So there were a few more panels this year that I didn’t talk about in my earlier pieces, and the reason why is that they covered topics that I wanted to go into with a bit more depth and nuance than I did with the others. We’ll cover VocAmerica next time, but for now I think it’s time we had a talk about sexism in anime. Now keep in mind that this is all my own recollections and interpretations of what was discussed at these panels, and my opinion should not be taken in isolation. There are PLENTY of people who talk about these subjects with much more authority and eloquence than I could possibly muster. Let’s get started!!
Anime in America: Rape Culture & Us
Hosted by Brian Gibson and Emil Morris
To put it terms that will apply to this discussion, Rape Culture is when something (in this case, anime) normalizes sexual violence which include, but is not limited to, blaming victims of sexual violence, condoning or making light of unwanted sexual advances, and sexualizing violence and rape. Now the panel was specifically looking at instances of promoting Rape Culture (consciously or unconsciously) on Toonami and I believe some of Adult Swim as well. This is important because, at least in the US, Toonami was the only real source of anime for children and we ALL watched it back in the late nineties. This was over a decade before YouTube existed and for most of that decade the internet was a luxury that was CERTAINLY not for determining what shows you would watch. See, kids have choices with Netflix and all that (lucky bastards) so we were basically beholden to what TV executives thought was appropriate for us, and while I’m really glad that this was there to introduce me to Dragon Ball Z, Rurouni Kenshin, Yu Yu Hakusho, and plenty of others, it’s absolutely worth examining what these shows put forth as acceptable or funny behaviors for kids to absorb. This is how Rape Culture gets perpetuated and why it’s so insidious as no single entity can claim total or even significant responsibility. It’s a death by a thousand cuts as shows try to make great content but may include material that shouldn’t go unchecked (Master Roshi with DBZ being a HUGE red flag here) but there’s not many people who will outright dismiss a show for these moments because “hey buddy, everything ELSE is really good”, so this happens with EVERY show as they all have devoted fan bases, and then it ALL gets absorbed by the kids who watch it back to back to back over their most formative years. The key here is NOT to stop watching shows you like, but rather to keep in mind what is acceptable in the real world, and to not be afraid to be critical of something you love. Kids however aren’t always capable of looking at their entertainment that way (and neither do a lot of grown ass people, but we’ll get to that later) which I think is one of the reasons that the variety of options available now with Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, etc, is perfect for parents to curate what kids can watch and with much more specificity than whatever Cartoon Network decided to air. Ultimately, the key here is education. If kids are gonna watch shows with sketchy messages, they need to be taught that those messages are wrong and WHY they are wrong. Eh, maybe I’m thinking too much about this. I turned out fine… I think. Well at least I turned out better than SOME people who grew up on this stuff did, which leads me nicely to our NEXT panel.
Manga from a Feminist Point of View
Hosted by Daniel Thrush (there was a second panelist, but they’re name isn’t listed on the official schedule)
The first panel was pretty respectful for the most part as everyone there was ready to listen and engage with what was being said. This panel though? There were DEFINIATLEY people coming in with a chip on their shoulder. In fact, I ran into one of them while waiting in line that seemed nice enough until they started talking about CREATIVE FREEDOM and how RAPE CULTURE DOESN’T EXIST, so I was bracing myself for a rough panel. For the most part, it ended up staying on track so we’ll save the… less than helpful opinions for later. It was basically a breakdown of certain anime tropes (the panel SAYS manga, but we mostly talk about anime) through a feminist lens and explaining what they represent and how they can be problematic. The first topic covered was the examination of Tsundere, Yondere, Kundere, and Dandere; characters who are cold, characters who are crazy, characters who are snobby, and characters who are reserved. They also expanded that to include four other archetypes which are Stoics, Fighters, Intellectuals, and Damsel/Princesses; all of which should be pretty self-explanatory. Now I’m a bit fuzzy at this point on the specifics of what the panelists felt about these archetypes, but it was pretty boiler plate stuff when it comes to examining character tropes and discussing representation in media. They also brought up the difference between Sexualization and Sexual Characters where the former uses the characters’ sexual agency in service of the viewer (usually through a straight male lens) while the latter is done with the character’s actual wants and desires in mind rather than how it will please the imaginary audience watching them. This was all very good stuff and should be discussed more often in the community, but there was one time that I sort of chaffed at what they said and it was when they mentioned the Sailor Scouts and how the Sailor moon series aren’t great examples of fully fleshed out characters as several fit into these archetypes; a specific example I