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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Racist Grandpa

You were married [insert number of years] ago, and during that time we had some of our relatives from Wisconsin come to visit and be part of your wedding.  It was all around a delightful time.  You got married to some dude.  Our uncle got mom banned from a Sherry’s for being an idiot.  All manner of relatives sought to drive our sister crazy by attempting to feed her newborn solid foods.

And I found out that grandpa is racist!

Flash back to Wedding Week (also known as the Steam-ening) and grandfather tells me that he wants to go golfing, and I’m coming along.

“You want to go golfing?”

“Yes, and I’m old which means you have to pick me up super fucking early in the morning because you only pretend to sleep when you are old.”

That morning I went to pick him up and we drove to an undisclosed golf course.  It was a beautiful place and he rented us a cart, and some golf clubs.  I did terribly at the sport, but I really liked the experience.

In my entire life I can never remember being alone with grandpa.  He’s easy enough to get along with, and he’s a touch frustrating like all old people become.

During this time I learned so much about grandpa.

He’s a bit arrogant.  Grandpa talked himself up so much I had to assume his id and superego left to retire to an estate in Florida.  He kept talking about scores he had at one point and his ranking in his local club.  Grandpa then proceeded to seriously suck at golf, even though he was better than me.

Grandpa is a bit rude and dismissive.  He definitely had that vibe that because of who he is he can do whatever the hell he wants.  When he had to go to the bathroom, instead of turning around and driving to the public restroom that wasn’t that far away he simply walked off course and pee’d on a tree.

Now is the time that I’d love to inform you that the golf course is nestled in some very nice neighborhoods, so anyone in that house who happened to look out their back window saw grandpa taking a piss.

He also went on a long speech about respecting the golf course and the other golfers.  Rules he all broke during our game.  Most notably: do not drive down the green.  Make right turns off the trail to lessen the amount of time you are driving on the nicely kept grass.

Grandpa was fond of straight lines directly down the center of the course.

Grandpa is a bit misogynistic.  There was a delightful girl driving around selling cold sodas, cold beers, and inferior cigars.  She was young and pretty.  As we were leaving the course she drove by us one more time and waved at us.  The following is exactly what he said:

“Ahh, she’s a nice girl…  No tits though.”

I know that I’m taking this out of context.  There may be a very good chance that he was making a joke.

Finally, grandpa is ever so slightly racist.  After we left the course we went to a nearby restaurant.  I made small talk about our cousins.  We sat down after ordering and he goes off on one of our cousins dating preferences.  Our cousin is into black men!

She’s dating a black gentlemen and everyone seems to like him!  Grandpa, however, started talking about how he wasn’t surprised about the prior black man she was dating.  That she only dates them because she is their type.  He bets that this one will end like the others because that’s how they are.  His closing statement was wrapped in his suddenly thick and distinctive Midwest accent:

“I’m from Chicago.  You just don’t deal with them.”

Grandpa says this to me.  I look around and can’t help but note that we are near a black family, and several black servers.

We are in a Church’s Chicken.

was alarmed.  Comments like these are reserved for douche-bags in movies and failing sitcoms trying to teach a lesson.  But no, I was face to face with it.  How can this be?

The thing is is I can’t be mad at him.  He grew up with many of these ideas taught to him.  He was born before the civil rights movements even began.  While he was still pretty young at the time, it wasn’t like the act was passed and racism just poofed out of existence.

Finding out about grandpa didn’t really cause me to want to become a social justice warrior, but the experience serves to remind me that we have come a great distance.  We could spend a lot of time trying to turn racists into better people, but it takes a lot of effort.

Is this ok?  No, of course not!

Him being racist is something I can’t change.  Even if I explained it to him, he’s lived with these ideas his entire life.  I can’t change him, but I can certainly try and make sure that better ideas are passed down.  Ideas don’t die out because we really want them to.  Ideas die out when everyone is taught a different one.  An idea of equality.

I’m not trying to turn this mildly humorous post into a call for arms, or even a sappy post about learning a life lesson.  This is just my take on how to solve a crisis of upbringing.

More important men than I have died to teach us and have died for these ideas.  If you don’t know about these men and their message, then you will someday be a racist grandpa.

Or grandma.

-DTM

Even though you posted last Friday, you technically missed the broad Friday deadline!  You must choose a punishment.  (I feel a little bad because it was about the migraine that caused you to miss it!)

A.  You must use your wit to slay brevity.  Your next post will be 1800 words long.

B.  You must back an idea you support.  Make a minimum donation of $25 to a charity.

C.  Fuck progressive ideas.  You must vote for Donald Trump.