ceitean: (Default)
ceitean ([personal profile] ceitean) wrote2010-01-07 05:39 am
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demographics in animanga fandom - no, really, they're important

EDIT: When people talk about gender fail, the hypocrisy around yaoi, and Orientalism/exoticizing the Other in animanga, they are talking about a very specific and very large group of young, female, white fans. This post is about those fans.

For further background on the many issues surrounding the broader discussion of animanga, race, gender, and privilege, please see these posts:

Gender and Fan Culture (Round Nineteen): Lori Hitchcock Morimoto and David Surman

Race Discourse at [personal profile] wistfuljane

On Women in Manga at [personal profile] alita_b_angel

"But Japan is racist too!" at [personal profile] oyceter

Twelve generations from now, people like me will still be writing posts like this.[personal profile] helens78

Metadiscourse at [livejournal.com profile] viridianphoenix

My Thoughts, Let Me Share Them With You (whether you like it or not) at [personal profile] inkstone

The problems of White and Western consumption of Manga and Anime at [community profile] dark_agenda

and you can't go wrong with -

Rape Culture 101 at Shakesville

Racism 101: Required Reading at The Angry Black Woman

Racism 101: Further Reading at [personal profile] wistfuljane

This post is in response to [personal profile] branchandroot 's entry on The Difference Between Manga and Comics and the ongoing discussion about meta in animanga fandom:

(in this post, I'm mainly speaking about the bulk of animanga fandom -- these are not the experiences of every fan. I'm generalizing here, but I'm doing it based off of 12 years of observation and participation in various anime and manga fandoms. Also, I'm not trying to invalidate anyone's fannish experience. I know that not all anime fans are teenaged girls. This post is in reference to the many who are and their significance to animanga fandom as it stands today.)

I've (unfortunately) seen everything mentioned in [personal profile] branchandroot 's post -- the fuzzy Orientalism, the strange homophobic embracing of yaoi, the tendency to brush gender issues under the table, all of it. But I've also seen a rising tendency for animanga fandom to correct itself on these issues. And from what I've seen, that tendency seems to come with age.

Anime in the US is marketed toward children -- something everyone knows, but it bears repeating. Hell, I was talking about Gundam Wing on yahoo mailing lists when I was 11 years old -- all of my friends were. You couldn't get us to shut up about it.

And dear god, we were idiots.

The age issue is something I don't usually see addressed in discussions about animanga fandom, at least in a way that isn't derisive. Obviously there are plenty of fans who aren't in the range of the general anime marketing demographic (which is another topic about the way US companies frame animanga), but after the huge boom in popularity/marketing push in the early 00s, the majority of animanga fans have been pre- to late-teenagers.

And there is no group in the world that is as uneducated, inexperienced, and defensive about sexuality/gender/cultural issues than pre- to late-teenagers. Better yet, most of those fans in this particular corner of the internet are girls, who are not only inexperienced, but are also the demographic most likely to be scared of their own sexuality.

There's meta floating around of the 'why do we slash?' variety, and one of the proposed ideas was that some fans use slashing as a way to explore sexuality without making it personal. It's the best description of a Yaoi FanGurl I've ever heard.

But sometimes I don't think people realize the implications, that the typical Yaoi FanGurl is a real girl, probably around 13-16 years old. She's learning about sexuality during a constant, nasty, real struggle over gay rights (plus the buckets of homophobia that are dumped all over it), and lives in a world where female sexuality is exploited in the media, but repressed in real life.

In that light, the female character bashing isn't all that surprising, and neither is the hypocrisy around yaoi (puberty -> interest in sex -> good girls don't have sex -> read stories about sex with no females involved, so there's a kind of plausible deniability -> but society says being gay is bad -> cue mental gymnastics to try to stay a good girl but still explore sex -> FAIL).

And that is one of the huge cultural differences between animanga and other types of fandom. No fandom is homogeneous, either by gender, age, orientation, or nationality, but there are majorities as far as demographics are concerned. On LJ/ff.net (but not dreamwidth, from what I've seen), animanga fandom isn't just a female space, it's a young female space. There's a lot of baggage there and it shows itself in some very ugly ways.

But here's the thing. Animanga continues to pull in a young demographic, but that first big wave of popularity in the early 2000s happened ten years ago. Those young fans went through middle school, high school, and maybe college during that stretch of time. That's a hell of a lot of growth and it's starting to show. It may be hard to see if you weren't a part of that big wave, since young (ignorant, uneducated, etc etc) fans are pouring into animanga all the time, but there has been a lot of checking and re-evaluation going on among the 'older' fans who are now in their twenties.

