Management: I’m a bit more heated here than my usual tone, but it’s an actually important topic, so I figured I should still post it. This was a straight-up argument, so I haven’t changed a word on either side to make sure no-one is misrepresented. It came about in response to my first Free! post, which apparently ruffled some feathers.
Question (sort of):
You didn’t need to tell us what a good little feminist you are (and oh so concerned with shitting on anything that might be remotely aimed at men) 27 times in one post.
Shit, you got me! I only pretend to be a decent person to look cool on the internet.
For one thing, forcing yourself against your will to hate something that’s nothing but love and kindness (K-On!) because of some political ideology does not make you a good person – quite the opposite.
But even if we grant that your brand of feminism is what’s good, you’re still obnoxious in how often and aggressively you signal your adherence to it, just as it’s obnoxious when a religious person (who is also a “good person” by their standards) talks constantly about how much they pray and go to church.
Forcing yourself against your will to hate K-On because of some political ideology
There is no part of this statement that I do not take issue with! First, there is no “force” involved here – my will, personality, and conscience mind are all in agreement that there is something deeply problematic about the archetypes displayed in shows like K-On, Clannad, Sakurasou, and any other number of shows where a female character’s infantilizing helplessness is supposed to be perceived as attractive. I am not going against any natural tendency here – every fiber of my body finds this stuff pretty disturbing, and I actually have repeatedly gotten in arguments on this board, and often just avoided other conversations entirely, because of it. You seem to think I’m just pretending to believe the things I say – I assure you, I’m not trying nearly that hard.
But this doesn’t address K-On itself, which I don’t actually hate – I honestly do believe the creators of that show were intent on making a lighthearted healing-type show, which is apparently what you got out of it. I did not intend to belittle your experience with the show, or their intent – what I take issue with is the specific style of characterization used, which is very prominent in many other less-defensible shows with overt romantic characteristics. I find those helpless character archetypes indicative of an incredibly sexist and dehumanizing style of pandering. My problem is not specifically with K-On – I merely used it as an example because it’s also a KyoAni show and it bears a large number of humorous parallels to Free!, which is why I was referring to Haru as Mio throughout, etc.
Obnoxious in how often and aggressively I signal my adherence to it
I’m sorry my brand of humanism is so offensive to you! My first suggestion would be to possibly not read my posts, since they are all an extension of my beliefs and thus all likely contain the capacity to offend you, but I’d also like to add a little context here. First, and I’ve covered this earlier, but it bears repeating: I’m not filtering my voice through some outside agenda here. I’m cataloging my honest reactions, adding a little humor, and trying to show people my context on media. My first goal in writing these things is to better process my own thoughts, and become a more intelligent consumer of media (thus the questions of sexism and objectification will necessarily crop up here, since they’re such a big question when it comes to this show, and are obviously on my mind) – but in a roundabout way, you’re also right. My second goal is to impart something. Normally that thing is either my way of analyzing stories or my thoughts on media evaluation or my belief that humility and curiosity are the only ways to have a meaningful relationship with art. But my general worldview is also inescapably a part of that.
I’m not a religious person, but I can understand why a religious person would try and tell you how valuable their religion is, if they care about you – according to a great many faiths, if you’re not an adherent, you are eternally damned. That sucks! Why wouldn’t a religious person want to spare people they care about from that? And personally, as a non-religious person who instead believes that data is a real thing and prejudice exists and our world is incredibly goddamn far from a place where genders or races or sexualities or whatever can honestly consider themselves equal in society, government, law, or media, I think that downplaying this stuff, particularly in a setting where people actually read what I have to say, would be pretty inexcusable. I’m not hammering on my “agenda” here, but if my thoughts make anyone think that maybe continuously treating female characters like objects is a shitty thing to do, then I’d also be pretty fucking proud of that. If you find that obnoxious, whatever, read something else – but you can’t tell me it’s not sincere.
But seriously, I’m not actually trying with that – if I were trying, I could be doing much more directly relevant stuff than criticizing anime. This show is pretty dumb on a straight textual level, and so I find that outside of just making jokes, the most interesting angle to analyze it from is its relation to the pervasive sexism in the anime industry. When relevant cultural stuff crops up in other shows, I’ll certainly mention it, but this happens to be a show where that angle is likely the best one for encouraging meaningful discussion. I did not once think while watching this, “now would be a good time to propagate my subversive feminist agenda” – things just came up in my mind and so I wrote them down because I thought someone else might find them interesting. If that doesn’t work for you – well, sorry, no refunds.
First part: Apologies for being unnecessarily rude earlier – I did find your initial post a bit condescending. Although I can see where you’re coming from about helpless women, I don’t think this is an entirely fair portrayal of K-On! The girls in that show may be goofy and a bit childish in their personal interactions, but they’re also proactive and successful at their goals. They aren’t genuinely helpless and they don’t sit around waiting for men (or anyone else) to save them.
Second part: I think there’s a danger in jumping in too whole-heartedly into any political belief given the high possibility of those beliefs being at least least partially in error. Taking abstract beliefs completely seriously is powerful but dangerous, and can drive things like terrorism just as much as it can drive positive change (not that I think you’re going to bomb anyone). I did think it was a bit weak when you were about to criticize Free! for possibly being sexist against men and then cringed back because you were apparently terrified of being labelled an MRA neckbeard – I think it’s better to own your thoughts instead of fearing “thoughtcrime”.
For what it’s worth I have no comment on Free! itself – I don’t intend to watch it but anyone who does enjoy it is welcome to. I did think it was a bit lame that some people claimed to be watching it in an attempt to stick it to /a/ somehow – just watch what you want to watch and don’t worry about what some anon said about it.
Anyway, thanks for being reasonable when I started out being a bit snarky.
The thing is, the only real “beliefs” I’m proposing here are that all people deserve equal treatment, that various societal and systemic forces trend towards sexism, and that this extends to media as well. And none of those “beliefs” are really debatable – there’s endless academic evidence for it, and even a cursory examination of anime at large reveals the general tendency to objectify and infantilize female characters. I agree that unsupported beliefs are dangerous, but I think what you’re proposing here is equally dangerous – the idea that all viewpoints are created equal. They aren’t – there’s only one reality, and when all the evidence supports the idea that women are not given fair representation in media, the viewpoint in support of changing that becomes kinda self-evident.
Terrified at being labeled an MRA neckbeard
I was actually just making a joke there, and am not particularly worried about being labeled an MRA or whatever. I don’t deny that men can also be objectified in media (I mean, look at this show), but I think the relative objectification/agency ratio is so skewed towards male fantasies that raising a show like this as a counterpoint to sexism at large is pretty laughable. That was pretty much what I was trying to say with my joke: that Free!’s existence as a show that objectifies men does not excuse an entire culture of sexism in the other direction, farcically playing off the general tendency to use single isolated examples in order to “prove feminism wrong.”
Thanks for the apology, by the way. I try to stay as reasonable as possible, since we can’t really learn anything from each other if we’re just throwing barbs.