So here is the rough draft for my “Anime and Feminism 101” panel that might be happening at San Japan.
A few notes:
- This is obviously not a transcript, but just the ppt slides. I’ve timed myself going through them with the commentary I want to add, and it takes about 30 minutes to go through it.
- It is subject to change between now and San Japan.
If you have any suggestions/corrections, PLEASE add them!
Edit: Reorganized the slides to take up less space on dash.
I disagree with this so much. I’m getting fed up with Western audiences in general but especially with anime fans (since I’m Japanese). This is culturally imperialist, white feminist drivel (but it’s not only white women who do this) and it reeks of hypocrisy - you can’t preach this kind of stuff when the West is also deeply sexist. If you’re not Japanese you have no right to decide what parts of our media do and don’t constitute being feminist. I can’t believe you were trying to “educate” people on this topic at a goddamn panel.
Hell, the Western anime market contributes to less than 1% of the anime industry overall and Westerners are probably one of the worst things for the industry. The majority of them pirate shit and don’t spend a dime yet continue to complain about the quality of anime, demand that studios produce [xyz] shows and even whine when their free fansubs aren’t released on time. I once saw some people on a Hourou Musuko post recommend everyone watch it on KissAnime instead of Crunchyroll because Crunchyroll doesn’t have a large selection (since it’s a legal pay-to-use service created to support anime producers)…just how spoiled and entitled are you people???
There is no such genre as “Girl Coming of Age” and the “Magical Girl” genre was a huge contributing factor to the popularization of moe (fanservice through infantilsation). Funny how you have Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Sora no Woto listed as “feminist series” when they’re both moeblob shows aimed at adult males. Many people in Japanese anime fandom were discussing how PMMM was pretentious lolicon dreck but no one on tumblr thought about the social context of the show until Urobuchi’s interview was finally posted here. Kasumi from Pokemon is still sexualized, she was often used for fan service scenes (which were usually edited out of the English dub) and Pokemon’s primary demographic is young boys. This kind of “innocent fanservice” is prevalent in kodomo anime but again, you wouldn’t realize that having not been raised in the culture.
I’m also rolling my eyes pretty hard at how you want anime to subvert gender roles while simultaneously believing certain anime are feminist for presenting femininity as a strength. Japan is a very conservative society and girls being encouraged to be feminine through children’s TV shows is a way of reinforcing gender conformity. That’s not a feminist message. There is so much pressure in Japanese society to follow gender roles. A tomboy is seen as lacking in submissiveness and feminine charm and will often be told her whole life she’s unworthy of marriage and will never be a “real woman”.
The standard for a “girly girl” is much higher in Japan than in the West and girls who don’t/can’t reach it are viewed as “manly” since masculinity is the default. This is largely a result of Western imperialists threatening Japanese men (wow what a surprise) during the Meiji era. These Japanese men decided they would have to become tougher in order to stop the “feminization” of their culture by instilling stricter gender roles onto the Japanese population.
This is reflected in video games such as Persona 4 where Naoto pretends to be a boy because she wasn’t as feminine as society told her she was supposed to be. She wanted to be a detective but to do so she had to avoid being seen as a weak girl and gained respect pretending to be a man. All you white tumblr anime feminists interpreted her as a trans man because of it and continue to piss on anyone who tries to tell you otherwise. Chihiro from Dangan Ronpa is another example of the problems with strict gender roles. Don’t project your Western values onto Japanese society.
Oftentimes tomboys may not be considered particularly masculine from a Western perspective, and in fact very feminine instead. Many Japanese feminists are arguing for a complete abolition of gender roles on children’s TV, they don’t want presenting either masculinity or femininity as a strength. Japan is a traditionalist, homogeneous society with a deep focus on collectivism. If boys and girls were encouraged to focus on their individual traits rather than doing what is expected of their gender, that would be pretty damn feminist.
You are applying Western politics to Japanese media while practicing cultural imperialism and you don’t give a fuck how actual Japanese people feel about it, you just want to stroke your ego by posting long-ass naval-gazing essays about anime on tumblr to prove how much of a “feminist” you are. Why did I never see anyone call out Hayao Miyazaki on his bullshit in “The Wind Rises”? He’s glorifying the designer of the Zero’s Engine, Jiro Horikoshi. It was a fighter aircraft built with Chinese and Korean slave labour, then used to massacre these same peoples. Nah, you were too busy crying over his disdain for otaku and wondering whether Kill La Kill was a metaphor for puberty.
Here’s the post with the powerpoint presentation for those that are seeing the version without it (I don’t know why tumblr user morubito removed it when they reblogged it).
