Reflections on 2016: Making Friends with the Anime Feminists

emilia

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.

tumblr_o5sm9iXHTU1ta7pubo1_500

Felt is still the best girl, though…

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.

emilia-trust

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.

emilia-re-zero

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.

 

Posted on December 25, 2016, in Editorials, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. “Be good to those you disagree with.”

    That’s it exactly. And it seems like such an easy thing on paper, just plain common sense even. But if people actually did that, then the anime fandom (and the world in general) would be a far better place than it is.

  2. I feel the same, barring the fact that my Feminist leanings have been no secret to anyone who knows me.

    I made it clear early on that I supported what she was doing over at The Mary Sue but there are times when I wished I had done more. Maybe a few more words here and there…I could have tempered the outcry If I had been more vocal…it’s a shame that harassment comes hand in hand with feminism.

    Regardless, I’m still supporting Amelia and Anime Feminist, and I wish both you and her all the best in the future!

    • tbh, I don’t think there’s anything you could have done to stop the abuse, but I appreciate what you’ve done anyway. Also, I’m glad that you support Anime Feminist. Maybe consider writing for the site sometime? Anime Feminist supports pseudonyms if you care about your anonymity and safety.

      • You’re probably right. I’m always cautious of my actions given that I have the distinct luxury to call it a day and not have it follow me around unlike the case with Amelia.

        I don’t believe my writing is anywhere near up to the standard for Anime Feminist, so I’m not so sure about. I wouldn’t want to be a dip in quality for the website.

  3. This is great and wonderful, but there’s just one thing that sticks in my craw:

    “I had nothing against Amelia for being a feminist.”

    Here is the literal dictionary definition of feminist.

    “a person who supports feminism.”

    Here is the dictionary definition of feminism.

    “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”

    Does any rational human being have a problem with women’s rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality or the advocacy of such in this day and age? No? Congrats, you’re a feminist. I’m a feminist. We’re all feminists.

    The only reason people have a hard time of openly admitting this is that some people who do not support the advocacy of female equality have tried to turn it into a dirty word. These people should not be taken seriously. The only reasonable response to “do you consider yourself a feminist” is “yes, duh.” Nobody should have to explain why they are feminists. People should be asked to explain why they’re not.

    • I was trying to convey with that sentence that I didn’t believe the anti-feminist memes, but I guess it didn’t come across too well…

      Whenever I mention feminism on my blog, at least one commenter swings by to say that they have nothing against gender equality but think that the feminists go too far, are too belligerent, etc. I’ve never understood this, because the feminist activists I’ve actually spoken to are perfectly ordinary people, who just happen to be more conscious of existing inequalities in our society.

      I actually thought your comment would be an anti-feminist meme when I started reading it, so I’m glad you don’t think that way :)

      • You’re aces, brother, not criticizing you at all. You made clear your support and it pleases me to read it. I just want to start eliminating the stigma attached to the word as if it was a controversial position. It isn’t, and it shouldn’t be.

      • You’ve not heard of Andrea Dworkin and her ilk then? There’s a reason people get pissed off Meghan Murphy. They’re unreasonable and unhinged. Unfortunately radical feminists like them are what a lot of people associate the word feminist with.

        • Darn, I was hoping to get through just one blog post which mentions feminism without getting a comment about the radical feminists… Andrea Dworkin died years ago.

          • Oh, did she? Either way I don’t think it’s nearly as much “radical” feminism that has issues as people would like to make it seem. I constantly see things like “You should learn what mansplaining is” being shouted towards any dudebro or whatever that doesn’t go along with their views.

            The fact that they can claim that shows such as “Keijo!!!!!” isn’t just misogynist but it even goes as far as being child porn is probably part of the reason why some people take issue with it. If we’re going to talk more “mainstream” anime feminism it’s the general idea that any portrayal of a female character is immediately jumped upon as being “too cute/idealized/sexy” whilst still not even noticing the fact that male characters are dealt similar cards. It seems to lean more towards the vindictive side of things rather than a side which tries to improve the medium as a whole.

            I cannot remember the quote regarding Keijo exactly but I want to remember someone saying it would’ve been better if it had died off in obscurity or something. I may not be the target audience for shows like Free! or Yuri in Ice but I’m not saying that it would be better if they never saw the light of day. As a western fan I don’t think we have a huge impact on the anime market as it is right now but if the amount of people asking for stuff to be outright non-existant it will eventually get to the point where the chilling effect is large enough to end up making a difference. I wish that we could all just get along but when a certain part of the (mainly western) fanbase seems to want the end of all things even remotely female & cute deleted from the medium it makes things difficult for the misogynist, sexist, pedophiles like me that enjoy those things.

            Sorry about the wall.

            • It’s cool. I remember when that piece about Keijo being child porn made the waves. I thought that was a pretty dumb article. As it turns out, however, Amelia has said none of those things about Keijo (here’s her review: https://www.animefeminist.com/review-keijo-episode-1/)

              And here’s piece by another prominent feminist in the anime community, praising Keijo for its fanservice: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/feature/2016-11-18/how-keijo-won-the-gold-in-fanservice/.108970

              Feminism isn’t a hivemind; you’ll find plenty of disagreement about issues. And most feminists I know, at least, don’t want “the end of all things even remotely female & cute”. That seems suspiciously like a strawman to me.