New fans are getting called out for homophobic/exploitative/female bashing comments -- by the same generation of fangirls who were making those remarks a few years before. No, it didn't start happening in big discussion posts where people debate in a public forum -- it's happening behind f-locks, because that's how this particular circle of LJ fannish culture was set up. I've seen more general f-locking in animanga than anywhere else, which is, again, not surprising. Even so, discussions over complex gender and cultural issues are not unheard of in the least.

There are a lot of problematic issues in animanga fandom, but in all the meta posts I've read on the topic, I've hardly ever seen anyone try to figure out why. And in the very few posts that do talk about it, age (and aging) isn't brought up as a contributing factor, unless it's along the lines of, "There are too many twelve year olds in the Pit!"

I'm not trying to invalidate anyone's fannish experience. I know that not all anime fans are teenaged girls. Pretty much all of the Meta discussion about this kind of stuff is hosted by fans who are not teenage girls. No fandom has ever been a monoculture and I'm honestly not trying to make out like it is. But trying to find the differences between different types of media fandoms means at least partially relying on general impressions of fandoms as a whole, and the group that gives animanga fandom the strongest impression is the pre- to late-teenage girl demographic.

And if people can't recognize that, then they certainly can't see the deeper trends. Animanga is growing and aging, by numbers and experience. Yes, the problems are still there, but they're being blunted. The learning curve is especially steep for animanga, and given the ages of the fans it attracts, there will always be fail. The important thing is that the mainstream core of the fandom has started to check and re-evaluate itself, bit by bit.

readerofasaph: (Default)

[personal profile] readerofasaph 2010-01-07 12:10 pm (UTC)(link)
too tired/incoherent to contribute anything at this point but just wanted to thank you for making this post; I think you've hit several nails on the head here.
schattenstern: Hakkai and Goyjo from the manga Saiyuki, dressed for winter (Saiyuki - Spirit of Winter)

[personal profile] schattenstern 2010-01-07 05:26 pm (UTC)(link)
(here via your link in [personal profile] branchandroot's comments, which I found via metafandom... I think. Too many open tabs etc.)

As someone who jumped head-first into the anime/manga fandom in the late ninties/early 2000s and was very much a typical teenaged animanga fangirl (minus the female character bashing and RL homophobia, probably, but still bad enough), thank you for this post!

Even though I still read or watch anime and manga (even though my focus has since shifted to videogames), I find it difficult to get into their fandoms, and much of that has to do with a large (or at least vocal) group of those same "typical teenaged animanga fangirls" that I myself belonged to, and a lack of awareness for issues I'd like to see addressed. (Speaking of which, you wouldn't happen to have a link or two to those discussions you mentioned? I'd love to see more of them. *_*)

(This comment was brought to you by drive-by commenting and too many brackets.)
Edited (html and I, we are not on speaking terms today. Sorry. ^^;) 2010-01-07 17:27 (UTC)
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

[personal profile] branchandroot 2010-01-07 08:35 pm (UTC)(link)
There are so many points in here that I just want to copy and point to with a "Word!". The one about the derisive use of age-bracket, the one about young girls' aculturation and fear of sexuality, the one about the accumulation of experience in this fandom, the one about the back-channel nature of the discussions... Yes!

And you remind me to have hope for my fandoms, even the ones like KHR that I look at and tend to cry into my beer over.
eisen: Nagisa & Honoka (run away with me). (under true-blue sky.)

[personal profile] eisen 2010-01-08 12:25 am (UTC)(link)
Here via your link in Branch's post, too, and I just have to say - word. You hit it dead on here, with something very true.

Especially for modern English-speaking anime and manga fandoms, my fandoms, as opposed to the very different anime and manga fandoms that existed prior to the '00s - those were a totally different culture, with vastly different standards and ethics and expectations, and I grew up immersed in both, but this is the branch of the fandom I always belonged to.

This is just - so very true, and thank you for bringing that clarity into the discussion.
ilyena_sylph: picture of Labyrinth!faerie with 'careful, i bite' as text (Default)

[personal profile] ilyena_sylph 2010-01-08 12:53 am (UTC)(link)
I want to hug this post and love it and take it home and call it TRUEFAX.

Because sheesh, yes!

((Here via [personal profile] eisen.))

Here via Metafandom.

[identity profile] scarlet-pencil.livejournal.com 2010-01-09 02:27 am (UTC)(link)
When I look back on my Yaoi Fangurl (TM) days, I usually shudder a little at all of the horrible characterization, rabid shipping, anti-pink/girl crap that I produced during those years. But I also acknowledge that I grew a lot during that time. If I hadn't joined yaoi fandom when I was twelve, I wouldn't have started confronting my views about gay rights so much. I wouldn't have been forced to start thinking about what gender roles meant to me, why I was programmed to automatically think that girls and anything girly was bad. I look back, and realize that while a lot of the things I said and did were very immature, it was because of those things that I was able to learn and become the person I am today.

