“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.”
- You can’t excise political commentary from an article about history’s most well-known political party
- 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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