Toxic Masculinity Claims Life of Another Asian American Woman

August 1, 2016
Anna Bui, in a photo posted to her social media.
Anna Bui, in a photo posted to her social media.

Last week, toxic masculinity claimed its latest victims. In Mukilteo, Washington, 19-year-old Allen Ivanov has been arrested after driving to a house party where several of his high school friends were gathering, and shooting to death his ex-girlfriend, Anna Bui, along with two fellow classmates, Jordan Ebner and Jake Long; a fourth unidentified friend was also injured in the attack.

Ivanov killed Bui, Ebner and Long, with a legally purchased AR-15 which he appears to have bought specifically to carry out the attack. Pictures of the long-gun were posted to Ivanov’s social media in the days prior to the attack, along with cryptic messages about his plans to carry out the murders. After shooting Bui and their friends, Ivanov escaped and was arrested in his car nearly 100 miles from the scene of the attack. Both Ivanov and Bui were identified as students at the University of Washington, and over the weekend, the school sent out an email mourning the shooting and encouraging students to attend grief counseling.

Friends say that Bui had broken up with Ivanov either a month ago and/or in the week prior to the attack (depending on whom you ask), and she seems to have been the primary target of his assault. One friend told the Daily Mail that Ivanov had been “depressed” after his relationship with Bui ended, and that minutes after the shooting, Ivanov sent a text saying “I just killed my ex-girlfriend” and contemplated suicide. Other friends described Ivanov as incapable of such violence; but, in contrast, that he “often had a jealous side” and that he acted as if he had “something to prove”.

Anna Bui is the latest name in a heartbreaking list of women whose lives were taken by men who resort to violence in the wake of the ending of an intimate relationship — like Bui, many of those women are Asian American women. The role of toxic masculinity and misogylinity, and its assertion of male entitlement over female sexuality, in violent killings such as these cannot be ignored.  According to the White House, 40% of mass shootings in the United States begin with a shooter targeting a current or former romantic partner, while intimate partner violence is four times more likely to involve a female victim than a male one. Put another way: 70% of victims killed by an intimate partner are women.

Intimate partner violence is a real problem for AAPI women (as it is for all women, including all women of colour), and it deserves more of our attention. The Asian American Psychological Association reports that 1 in 10 AAPI women report minor violence from an intimate partner, while 1.2% experience severe violence. The Association further suggests that intimate partner violence may be grossly underreported in our community; in other microstudies, 40-60% of AAPI women surveyed reportedly experienced some form of intimate partner violence.

From AAPIData
From AAPIData

Too  often, intimate partner violence escapes our attention except under the most heartbreaking of circumstances — when non-fatal violence escalates to murder. In 2013, 36 AAPI women were killed by a male in a single offender/single victim incident. Review of 160 cases of violence within Asian families spanning a six-year period reveal that 70% of homicide victims were adult women, and 83% of perpetrators were adult men. Sadly, we can put faces to those statistics. Last week, Allen Ivanov shot and killed Anna Bui, presumably out of retaliation for her decision to end their relationship. In 2009, Annie Le was brutally murdered by a fellow co-worker at Yale, Raymond J. Clark III, after rejecting his unwanted romantic advances. In the same week, Felicia Lee was apparently murdered by her live-in boyfriend, Brian Randone. Two years ago, 20-year-old Tong Shao, a student at Iowa State University, was killed by Iowa University student and former boyfriend, Li Xiangnan, after an argument in which Tong attempted to breakup with him. In that same year, Su Hsin was murdered by Su Chen, her partner of several years, before he turned his gun upon himself. (HT JF) Just this past weekend, 35-year-old Vantha Tho was shot to death in Hermosa Beach by her former boyfriend, Angel Marquez, in an apparent murder-suicide.

The list goes on, and on, and on (see Tables 5 and 7 of this report); and while we might instinctively focus on stories like these when they are part of a sensationalized, headline-grabbing murder, to do so only under such circumstances does this issue a disservice. We need to talk about intimate partner violence not as isolated incidents, but as a systemic problem affecting all women, including AAPI women and all women of colour.