I want to clear up some points:
- Do not send fandomsandfeminism any hate mail, I just want all of you to be more critical of these white Western tumblr “feminists” and the weird essays they write about cultures they have no part of
- I never said trans or queer headcanons were bad but a lot of people believe they are actually canon and shut down anyone who disagrees by calling them homophobic or transphobic. Chihiro from Dangan Rompa and Naoto from Persona 4 (and now Robin Newman from Ace Attorney), are not trans. The gender system in Japan is much more rigid and these “genderbender” themes (this is actually a genre btw) are critiques of strict gender roles. If you automatically think “gender non-conformity = trans!!” then you’re being cissexist and probably racist too, given the context. I personally think Naoto and Chihiro are terrible characters to headcanon as transgender, ugh…especially Naoto in the original Japanese version of the game, since she has a huge complex about her tomboyishness and constantly agonizes over wishing to be seen as a delicate, submissive girl.
- I can’t believe anti-SJ bloggers and anti-feminists are reblogging this in agreement. THIS POST IS NOT FOR YOU. I AM NOT YOUR ALLY. I WANT YOU TO STAND EXACTLY 3984398439482309 FEET AWAY FROM ME. I believe in social justice and I’m a feminist. I’m also bisexual and a trans woman (born intersex but assigned male at birth).
- You are free to interpret anime how you wish but performing a “feminist analysis” on it? No, don’t do that. Feminism is a political movement deeply rooted in Western thought. Also, Japanese feminism exists and I recommend you to read up on that.
- Femininity isn’t revolutionary and weaponized femininity is bullshit. Men all over the world want women to be feminine to keep us in our place. This is more pronounced in countries like Japan. Women should be allowed to make their own choices on gender presentation but must also recognize the choices they make don’t exist in a vacuum.
- I would really like to hear other Japanese people to contribute to these discussions more. East Asians such as Chinese and Koreans, due to our shared histories and cultural ties to Japan, should also be prioritized, along with nations that were affected by Japanese imperialism (which includes China and Korea again), as well as the voices of people of color in general. Hearing nothing but white people voices discuss anime is a nightmare.
OK, so I’ve been meaning to find some coherent way to reply to this, but then I realized that I’m never going to write anything if I keep hedging. And since Hisanakagami asked for more contribution from East Asians, here I am.
Speaking of which, since I believe any discussion about Important Things should start from the disclosure of the speaker’s standpoint…I am a Chinese/Taiwanese-American girl. I was born in America, but I grew up in Taiwan, and I still live in Taiwan during the summer season. All my (blood-related) relatives are either Chinese or Taiwanese.
Having said that, I would also like to point out that, while yes East Asian countries all had close cultural ties etc. etc. etc., that by no means indicates my experience as Taiwanese is comparable to the experience of Japanese people. I’m still looking at this issue from a different cultural lens.
So, without further ado…
While I agree with most of what Hisanakagami has written, I also think there is a place for western feminists in these conversations. Anime has definitely become a global phenomenon over the past 15+ years, and yeah, it was born out of a specific cultural context with strict gender roles BUT, when it reaches the West, it enters a new, specific context. And when white Western viewers watch anime, they are, whether we like it or not, going to impose their own cultural sensibilities on said anime. So when they’re watching a magical girl show, they aren’t thinking “The only way I can be powerful and respected is to adhere to restrictive feminine gender roles”, they think “Wow! I can be feminine AND powerful AND save the world???”
And I think that really is the key here: the context changes.
[Semi-relevant aside here: as a second-generation Asian immigrant, I’ve found my mom actually reinterpreting a lot of western media through an Asian lens. And often her thoughts on something is completely different from my thoughts, and probably completely different from the intent of the original creator. And with globalization and westernization and INTERNET, this is happening ALL THE TIME. And that is TOTALLY OK. As long as it’s recognized as being “This is my view from the standpoint of my culture and you can have your view from the standpoint of yours.” Context DOES matter, but not just the original context. The context from which one is interpreting is really important too and, often nowadays, it’s NOT the same as the original context.]
Of course, I definitely agree with the core point that “we need to think of the context in which the interpretation of this medium has changed.” That is super important. Usually I kind of just assume they’re speaking from a Western context if they’re writing in, you know, English. BUT Hisanakagami brings up a good critique of this!! We NEED to start prefacing our Western-centric analysis with, “We are speaking purely from a Western context”- probably with a specific country attached. We NEED to stop treating the West as the “default” and state it as a standpoint outright.
So, at the most basic level, yeah, I agree with Hisanakagami. Don’t impose Western ideals onto Eastern standards. Not cool. Always state your standpoint when you’re writing something, ESPECIALLY if you’re the typical “default.”
But, as I said above, I definitely think there is a place for white Western feminists to speak. They should not be speaking over POC, of course not. But amongst other white folks? Yeah. Talk. Your voice has power in these situations that our voices do not. Don’t just passively sit back when other white people are being racist simply because a POC isn’t there and you ~can’t speak for us~, that’s complacency, and complacency never helped anyone. Talk talk talk!!
And, as a global phenomenon, I do think there is a place for these feminists to criticize anime from a Western standpoint, so long as they explicitly state that it is from a western standpoint.
