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 so much of this. I am getting fed up with Western audiences in general but especially with anime (since I am Japanese). This is culturally imperialist, white feminist drivel (but it’s not only white women that do this) and it reeks of hypocrisy - you can’t preach this kind of stuff when the West is also sexist. If you are not Japanese then you don’t have any right to decide which parts of our media are definitely sexist or feminist. I can’t believe you were trying to “educate” people on this topic at a god damn panel.
Hell, the Western market contributes to less than 1% of the anime industry and Westerners are probably one of the worst things for the industry. The majority of them practise piracy and don’t spend a cent yet continue to complain about the quality of anime, demand that studios produce xyz and even whine when their free fansubs aren’t released on express. I once saw some people on a Hourou Musuko post recommending that everyone use KissAnime instead of Crunchyroll because Crunchyroll didn’t have a large selection (since it was legal and was a pay-to-use service created to support anime producers)…just how spoiled are you people?
There is no such genre called “Girl Coming of Age” and the “Magical Girl” genre was a huge contributing factor to the popularisation of moe (fanservice through infantilsation). Funny how you have Madoka and Sora no Woto listed as “feminist series” when they are both moe shows aimed towards adult males. Many people were discussing how Madoka was pretentious lolicon but no one on tumblr thought about the social context until Urobuchi’s interview spread over to tumblr. Misty/Kasumi from Pokemon is still sexualised, she was often used for fanservice scenes (which may not have appeared in the English dubbed versions) and Pokemon’s primary demographic is young males. This kind of “innocent fanservice” is very common among kodomo anime but again, you won’t realise anything without being raised in the culture.
I’m also rolling my eyes pretty hard at how you want anime to subvert gender roles but also believe anime is feminist for presenting girliness as a strength. Japan is a very conservative society and girls being encouraged to be feminine through children’s TV is a way of keeping gender conformity. That’s not a feminist message. There is so much pressure in Japanese society to follow these gender roles. A tomboy is seen as lacking in submissiveness and feminine charm and will often be told in her life that she will be unworthy of marriage and will never be a “real woman”.
The standard for a “girly girl” is much higher in Japan and girls that don’t reach it are viewed as “manly” since masculinity is the default. This was largely a result of Western imperialists threatening Japanese men (wow what a surprise) after the Meiji era. These Japanese men decided that they would have to become tougher and that they had to stop the “feminization” of their culture by instilling stricter roles onto the Japanese population.
This is reflected in video games such as Persona 4 where Naoto pretended to be a boy because she wasn’t as feminine as society told her she should have been. She wanted to be a detective but to do that she would have to avoid being seen as a weak girl and to gain respect by posing as man. All you tumblr anime feminists went off to interpret her as a trans man and continued to piss on anyone that tried to tell you otherwise. Chihiro from Dangan Ronpa is another example of the problems with these strict gender roles. Don’t project your Western values onto Japanese society.
Often times tomboy may not be considered masculine from a Western perspective, and in fact very feminine instead. Many Japanese feminists are arguing for an 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 own traits rather than doing just what their gender expected them then that would be pretty damn feminist.
You are applying Western politics onto Japanese media while practising cultural imperialism and you don’t give a fuck how actual Japanese people feel about it, you just want to boost your ego as you post long-ass essays about anime onto 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 was glorifying the designer of the Zero’s Engine, Jiro Horikoshi. It was a fighter aircraft that was built with Chinese and Korean slave labour, then used to massacre these peoples. Nah, you were too busy crying over his disdain for otaku and wondering whether Kill La Kill was a metaphor for puberty.
I wanted to thank the person who wrote this long rant, I wanted to praise them to heaven’s high, but it turns out, they deleted their blog. Well, figures that the one person with the courage to make tumblr face reality with first hand knowledge would be bullied off the site as soon as they dared to raise their voice. This is why this community has been making me sick lately.
This rant covers the exact things I have been trying to say for THREE YEARS, but every time I try to, I am shut up with the words "You are not Japanese shut up you d not speak for them". Well, here you have it from a Japanese person. Are you happy now?
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Madoka Magica, but calling the Anime that said “Only girls have enough PMS to be magical” feminist is like calling Pizza “diet food”. And interpreting Naoto and Chihiro as trans will always be a headcanon and nothing else. Heck, most people don’t even realize that the American localization of P4 greatly toned down Chie’s Social Link to hide the fact that she has giant complexes because of her being a tomboy a considers herself an “unworthy woman” and actually LOVES being called “girly” or “docile”… Things that would be considered an *insult* in Western society.
While “Death of the Author” is a legit way of interpreting a work and SHOULD be practiced, erasing the cultural context behind it entirely is ignorant and nothing else. Educate yourself on the society and culture behind a work before you call yourself an authority on it. You don’t HAVE to be Japanese to understand these things, but you need a honest, true will to read into the issues from many, MANY sources and try to grasp them with all your intellectual capacity. This is how an academic approach works. This is how you learn to be truly flexible and tolerant. This is how you avoid being a TRULY bigoted, spoiled brat.
Japanese society is not American Society. Applying American standards when interpreting a Japanese work doesn’t make you progressive. It’s the equivalent of criticizing 100 years old literature as if it had been written yesterday. You can’t do that. Anachronism is the same as Cultural stew. Differences will be differences. The world is not America. Finally get that idea out of your head, please.
And, most of all, do NOT find yourself entitled to complain about a medium you do not invest money into. This is the reason I only watch Fansubs when I plan on buying enough merchandise to make up for my inability to pay for watching the series. If you want a voice on a matter, you also need to invest into it. You cannot demand to have a voice without investment. It doesn’t work.
Japanese Anime industry doesn’t give half a damn about the Western Market. They do not earn money off us. My japanese friend wasn’t even fully aware that there was a market for Anime and Japanese videogames in the west until she met me. Now she uses dubbed Anime and localized Persona games to improve her English skills and has interesting discussions about localization and differences in fandom with me. But before that she was completely unaware of our existence. Also, by the way. She is a textbook fangirl. She would be considered as girly as they come in a Western Standards. But the thing is? She considers herself a “very boyish tomboy”. Because, by Japanese standards, she is.
Things are different in Japan. Do not preach water and drink wine. Please.