A few weeks back, I listened to an NPR story exploring a recent report issued by the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence on the state’s Asian American victims and survivors of domestic violence. CCADV is a local non-profit dedicated to preventing domestic violence, and for the first time, they are committing resources to addressing the issue in a culturally-specific manner; they are by no means the only non-profit in the state or the nation to focus on intimate partner violence as it affects communities of colour or AAPI communities specifically. Nonetheless, among the issues identified in CCADV’s report as hindering AAPI women from coming forward on the topic of domestic violence are: language barriers, and the cultural, political and social isolation faced by recently immigrated women whose legal immigration status might be tied to an abusive domestic partner. For women who face the latter issues, the American legal system is more often foe than friend. That was the case with Nan-Hui Jo, a Korean woman whose lapsed visa status stymied efforts to escape her abusive domestic partner whom she feared would one day take her life and the life of their child. When Jo eventually fled the United States with her daughter to escape her abuser, she — and not her abusive partner — was arrested, charged, and convicted on child kidnapping charges when she returned years later.

From a report on homicides related to intimate partner violence:

“Women are dying every day as a result of domestic violence, and our state and federal laws are insufficient in the face of this crisis,” states VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand. “State and federal policymakers should take immediate action to help protect women from abusers and prevent future tragedies. This should include ensuring that men with a history of domestic abuse do not have access to guns.”

“When men murder women, the most common weapon used is a gun,” says Julia Wyman, executive director of States United to Prevent Gun Violence. “Closing gaps in state and federal gun laws will save women’s lives.”

We need a sea change in how we deal with intimate partner violence. Rather than allowing legislators to co-opt laws originally designed to protect domestic violence victims, and to use them instead to criminalize immigrant and AAPI women, we need to at last hold our legislators really, actually accountable to enacting better measures that protect victims of intimate partner violence, particularly as intimate partner violence impacts women of colour.

Furthermore, we need to stand up to toxic masculinity and its violent logic. As a nation, we need to have real and frank conversations about masculinity and misogylinity, and the devastating impact that toxic masculinity has on both men and women. No young man should grow up believing that his masculinity is defined by his entitlement over a woman politically or sexually, and no woman should die at the hands of someone who believes violence is appropriate retribution for the assertion of her self-agency.

Read More: For extensive discussion of intimate partner violence within the AAPI community, including a list of cases involving intimate partner homicides and homicide-suicides involving AAPI victims and perpetrators, please see Shattered Lives: Homicide, Domestic Violence and Asian Families, a report by the API Institute on Domestic Violence.

 

  • Johnguy

    I like the chart where there’s a list of abuse from ethnic partners and all are listed from asian countries. Anti-asian male agenda is obvious. The self hate is strong with this whore. More flaws in this article than in the author.

  • Johnguy

    Try living a life where people are attacking you everywhere you go 24 hours a day, for years even decades on end. Live a life where your own female family members are against you.

  • MoreCommonSenseThanYou

    Emotional strength and since you could not grasp that it explains why you can be so easily emasculated. Your analogy is stupid. Racism is not caused by emotional weakness. Your emotional weakness is apparent just by how you got all butthurt by my comment and felt a need to defend your blame of others for your emotional state.

  • Anonymous

    This event happened just a few houses down from where I live, and where I grew up. I knew all of the individuals involved in the tragedy. I, very personally, knew the woman pictured in this article, Anna, and the shooter himself. This is not an act of racism or partner abuse. If you care to actually know some facts, I will kindly share what happened because this is twisted and deceiving. This is the wrong way to acknowledge 3 precious lives.

  • DRM

    I suspect this kind of mindset contributes to domestic violence. How about commenting on the substance of the article – whether you agree with it or not and why – rather than name-calling the author?

  • Observer157

    This blog remains a total joke. Most of the examples are non-Asian males attacking Asian women, but with typically flawed logic Jenn completely misses the point again. She’s as worse as Michelle Malkin

  • PzKpfwCrusader

    As much as it pisses me off when you get DV case, it’s never easy when it actually occurs. In Anna’s case there was no prior violence, bad break ups happen all the time. Washington state isn’t exactly Texas but rural people do have a right to purchase arms even the AR-15 given how some criminals have similar arsenals. Social media threats are a dime a dozen. I am not sure about the laws of Washington state but not all counties would accept a social media comment and the legal purchase of a weapon as sufficient to prove intent prior to the crime.

    Where I live (San Francisco) I’d like to think that we have plenty of legal protections and resources. However even when SFPD has written general orders to make one arrest/detention per DV call and give the victim the DV resources in multiple languages (shelters, District Attorney, and other NGOs) we still have repeat customers whose victims time and again refuse to leave their abusers. How do you help people who refuse help? How do you get someone to accept that what they believe to be love is a lie? The American Justice System enshrines the right to face one’s accuser, and juries can be swayed by charisma. How far should we start denying/altering the rights of the accused in these cases? How far can we negate the the right to a speedy and public trial if the victim refuses to testify?