Anyway I, like a lot of people, find young female fans who squeal about their "HOT OTP" somewhat annoying, but I always try to be nice to them and show them that there are more options than what they're choosing to cling to. That it's okay to like female characters, and that maybe forcing crappy gender roles on gay couples is not only a bad idea for gay couples, but also for straight couples. A large part of my fandom experience was growing up, and I think that the "next generation" of fans is experiencing the same kind of thing.
undomielregina: Rusyuna from the anime Grenadier text: "Grenadier" (Default)

[personal profile] undomielregina 2010-01-09 03:56 am (UTC)(link)
There's another part of this too (because I was in anime fandom from about 1997 to 2002 or so, and so saw the beginning of what you're talking about. I remember Gundam Wing fandom, which had every issue you mention and then some.)

The "Japanese men are so pretty" fail is partly because teen girls are scared of sex and sexuality and so are honestly a little freaked by men who play up their secondary sexual characteristics. I can remember talking about how body hair is "gross" with my friends early in high school. Japanese idols and the men in anime and manga tend to be portrayed or to portray themselves as more androgynous, even in shounen. That makes them a whole hell of a lot less threatening to teen girls than the men in Western fandoms who are usually at least 30 years old.
jetsam: (Default)

[personal profile] jetsam 2010-01-09 06:53 pm (UTC)(link)
I remember when I made the jump over to animanga fandoms late(!) at about 18 and was initially quite startled to discover that I was now one of the older ones in certain fandoms, certainly one of the more experienced in fandom terms.

I don't want to say it's an unsupervised space, but perhaps it's not the older fans who are hosting a lot of the discussion. There's probably a knock on from that.

Your post just about sums up a lot of it. Well said.
cygna_hime: Unretouched and unedited I swear to god. (Zounds!)

[personal profile] cygna_hime 2010-01-10 03:30 pm (UTC)(link)
(Here via metafandom)

It's been so long since I last found an anime/manga fandom that really clicked with me that I actually forgot about this. Because yeah, I started stumbling into animanga fandoms as a twelve-year-old without a clue, and while I was at the young end I was in no way freakishly young in any of those fandoms the way I would have been in most Western media fandoms.

Some things I said/did/wrote then, oh how they make my soul ache in embaarrassment to remember (but of course I remember them perfectly -- hey, self, remember when you were thirteen and at a con and couldn't manage to get the word 'lesbian' out of your mouth in conversation?) -- and I have always been on the intellectual-ranting-fan track -- but I was thirteen. And being stupid is part of being thirteen. At the very least, at thirteen you don't have the wherewithal to analyze cultural expectations, and no one should expect you to. The most anyone can demand of you is that you learn when taught, and if possible when not taught.

And then at the end you get fans of, say, twenty (oh god I'm so old) who've picked up a thing or ten and are prepared to actually wrestle with issues of gender, appropriation, etc., like adults, and either move on to enrich other fandoms or stick around to pass down some education to the next batch of kids. And you have, of course, another batch of clueless thirteen-year-olds who need clues imparted statim. And that is as it should be.

here via metafandom

[identity profile] doctecsoc.livejournal.com 2010-01-12 12:08 am (UTC)(link)
This is a very good point. Thanks for mentioning it!

As a gay man who occaionally wants to talk about "hey, slash is cool, but this particular pattern makes me feel exploited/fetishized/etc.", I'd love to hear any tips you have on how to make those kinds of statements in a way that the demographic you're discussing will feel informed and educated by them, not shamed or intimidated.
linkspam_mod: A metal chain (Default)

[personal profile] linkspam_mod 2010-01-13 11:41 am (UTC)(link)
Your post has been added to a Linkspam round-up.
aquaeri: Sign at the entry to Fail Park (fail)

metafandom or linkspam or something pointed me at this

[personal profile] aquaeri 2010-01-13 11:32 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm not anywhere near animanga, but I have some friends with teen or heading-towards-teen daughters. And OMG negotiating puberty and developing sexuality as a girl is Hard! My own puberty/teenage experience was unusual I think, and I am grateful it was the way it was because I got through it sane, and I don't know that I could have coped with "typical" (not that I wasn't gender and sexuality Fail! myself).

Anyway, thank you for speaking up for the teen girls trying to grow up in this mess of gender fail and sexuality fail called Western society.