Continuing our 2017 yearbook.
September 2017 was the first month AniFem worked properly: a full house of features, discussion posts, link round-ups and our most varied month of podcasts to date – including the podcast I’m proudest of so far.
We finally posted our con report on Crunchyroll Expo, the convention where Lauren and I presented the first Anime Feminist panel and we hosted our first Anime Feminist meetup, in association with Woke Weebs.
I could probably write a full entry about my experiences just in California. It was great to reunite with Peter and Lauren, and to finally meet so many of the anime and manga professionals and friends I’ve spoken to on Twitter or had met earlier in the month, including some of our patrons! I was amazed and delighted that so many took the time to come to our panel and/or party. Looking back, I can’t quite believe I hosted a party attended by a mix of people it would look like name-dropping to type out.
The less glamorous side was definitely in the making of the panel itself. Lauren and I stayed one night in a hotel in Japantown the night before CRX began, and it was on that night we started talking seriously about how the panel was going to work. I had made detailed plans with the team months before – when we expected to be doing this at Otakon, dividing the work between six. For it to then be between two had an impact I hadn’t really considered before.
However, Lauren made a presentation template in Google Sheets then and there using our existing branding colours, which saved us a lot of time making decisions about format. I took the basic structure we originally agreed for the six of us and reworked it in a way that gave a somewhat natural split of work between Lauren and me. I stayed up until 5am writing my part, then got an hour’s sleep before we had to get ready for breakfast.
The first day of the con I worked on it some more, most notably in the hotel bar, which offered table service for drinks. I’d intended to spend some time with Kim and Callum, but was feeling the pressure so had to skip it, and they came to say hi to me in the bar with my beer and laptop instead. (Though I don’t think I was good company, I was so distracted by the task ahead… Sorry, guys!) That night I went to a con party and stayed out until 5am… and had to wake up at 8am to practise with Lauren before our 10am panel – which, hilariously, already had a one-star review on the con app.
The panel went well, despite my hangover. Lauren and I were able to bounce off each other pretty easily considering we’d only run through it twice. Apparently, all the podcasting, extensive DM conversations and spending time together at Otakon meant we know each other and our conversational styles well enough to throw the dialogue back and forth with ease. The real moment of truth was after we left, and stepped into a crowd of people waiting outside the room to ask us questions. Not a single one was hostile; all were appreciative. We stood there for maybe 45 minutes answering as much as possible, taking contact details, offering whatever advice we could.
A lot of my work on the site has been building up relationships with influencers, inviting them to guest on podcasts or retweet our fundraising requests. Attendance at our party, and the real friendships I’ve been able to build up with people I respect immensely, is evidence of my success there.
However, I created AniFem for fans like me, to make it easier to find anime, manga and a like-minded community they could love. In that sense, this was my first real taste in person of AniFem in action, bringing together a group of strangers who stood and chatted because they care about the same things and are pleased to know we exist. I can’t wait to experience more conversations like that.
I was very sad to leave San Francisco, the last stop on my big American tour. My time there was short, and everyone unbelievably busy with CRX just around the corner, but the Crunchyroll team all made time for me and I visited their office several times. I also got to stop by Viz, and there are a couple of other companies and people I hope to visit when I go back – as I definitely will.
Back home, there was work to be done. However, despite being so fired up by meeting so many people connected to AniFem, I didn’t get stuck in myself as I had planned to do. My day job took over for a while, and I actually took an unexpected step back.
After officially announcing it to the rest of the team at Otakon, this is the month Dee’s work as managing editor began to pay off. Finally, Dee made the consistent publishing schedule we’d both been dreaming of into a reality. Every week that month we had a discussion post (written by Vrai), a links round-up (Vrai again), two features (by 50-50 team and external contributors, edited by the team) and a podcast episode (with a mix of team and guests). Thanks to Dee, this is the pattern we’ve stuck to ever since, with bonuses like the con report editorial and this yearbook series on top.
This is also the point at which I became completely uninvolved in the editorial process, having successfully delegated all my day-to-day responsibilities at AniFem and facing an intensive period of day job work after my three weeks on holiday. As a result, I’m afraid I can’t comment on many of the written features from this point onwards. What I can talk about are the podcasts.
