men who commit mass murder is a history of “hating women, assaulting wives, girlfriends and female family members, or sharing misogynistic views online” and, as appears in this case, projecting male fantasies of “sexual temptation” on to Asian women.

A large part of the stereotype of Asian women as both submissive and uniquely sexual comes from the sexual imperialism of the war experiences of U.S. military men serving the Pacific in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket,” a 1987 film, attempts to get at what the Vietnam War did to a U.S. Marine Corps platoon. In one scene, a Vietnamese woman propositions herself to two American soldiers. It shows the degradation on both sides.

The film “M.A.S.H.,” set in the Korean War but really about Vietnam, has the doctors who are the heroes of the film go to a brothel together. And while there they help a little child that is one of the prostitutes. Isn’t that nice?

“Full Metal Jacket” is more honest than the normalization and even trivialization of the sexual violence perpetrated on Asian women by American military men as portrayed in “M.A.S.H.”

The sexual exploitation of Asian women by the American military, a practice that continues to this day, is something I have studied extensively and written about with my colleague, Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock, in our book, “Casting Stones: Prostitution and Liberation in Asia and the United States.”

I truly believe the association of Asian women and unbridled sexuality is a hateful production of global militarism.

But again, there is never a simple reason why each mass shooting occurs. So many forces that are pulling this country apart converge in each one.

We need to address all of them.


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