We Need to Up Our Game
After two years of being part of the anime blogging community (including its related social media aspects), I’ve come to a conclusion:
We need to stop the cruelty, and we need to treat each other better.
As I said in my thank you post for 2 years of readership, I welcome all readers to Crow’s World of Anime, and I don’t criticize the political leanings or views of any of my readers. I’m going to try to make a point here without implicating any individuals. So, if what I’m about to say feels like I’m attacking you, please blame my poor writing skills.
What’s This about Cruelty?
If a member of a dominant group talks down to, over, or at a marginalized person talking about their own experiences, we will moderate in such a way as to support the marginalized commenter. Everyone says the wrong thing by accident sometimes, but our priority must be to make this a safe space for marginalized people and their allies to talk to each other.
It is particularly important to us that marginalized readers, including women, POC, LGBTQ+ and non-binary people, feel welcomed and comfortable in these comments sections…
Based on what I’ve seen on their site, Anime Feminist is honestly trying to give groups that have been historically mistreated/discriminated against a place where they feel like they can safely participate. Anyone* who’s honest with themselves has to admit they’ve witnessed women in the technology field treated with less respect than their male colleagues; people of color (POC) being treated differently simply because of the color of their skin; or people within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, and others (LGBTQ+) disparaged because of who they are. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that the there’s such a volume of examples that it’s simply not possible to dispute this.
I’m writing in response to the Tweets, blog posts, or other arguments against a preferential stance for these groups. Folks objecting to preferential treatment fall into two broad categories. The posts trying to be rational take the position that any favoring of one group over another is unjust, so AniFem’s is wrong to implement their policy. Other posts get take a more vulgar route, or try to invoke religion to justify mistreatment.** In either case, the message is the same: giving any group special treatment is wrong.
How about Understanding?
Arguing against communities creating a safe space — with rules required to keep it safe — is missing the point. Entirely. So I’m suggesting they try another tactic.
How about understanding?
I know, it’s crazy, but hear me out.
I’m not talking about an emotional, “Can’t we all just play well together?” Emotions aren’t really my thing, so me trying to use that tactic would be disingenuous.
I mean an intellectual understanding where we consider our place in history and ask ourselves who we want to be as a fanbase.*** Look out across human history. If you do that honestly, you have to conclude that through most periods (all periods?), some groups have really made things painful for other groups. I don’t want to go into the details; you can read them for yourselves and you likely have a ton of examples off the top of your heads. But this tendency exists even today. Look at what’s happening to gay people in Chechnya. Or Trans individuals in Texas, who are the subject of humiliating laws about bathrooms. Heck, even women who post material critical of certain trends in video games receive hateful threats that sometimes extend to the physical world through doxxing.
Is it any wonder that groups who have faced such pain would want to create a safe place?
If you were in a group subject to such attacks, wouldn’t you want to go somewhere where you could relax among friends?
Is it unjust to give one group or another preferential treatment? I admit that sure, preferring one group over another is unjust. Or at least gives the appearance of injustice. Okay, okay, I give up. It’s not really unjust. The folks attacking AmiFem’s policy (and other policies and actions like it) sure seem to think so, and I’m trying to take their perspective into account. But the policy can only seem unjust if it’s divorced from the historical perspective.
In other words, it only makes sense if it’s divorced from reality.
It’s impossible to look at history — even glance at it — and not admit that too many people have been subject to terrible treatment. As humans,**** we should look on the suffering of other humans and make a decision to be compassionate. If AniFem wants to moderate their comments so their constituency feels safe, not only do they as a private entity have that right — I applaud their compassion for doing so. And what’s more, in this broader context, it really is just.
We Should Do… What, Now?
But let’s pretend we don’t know history. Let’s pretend the argument about such a position being unjust has some merit (and I don’t think it does). Even so, isn’t putting up with a few instances of supposed injustice, if it helps fledgling communities take root and grow, the right and compassionate thing to do? Over time, as those communities become stronger, I’m sure they’ll begin to establish alliances with other communities, and their inclusivity will increase. But only if there’s a corresponding decrease in attacks and cruelty (and those attacks are a profound example of injustice — where’s the outcry against that?). I’m suggesting that compassion is a good place to begin that journey.
Anime speaks to a rich and wildly diverse audience. There’s plenty of room for everyone. We don’t have to fight among ourselves because communities want to focus on their own needs. We can learn from each other’s perspectives — especially where perspectives diverge.
And what about the argument that AniFem (and others like them — keep in mind I’m not saying they’re the only example, they’re just the one I picked) deny compassion to the groups that criticize them? Shouldn’t someone who hates the very idea of LGBTQ+ be looked upon with compassion in AniFem’s comments?
Not to put too fine a point on it, but to me, that sounds like criticizing the medical staff for prioritizing the care of injured patients over those who aren’t injured. Remember: the above-mentioned groups have endured way too much emotional and physical pain. So of course they need treatment first. And not at the hands of the groups who inflicted the pain. That’d be just mean.
What do you think? Wouldn’t it be kind of cool to try understanding and compassion?
* I’m speaking from the perspective of an American here, so please keep that in mind.
** I have to admit to feeling a disproportionate reaction (transcendental annoyance) to people invoking the religion card to justify hurting other humans. I have a degree in Theology, and I have an unfortunate amount of professional pride, so whenever I encounter this kind of thing, I remember the Geico Insurance commercial where the lady says (at around 0:17), “That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works!” If you use theology to hurt someone, you’re using it wrong.
*** Yes, I’m trying to keep this in the context of anime fandom. And to be honest, it’s hard to write from that perspective! The topic is enormously broad, and I keep wanting to get off track and go into politics…
**** Well, to be specific, as humans in “better angels of our nature” mode. I’m well aware that humans are capable of, well, less than angelic behavior.