Abstract: "Boss Called Me His China Doll": Utilizing Intersectionality to Analyze Gender and Sexuality Stereotypes of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the #thisis2016 Hashtag (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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168P "Boss Called Me His China Doll": Utilizing Intersectionality to Analyze Gender and Sexuality Stereotypes of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the #thisis2016 Hashtag

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Anne Farina, MSW, Assistant Professor, Seattle University
Sameena Azhar, PhD, Assistant Professor, Fordham University, New York, NY
Antonia Alvarez, PHD, Assistant Professor, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Susan Klumpner, LCSW, PhD Student, University of Maryland at Baltimore
Background: Intersectionality has become a primary framework for social workers to conceptualize positionality and the interconnectedness of systems of oppression. Early discussions on intersectionality primarily focused on the convergence of race, class, and gender with limited attention given to other categories that influence social position. To better understand the multiplicity of oppression, intersectional analyses have moved beyond only investigating the social categories of race, class and gender to also include intersections with citizenship, sexuality, ability, marital status, language proficiency, and religion. We sought to apply an intersectional lens to analyze how notions of race, gender and sexuality coalesce to socially construct experiences of prejudice and discrimination for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (APIs) under the hashtag #thisis2016.

Methods: We collected tweets from October 2016 - December 2017 that used the hashtag, #thisis2016, on the social media platform, Twitter. The data were scoped down to 3,156 tweets to include those that appeared to be answering the original call from journalist Michael Luo for Asian Americans to share own racist encounters. Applying intersectional theory, the four members of the research team—all of whom identify as Asian American social workers—created a codebook on a range of themes through an iterative process.

Results: Only intersectional themes related to the convergence of race, gender and sexuality among APIs are reported here. These six themes include: (1) API women are perceived to be exotic and are overtly sexualized; (2) API women are expected to be passive; (3) API men are perceived to be weak and asexual; (4) Both API men and women are the objects of racialized violence and sexual harassment; (5) Queer APIs have unique experiences of sexualized harassment and violence; (6) APIs are the subjects of neocolonialist attitudes.

Discussion: Taken together, these themes portray an intersectional understanding of the Asian American experience that counteract stereotypes of Asians as the “model minority,” who do not experience racialized, sexualized and gendered microaggressions. We further discuss how the themes from these tweets reflect sentiments regarding hypersexuality and disciplining femininity, deviant masculinity, queer performativity, and counteracting imperialism and neocolonialism. Consistent with the social movement underpinnings of intersectional analyses, we seek our research findings to be part of a larger social activism project to help bring light to sexualized issues affecting racial/ethnic minority communities in America. Intersectional movements recognize the interconnectedness of social justice issues, appreciating that single-axis struggles for issues like feminism, racial equity, or environmental justice must be interconnected in order to be both meaningful and effective in the long term. Intersectional gender- and race-based movements therefore seek to politically unify disparate groups, in this case, APIs, who are diverse in language, skin color and culture, but often share common histories of colonization and marginalization. Though sometimes divorced from social activism in academic spaces, intersectionality as a conceptual framework is deeply rooted in campaigns for social justice. The themes from our analyses can be leveraged by social workers working with API communities to counteract stereotypes and to work against increasing anti-Asian racism and discrimination in America.