    It’s largely accepted and taught that men do not assault the people they profess to love. There’s plenty if mandatory trainings and PSAs running in the US, and yet there’s bodice ripper fiction and all manner of media where brutality masquerades as romantic fantasy under the great umbrella of “art”. Since we also tally dating relationships as part of DV stats how do we go about policing people’s relationships before a physical altercation? Given the acrimony from the ongoing AA dating sphere most AA Women and Men are adamant that no one else has any right to interfere with or critique their personal relationships even if they go about attempting to police others.

    The law doesn’t really come into play until after a crime has been committed, and even with a conviction it can only ensure that the offender can’t harm the general public for the duration of the sentence. However one the abuser serves the sentence, what do you do with them? How do you force someone to change if they aren’t willing? On what grounds should we detain them indefinitely?

    Romantic relationships so personal where few if any would want any outside interference. Yet that freedom means letting people make mistakes and make bad choices. Freedom means that the state cannot hold people without probable cause. It also means that people with heinous opinions get to keep them and get to move about in public until they break the law. Even if most of society agrees on DV what do you do about the holdouts that have yet to do anything? Some one will likely find such persons loveable in a manner that defies common sense as love often deigns to do.

    Anna’s killer it seems was a first time offender with no priors. I don’t know if Washington state can pass a law that makes a veiled death threat on social media sufficient to become intent to commit a crime and then make purchasing a weapon as enough to prove furtherance of a plan. Given how casually threats are tossed about on social media should we allow the use of tools to track these and then allow the monitoring of people making these comments?

    Unlike the Isla Vista case where the deputies should have searched the shooter’s apartment, I don’t see any legally good way for a law enforcement intercept. By all accounts the killer was a functional member of society up until he let his infantile heartbreak become the flimsy justification for killing a woman he dumped along with a few others who were simply in the way. The older I get the more I begin to think that DV is like drunk driving, we have laws, we have PSAs, society as a whole denounces both and yet both continue to happen.

  • r648

    Hello — I’ve been reading many of the articles on this site and following the #HyperMasculAZN stuff quite a bit the past few days. You and your cohorts seem to be arguing that As-Am men should stop attempting to emulate the “toxic masculinity” of white men, and replace it with some sort of “authentic” As-Am masculinity that is healthier. I have some thoughts on this topic, and as I’m not sure which post would be best to share them, I’ve decided to comment on this “toxic masculinity” article here.

    Let’s say you are correct — that it is wise for As-Am men to define a new type of masculinity uniquely different from this mainstream “toxic masculinity.” What would the contours of this new masculinity look like, and how would this new masculinity be able to take shape?

    I think the root of this issue lies in differences between American and traditional Asian conceptions of masculinity. The recent history of Asia is one of want and poverty and oftentimes starvation; therefore, the Asian conception of masculinity revolves around men being able to provide stability and resources. In the modern world, a relatively sure path to stability and wealth is through education, and Asian American parents have often taken that attitude to the US, enforcing education and discipline upon their children. On the other hand, given the prosperity of America (which of course was largely built on slave labor and the massacre of native peoples), satisfying basic resource based needs is not a priority for Americans. As a result, a different sort of masculinity has evolved in the US (and to a lesser extent in Europe): characterized less by stability and ability to provide and more by traits such as extreme extroversion, risk taking, shows of strength via bodybuilding, etc etc.

    So let’s say Asian American men should set out to establish a form of masculinity that differs from traditional American masculinity. It would seem, given how they have been shaped by the childhoods hoisted upon them by their Asian parents, that Asian men should strive for a masculinity more akin to that influenced by the recent history of Asia: one focused on stability and the building of wealth. However, I have already posited that in a prosperous America, this sort of masculinity cannot take root. So the question becomes, how can Asian American men let this sort of masculinity take root in American society?

    It appears to me that the most effective and efficient way of allowing this sort of masculinity to take root is to have American society echo the recent (and continuing) poverty of much of Asian society. In other words, the exacerbation of poverty and income inequality in America would benefit the establishment of a new Asian American masculinity separate from the toxic masculinity emulated by many young AA men today. In such an impoverished and economically unequal society, the values of wealth and stability that AA men have been raised with would be held in higher esteem, as compared to a prospering American society.