The Wandering Son retrospective is perhaps the one piece of content I’m proudest of so far. We decided early on that cis people would not be involved. Easy for me, as I still haven’t seen Wandering Son all the way through. Peter loves the series and had been keen to be involved, but stepped back without a word as soon as that decision was made. Note to all would-be allies out there: stepping back without a word and signal boosting the voices of marginalised people you want to support is very often the best allyship you can offer.
It has always been important to us to provide space for marginalised people to discuss the representation of their own community’s experiences. So I invited two of our participants, Rachel and Jacob, Peter invited Cayla and Vrai led the episode. It led to a nuanced discussion where the participants disagreed on and debated this piece of trans representation, without ever needing to go through Trans Rep 101. It was a pleasure to listen to and a privilege to host.
Where that took weeks to bring everyone together, the recording on conventions was fairly straightforward to organise. As a team, we’ve now recorded together so many times that we know which narrow slots will work for us, especially when Peter and/or Caitlin is in the same episode as me – our timezones are eight hours apart.
Then you have the Death Note Drinkalong and Neo Yokio Retrospective (which should also have been a drinkalong, let’s be honest). We’d been talking about the Netflix adaptation of Death Note (“Deathflix”) for months, but we knew it was airing the weekend of Crunchyroll Expo, and I desperately wanted to be a part of the conversation to discuss the potential whitewashing angle, so we weren’t sure how possible it would be. But we got back, organised it, and… I have no regrets. I’d love to go to a Deathflix group drinkalong at a con, like The Room screenings small cinemas do.
Neo Yokio, on the other hand, was purely reactive. We knew vaguely that it was coming, but paid little attention to it until it turned into a meme. I try to be involved in discussions in which race is likely to come up, so I agreed to be in it and watched all the episodes the following day, culminating in the episode recording that evening. What a day that was. (Would have been improved with more drinking though.)
You’ll also see in our discussion posts that I mention our one-year anniversary, which was on 11th October. I’ll talk more about that next yearbook post, but in advance of that, I made an important decision: having consistently failed to deliver on higher tier rewards, and finding those to be the ones most likely cancelled when people’s financial circumstances changed, I scrapped the higher tiers entirely.
I had discovered that Patreon offered automated access to Discord, a community I had set up as a reward for $5+ patrons before going to America. I had been handling it (or mishandling it, I should say) very manually, and could see myself needing to do routine checks to make sure that only existing patrons were in the Discord. Patreon took that off my shoulders, and suddenly I didn’t need to worry about that tier anymore. The $1 tier only offers access to the Patreon feed, which is also automatic. Removing the $10 and $20 tiers entirely was a weight off my shoulders and felt like a big step in the right direction.
I’ve always been very honest and open with our patrons and readers, wherever possible. I sent our patrons a long message apologising for past failings and explaining what was changing. Then I received a note from one of our patrons advising me to stop apologising so much and treating business circumstances like personal failures. He pointed out that white, male managers and CEOs don’t tend to respond to things the way I do. I’ve taken that to heart.
While I will continue to be honest and open, I’m trying to tone down the self-flagellation. If a process isn’t working, I need to find a new process that does. If I don’t get it right first time, that’s okay. Not ideal, but not a reason to beat myself up then pile pressure on myself to be perfect next time. That’s a recipe for retreat and avoidance, prolonging the length of time a non-working process is kept in play.
We’ve actually had a really successful year of adjusting AniFem processes to become more successful, demonstrated by this perfect month of content. It’s miles away from where we were in January, when I was doing almost everything myself and blaming myself for burning out. Those periods of time felt interminable in the moment, but going through these yearbook posts I see that they were really very short periods indeed. Taking problems less personally will enable me to respond and address them more quickly and effectively.
In other words, if I spend less time feeling guilty and apologising and more time working out what needs to change, our patrons will get a better experience. “I need to stop treating AniFem like an extension of myself” was an observation I made in 2016, when I committed to get myself out of the day-to-day workings of the site. Now I’ve achieved that, the same lesson still applies. It just took me until now to realise it.
…But I wasn’t quite there yet in September, as you’ll see in the next yearbook post.
Read the rest of our 2017 Yearbook
August: Eight people’s thinking…
July: Seven months a-dreaming…
June: Six eps a-watching…
May: Five bold things~
April: Four days behind…
March: Three hot takes…
February: Two podcasts…
January: And a Nazi in a pear tree~
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