Reflections on 2016: Making Friends with the Anime Feminists
In October 2016, a friend of mine launched a website called Anime Feminist. I’m really surprised at how well it’s been doing so far. Although I’m not actively involved with creating content, I’m close enough to the action to see just how hard the staff has been working to keep things going. It’s been a real privilege to see the results of their work, and I hope that the site meets all its funding goals in 2017.
I’ve already talked about my motives for supporting Anime Feminist elsewhere, but I do want to talk for a bit about how I first became friends with the site’s editor-in-chief, Amelia Cook. Looking back, it was a rather unlikely friendship….
12 Days of Anime
#11 – Making Friends with the Anime Feminists
We first started talking to each other on Twitter around June or July. This was only a month or two before Amelia started writing her rather controversial pieces on The Mary Sue where she criticised anime for its sexual fanservice and tendency to infantilise women. I had no inkling at the time that her pieces would cause such a stir. I honestly thought that she would be ignored by the anime fandom at large, given that she was writing primarily for a non-anime fan audience, and that the views she expressed are all too mainstream outside otaku circles.
So when she asked me before her first article went up whether I would defend her if she were ever harassed for her views, I was frankly taken aback.
Nobody had ever asked me a question like that so directly before.
Until that point, we had not really discussed feminist things in depth. Mostly, we talked about things related to our Japanese degrees and Re:ZERO. We both loved that show, and while we had minor disagreements about the nuances of some scenes, we both agreed that the show handled Subaru’s character very well, and that Emilia-tan is a very underrated character.
We got along pretty well, and of course I had nothing against Amelia for being a feminist. She might have held views about fanservice which I didn’t share, but she never held it against me personally. She never called me a sexist pig for liking 2D girls or anything. Actually, I’ve never met a feminist who has shamed me for my tastes. Because I respected her views and she respected mine, it was easy enough to get along.
At the same time, it wasn’t as if we were close or anything. On retrospect, that question she asked me must have been the turning point in our relationship.
“I’m about to start writing more directly on my views of fanservice. If people abuse me for it will you stand up for me?”
I was really stumped for a moment. Maybe it was because I still had Re:ZERO on my mind, but I felt it was inappropriate to declare that I would stand up for her like some white knight. Talk is cheap. Writing a few supportive tweets here and there hardly seems like much effort. Why make a big deal about my support when she was the one mustering the courage to speak unpleasant truths?
Later, Amelia told me that she had been incredibly nervous when she had asked me that question. She said that she had spent so much time away from the anime fandom, and that I was one of the first friends she made after her return. To her, I was some guy who posted best girl memes on twitter, not a feminist ally. She had come across many friendly people who had changed their attitude towards her once she spoke up about her feminism. In that moment, she was testing me. She wanted to know whether I valued my comfort over her safety.
And so, I got to thinking.
I believe that if a view is defensible, it should not be shouted down or dismissed off-hand. I also believe that people have the right to express their views and not be abused for it.
Be good to those you disagree with.
That, to me, is the principle of free speech. It has nothing to do with feminism.
After some thought, I decided to tell her that I would denounce online abuse, but I also told her that it was the least a human being could do. There was no way I could consider myself an “ally” just for clearing that low bar. But Amelia told me that she appreciated it anyway. Even though I had seriously underestimated how difficult things would be for her, she still appreciated my feeble gesture.
In the end, it doesn’t take much to be friends with a feminist. You just have to treat them as a human being, the way you would want to be treated.
I’m really glad that I made friends with Amelia. She’s been one of the most empathetic friends I’ve had, and she has been especially supportive of my freelance career. After all, she knows better than anyone else what it means to take the plunge and dictate your own fate. She gave up her full-time job in order to pursue freelance writing and feminist activism. She put her financial security and even her physical safety on the line to pursue a dream that hardly anyone can understand. She’s one of the bravest people I know.