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 wistfuljane
On Women in Manga at alita_b_angel
"But Japan is racist too!" at oyceter
Twelve generations from now, people like me will still be writing posts like this.helens78
Metadiscourse at viridianphoenix
My Thoughts, Let Me Share Them With You (whether you like it or not) at inkstone
The problems of White and Western consumption of Manga and Anime at 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 wistfuljane
This post is in response to 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 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.