    Of course, the counterargument could be made that an economically impoverished America would not be beneficial to AA men. I would counter by arguing first that AA men are already among the more economically successful in this country, and given the values of education instilled in them from childhood, they would be able to weather the impoverishing of their country with aplomb. In fact, it is highly likely that a great proportion of those who benefit most greatly from income inequality would be AA men. Secondly, a high proportion of AA men have a great familiarity with their native language and native culture, and in the event of rising economic malaise in the US, these AA men would be able to achieve success by acting as a “bridge” between the rising Asian economies and the declining US economy. Effectively, the rising economy of Asia would act as a “release valve” shielding AA men from the negative effects of an unequal / impoverished US. In fact, I’ve chosen to be a “bridge” of this sort by taking a job managing the outsourcing of tech work to Asia, so I have firsthand experience with this area. I’m convinced that AA men would survive (if not thrive) in an increasingly impoverished America.

    An interesting case in point is to look at the masculinity of Asian men in Latin America, a part of the world known for both extreme poverty and extreme income inequality. Here in the Bay area, I’ve met more and more South American immigrants (mostly Brazilians and Argentineans with a smattering of Chileans) coming here for tech jobs. I often ask them how Asians, and particularly Asian men, are perceived in their native lands. The response is often something along the lines of “Aren’t they all playboys?”, or “They have money, good at money, so they get lots of women.” Sometimes they make a note of demeaning stereotypes of AA men, but always immediately follow it with “But women like them, they’re rich and playboys.” I notice a similar response from the more un-Americanized Mexican immigrants who are coming to California (a proportion of the more Americanized Mexican immigrants tend to adopt the dominant white culture’s antipathy to Asian men). That being said, I’m sure many of the “Angry Asian men” who comment in this space would be more than happy to have the reputation of wealthy playboys, that their counterparts in the Latin American world enjoy.

    By this measure, wouldn’t the most practical, effective and efficient way for a new “AA masculinity” to take root involve greater poverty and income inequality in America? And wouldn’t AA men’s optimal path to instituting a new, non-toxic masculinity lie in contributing to that impoverishment and income inequality, by, for example, outsourcing American jobs, etc etc? Rather than trying to adapt themselves to fit the white man’s mold (whose very purpose was to exclude people of color such as AA men) wouldn’t it be easier for AA men to take actions to change the America that surrounds them, such that the latent attitudes of much of the American populace begins to value AA men, due to the extreme poverty of the American populace and the wealth of AA men?

    I feel the biggest social change occuring in America now is the surge in the Latino population. It seems that historically, Latino nations have lived with a culture of extreme poverty and income inequality, and these are conditions in which the “masculinity” possessed by AA men is able to thrive. So, would it be fair to say that encouraging the twin forces of the continued “Latin-ization” of America, and income inequality and extreme poverty in America, would be the optimal way for Asian men to establish their new, non-toxic masculinity?

    I’ve put a lot of serious thought into this topic after reading up on #HyperMasculAZN and the anti-toxic masculinity posts on this blog, and well… this is the most rational solution I could come up with. I truly believe the most efficient way to enact social change is through economic pressures, and history tends to bear this out. There’s a lot of stuff on this blog about establishing a non-toxic masculinity for Asian men, but nothing on how this non-toxic masculinity could be made to take root in the greater society around us. What I’m presenting here is what I believe is the most realistic way of actually grafting this non-toxic Asian masculinity onto America. I welcome your comments and constructive criticism of these thoughts.

  • Josh

    This should be reclassified as white toxic masculinity, since there was most likely a sexual colonialist mindset involved. It’s only fair since you talk so much about Asian “misogyljnity” lol

  • If you believe that either this post, or my misogylinity post, is about classifying toxic masculinity along racial lines then — sadly — you have entirely missed the point of both posts, and clearly misunderstand something about the intersection of racism and sexism in general.

  • I don’t know if Washington state can pass a law that makes a veiled death threat on social media sufficient to become intent to commit a crime

    Such a law likely cannot be passed because the Supreme Court recently ruled against the criminality of (implied) death threats on social media.

  • PzKpfwCrusader

    Thanks, when I was still at academy that was one of the questions that was put up. It’s not a perfect ruling, but I can see why the court ruled 7-2.

  • Darren Gooden

    This was one of the sweetest murders I have ever heard in my life. A sellout self hating asian bitch and her asiaphile boyfriend. The asian bitch is dead and cracker jack is going to jail for 40 years. I drink champagne tonight.

  • Anthony Cavanna

    Is it toxic femininity when a woman kills her husband and kids? Is it toxic femininity when a woman accuses a man of rape but she turns out to by lying?

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