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Race, gender, and the Atlanta spa shooting

March 18, 2021, 12:53 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Trade rep Katherine Tai wins Biden’s most bipartisan confirmation yet, a senior soldier resigns in protest of sexual harassment in Canada’s military, and the Atlanta shooter is charged with eight counts of murder. Have a reflective Thursday.

-‘It has to stop.’ The 21-year-old man who killed eight people—six of whom were women of Asian descent—in a massage parlor shooting spree on Tuesday was arrested and charged with murder yesterday. The question of whether the violence was “racially motivated” has loomed large over the tragedy, with police saying they haven’t ruled it out, and the shooter himself insisting that his actions weren’t inspired by racism.

I understand why this question is being asked, but it’s frustrating. Of course race played a central role in this crime—as did its intersection with gender.

Consider this data from Stop AAPI Hate, released on Tuesday hours before the shootings: a new analysis of reports of public attacks (physical, verbal, vandalism) against Asian people between March 2020 and February of this year found that nearly 70% of the reports came from women.

The spike in racism against people of Asian descent during the pandemic is real. From the rise of ugly terms like “the China virus” or “Kung flu,” to the horrific videos of assaults on Asian seniors to the recent Pew survey that found that 31% of Asian Americans report being the subject of racist slurs or jokes in the past year, the evidence is undeniable. And for women, the impact seems to be magnified. Russell Jeung, professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University and founder of Stop AAPI Hate, told NBC that racist and sexist stereotypes about Asian women, including the infuriating misconception that they are “meek and subservient,” may cause some people to see them as an easy target.

The shooter’s claims that he has a “sexual addition” and needed to “eliminate temptation” point to another stereotype about Asian women, the fetishized and sexually-aggressive “dragon lady.” As other hideous acts of violence have proven, misogyny alone can drive a man to punish women for his own sexual confusion. But this shooting shows us how adding a layer of racism to that stew can have its own deadly consequences.

So, was the shooting racially motivated? I’ll leave you with the words of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms:

“Whatever the motivation was for this guy, we know that the majority of the victims were Asian. We also know that this is an issue that is happening across the country. It is unacceptable, it is hateful and it has to stop.”

Kristen Bellstrom
kristen.bellstrom@fortune.com
@kayelbee

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- No, Canada. Lt. Col. Eleanor Taylor, one of the most senior soldiers in the Canada, resigned in protest of the military's failure to address allegations of sexual harassment against male officers. "On the issue of addressing harmful sexual behavior, we have lost all credibility," she wrote in her resignation letter. Guardian

- Fair trade. The Senate confirmed Katherine Tai as the U.S. trade representative in a 98-0 vote—the strongest bipartisan support for any Biden nominee. Tai, former head trade lawyer for the House Ways and Means Committee, promises a "worker-centered trade agenda." Politico

- Gates calls on government. Melinda Gates is one of the world's foremost philanthropists, but even she admits private giving can't solve all of the world's ills. Governments need to take action to scale the changes philanthropists often imagine, she said this week. Bloomberg

- Agency actions. Chairs of the Federal Trade Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission both signaled a desire for change at their respective agencies this week. FTC acting chair Rebecca Kelly Slaughter announced plans to overhaul the process for scrutinizing drug-company mergers, while SEC acting chair Allison Herren Lee said she wants to require "clearer disclosures on how asset managers cast shareholder votes" to provide more insight to everyday investors. 

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Rothy's promoted Heather Skidmore Howard to COO and Marie Satterfield to chief legal officer. Marla Blow, SVP for social impact in North America for the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, joins the Skoll Foundation as president and COO. Data lake business Dremio added former VMWare CMO Robin Matlock to its board and hired former Cisco exec Anita Pandey as CMO. Forrester Research's Mary Shea joins sales engagement platform Outreach as VP, global innovation evangelist. Multilingual meetings platform Kudo hired SmartBooks' Rebecca Schuette as VP of marketing. The La Jolla Institute for Immunology named Erica Ollmann Saphire its next president and CEO. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Mess & stress. For families living paycheck to paycheck, affording diapers is often a bigger stressor than paying for food or housing. About half of the 70 women interviewed in a new study said diapers, which can run between $70 and $80 a month per child, were a bigger concern than other necessities. New York Times

- Cash back for a cause. A new credit card from Mastercard offers cardholders 3% back monthly on purchases from women-owned businesses. The rewards apply to about 1 million businesses registered with the Seneca Women Marketplace; the offering is called Card by Seneca Women. CBS News

- More to come. By the end of 2021, there may be as many as eight new COVID vaccines, including options that don’t require needles and can be stored at room temperature, says Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist for the World Health Organization. "We’re thrilled with the vaccines that we have, [but] we can improve further," she says. Bloomberg  

ON MY RADAR

How honest can Demi Lovato be? New York Times

You can thank Stacey Plaskett's college friends for her viral blue impeachment dress Elle

Stella McCartney introduces her first garments made of Mylo, the “leather” alternative grown from mushrooms Vogue

PARTING WORDS

"The status of women is the status of democracy."

-Vice President Kamala Harris, addressing the UN's Commission on the Status of Women this week. It was her first speech before the UN as the United States' first female vice president.