Aggretsuko and White Feminism

I try very, very hard to be aware of the privileges I have in my life and of the challenges others face. I am a white, cisgendered woman from an upper middle class family. Yes, I have struggled and I have worked very hard to get where I am today, but I also understand that part of the reason I have come this far is because I started out with certain privileges.

Well, sometimes I fail. Sometimes, I can’t see past my own nose.

Recently, everyone has been talking about the Netflix original anime, Aggretsuko. It’s a wonderful anime about a red panda named Retsuko who is experiencing the stereotypical millennial struggles. She doesn’t like her job, she doesn’t have much money, and she doesn’t have many friends. So to blow off steam she goes to a karaoke bar every evening and sings death metal. I loved this show. It was a good blend of cutesy animation and millennial angst. Watching it soothed my withered, adult soul and re-kindled a love for anime I haven’t experienced since I was fourteen.

tenorMy favorite character by far was a gorilla named Gori, the director of marketing for the company Restuko works for. Gori is fierce, rocking a pink dress and taking crap from nobody. During the show you also get some glimpses of her being vulnerable, like when she’s worried Retsuko doesn’t like her or when she gets dumped.

I loved Gori so much. As a woman, I was thrilled to see a female character in a position of power, a female character who is allowed to have more than one emotion and still be considered strong.

Well, unfortunately, I realized afterwards that I was a bit blinded by white feminism when it came to Gori.

Before I go on, let me explain what I mean by white feminism. White feminism is a form of feminism that solely focuses on the struggles of caucasian women, ignoring the struggles of women of color, queer women, or disabled women experience in favor of solving white women problems. Examples of white feminism would be the first suffragettes excluding black women from their marches and organizations, modern day feminists protesting against hijabs and other religious clothing as being oppressive without even asking Muslim women how they feel, and Emma Stone at the Oscars complaining that only one female director was up for Best Director while completely ignoring the two people of color who were also nominated.  

Needless to say, I try very, very hard to not be a “white feminist.” I try to be intersectional when it comes to my feminism.

That’s why I was incredibly upset when I Googled Gori from Aggretsuko and found multiple articles about how Gori’s character was a gross stereotype of black women. Historically, black people have been compared to apes and gorillas as a way to dehumanize them. Well, Gori the gorilla is not only written as a “sassy black woman,” she’s also voiced by the only black woman on the show.

If you want to understand more about Gori and how problematic her character is, please read “The Problem of Gori in Netflix’s Aggrestsuko” by Nicole Adlam. Her article was the one that opened my eyes to the problem with Gori and, as a woman of color, she has more of a right to talk about how cruel this stereotype than I do. I don’t want to talk over her, so go read her words.

After reading more, I was incredibly upset with myself. I was so into this character who was so powerful and sassy and wonderful. I thought, “wow, look how far we’ve come! Look at this three dimensional female character! I love her.” It never even crossed my mind that she could be offensive because, well, she’s in a position of power! That’s so positive!

I didn’t fall into the trap of white feminism. I ran into it, fingers in my ears going “la la la la la!” I wanted to see her as a positive role model and never stopped to think about how she was representing women of color.  I don’t like the idea that I could be so blind to this racism built right into my TV shows. I am ashamed of myself and will try to learn from this so I can be more critical of the future media I consume.

Everyday, I just need to remind myself to listen, to be respectful, and try to pull my head out of my own ass every once in a while. I try so hard not to be a white feminist, but sometimes I fail. And you know what, that’s okay, as long as I keep trying to learn and grow. It’s when I stop listening that I’ve truly failed.

-EMS

 

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Tsunderes: Why we love them, and why we shouldn’t

Tsunderes.

In lay mans terms, a bitch who you tolerate and love because you know they’re soft and just putting up a front.

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Meet Aisaka Taiga.  She’s the female lead in Toradora, one of my favorite romantic comedy animes.  She is, for many people, the quintessential tsundere.

When our male lead meets her she’s a total jerk to him.  She’s physically abusive and emotionally distant.  He stays by her side because he senses she needs someone and he tolerates her mood swings, her physical outbursts, and her seeming lack of empathy.

In reality this is often referred to as batter wife/husband syndrome.  Sometimes you could even say its Stockholm Syndrome.

But we learn to love her!  Her emotional walls start to come down, and we learn that her parents are distant and she feels abandoned by those who were supposed to care.  She cries over him when he’s hurt, she worries he’ll stop caring, and eventually she’s terrified to admit she cares deeply about him.

There is a very romantic notion that you can be the one to find a persons soft side.  That you can be the one to make them admit that they care and change them.  Watching anime, TV, or movies, we all swoon and get excited when they finally kiss and we realize it’s going to be happiness forever.

Except I dated these women in real life.  For many years I wasted years on girls that were cold to me.  Why would I date them if they were so cold, distant, and sometimes cruel?

I had a very romantic notion that I could be the one to find the persons soft side.  That I could make them admit they care and change them.  I would get excited when they would finally kiss me and I realized that it’ll be happiness forever.

The women in my life were intoxicating because they were really good at emotionally and even mentally manipulating me.  Whenever I started to come to my senses, they would show me their soft side and have me believe that if I can grit my teeth a little longer those walls will come down.

Its interesting to me that these characters are so beloved in fiction, but in reality you should absolutely not tolerate it.  Everyone is going to have their own reasons, but you should never sacrifice your dignity and self respect for someone who’s doing this.

The parallels are really interesting, and sometimes terrifying.  We think the abuse is cute in fiction, but what would you tell your friend if their partner was mean all the time and only sweet when they wanted something?  What would you tell them if you heard that they get physically violent?  Even if it’s only in small ways?

You’d tell them to turbo-dump them!

This idea that some people are denying or hiding their feelings permeates reality, too.  Ever seen a movie where one of the characters is into the other but that person is rejecting it?  And there’s tension and eventually one character spontaneously kisses the other, and they struggle for a second but give into it because they’ve been holding back?

That would never happen in real life.  If someone doesn’t like you they typically don’t like you.  Sexually assaulting them isn’t going to make them realize something.  If someone likes you, the exciting part about that is realizing that someone else feels the same.  You connect and talk all the time because you mutually like each other!

What would you tell me, dearest Emily, if I was like, “There is this cute girl at the office.  She doesn’t wanna get coffee with me.  I’m gonna surprise her in the elevator with a strong kiss.”

This happens in fiction, but it doesn’t happen the same way in life.  Maybe that’s why we like it so much.  We play fantasies out in our heads that can’t happen in real life.  It’s a place to escape to.  A place to dream about romantic situations that can’t or shouldn’t even really happen.  You have a crush?  Spend months doting upon them and someday they’ll realize they’ve loved you all along.  They are cold and distant, and you could be the one that pierces their heart and teaches them to love and trust again.

We love them because of what those characters represent, but you shouldn’t love them because there are people in real life who can hurt you because they can make you believe.

Don’t use a strong kiss to find out though or you’ll go to turbo-jail.

-DTM