Anime USA 2012: Sexism In Anime Fandom

I had missed the panel at Otakon earlier this year so at the urging of Shizuka, not to mention three tweets requesting my attendance, it was destiny. If only I knew it then.

The moderation and atmosphere were conducive to audience participation. It felt more like a roundtable discussion than a lecture. And a safe space as some remarked throughout.

Lauren and Patrick first took turns presenting their findings from the survey conducted specifically for this panel. They were dismayed to report that over half of female attendees experienced harassment of some kind. The same issue affects men as well but not to the same extent.

This isn’t a surprise given the prevalence of the problematic practice of portraying women more as objects than people in anime. As Lauren puts it succinctly, there are more breasts than not breasts. While boys do get objectified (Ouran High School offered as an example), overwhelmingly sexism focuses on the female body to the exclusion of everything else.

The misogyny isn’t unique to anime fandom. It exists in all of pop culture. To put a halt into the problem, people must engage in public discourse to broaden awareness of the effects such portrayals of women have on our daily behavior. More importantly, the panel beseeches that one should speak up against those that perpetuate the status quo. Silence is agreement.

Finally, taking a chart from The Cart Driver and labeling the genres from the current season, we can see that sexism also exists in the selection of anime where shounen outnumbers shoujo like stars to planets.

The excellent panel is ultimately ironic. Those in attendance are most likely aware of and have fairly extensive knowledge of the issues. In short, the panel is a complete waste of time.

Not.

During the panel, Lauren cited a statement from the survey in which someone was called a creep for wanting to take a cosplayer’s photo. An audience member questioned the cosplayer for making such a comment implying that cosplay invites photography but Patrick raised Slutwalk as a retort which I wholeheartedly agree with.

As it happens, I had taken a photo of a cosplayer on Friday. We passed each other several times over the course of the weekend and I began to grow an infatuation where I wanted to take another photo in a specific pose and moreover, pursue further. I couldn’t justify my intentions.

Feminist theory makes it abundantly clear that women do not want unsolicited attention, especially those with motives such as mine. Even a sincere compliment and nothing more may prove annoying given that the woman has likely received countless encounters of a similar nature.

I ran into her again late Saturday night. We were walking towards each other in passing and impulsively I complimented on her cosplay because it is THAT awesome only to feel bad immediately and removed myself before I could catch her reply if any.

It’s unclear whether she welcomed my comment but that’s irrelevant. I needed to practice more awareness for her feelings, her consent.

This is a lot more than I wanted to share but I hope it will serve as a reminder for me that I have more to do than attend panels.

12 thoughts on “Anime USA 2012: Sexism In Anime Fandom”

  1. Interesting panel. Yes, unwanted attention causes discomfort for female cosplayers, but it’s rather who gives discomfort rather than an action itself. If a photographer is a professional, then they welcome photo-shooting, but if a photographer looks like an otaku with niya-niya expression, sexual harassment! Yes, otakus are kimoi (creepy)! Kimo-ota! Otakus are unwanted. Don’t they know niya niya is a sign telling that she is special? Who wants to take photo of her if she’s not special?

    But in anime, yes, a lot of oppai, but also has to note that there is a strong fetish for hinnyuu (flat chest) too in otakudom. But I don’t think this is sexism, but it is moe. Otakus don’t get any attention from girls, or rather treated as a creep, unwanted reaction from girls, causing Radio Head to sing that depressing masterpiece, “You’re special but I’m a creep.” Otakus have no contact with, I mean no skinship with girls in real life, so 2D girls will give them attention, especially extremely skinshipless society like Japan. Western society is very touchy, hugs, shaking hands. Yes, anime even makes a ghost like Yuuko-san sexual harass you, oh yes, sexual harassment done by female characters! We can tell the degree of how much otaku wants skinship! And only a girl like Inaba will say that she has masturbated to you.

    So, the problem is this, real girls don’t want attention from otakus, which means they’re not gonna give any attention to otakus, and otakus crave for attention from girls, and if an otaku ever tries to hit on a girl by any case, she call us a stalker! So what is the solution? Moe!

  2. As someone who cosplays and also takes pictures, I’ve been on both sides. What you did with that girl sounds awkward, but could’ve ended differently. Understand that while women don’t want unsolicited attention, many cosplayers (including women) are too glad to discuss their sewing struggles, inspiration, and skit ideas for their costumes. Unsolicited attention can morph into solicited attention.

    People have three aspects: mind, body, and spirit. Unfortunately, when you only have five seconds with someone, you only know her body. In a crowd of strangers, where everyone only has five seconds, they will only know each other’s bodies and never anything else…hence, the status quo. Women just feel it more acutely because the mind is wired to make comparisons. A man’s looks aren’t as highly regarded (or scrutinized), so in terms of presence they have 0/3. Women at least have 1/3. Kind of like how you’ll know when you spend money, but forget about your paycheck’s direct deposit!

