So, it was with dismay that I learned today that Koo had redoubled his sexist attacks on Tan in an interview with the TimesLedger, where Koo broadens his disdain to — apparently — all “angry moms” whom Koo says “can’t accomplish much”.
This, as they say, just got personal. Koo just lobbed a broad insult against all politically-active women and mothers.
On September 12th, New York City’s registered Democrats will head to the polls for the Democratic primaries, and voters living in the city’s 20th City Council district – which includes downtown Flushing, Murray Hill, and Queensboro Hill – will be faced with a choice for the first time in eight years between two-term incumbent City Councilmember Peter Koo and challenger, Alison Tan. This race is of particular interest to Asian American New Yorkers: not only are more than 60% of District 20’s constituency Asian American, but issues within the purview of City Council – such as affordable housing, urban development, and public transportation – are of specific relevance to Flushing residents.
The contest between Koo and Tan has turned decidedly acrimonious in recent months: both candidates have drawn clear distinctions between one another with regard to policy, but the contest has also gotten deeply personal from both sides. Last week at a Candidate’s Forum organized by a coalition of New York-area Asian American groups, the personal attacks took a viciously sexist undertone as Councilmember Koo deployed both implied and overt assaults on Tan’s identity as a working woman, mother, and aspiring female politician.
In a new tell-all book (Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change) — which has been excerpted in The Cut— former Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers junior partner Ellen Pao reveals the culture of sexual harassment that led to her high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit against the powerful venture capital firm. In 2012, Pao filed a major lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins alleging a culture of gender discrimination, and was terminated from the company while her case was ongoing. Despite a valiant legal battle which included the company’s defense engaging in shameless victim blaming and other forms of character assassination, Pao ultimately lost her lawsuit against the firm. Pao went on to serve for two years as CEO of Reddit (where she notably instituted policies curtailing the posting of revenge porn and eliminating some of the site’s most extremist hate-motivated subreddits), before joining Kapor Capital where she currently works.
Pao’s case against Kleiner Perkins was easily one of the most high-profile and influential gender discrimination lawsuits to be filed against a Silicon Valley firm. Although she didn’t win her battle against a large company with access to vast legal resources, Pao’s courageous lawsuit helped to pull back the veil of Silicon Valley’s culture of sexual and gender harassment.
Pao’s case paved the way for many other women — many of them Asian American women — to reveal their own experiences of gender discrimination in tech; and collectively, the courage of these women in speaking out against a culture of sexual harassment in Silicon Valley is having an impact.
A disturbing antifeminist wave has swept through many Asian American digital spaces in the past few years.
Though misogyny in self-professed progressive and radical Asian American spaces is nothing new, the specific iteration that has developed presents a departure from past forms. Whereas older Asian American antifeminisms would seldom engage feminist theory, the new Asian American antifeminism co-opts the work of Black and Asian feminists in service of narratives that position the prioritization of Asian American cishetero men as a truly “feminist,” even “intersectional,” venture.
In recent months, Medium, Nextshark, and YOMYOMF have been flooded with a torrent of articles exemplifying this antifeminism. These pieces have ranged from screeds decrying Asian feminism as complicit in White supremacy to fictionalized accounts of East Asian women marrying neo-Nazis. Generally speaking, these articles have focused on Asian women in interracial relationships with White men, and have presented these pairings as evidence of a hidden sexual agenda in Asian feminism, and Asian women’s enthusiastic participation in the structural oppression of Asian men.
These arguments are not new. They have existed as undercurrents in Asian American politics for some time. However, the willingness of popular Asian American news media outlets to provide a platform for these ideas is cause for alarm. By offering space for these pieces, sites like YOMYOMF and Nextshark are proliferating an antifeminist ideology amongst their respective audiences. This development not only threatens Asian feminists, but also Asian women in general and our movement as a whole. It therefore demands a response.
Earlier this week, President Trump held a press conference in the lobby of Trump Tower, where the president — flanked by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Chief Economic Advisor Gary Cohn — delivered an impromptu series of remarks on the weekend’s white supremacist violence in Charlottesville.
It was the President’s third commentary on the neo-Nazi rally in Virginia that left one woman — Heather Heyer, 32, — dead and eighteen others injured after a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of non-violent counter-protesters. In his initial remarks delivered soon after Heyer’s killing, Trump refused to condemn neo-Nazi demonstrators and instead blamed the violence “on many sides”; he received widespread and bipartisan criticism for the equivocation. The White House was quick to attempt damage control, issuing a tepid statement that attributed condemnation of white supremacists to an unnamed White House representative. On Monday — more than 48 hours after Charlottesville was besieged by white supremacists — Trump also delivered a prepared statement that labeled white supremacists and neo-Nazis as “repugnant”. Again, Trump was widely criticized for offering too little, too late. Within hours of issuing those second comments, Trump returned to Twitter to rail against his critics for being dissatisfied with the remarks.
By Tuesday, Trump was once again ready to give up the charade that he was not on the side of neo-Nazis. In Tuesday’s press conference — ostensibly held to unveil the administration’s latest infrastructure reforms — Trump doubled down on his moral equivalence between violent white supremacists and the counter-protesters who demonstrated against their racism. Manufacturing a supposed “alt-left” (experts agree that the term was invented by conservative media as a slur against leftists), Trump alleged that left-wing activists attacked white supremacists with clubs and provoked the weekend’s violence. Trump concluded his bizarre commentary by undermining his previous day’s remarks and blaming “both sides” for Charlottesville, albeit with more of his moral outrage directed towards leftist counter-protesters.
For a man who has built his entire career around manipulating the media to fuel his own preening self-image, it’s hard to believe that Trump had not planned to issue fresh remarks on Charlottesville on Tuesday. It’s also hard to miss the optics of Tuesday’s press event: Trump stood in steadfast defense of white supremacist terrorists while he surrounded himself with the highest-ranking woman of colour in his administration as well as one of his most senior Jewish American advisors. Trump presented himself alongside Chao and Cohn as if to say: “no matter what spews out of my mouth today, I can’t be accused of being racist; look who my friends are!”