I mean, when you’re faced with a terribad fandom of Western anime fans convinced that a certain scene in an anime is super feminist when it’s actually really misogynist, you shouldn’t be shutting up and letting them run their mouths because oh maybe it could be feminist in its original context. No. You should be arguing against them. Because original context matters, yeah, but CURRENT context also matters. And in the current context this shit is sexist.
And, yeah, Madoka Magica was written by a man for men, and in Japan it isn’t considered particularly feminist or anything. But I think, when the context changes, opportunities also arise in which we, as women, can reclaim these series as our own. So what if Madoka wasn’t intended to be feminist? It can still be interpreted as a feminist narrative in this specific context! Even if anime fandom was space originally for men, we can still turn this space into one for women.
Finally, I’m personally not a huge fan of Death of the Author, because I think there are times we have to look at the author and think about their intent. However, I do think awareness of the original intention of the work shouldn’t detract entirely from one’s own interpretations, especially if said interpretation doesn’t coincide. We should keep in mind this context (Madoka isn’t feminist in Japan) but we should also be willing and able to work outside of it (but Madoka can be interpeted as feminist in the West). It’s kind of like that thing where “you can still enjoy a problematic piece of work as long as you recognize its problems.” As long as you interpret things with awareness of its original context, I think it’s fine to bring other valid interpretations to the table.
This is all kind of like reading really old feminist pieces and going, “How was this feminist?? It sounds so sexist!” Which might be true, but back then, it was super progressive. And it’s totally valid for us to criticize these pieces for being sexist now, but we also have to recognize the context they came from in order to further discuss our criticisms and engage with the work.
AND, it is also important to realize that it is impossible for us to interpret these old pieces from the viewpoint of the time it was written in. Our modern day perceptions will ALWAYS sneak in somehow, even in the smallest doses. So I think acknowledging that fact is important in and of itself. And it helps us better conceive of questions to ask about the work, such as: Why are we still reading this, even outside of its context? What value can it give to us within this new context? How has the work itself changed in relation to the changed context?
I think that’s what’s really important in media analysis: recognizing context. Not just original context but also changed context.
This is basically my thoughts on Hisanakagami’s other thoughts too, e.g. the trans headcanons of Naoto and Chihiro, weaponized femininity, etc. In a Japanese context, they aren’t progressive, but that’s not to say they aren’t considered progressive elsewhere, so long as they’re handled with awareness and delicacy.
TLDR; standpoints are important. always state them. also keep in mind original cultural context but don’t feel restricted by them.
Just indulged a bit in the shower with some favorite natural products:
- Detoxifying Shower Mud, by Wild Bath. This company makes these amazing shower whips and this mud pictured above, for exfoliation all-over. Your skin feels amazing after this. They have detoxifying ingredients like volcanic ash, and this mud here had dead sea mud in it as well. The whips come in different scents, the mud is barely scented at all. Website.
- Brightening Facial Scrub, by Acure. I just like this one for some reason. It’s got chlorella in it. It smells earthy. It’s green as fuck. I like it. I use it once a week, but that was recommended to me by some skin specialist, not sure if that’s a rule of thumb.
- Exfoliating Hydro Towel, by Earth Therapeutics. I use this once a week too, for the same reason. It helps buff dead skin away, and leaves your skin smooth. Very useful.
- Scalp Rescue Shampoo, by Max Green Alchemy. I honestly think I like this product out of habit. I’ve been trying to heal my scalp for a while, can’t tell if it’s doing much. But it’s super natural, and smells good? lol.
- Olive & Avocado Hair Masque, by Earth Science. I love this shit. It makes your hair so much softer. And it’s simple. It’s really just natural deep conditioner.
Adja Kaba by Joanna Lorenzo
Children’s Hour with Red Riding Hood and Other Stories, edited by Watty Piper (1922)
Little Red Riding Hood, The Goose Girl
let’s play another tag meme thing! put each word into your tags and see what pops up:
a lot of people are burned out on emoticons but one that ill never get tired of is :> because it looks like youre being talked to by a friendly bird
birdicons, for birds
"But if you hate police what will you do about crime?"
one more follower until i have another follower
men: rape jokes hahaha! beating women haha! lol make me a sandwich whore! put on makeup fugly! hahaha!
women: that’s not funny.
men: lighten up, it’s a joke wow must be on her period women are so emotional lol
women: i drink the tears of men, haha!
men: hOW DARE YOU. HOW DARE YOU PROMOTE THE SUFFERING OF US MEN? DO YOU KNOW WHAT WE HAVE DONE FOR YOU? YOU WOULD BE NOTHING WITHOUT US. THATS NOT FUNNY AT ALL
Margo Jefferson on Some American Feminists (1980)
Bring em out!
Holy shit, I had no idea…
for more on this i encourage folks to watch & have their institutions and orgs PURCHASE afrolez No! The Rape Documentary where women from all generations, including CRM talk about the intra-racial rape(s) they are healing from.