[Editorial] What’s feminism got to do with Nazis?

“What’s feminism got to do with Nazis?” Since we posted our first news article, which detailed how major site MyAnimeList edited a Jewish contributor’s explicitly anti-Nazi feature weeks after publication to make it more sympathetic to Nazis, a handful of people have asked this question.

This is not a real question asked in good faith. This is a rhetorical question, posed in order to criticise our decision to post this article. It is a silencing tactic. “Feminism has nothing to do with Nazis. Why are you getting involved in something that’s not your place? Stop using your site as a platform for your personal politics.”

Not to state the obvious, but this whole site is a platform for my personal politics. Not my personal preferences; I’m happy to post articles I disagree with or on topics I don’t care for. But personal politics? Absolutely. That was the entire point of starting this site with the word ‘feminist’ in the domain name, which I own, which is funded solely by supportive readers. Don’t agree with my  personal politics? Don’t support the site. I consider that no loss at all. (But if you do share my politics and appreciate our content please consider supporting us financially!)

Feminism means different things to different people, so let me share my approach and you can decide for yourself if you’re on board or not. I often avoid explicitly feminist terminology in order to make the site more accessible and less of a target, but since we’re talking about literal Nazis now I think I can raise my vocabulary game without being accused of hyperbole or overreaction.

Like most these days, I am an intersectional feminist. Feminism began in response to sexism, the acknowledgement that women as a segment of the population are discriminated against for being women. However, over time more and more have asked “Ain’t I a woman?” and feminism has rightly expanded and evolved in response. Feminism is no longer just about women’s rights, or even just about women (for the record, this site is inclusive of all gender identities), although women remain a majority group within feminism.

‘Women’ covers an enormous group of people who experience a range of intersecting oppressions. There is no hierarchy, no Oppression Olympics; there’s no question of whether black women are ‘more’ oppressed than disabled women, for example, or if a white disabled lesbian is twice as oppressed as a straight black woman. People’s experiences of marginalisation will depend on their specific combination of intersecting oppressions and circumstances. While our activism is likely to be focused, feminists should in principle be against all types of oppression, not least because they are all connected.

Oppression comes from prejudice plus power, meaning those with individual prejudice but no institutional power cannot oppress others (though they can be complicit in an existing system of oppression). Individuals can be prejudiced, and there are a number of high profile feminists who are openly transphobic or racially problematic, for example, but feminists are not the ruling majority in systems of education, justice, media, etc. Individual prejudice is not the same as institutionalised oppression.

At the same time, simply lacking prejudice is not enough to make someone feminist. In any way in which you are not marginalised, you have privilege. Privilege gives you advantages in society whether you acknowledge them or not, and just as experiencing two types of oppression doesn’t make you doubly oppressed, lacking privilege in one area does not cancel out your privilege in another area. I have the privilege of being straight, cisgender and able-bodied. I do not have the privilege of being white and male. As a result, my experience of being marginalised is different to that of a queer white woman or a disabled trans woman. I have the privilege to ignore their concerns if I want to, because they do not directly affect me.

However, privilege also represents power, the power to support others in fighting oppression which affects them on the understanding that all oppression is connected. When starting AniFem, I made it clear that any cis men on the team had an extra responsibility to offer public support to any writer they saw being given a hard time, especially if those giving the writer a hard time were the man’s friends or acquaintances. Failure to do so would result in being asked to leave the team. (Thankfully, I needn’t have worried.)

Privilege protects you. To have that protection and not even try to extend it to others makes you complicit when they get hurt. If more women with the privilege of whiteness had voted according to the wishes of women without that privilege, the current US president may not have been elected. Using the power your privilege affords you to make decisions which support marginalised people and convince others with privilege to do the same can save lives and change the world. No exaggeration.

Many understand the concept of intersectionality instinctively on an international level. Yesterday millions of women around the world attended demonstrations to protest the incoming president. Outside the US we understand that the actions of its president have an impact on people beyond its own borders. We understand that US residents have advantages in some ways but not in others. We understand that we should show support to those US citizens who know what is coming and are scared, let them know we are allies and here to help in any way we can.

Feminists are not a monolith, and there will be self-identified feminist individuals who disagree with aspects of my personal politics as well as people who deliberately do not identify as feminists but who agree with me completely. We almost certainly all hold the same fundamental beliefs in fair treatment and equal opportunity for all. “Feminist” is just an easy shorthand for those goals.

So, what’s feminism got to do with Nazis? Nazis stand for prejudice. Normalising Nazism makes it easier for Nazis to gain power, and when Nazis gain power they kill people. World War II Nazis were not super-villain psychopaths – they were ordinary people committing atrocities which had been normalised. The only appropriate response to Nazis is zero tolerance. Nazis suck.

MyAnimeList has released a response in which they say they edited Reuben Baron’s anti-Nazi article with the intention of “excising its political commentary.”

  1. You can’t excise political commentary from an article about history’s most well-known political party
  2. Statements like “Nazis suck” are the same kind of political commentary as “Slavery is bad” – “Nazis suck”, a concept with its own superhero, is only controversial if you think your readers might disagree.