    1. How do you approach cosplayers? How do you prefer someone to approach you? Is it better to risk giving unsolicited attention that can turn into solicited or not take the risk?

  3. Well, uhm, when you cosplay and go at a con, I think it’s only natural to think that people do want to see you- otherwise, you know, you’d have stayed at home. Especially when a woman wears skimpy clothes, she does simulate herself to the objectification material men love to spend time with- you turn yourself into boobs and nothing else non-boobs after all… Just asking about a photograph shouldn’t illicit such a reply, unless, as Monsieuer LaMoe said, the way it was asked was rude… It’s a bit illogical to wear a deep decolte and say that you didn’t expect that it’d summon gazes… that doesn’t imply ofc that anyone has the right to take a picture without your consent, talk in sexual language to you, badmouth you or attack you. But just (a bit of healthy) looking or complimenting someone isn’t rude in my humble opinion.

    1. Whoa. I didn’t expect that from you. The choice of attire, skimpy or otherwise, doesn’t mean she’s objectifying/performing for men.

      Hmm. I thought feminist theory frowns upon compliments. Not because it’s rude per say but more of an act of a man imposing his will upon a woman without regard to her.

  4. Wait, perhaps wrong wording there. I don’t say she does that necessarily for men. But she knows that dressing let’s say as Yoko, she incorporates that moment in that attire something sexual- it could be sexual for both men and other lesbian women. It’d be a lie, if we said that the attire doesn’t attract gazes or isn’t there to make impressions. We /choose/ what to wear after all. It’s like shaving your entire head and people look at it and you get angry because of that. Being bald or having big breasts, on the other hand, isn’t sth you choose, and in this situation any comment or careless gaze can hurt the person and is considered indiscrete.

    Well, when I wear lingerie, I do it not only to feel sexier, but to tease my partner as well. Even with clothes that are more modest but do reveal plenty of skin (a strapless, a mini skirt), especially with striking colors like red or pink, I do intend to give my partner a hard on, to feel like I control a part of him, I want to hear a compliment and thus feel good for myself. We realize our potential and worth largely by the feedback other’s give us, no?

    I don’t say that all women think like that and I certainly don’t call names. What I’m saying is that even if we say that we do it for ourselves, isn’t our personal taste influenced by the society’s opinion? We don’t live in a void.

    As for the feminist theory… there are parts that I believe lose their point coz they overgeneralize or they go too far. A comment like “this outfit compliments your figure; it’s awesome!” is totally fine – unless you were also drooling at that time :P Still if it’s something other than whistling, attaching weird adjectives like slutty, being too judgemental or asking a stranger out of the blue, I think it’s fine. And ofc what I already mentioned about taking photos without consent and ofc touching is out of discussion.

    1. That’s precisely the point of feminism? Of course we don’t live in a void. We live in a patriachy. When you say that tastes are influenced by society, you mean it’s influenced by the patriach which is the issue at hand.

      You feel sexy in lingerie largely because men imposed that idea onto you yes? A woman choosees what she wears but it should not attract gazes or make impressions. It should make no difference if she dresses like Yoko or like Mio. The fact that it does, demonstrates the patriach at work.*

      I think feminism discourages men from complimenting women regardless of intent because it implies, ever so slightly, that she is performing for men or to put it in another way, he is trying to take ownership of the situation by using her for his gratification.

      *Don’t mean to be heteronormative but trying to make a point.

  5. Yeah, I know and I ask so what? Should I feel guilty for that? Should I start declaring wrong whatever happens for me to like just because it comes from the patriarchy? You understand that in the case we started making a series of hypotheses and create deontology, we’d make the same mistake with Plato and his ‘Politeia’. There’s no point in talking about a hypothetical society that in our head would be better as if we could destroy the world and start it from 0. (We can educate and try improve it though ofc). We don’t even know for sure that a society ruled only by women would be better, but that’s a whole other discussion…

    I respect the struggles of hundreds of women before me, I bow before them for granting me liberties they didn’t have, I understand that the battle is ongoing in many parts of the world, that dangerous ideas come back /but/ feminism isn’t a unified theory/movement. Feminism may have a noble cause but it doesn’t mean that whatever it supports is the absolute truth. beware coz then it turns into a new kind of religion and that can only be a bad thing. You say you don’t mean to be heteronormative but you are… such ‘axioms’ like the one you mentioned seem to forget completely lesbians and trans individuals. You and I and 5 billion other people watch porn- we objectify women, men, straight, lesbian, gay, trans, slim and fat, tall and short etc IN OUR MINDS. What’s wrong about that? Everyone does it. We get turned on by miscellaneous stimuli, we have a sex drive. As long as the fantasies don’t turn into a harassing behavior, all is fine. Are we trying here to whip ourselves, to punish and suppress our desires?

    As for the compliment- anyone should give a compliment to anyone -with respect- it makes up your day! Everything else for me is overanalysis…

    Still, I’d be nice to chat over skype with you to delve deeper :)

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