I believe the AMV community often outwardly prides itself on progressiveness and inclusivity in terms of issues like race, sexuality, or gender. But is this actually the case? Are supposedly "gender neutral" spaces within the AMV community actually gender neutral? Are there not large parts, like the convention scene or the Org itself, these very forums, which are subtly or not subtly problematic? I have my doubts. Very serious doubts.
Jokes about my "age" aside, I have traveled two intertwining roads as part of the AMV hobby. First as a member of mailing lists and IRC channels, and later primarily as part of this, the Org community. One road has been through time, while the other road has been through gender. At no time, not really, did one journey not progress along with the other. This has given me an interesting vantage point onto one of the biggest issues AMV spaces have always had: treating its women members with the respect they deserve.
Women have always been involved in "fan crap." AMVs are no exception. However, the earliest spaces, such as the mailing list, were almost entirely men. If women were involving themselves in AMVs in the mid 90s (and of course they were), they were doing it well and far away from these early spaces. I cannot remember a single woman (aside from myself, if you choose to count me) in the IRC channel where I met Quu and Phade and Waldo. I'm not sure if I was aware of a single woman editor until Kestrel who has been making the aforementioned "fan crap" since 1989. E.K. Weaver was perhaps my second identifiable "mainstream" woman editor. Her friendship (along with Brett's) has always been one I have valued highly. Yet, suffice it to say, without the need for citation, that women editors were few and far between.
Since the explosion of streaming via YouTube and the general popularity of anime, and thus anime music videos, we have seen a number of small women oriented AMV groups and spaces crop up. Some on purpose, like Yuricon's Yuri Studios, for example, which has a distinct feminist and pro-woman message even beyond the obvious connotations (and I will note the first panel I sat on at a convention, I sat next to the esteemed Erica Friedman). Others simply by coming into existence as a shared endeavor amongst friends who happen to all be girls or women with no particular message at all. However, many traditional and established spaces for AMVs, again like the convention scene and the Org, failed to adapt to this (at the time) new reality.
The Problem of Domination
Despite the number of outstanding, amazing, veteran women editors we have, these spaces are still overwhelmingly male dominated. And that is a problem.
Why? Notice I didn't say that these spaces are overwhelmingly male majority. Spaces need not be equally split in order to avoid domination. Ideally, the actual ratio of gender would be irrelevant to how everyone is treated. That word dominated is where the issue lies. When women enter into these spaces, they are met with a reaction which is, subtly or not, a form of domination. Either they meet resistance immediately, or they find that there is gatekeeping to be considered "acceptable," or they are treated as some sort of goddess, an editing queen, who is lavished with inappropriate and creepy attention. A given woman editor may even encounter, and probably will encounter, all three of these in the same space.
The purpose of this attention is:
Talent, Skill, and Popularity
Our women regulars are amazing. They are talented and they are skilled. And that may lead some to believe that the recognition of talent and skill alone are defenses against misogyny. Unfortunately, this is not the case. If anything, the obvious skill and talent of women editors is the very reason they find themselves dealing with unwanted attention, either being attacked, or being idolised. This is not to say that reason is the same as cause. Women editors are not somehow responsible for their own mistreatment. That's "victim blaming" and the application of, "Well, if only she hadn't done X" as an excuse for misogynistic behavior is, itself, more misogyny.
But why would great talent and skill be the reason for such behavior? Because it is seen as threatening. It's human nature, and a key component of patriarchy, to see the inclusion and success of traditionally excluded groups as exclusion and even failure of members of the dominant group. That inclusion and success are somehow zero-sum concepts. "If she is more talented and skilled than I am, that means I am not as talented or skilled as I think I am, and this makes me uncomfortable." And so the inclination, often, is to react in a way which shows domination over the woman editor who has made him uncomfortable by one of the methods mentioned before. He may belittle her, he may demand further "evidence" of talent and skill, or he may inappropriately worship her, which sets her apart, as different, as Other, and thus not a part of the zero sum calculation he finds threatening. And the tricky part of all this? There's a pretty good chance the logic chain just articulated is entirely subconcious to him.
And women, we are not off the hook here, either. In pursuit of the "proof" which is requested and the idolisation, which even if creepy, is better than the belittling, we sometimes get mired into this "zero sum" fallacy ourselves. We join in; we try to be part of the group. We are equally capable of being totally shitty to each other in order to gain social currency. This is entirely unacceptable. Not only is it just terrible behavior, but it reenforces these conceptualisations already in the male dominated space. When we treat others the way we wish not to be treated, we actually give tacit permission for men to keep treating us this way. And women need not be involved directly to be supportive of these attitudes. They may merely choose to be silent. Men who are otherwise egalitarian, even self-identified feminists, also often choose to be silent.
Misogyny not called out is misogyny approved.
Some may be tempted to object to my authorship via an essentialist critique. Such objections may even come from women. This critique is basically that as my road marked "woman" has had a different starting place than the women editors I have spoken about and perhaps spoken for in this essay, I have bereft of authority or credibility. This, too, is a form of misogyny. This is not an essay which delves into those issues, although I may be happy to do so elsewhere. An extension of this critique may question how I have been the subject of or harmed by misogynistic tendencies in the community. Espousers of such a critique have somehow managed to ignore years of memes, jokes, and comments centering around my gender, and they have also apparently never read any IRC logs. Suffice it to say, this is very much a shared experience, and one I am frankly tired of experiencing.
This is a call to get out of our comfort zones. To challenge misogyny where and when we see it. To not participate in it in order to deflect it away from ourselves. To question our assumptions about what we may or may not have internalised. And to ultimately be nicer to each other.
I look forward to how this discourse develops.