Despite being in a time of great political upheaval, we won’t generally comment on current affairs on Anime Feminist. The site exists to explore Japanese pop culture through a feminist lens, so most of the time commentary on real world politics outside Japan just won’t be relevant. However, when something newsworthy and of feminist interest happens within our fandom, we are willing and able to report on it. As stated in our Patreon post on this subject, “We hope that this post will encourage other marginalized anime fans who encounter injustices within fandom to approach us with their stories, knowing that we will handle them professionally and with respect.”


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  • Gabriel Wainio-Théberge

    honestly disappointed I haven’t seen more people using Emilia as #TheResistance symbol

  • Peter Kovalsky

    Adding one note: modern intersectional feminism is largely “about” analysis of and opposition to systems of power and structures of oppression. Once we’ve committed to a platform of “I oppose sticks,” it’s totally consistent (and, indeed, more or less mandatory) to oppose sticks even when you’re not the one getting hit by them.

    Flipping the hypothetical: if you were to say “I oppose oppression and also Nazism” you would sound crazy, because that’s like saying “I like pizza and also pepperoni pizza.”

    • Absolutely right, I wish I’d thought to clarify and explain it that way!

      • Peter Kovalsky

        Feel free to appropriate it going forward :).

  • Snap Wilson

    “World War II Nazis were not super-villain psychopaths – they were ordinary people committing atrocities which had been normalised. The only appropriate response to Nazis is zero tolerance. Nazis suck.”

    This is the correct answer, and there shouldn’t be any hair-splitting between “white nationalists,” “white supremacists,” or “the Alt-Right.” They’re all one and the same, and should be shunned, ridiculed, their demonstrations interfered with publicly, and in short they should be made incompatible with living a normal existence. This is not persecution of a political view, because any association with incarceration or genocide based on race and religion cannot be taken seriously as a political view. Let history be your guide. You cannot go far enough in sending these people back into the holes they crawled out from.

    • Aza

      I can only talk for my (german) situation, but when opposing individual right-wing beliefs, the diffences are necessary to actually understand what the person on the other end believes in – to stay in communication. A lot of modern German Nazis don’t see themselves as Nazis, since they’re not (mainly) opposing Jews. They have no fucking clue what the historical National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) stood for. What Nationalsocialism is actually about – they think it was all about killing jews, maybe world domination, and since they neither kill jews nor want world domination, they don’t actually think their thought system is ANY problem, since they’re “not nazis”.

      The currently most influental right-wing party in Germany is AfD (alternative for germany), and they constantly emphasize that they’re ‘not nazis’, and people who don’t understand what oppression is about believe them. As “open” nazis, far less people would be willing to vote for them.

      To get people to understand how those views are a problem you have to know the arguments that they will bring – and even though you and I know that it basically boils down to “nazi bullshit ideology”, shoving that in people’s faces basically gets you nowhere – at least over here. German media is full of AfD to Nazi comparisons, which mostly leads to AfD followers saying all media are lying.
      While I agree that it boils down to right-wing ideologies being nazi ideologies, shoving that in the faces of people mostly won’t get them to give up those beliefs. Being called a Nazi is the end-all in a internet discussion in Germany at least. “You got nuthin to say, you’re a nazi.” It may be correct, but it totally won’t get people to back off from their idiotic beliefs – unfortunately. Since it’s necessary to make the people stop believing in and thus acting upon bullshit, differentiating between different nuances of their beliefs will be necessary to actually get them to talk to you – and then it just may be possible to show them teh flaws in their ideology.

      • I understand what you’re saying and don’t disagree, but I’ve reached a point where I have no interest in trying to get racists to change their beliefs. I am quite content making it so socially unacceptable to express such views that they have no chance of influencing my country’s politics. It’s been that way for decades, now we just have to work to get back to that point.

        • Aza

          In Germany, due to a very different voting system, influence in national politics is possible from 5% support upwards. So stopping them from influencing politics is virtually impossible without making even those few supporters back off from politics or their beliefs altogether. And being a nazi is HIGHLY socially inacceptable in Germany, due to obvious historical reasons. It has not actually worked in eliminating their struggles to gain followers and influence politics. They always find spaces where they have enough indifferent or latently supportive friends.
          As I said from the top: I’m talking from a german perspective. Here, expressing racist views is highly stigmatised. All I know about actually getting people out of racist organisations and parties in germany relies on reaching out to them, not upholding one’s own moral high ground. But that is, of course, an individualistic approach, and I’m not proposing to use it on anime feminist. My original answer was focused on the statement that the differences between different right-wing groups are of no concern ever. Opposing all of them is the only right way.

        • Peter Kovalsky

          I can’t cite the study off the top of my head, unfortunately, but there’s definitely been some soc/psych work done that’s found that, while social censure is generally effective in moving people towards more pro-social positions, there are some positions that interpret social censure as confirmation rather than the opposite, and so adherents get more rather than less entrenched in those positions. This is how conspiracy theories proliferate, etc.

          A lot of this discourse about how the mainstream media is lying to you, and how only “special snowflakes” care about progressive issues, follows the same patterns.

