Editor’s Note:On February 25 and on April 6, UCLA Law Professor Stephen Bainbridge posted tweets musing whether his Chinese students were carriers of COVID-19 and linking Chinese consumption of exotic meats to the spread of novel coronavirus. Professor Bainbridge later deleted the tweets and blocked UCLA Law students who criticized them. Facing mounting criticism, yesterday Professor Bainbridge engaged people on Twitter — including the editor of this blog — walking back the content of his tweets.
This is an open letter written by UCLA Law’s APILSA regarding Professor Bainbridge’s tweets. Full text of this letter can also be viewed on Google Docs. You can add your name as a signatory to this letter here.
“If we ask nicely, do you think we can get China to ban eating bats, civets, and other wild animals that serve as viral hosts?”
On Monday, April 6, 2020, Stephen Bainbridge issued the following series of (now-deleted) Tweets:2The original tweet links to an NPR Morning Edition Episode, which actually discusses the racism that Chinese students are experiencing due to COVID. See Coronavirus Concerns Weigh On Chinese Students At U.S. Colleges, NPR (Feb. 6, 2020) (noting that racially insensitive comments “have led to a sense of ill-ease among some Chinese students here and that’s amplified by social media back home”)
“1/ The Economist reports that an antibody test for the novel coronavirus will soon be available. I would be most curious to take one. As some of you know, I had a horrific cold/flu in late January/early February that I assumed was a bad case of bronchitis.”
“2/ But I have a number of Chinese students in my class this semester and I wonder if one of them might have brought the virus back from China. I assume not because I know of nobody else at the law Schoo [sic] who got sick, but still… One wonders.”
Student activists have repeatedly petitioned that the administration do something to address campus climate with regard to Asian American students. The hostile on-campus environment for Asian American students was demonstrated in 2013 when a fraternity, Kappa Sigma, held an anti-Asian themed party which included a really racist publicity email and party-goers dressed in geisha-gear, coolie hats, and other forms of costumed yellowface.
Since 2013 (and indeed, since much earlier), Asian American students at Duke have pointed out that an Asian American Studies program and major would go a long way towards addressing a campus climate that would allow a frat to organize a racist, anti-Asian costume party in the first place.
Dear Asian American Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs):
I’ve come across your Reddit threads, your Twitter profiles, and your takes on pop culture. I’m writing to call you out on your take on masculinity, Asian American women, and feminism. Whether you choose to read on or not will reveal your willingness to hear out a fellow Asian American woman’s take on your opinions: it’s your call.
Though you might not have labelled yourself as an MRA, if you agree that the feminist movement takes power away from men, this letter is for you. From what I’ve read, the MRA community began in the early 1970s as an assertion that gender equality had gone too far, and that women had actually started to, in Beyoncé’s words, run the world. The MRA movement has resurfaced online in Asian American digital circles. But the MRA perspective overlooks that men already possess rights and privileges that women do not. So here’s the first thing for you to consider: the point of feminism is not to take your power away.
The term “Men’s Rights Activists” demands that we prioritize the alleged victimization of men. It poses the question, “What about the oppression that we, Asian-American men face? What about our rights?” When this question is posed in opposition to feminism, it suggests that you see empowerment as a limited resource— what some would label as a scarcity mindset— wherein the more empowered that women (particularly Asian American women) are, the more “emasculated” you see yourselves as becoming. But feminism isn’t about taking anything away from people. Neither is it primarily about you (men) in the first place, but as men, your supporting role in feminism is an essential one. In a society that dismisses women’s opinions and complaints as insubstantial or overly emotional, you, as men, can leverage your gender privilege to help others listen to what women have to say.
You don’t know me, and I don’t know you. In many ways, our stories are different. I am ethnically Chinese, not Korean. My first language is English. I have not (yet) been married. I am not (yet) a mother.
But in many ways, our stories are similar. Like you, I am an immigrant and an Asian American woman. Like you, I’ve had to navigate the complex web of U.S. immigration law just to maintain my life here, and like you, I’ve felt the fear that comes with the possibility of falling out of status. Like you, I’ve lain awake at night terrified that I have run out of options; that I am trapped; that there’s nobody who will help, or will even understand what’s happening.
I can only imagine how much harder trying to survive U.S. immigration law would be when also a survivor of domestic violence. As immigrants and women of colour and with already so few options available, I can only imagine what it’s like to have the possibilities further limited by having to secure not only your own physical safety, but also the physical safety of your child.
They say that domestic abuse is about exerting power. I think it is about weaponizing fear.