Amelia Cook is the Editor in Chief of Anime Feminist, a site that launched last October as a place to explore Japanese pop culture as a whole through a feminist lens. Amelia believed in the importance of having an inclusive feminist space for anime fans outside of the plentiful on and offline communities designed by and for men. I sat down with Amelia to talk about what it’s been like to get her website, Anime Feminist off the ground.
The Tempest: How did you get started writing about anime?
Amelia Cook: Last year, I left my job and I had a few months of paid leave, and the great thing about paid leave is that you figure out what you want to do when you have time and you don’t have to worry about money. That gives you an indicator of what you are actually passionate about. In that time, I started watching anime again and started writing about anime. I didn’t have any intentions for it, I was just trying to figure out what do I want to do with my time when I don’t have to worry about money.
It has, over time evolved into this much bigger project that’s much more collaborative and serious with a lot more obligation and responsibility. It’s exciting; it’s incredible to think that this time last year none of this was on my radar.
How are you dealing with the hate that’s come your way because of your explicitly feminist perspectives in a medium whose following has historically been dominated by a culture of misogyny?
AC: First, there is no way to be an acceptable feminist in geek circles. Women just existing in geek circles are often accused of trying to surreptitiously impose feminist ideals on that space. I walked in, and I absolutely did so with a political perspective and so then I was accused of trying to censor anime.
So, the goal posts will always shift so that there is an unattainable level of acceptability. Once you understand and accept that, then you can tailor your message. The thing is, responding to ‘you want to censor anime’ was really simple because I had no such intentions of that to start with.
What has it been like to run and grow Anime Feminist?
AC: So, I still have an office job. I took some time off and then I did some temp work, and during that time I was actively building up Anime Feminist. There was a real learning curve for me. Anime Feminist is only six months old, and I have felt guilty every day for not doing a better job of running it. It’s a huge amount of pressure, especially when other people are involved.
I specifically started Patreon from day one because I said, ‘I want people to be paid fairly for their work.’ I wanted people to feel like they were valued, and I think as a feminist, if you are running a feminist site it should be part of your principles to pay people fairly for their work. I know that’s not always the way it works in practice, but I had the opportunity to do that, and I said this is going to be our business model. We are going to make sure people understand that content isn’t free.
Right now, we can afford to pay contributors, but I don’t get paid. I write twice a week, and I divert my money to necessary costs. It got to a point where I burned out, and I had to come back from that and acknowledge my personal weaknesses were getting in the way. I think there’s a tendency (in startups) to think you have to do everything on your own and take on as much as possible, I dealt with that for months and still struggle with it, but having that money coming in and being able to redirect it to people who could bridge the gaps my personal weaknesses left helped a lot. At this point, I’m busy, but I don’t feel overwhelmed by it. It’s turning into quite a pleasant experience. I should have shared the load more all along and trusted the people around me.
What’s next for Anime Feminist?
AC: It would be really nice to expand into different media. We’ve just started a podcast, and I’d like to get into video. We are just talking now about getting to conventions and doing panels. That’s something I feel quite strongly about, a lot of what we do is through Twitter and Facebook, but a minority of our audience use these channels so, we’re trying to reach more people and making it clear to young women or feminist allies that there is a space where they might feel more welcome even if other parts of fandom aren’t so welcoming to them.
Where should someone start to see if they might be interested in anime?
AC: I’d say look at the films that have been widely released. That will give you so many starting points, and from there you can figure out what you like and don’t like. Once you get going, you can head to the website Anime Planet, (which also happens to be run by a woman/feminist) and they can suggest similar movies and shows for you to watch.
Amelia’s recommendations for where to start:
- Anything Studio Ghibli: “It’s very well known, and it’s also changed a lot in recent years as Hayao Miyazaki has retired for the 6th time or something.”
- Millennium Actress (Satoshi Kon): “It’s the story of an older woman telling the story of her extraordinary life, but it’s told in a way that you go back and see the previous eras of Japan, so it’s very artistic.”
- Summer Wars (Mamoru Hosoda): “A sci-fi school holiday story. It’s for the generation that grew up on Digimon; it’s a lot of fun.”
- A Silent Voice (Yamada Naoko): “A story of disability, anxiety, and bullying and it’s a very down to earth story.”
This interview was edited lightly for length and clarity.