          • I’ve actually read the research you’re talking about so I understand and agree completely with the principle, but I’m only prepared to take that into account up to the point of discussing human rights. If individuals with privilege choose to take the time to try to persuade bigots themselves by using this approach I support that decision, but it’s not an approach we’ll be taking for this site. Bigots who end up here have come only to rant, insult and/or threaten us. Non-negotiable zero tolerance is the only way to protect our integrity, and our comments section.

          • Peter Kovalsky

            I think that’s exactly the right stance to take. We should continue to try to engage these people as individuals (insofar as we have bandwidth for more emotional labor) while refusing to tailor our institutions to their comfort.

          • Nope

            ive also read a study that those people (conspiracy theorist) just have such a confirmation bias that when showed proof that they are wrong and facts, they will just believe their own conspiracy even harder, at which point it becomes obvious that sometimes people reach a point where it’s obvious that reason no longer applies and the only course of action is to shut down and make it socially unacceptable to express such things, because you ain’t gonna convince them either way, you choose to argue, they believe it stronger, you shut them down, they do so too but at least they don’t distribute their harmful ideas as easy as the other option, when you dialogue with a nazi for example, you are validating their point of view, you are saying that their ideas are at least acceptable to argue over instead of absolutely inhumane.

  • Rory More

    Well spoken! If I’m being honest I spent about half the time on the article in question’s page giggling at the picture at the top rather than asking if it had a place on the site but I don’t really think I have much of an issue with someone taking the time to say “Yo, oppression and censorship is bad, m’kay?”

    I certainly won’t be retracting my financial support XD

    On the other hand, Poke fun at Cowboy Beebop and we may have an issue 😉

    Keep up the fab work!

  • John Clark

    Nazis are always bad; Nazis are never good.

  • Moni

    This is kind of disquieting if this is happening in the anime community. I’m already not too involved because of sexist jerks but us being host to white nationalist types? Either few in the community are calling them out or there’s more of them in the community than we all think.

  • Joseph Gosselin (Popple)

    Excellent article, well said. As an aside, recently I’ve been thinking about how to discuss the concept of privilege with my white male son (years from now, since he’s, yknow, 9 months old). Your framing of privilege as being a responsibility on those who have it is perfect, because it doesn’t shame him for being what he is, but it still serves to teach him that not everyone has his privilege. Thank you!

  • No continuing coverage just yet, I’m afraid – we can’t pay for more than four articles a week and I don’t have the time to do it for free. However, if you want to vent why not pitch a piece? You’re probably not the only one feeling that way and looking for a place to talk about it!

  • Peter

    Proving that it’s to everyone’s benefit is impossible. Certainly men also suffer from patriarchal views of masculinity but most major world cultures very clearly favor men over women. Everyone stands to benefit in certain ways from equality but in a system that favors males I don’t see the purpose of individually trying to convince each guy that they benefit. I’m not sure where you’re pulling your example from since, in the US, we exist in a society where POCs and women are disadvantaged and discriminated against and have been for almost 400 years.

    You’d hope appealing to altruism and the tenants of equality upon which our nation was founded should be enough.

  • I’ll be honest, this comment really doesn’t sit well with me. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional but you’re talking down to me, which I don’t appreciate, even if it does end with an endorsement of what I’ve chosen to do with this space.

    I mentioned that I have read research papers on the topic of persuasion and support people who choose to act on this research in order to use their privilege most effectively. Specifically, humans aren’t as rational as we like to think we are (for recent evidence, please see this article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/01/25/we-asked-people-which-inauguration-crowd-was-bigger-heres-what-they-said/ ), so simply presenting people with information which contradicts their world view is ineffective in changing minds. Warmth and competence are key factors, and seeking common ground with someone to build up their impression of you as both warm and competent (making use of confirmation bias for the latter) will make them more likely to be persuaded by your perspective.

    However, when the view they hold is something about human rights on the level of “Muslims should be banned from the country,” finding common ground is enormously difficult, more so if you start from a position of less privilege. Even then, finding that common ground doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to change people’s minds, meaning you could just end up in friendly conversation with someone who continues to hold beliefs abhorrent to you, only now they like you and see you as “not like the others”. That’s a tricky line to walk and that kind of experience takes a toll, especially if you already struggle with internalised racism, self-esteem issues, impostor syndrome, etc. etc.

    So I also support those who say they are not prepared to waste their time pandering to the prejudices of bigots, especially those who have been fighting this fight for years only to still see the erosion of their human rights and ascent of literal Nazis. Having spent a lot of time in black online spaces since Ferguson and seen respectability politics fail time and time again as black Americans continue to be executed without reason by officers of the law who go entirely unpunished (and in too many cases financially rewarded), this is closer to my current mindset.

    As Peter pointed out, it is decidedly NOT in everyone’s individual interest to protect human rights as a whole. There are many, many people for whom there is no way to convince them because their lives simply ARE easier when marginalised people stay marginalised. That’s the very foundation of privilege, and it’s up to each individual who does not think in this way to decide how they want to address that. It should go without saying that I interact differently with people face to face as an individual than I do online as a representative of AniFem, which is only one part of my life.

    I do appreciate you engaging with the site so enthusiastically, but please bear this in mind for future comments.