Site Update: New staff, business transitions, and Amelia’s farewell

By: Anime Feminist May 29, 20200 Comments
The Team Rocket trio in their balloon. James waves, smiling through tears, while Jessie and Meowth look on contentedly

Marking our first site update since the fundraiser wrapped thirty years two months ago, we have some big news, both exciting and a little sad.

Let’s start with the exciting news: The AniFem team has expanded to include three new members! Please join us in welcoming Alex Henderson, Lizzie Visitante, and Mercedez! You may recognize Alex and Lizzie from past articles and podcasts; Mercedez is new to AniFem, but we’re just as excited to have her on board! 

They’ll be helping us behind-the-scenes with contributor edits and site discussions, and we hope to see them involved in future podcasts and articles as well. If you’d like to get to know them, check out their bios on our Team page!

James and Meowth frame Jessie, who is grinning giddily. James has his arms out as if presenting her on stage and Meowth is waving two flags

As you wander over to that team page, you may notice some other title changes, including one major one: Amelia has decided to step down from working with Anime Feminist and is now listed as our “Founder” rather than our “Editor-in-Chief.” 

Amelia has written a farewell letter to explain how this came about, so we’ll turn it over to her before talking about what this means for the site itself.

When I started Anime Feminist in September 2016, I had no idea what it would become.

The answer to that is: a successful organisation that can thrive without me. And I couldn’t be happier about that.

I never wanted to be the public face of AniFem. In the earliest days I actively avoided it, only ever wanting to be part of a great team that would do good things.

On the plus side, I definitely achieved that.

But teams need leadership, and for a while there, I was it. So I did my best.

Long story short: it was enough for a while. Then the December 2018 crowdfunding campaign happened.

I worked harder on that crowdfunding campaign than I can even imagine right now. And it broke me. Not on its own, but my efforts there pushed me past the point of no return, and into a new chapter of my life. One I have no doubt many of you will recognise and relate to.

That January, when I was supposed to be creating the rewards I’d spent the past month asking you to pay for, I wondered why I would dread taking my laptop out. I couldn’t understand why I would stare at it for hours, and get almost nothing done. I’d been so excited about this, so driven! How could it all change that quickly?

When I hit the “staying in bed watching Netflix all day to escape from feeling crushed by guilt” stage in February, I knew. Burnout. That’s how.

The next eight months were ugly, personally and professionally. I missed deadline after deadline. I avoided all social media and emails, any communication avenue. I ghosted good friends, family, and professional contacts who needed things from me. I assumed time and rest would fix me, but the more time passed the worse it got.

So if you ever thought the crowdfunding activities were moving more slowly or opaquely than you expected… that’s why. The team did their best to work with and around me, but I wasn’t in a place where I could make that easy for them. They deserved a lot better, and so did you.

In May 2019, I withdrew from the team, and I haven’t been involved in AniFem since. 

Coming to the conclusion that I could no longer lead the organisation I had built was the most painful decision I’ve ever made. I wish every day that I’d been less prideful, more perceptive, seen the trajectory I was on and course-corrected before crowdfunding. I could have saved the team a lot of stress and pressure if I had.

But I’d always risen to challenges before, right? Biting off more than I could chew is how I made AniFem in the first place. It was a proven strategy! I couldn’t fail!

Burnout 101: It works until it doesn’t. You’ll work until you can’t. And then it’s too late.

(Also, prevention is a million times easier than recovery. But that’s another story.)

When I left AniFem, I gave the team a choice.

  1. I could close doors, pay our suppliers out of pocket, and return all the money we’d crowdfunded (which was still in the Indiegogo account–I hadn’t been able to bring myself to touch it).
  2. I could step back, pay our suppliers out of pocket, return all the money we’d crowdfunded, and they could steer AniFem in whatever direction they thought was best, without any financial obligation.
  3. I could step back and they could pick up where I left off, delivering on the crowdfunding campaign promises I had made (using all the crowdfunding money, including my share), seeing through the commitments I’d left them with.

Guess which one they picked?

These days, AniFem is still a difficult topic for me. It’s not as raw as it was, but still tender when pressed. Any pride I feel in my accomplishments here is swamped by regret, at least for now.

But I got some things right. And the people I approached back in September 2016 to start Anime Feminist with me… that was one of those things.

At its core, the AniFem team has always been a group that will choose the route they believe is right, even if it’s harder. That was clear when everyone agreed to work under the banner “Anime Feminist,” knowing the type of attention it would attract. It was clear when we refused to consider unpaid work in our business model.

And it was clear when the team chose option three. They chose to take on a situation they didn’t want or ask for, but believed would give the best outcome to our followers.

In retrospect, I should have known. I’m no longer a part of the AniFem team, but we will always share the same values. If I only nailed one thing as founder, I’m so glad that was it.

These days, I’m doing much better. It took over a year, two types of therapy, and some immense windfalls of luck in my personal life, but I’m finally able to work again. I use social media and check email every day. I’m even capable of writing an emotional post like this! To a deadline, no less!

