In recent weeks, a cascade of sexual harassment accusations against powerful men has reached seemingly every corner of the public sphere. But this outpouring of stories about workplace sexual harassment isn’t new. In 2012, one workplace harassment case, brought forth by an Asian American woman working in venture capital, inspired scores of women to step forward with their own stories of sexual harassment in the workplace. Yet these stories, often told by other Asian American women, have not entered the national conversation about workplace sexual harassment with anything resembling the level of attention now being granted to the issue.
(Editor’s Note: Last week, survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault took to social media to trend the #metoo hashtag with their stories. This is one of those stories.)
Is it fucked up that my #metoo story is also one of my earliest memories? In all, I can recall only about four memories from before I started kindergarten, most of them are relatively innocent.
In one memory, my father and I walk down the street of my childhood neighborhood. We were walking towards to the model homes. I was probably two years old.
In another, I run to the bathroom to grab my father some toilet paper. He had cut his finger making us food.
Then, there is the memory of me trying to drink water out of a chopstick. There is even a photo to substantiate my recollections of that moment. My babysitter, whom I love dearly, thinks it would be so funny if they switch out my straw for a chopstick. When I try to drink out of my straw-but-not-a-straw, nothing comes out. I start crying. I am maybe eight months old.
These are the innocent memories formed of a childhood that should have remained innocent.
But then, there is that last memory. It is night time. I don’t see any details of the faces of those crowded outside. I am locked in the cab of an old, beat-up, white pickup truck. Inside the truck, it is just me and my cousin, who is two months older than me.
Today, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that the Department of Education would roll back Obama era guidelines to protect victims and survivors of on-campus sexual assault by applying Title IX to on-campus investigations into sexual assault and harassment complaints.
The issue of on-campus sexual assault is of particular relevance to Asian American women and other women of colour. At Duke, white female undergraduates are four times more likely to be sexually assaulted compared to white male undergraduates; but for Asian American female undergraduate students, the gender disparity in sexual assault rises to more than six times more likely to be assaulted, and Black or Hispanic female undergraduates are at even greater risk of sexual assault. In the larger study of 27 universities, Asian American female students were 4.5 times more likely to have experienced nonconsensual sexual penetration compared to Asian American male students. For Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students, female students were 5.5 times more likely to be assaulted than male students. These gender disparities were higher for Asian American and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students than for Black or White undergraduates.
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.
Revelations about Bond came just weeks before Roosh V., another infamous pick-up artist and founder of the misogynist and anti-feminist website “Return of Kings” (linked via DoNotLink.com) announced a planned workshop series that would have spread Roosh’s pick-up artist philosophy — including his argument that rape should be legalized — worldwide. Roosh received enormous international backlash, and was forced to cancel the planned appearances.
Now, activists are hoping to place David Bond — whose videos include racism, as well as physical and emotional coercion of women — under similar international pressure.