            • I think I remember reading their review of Occultic Nine awhile back and remember leaving the site with my presupposed notions confirmed. So I went ahead and rechecked just now and “There seem to be some potentially decent female characters, but there is a veneer of misogyny over the entire show that makes me unwilling to watch their development.” is one of the lines in the review. Things like someone disliking a character type or the way the character is portrayed and then being incredibly quick to toss out the misogyny card. This is the kind of thing I have an issue with, luckily with anime feminist atleast they are honest about their incredibly ideological position going in so I don’t find it nearly as bad as when sites like ANN don’t even mention that they are looking at things from an extremely ideological viewpoint.

              I think that tossing out the various -isms is something we are far too quick with these days and I don’t feel downplaying what misogyny actually means by using it in this sense helps anyone and certainly not people that don’t already share the same perspective. Misogyny last I checked means hatred of women, a character having ridiculously sized tits and saying some pandery things doesn’t mean it’s hatred of women in any way.

  4. As much as I want to support better feminism in anime, I have to wonder how much foreigners can do. For big international stuff like Star Wars, asking for gender equality and minority representation is easy. Anime industry so far don’t seem to give a damn about reception outside of Japan. If the questionable contents never disappear, the fanbase won’t change for the better.

    That said, giving up before fighting is not the right thing to do. I like the idea of Anime Feminist, even though the articles didn’t really impressed me. To be honest, most of the discussions there are stuffs bloggers have discussed for years. Still, It’s nice that somebody collect them into a single place. I’d like to donate once I got some money. However, the patreon system is pretty bad for me due to fluctuations in currency exchange rates. Can you suggest the site to allow one-time donation?

    • First off, it’s not Anime Feminist’s stated goal to change the anime industry, but rather to promote diverse voices in the fandom discourse. For example, have you read the interviews on the site? There was a recent one with a Japanese LGBT activist which I highly recommend.

      That said, anime producers actually do care about the international audience – they often say as much themselves. Anime is more international than it has ever been, and the biggest hits are often not the “otaku” shows anyway.

      As for one-time donations, I’ll get in contact with the staff about it. Thanks for letting me know!

      • Thanks.I’d like anime to be more popular in the world, so any signs of change is welcome.

        And you’re right, diverse voices in fandom is a good thing. Hopefully more people will have more critical look at anime, and if they don’t want to be critical, at least have a more sympathetic view.

  5. Well said, well said indeed.

  6. Replying late to this one because I’ve had to give it some thought.

    I think the harassment Amelia got is deplorable. And I have a lot of sympathy for feminism given the stuff women have to put up with. With that being said I have to admit I often find myself wishing that anime could continue to fly under its radar because I find a lot of feminist critique of “otaku” anime uncomfortable – sometimes because I disagree with it, and sometimes because I can’t quite bring myself to disagree with it.

    In Amelia’s case the former is more applicable. I consider myself a moe fan (heck, I even go by the title “pretentious moe scholar” on some forums!). I will admit that as a moe fan, quite a few of the anime girls I adore have childish personalities. However, many of them do not – to stick to an example from the article, I definitely consider Emilia a moe character. And a fair number of the views she attributes to moe fans are quite alien to me. I worry about being perceived as the kind of fanboy she describes, especially since the article was published that isn’t necessarily familiar with otaku anime.

    The second category is actually more uncomfortable though. I love cute, sappy high school romances and the like, and I’m not opposed to a bit of sexiness in them. I especially like some of the characters in them. I definitely don’t think anyone is a pedo for liking that stuff. But at the same time, it is occasionally pointed out to me that such shows can, albeit unintentionally, encourage some men to get a bit too interested in schoolgirls. Which is already kind of a problem, both in Japan and elsewhere. And when that gets pointed out, I can get deeply unnerved. I’m glad that kind of commentary isn’t actually super common, because there’s only so much exposure to it I can stand, to be honest. I wish I had better ways of coping with it.

    My two cents. It’s possible that I’m more prone to having these feelings because of how invested I am in the anime fandom – for example, I’m a cosplay photographer and my girlfriend is a cosplayer who loves to cosplay cute characters. We’re also friends with a number of like minded cosplayers. So I’m invested in otaku anime beyond just liking the shows!

    P.S. It’s pretty cool that Amelia is an Emilia fan, albeit probably for different reasons from me – I basically watched the bit where she got flustered because Subaru doesn’t think it’s a big deal she has elf ears and then my brain exploded like OMG SO MOE.

    • I feel you. One of the worst things about the harassment against Amelia is that it has drowned out all the legitimate, good-faith criticisms that could be made in response to her arguments. I myself don’t see eye to eye on her on things like fanservice and moe. That’s precisely why I will defend her freedom of speech. If her views are defensible, then they are worth debating fairly and in a safe environment. (And even if they weren’t defensible, I wouldn’t condone harassment in any circumstance.)

      Actually, one of the cool things about the Anime Feminist site is that it isn’t just a platform for Amelia’s views. The editors are willing to host articles with a different perspective on the issue. In fact, that’s the point of creating the site to begin with! Diversity is nice.

      P.S. I agree that Emilia-tan is moe.

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