But burnout changed me at my core. I’ve lost some of the qualities that made me an effective leader earlier on. I’ve also developed new priorities that are incompatible with any work I could do for AniFem now. Leaving was a hard decision, but it was so clearly the right one.

So, months after the fact, this is my official goodbye.

I’ll be forever thankful for many things. The diverse, thoughtful, generous community we built. The skills this experience gave me, acquired through a baptism of fire but invaluable to me now. The knowledge that we achieved the goals I scribbled, crossed out, and rewrote in some London cafe on a lunch break in September 2016: to boost marginalised voices, pay everyone a fair wage for their work, and make a real impact on the critical landscape for anime.

But most of all, I’m thankful for the human connections it’s given me.

I forged lifelong friendships through Twitter DMs, at anime conventions and film festivals, in bars and house parties. Online anime spaces can be incredibly toxic, and I still have some scars from that. But I also have an entire network of friends, many an ocean away from me, that I could never have made without AniFem.

If you’re one of those friends and you’d like to keep in touch, please add me on my personal Twitter, @AmeliaCook! I miss the DM chats we used to have, and I’m sorry I was the reason they ended.

If we never spoke but you were hoping to talk someday, I’ll still be at anime events in Europe and the U.S. once COVID is managed. Feel free to come up and say hi if you see me!

In the meantime, take care of yourselves, be kind to each other, and continue to support this unique organisation and the incredible folks behind it. A little goes a long way, and they appreciate each and every one of you more than you know.

Thank you all, for helping make AniFem what it is. It helped make me who I am, and I will always be grateful.

Thank you, Amelia, for your heartfelt words of encouragement.

We’re sad to see Amelia go, but we understand that this is the right decision for her and wish her the best. We’re also tremendously grateful to her for creating Anime Feminist and bringing us all together as a team. 

Thanks in large part to Amelia’s passion and determination, AniFem has already become much bigger than a single person and will no doubt continue to grow and evolve over the years. Through it all, though, we fully intend to uphold the groundwork Amelia laid for a site that promotes thoughtful feminist-minded media criticism and ethical business practices.

Jessie and James linking arms and looking at each other with small, determined smiles

To that end, for those of you wondering how this will impact your AniFem Experience, the answer is, thankfully: “Not much.” The current team has been managing the site’s day-to-day operations for a couple years now, while Amelia focused on big-picture fundraising and expansion goals. We’ve made a few adjustments to who handles what tasks in the past couple months, but the core team and general expectations are all the same.

So, as a reader, you shouldn’t see any differences in our publication schedule or the quality of our articles. Likewise, the contributor process remains largely unchanged, with just a few small updates to the editor workflow.

Most of the differences are behind-the-scenes or somewhere in the future. For example, Anime Feminist has transitioned from an individually owned business in the UK to a multi-person LLC in the US. This pretty much only impacts taxes, but it’s worth letting folks know about. (It’s also why we didn’t make an announcement until now—we wanted all the paperwork to be official before we made the change public.)

Similarly, the team is hard at work discussing how to best help AniFem grow and thrive into the future. Giving our contributors and editors a pay raise, continuing to fund podcast transcripts beyond what the Indiegogo covered, expanding reviews to include manga, light novels, or older anime series—these are all long-term goals we plan to keep working towards. 

Meowth puts an arm around Pikachu and points forward. The two stare off into the distance with determination.

With our financial expert stepping down, we ask for your patience as the rest of the team takes a crash-course in small business ownership and decides on a path forward. Accomplishing our goals may include future fundraising drives, expanded Patreon goals, and alternate revenue sources. That said, nothing is set in stone just yet, and we’ll be transparent and open to feedback regardless of what we decide to do.

Amelia was both AniFem’s founder and its primary spokesperson for a long time, so we totally understand if you have concerns about this change. We encourage you to ask questions in the comments and we’ll do our very best to answer them.

That said, we’d also like to encourage you not to worry. While the business transition wasn’t official until recently, as Amelia’s letter notes, the core team—Caitlin, Chiaki, Dee, Peter, and Vrai—has been 100% in charge of AniFem for the last year. We came together to accomplish every single fundraiser task after Amelia’s health made it impossible for her to do so. We coordinated with web designers, artists, and transcribers; we wrote recommendations and zine articles; we ordered and shipped packages; we delivered monthly updates to our backers.

Were there a few hiccups and learning curves along the way? Sure; there always are. But we did it—all on top of our day-jobs and regular weekly AniFem work.

Y’all? We’re badasses.

Jessie, wearing her food truck costume, clenches a fist in front of a smouldering sun

So rest easy, AniFam. Our leadership may have changed, but both our old and new teammates are here to keep AniFem going strong. So let’s take this moment to bid Amelia a fond farewell, taking comfort in the knowledge that she’s left us a strong foundation to build on.

Onwards to the next story arc, AniFam.

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