recall is that they classified Sailor Jupiter as a Stoic. I… don’t really agree with that. I mean I ABSOLUTELY have my problems with Sailor Moon as a series, but I wouldn’t really feel comfortable putting them in any specific category; especially Makoto who is just as much a romantic as she is a hard ass (romanticism by the being somewhat antithetical to stoic beliefs… I think), but this may be another case where someone (in this case me) is trying to defend one of THEIR shows while condemning something they don’t like that does the same thing. Speaking of which, this is where the panel started to devolve as the panelists started taking questions and some people wanted to not only justify THEIR taste but make the panelists answer for OTHER people’s actions so as to unravel their arguments. Some dude brought up Keijo! (I’m only giving that thing ONE exclamation point) and tried to make these two points. First point: SUPPOSEDLY the show at some point has some decent character moments with the female protagonists (neither the panelist nor I have seen the damn thing). Second point (and my memory’s a bit fuzzy on the specifics but the dude’s point was clear): There was an article on… some website that they say was written by a woman who defended the show, but the article was taken down and he blames the SJWs or the Feminists or whatever for that. Both of these are SUPER shitty tactics and when the panelists tried to explain their position, he went straight into the ultra-defensive SO I SHOULDN’T WATCH IT THEN!? YOU’RE TELLING ME WHAT I SHOULD OR SHOULDN’T WATCH!? argument, and I could just feel the exasperation the panelists were trying to hold back. Let’s break this down. NUMBER ONE! The show Keijo! is about women who are THANKFULLY at least eighteen (though not necessarily in appearance) fighting in that one butt bumping mini-game from Dead or Alive Xtreme 2. All you have to do is look at a clip or two on YouTube to get an idea of what the hell this series is; namely, fan service taken to an absurd degree with loving shots of asses, boobs, and other erogenous zones of women. This is a show catered to the Male Gaze to a gross and overbearing degree, so it’s no wonder that people are gonna have a problem with it even if the characterization is decent. You could say the same for something like Freezing which was misogynistic garbage, and while I will give Keijo a SLIGHT edge over that show (Freezing not only objectifies it’s female characters but also sexualizes rape and violence), there’s no way of elevating this above cheesecake and fap material. That’s fine if that’s what you’re into, but do not try to defend this as anything more than that or to get pisssy when someone points it out for what it is. NUMBER TWO! Whatever article the dude was bringing up, I honestly couldn’t find, but this is an example of the Token Endorsement Fallacy wrapped in Guilt by Association. Let’s assume that there was a female writer (the dude didn’t specify if they were a feminist or not) who wrote a glowing piece about the butt anime and the article was taken down because… whatever reason you want to use. The site was run by feminists who hated it, SJWs complained enough for it to be taken down, whatever. The argument the dude was trying to make was HOW CAN THIS BE SEXISTS IF A WOMAN AGREES WITH ME? as well as HOW VALID CAN YOUR POINT BE IF PEOPLE WHO SHARE YOU VIEW TRIED TO SILENCE THIS WOMAN? Both of these are fallacious for what SHOULD be obvious reasons. One person’s opinion piece does not shield something from criticism by anyone else, and even if EVERYTHING this guy clearly though was true about this supposed article being supposedly taken down by supposed SJWs, the actions of an individual or a group of individuals does not invalidate feminist theory; no matter how many people want that to be the case. For the sake of being thorough, I ALSO want to point out that the Guilt by Association Fallacy does not invalidate the No True Scotsman fallacy which I’m sure some BUT BUT BUT-ers might try to argue when it comes to… certain groups who don’t want to be judged by bad actors in their community. Guilt by Association is a fallacy only if it’s ARBITRARY. Bringing up ONE person’s action and demanding an explanation of it without giving someone time to understand what happened or even verify your claims? Yeah, that’s bullshit. Bad actors in a movement being held as the PARAGONS and LEADERS of said movement who EXPLICITLY encouraged bad behavior? Well the association there between you and the bad actors just got a little less complicated, now did it? The panel ended soon after that, and thankfully so did the discussion that was intentionally being derailed. No one who was making contradictory points tried to stay and press the panelists further, and everyone who DID want to talk to them afterwards completely ignored that guy’s ignorant positions. I don’t know what that dude is up to now, but I’m sure he felt validated by the end of that panel simply because he got the panelists visibly agitated. Let the dude have his little victory if he needs it. It may have bothered the panelists at first, but the impact this panel had on everyone else there willing to listen and learn was clearly evident which gives me hope that things can actually change… even with current events being the way they are.
Alrighty then! We’ve got ONE MORE piece to do about the convention itself which will focus on VocAmerica, so stay tuned for that one! After that, we have the grand finale which is the Swag Review and Grab Bag unboxing! That’s gonna be a WHOLE lot of fun!