Laurie Toby Edison

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Anime and Sexism: No Justification for Racism

Laurie and Debbie say:

Debbie found this post from Feministing showcased on an anti-racist mailing list that she reads. The video shows violence against an animated young-looking female character.

Laurie asked Motomi Rudolph for a translation:

The Chinese characters say, “The first in the world, Electric brain, 120% Sensitivity.”

The movie opens with an introduction.

“Hi, how do you do? I may not look like it but, I am an official servant. Wow…. this looks like my master’s room.”

Then, the paddle appears.

“Hey, don’t do that! Don’t touch there!” She cries.

The teddy bear card appears.

“How nice of you to give this to me. If you do nice things like this I would….”

The dinosaur comes in to the door.

“No! Don’t come in here!! Whew, it was close.”

Disturbing? Check. Abusive? Check. Violent towards women? Check. This video, and the software program it promotes are nasty and misogynistic and the people responsible for them should be ashamed. We appreciate Feministing for pointing it out. What’s more, the particular style and approach of the misogyny and violence is in keeping with a well-known segment of Japanese culture, and they underscore some stereotypes about Japanese men which are true in at least some cases, but are absolutely not universally true.

Constantina, who posted this to the mailing list, was very upset about the descent into racism in the Feministing comments. We agree. Here’s one example:

My older sister lived for a long time in southeast Asia, and was immersed in their culture; I was also (very briefly and stupidly) married to someone who was obsessed with Anime and Japanese cartoons. Everything I’ve seen from their experiences indicates an incredible sense of mysogyny and disrespect for women in the various Asian cultures, Japan being no exception. It’s considered socially acceptable to cheat on your wife in Korea, as long as you’re supporting her financially. Asian men feel no shame in telling women that they’re fat and unattractive, because they feel they’re doing these women a favor by calling attention to something that the women need to “fix” about themselves. And Anime – don’t get me freaking started. It’s the worst portrayal of women that I’ve ever seen, worse than pornography and horror films put together and magnified by 100. Short skirts, squeaky voices, terminally being afraid of everything, quitting their lives to get married, never being leaders, heroes, or important figures to anyone, caring only about attracting men and being popular.

I was soooo not surprised to see this coming out of Asia.

On the other hand, a lot of Feministing commenters are also pointing out that, while Japanese misogyny may be flavored differently than American misogyny, it’s hardly unique to Japan, or Asia, or anywhere else in the world. We were especially taken with konkonsn’s comment:

*sigh* It’s just like in America. It’s the creepy, weird stuff you see more from other cultures as the mundane life details aren’t nearly as exciting. And just like in America, it’s a smaller percentage of the population than the amount of coverage would have you believe.

Also, I’d like to point out that where a lot of the girls you’re seeing look underage to you (hence all the pedo comments I’m seeing on here), I’m fairly sure that girl is supposed to be of legal age. Westerners tend to view Asian facial and body features as young. Anime traditionally tries to stick to the cute factor, even if it means your twenty-year-old protagonist looks eleven.

Japan also has a very different approach to these types of fantasy than Americans do. I know what all our psychological research says about fantasy and reality, but that’s Western psychology, not Eastern. In Japan, fantasy and reality are considered two very distinct things, and your fantasy life is not supposed to interact with your real life. Hence, extreme fantasies are not considered as…”harmful” as they would be in America.

After all, we live in a country where People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an organization that still claims to be reputable can showcase women in cages to make a political point. We live in a state that has just passed Proposition 8, and thus temporarily defeated gay marriage by falling prey to a flood of false advertising, resulting in the removal of civil rights from a significant percentage of our state’s population. And some people are trying to convert that debacle into unreasoning and unconstructive racism. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, the claim that people of color voting Yes on 8 caused the measure to pass is a) incorrect, and b) divisive in exactly the area we need to be inclusive to win. Here’s an excellent roundup of reasons why this is true and good posts on the issue.

While women’s circumstances in Japan and the United States are not equivalent, no nation, culture, or society is monolithic. There’s ugly sexism and racism in Japan and there are activists working to change that every day. There’s ugly sexism and racism in the U.S. and there are activists working to change this every day.

One Response to “Anime and Sexism: No Justification for Racism”

  1. Ukumbwa Says:

    Thank you so much for this report. I’m beginning to look into the messages and portrayals of anime and this is very helpful.

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