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.
At the age of 51, Chris Rock has evolved far beyond being the brash stand-up comedy of his early days. His latest film projects (Head of State, I Think I Love My Wife, and Top Five) are characteristically funny, but what makes them resonate is their meta-textual commentary on race, politics and Chris Rock’s personal life. With his latest slate of films, Rock no longer simply entertains; he expresses himself and explores the world around him as part comedian, part philosopher, part public intellectual.
In particular, Top Five offered insight into Rock’s reflections – oftentimes wistful and self-critical — on being a Black man in White Hollywood, and the distance that this placed between him and the rest of Black America. It’s a fantastic, deeply intimate film that deserves a wider reach than it received, but it is not without its flaws. Others have written about Top Five’s bad gay joke, but fewer have mentioned that Chris Rock slipped in some cringe-inducing and completely unnecessary anti-Asian jokes over the course of the film.
It has been a little while since I’ve seen Top Five, but at least one joke involves Rock grilling Rosario Dawson’s character – who plays Rock’s love interest — about her dating history, incredulous that a past boyfriend was Asian. The implication, of course, was that Asian and Asian American men are bad in bed. Dawson rejects the remark by pointing out that Asians make up a large segment of the world’s population and therefore – of course – Asian men are good at sex, but the damage is done. As others in the theatre laughed at yet another comedian made yet another joke about the (untrue) stereotype of the “small Asian penis”, I felt angered, betrayed and marginalized as an Asian American woman.
What was perhaps even more frustrating was that the inclusion of these objectively racist jokes in Top Five was totally unnecessary. Top Five is otherwise a smart, well-written, and racially nuanced film that offered a compelling deep dive into contemporary Blackness. So: why did he also include the totally pointless, unfunny, and lazy humour of Asian-bashing and gay-bashing?
That’s pretty much how I feel about Sunday night’s Oscars.
Disgraced former police officer Daniel Holtzclaw, who was convicted late last year for rape and other crimes related to the sexual assault of thirteen Black women, was sentenced today by a judge to serve the full prison term recommended by the jury that found him guilty of 18 of the 36 counts against him.
In 2014, self-described “dating coach” Julien Blanc drew the attention of feminists (myself included) for a series of videos wherein Blanc engaged in street harassment of Japanese women, boasted of groping them while yelling nonsensical Japanese words like “Tamagochi” and “Pikachu”, and advised workshop attendees to use physical and verbal coercion, including choking, in order to “assert dominance”. A public outcry against Blanc ensued – coordinated in the hashtag #TakeDownJulienBlanc – noting that Blanc’s behavior is illegal in many of the countries that he visits, and these activities culminated in Blanc being formally banned from travel to Australia, the United Kingdom, and Singapore, with additional efforts focused on his travel to other countries such as Canada, Japan and Germany. Eventually, Blanc was invited onto CNN to be interviewed by Chris Cuomo, and in that segment, Blanc offered a qualified pseudo-apology for his videos and workshops.
In one of my first posts about the Julien Blanc outcry, I urged us to focus not solely on stopping Julien Blanc, but rather to see Blanc’s videos as symptomatic of the broader misogyny of the pick-up artist community. As shocking as Blanc’s videos and endorsed techniques are to the wider world, they are not unusual within the subculture of pick-up artistry. This is a community where the deep-seated fear of being labeled as a “beta” perpetuates a culture of misogylinity — the defining of masculinity through ownership of female sexuality. This is a community where #MasculinitySoFragile has been distilled into its most concentrated form, where heterosexism runs rampant, and where any notions of feminism and female agency are met with open hostility. In that context, the racialized violence of Julien Blanc’s teachings is not exceptional; rather, it is par for the course.
It should come as no surprise, therefore, that another self-described pick-up artist has stepped into the vacuum left open when Julien Blanc was taken down. It should also come as no surprise that the same racism and misogyny endemic of Blanc’s videos has reappeared.
LifeHack.org is one of the web’s largest, and one of its more shameless, generator of those shitty clickbait listicles that periodically pollute your personal Facebook feed. Like most such sites, it is the digital equivalent of a pitcher plant: it entices readers to make an impulsive click on a curiousity-inducing headline atop some meaningless drivel of an article. But once sucked into the site, you’re trapped in an endless scroll of similarly fluffy listicles that slowly turn your brain to sludge while embedded webads turn your wild flailings for escape into money for the site.
So, I was torn about writing about one of LifeHack.org’s most recent articles (“9 Reasons Why You Should Date a Chinese Girl“), which appears designed to maximize clickbait appeal by attracting Asiaphiles and enraging Asian Americans. Written by self-described “Media Stragetist/Resultist/Content Writer/Blogger/Entrepreneur” Casey Imafidon, whose other work at LifeHack.org and similar sites are of equally low quality, this listicle is a transparent attempt to draw in readers with racist and sexist stereotype.
Since 2001, Reappropriate has been the web's foremost Asian American activism, identity, feminism, and pop culture blog!