The impression that Asian women were prostitutes, born at that time, "colored the public perception of, attitude toward, and action against all Chinese women for almost a century," writes historian Sucheng Chan.Police and legislators singled out Chinese women for special restrictions "not so much because they were prostitutes as such (since there were also many White prostitutes around) but because -- as Chinese -- they allegedly brought in especially virulent strains of venereal diseases, introduced opium addiction, and enticed White boys into a life of sin," Chan also writes.
While many Asian American women are quick to note that women's issues are the same as men's issues -- i.e., social justice, equity, human rights -- history shows that Asian American men have not necessarily felt the same way.
It bears noting that despite the fact that they weren't in the country in large numbers, Asian women shouldered much of the cost of subsidizing Asian men's labor. Asian women who did emigrate here before the 1960s were also usually employed as cheap labor.
In the pre-World War II years, close to half of all Japanese American women were employed as servants or laundresses in the San Francisco area. government officials thoughtfully arranged for their employment by fielding requests, most of which were for servants.
In order to produce a sense of racial solidarity, Asian American activists framed social injustices in terms of race, veiling other competing social categories such as gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and nationality.
The relative absence of gender as a lens for Asian American activism and resistance throughout the 1970s until the present should therefore be read as neither an indication of the absence of gender inequality nor of the disengagement of Asian American women from issues of social justice.