***editing Irina here, I wrote this last week and I’m already wondering whether it’s worth publishing. By the time it actually goes live (which will likely be at least another couple of weeks, It will probably no longer be topical. I do believe the principas stand tough. So here’s an out of date post I hope you still find a little interesting***

anime depressed teacher
ok…I can do this!

Today, I’m going to step out of my comfort zone once again. I’ve occasionally (if rarely) addressed some, shall we call it: more serious issues on this blog and the response has always been great. As one would expect from you guys.

As I write this, the squabbling over what The Rising of the Shield Hero is, isn’t or is supposed to be, are still going on with neither side be particularly compelling in the debate. Lately, I’ve noticed that rather than stroking my interest, this type of drama tends to push animes right off my to watch list as no matter what they turn out to be, they will inevitably end up failing to live up to all this noise.

However, should that particular little drama die down, we still have Twitter aflame with all the Vic Mignogna allegations and some particularly depressing remarks are coming out of that discussion. I like to ignore the fact that I live in a world where movements like cosplay is not consent exist but I am very grateful they do.

Free Rin
I know he was Ed but  thought I’d change it up

After a tiny little taste test by making a fairly neutral comment on Twitter about the Shield Hero debacle, I quickly learned to stay far away. It may be possible to have productive conversations or at least viable debates over Twitter, but I haven’t mastered that art. Besides, there’s no way I could efficiently dwindle down what I want to say to the appropriate number of characters. I think we can all agree that editing is another art I haven’t mastered.

Ok folks, usual disclaimers,  this is not aimed at any individuals but if you recognize yourself in any of this, tell me about it. I am not an expert or even a connoisseur in the field. I have never studied humanities. I am not qualified in any traditional way to discuss the issue. I’m simply a thinking human with a specific set of experiences and I want to share my thoughts on the subject with you. I also want to hear yours. I believe that there may be a deep rooted failure to communicate underneath it all. With all of that out of the way, let’s talk toxic masculinity.

First a little lexicon. When I talk about toxic masculinity it is by no means synonymous with all masculinity or even most masculinity. It isn’t even synonymous with misogyny although the two are often linked. For the purpose of this post let’s call toxic masculinity a general philosophy that defines certain traits and behaviour as “masculine” and defines anything that strays from these as “non masculine” and therefore, less than. In traditional western circles, those traits tend to be physically strong, aggressive, sexually vigorous and emotionally withdrawn. Generally speaking of course.

anime tattoo
I have not seen this, he may be super sensitive… 

It’s not the traits themselves that make the toxicity mind you. I myself am very unemotional. It’s the narrow interpretation that anything not strictly adhering to those traits is deficient in some way. Usually, this is also accompanied by the belief that not being a man as defined is bad. That’s when suggestions of homosexuality or just being called a woman is considered an insult.

I should say again that this mindset in no way applies to the majority of men. Or arguably to anyone in particular. It’s more of a social pressure that can occasionally come up in some circles and tends to have a negative effect on everyone. And I mean everyone.

This is where I’m going to jump into stuff I know very little about but it’s important to me so please hear me out. We often talk of toxic masculinity and its impact on women or members of the LGBTQ+ community but we rarely hear how horrible it is on straight men. I am not a man but I quite like them and count several as friends. Throughout the years I have seen these good, kind, strong men struggle with the fact that they didn’t necessarily fit into this ideal (word used very loosely here) and they couldn’t even find a proper outlet for dealing with this frustration as discussing their feelings would have pushed them even further from the norm. (As an aside, suicide rates are substantially higher in men and I’ve long believed that denying them emotionally may have something to do with that.)

anime worried
I cannot express enough how I am not an expert here

And even for those that do not find these expectations uncomfortable, it’s hardly a flattering picture. The image of the standard straight man we get bombarded by in the media is often of someone callous, not too bright or a slave to his hormones. Even when they’re supposed to be geniuses they seem completely stumped by basic emotional situations. And that’s not fair.

The clothes don’t make the man and neither do his tastes in movies, his sexual orientation or his predisposition to physical labour. And FYI, a similar concept exists for femininity as well but it’s a whole different can of worms. And I don’t have time to explore it today.

Ok, glad I got that off my chest, now we can finally talk about anime and the anime community.

hyouka determined
anime will make it better

In the west, anime fandoms are sort of lumped in with the larger so-called geek culture. (I did not pick any of these names). Toxic masculinity and it’s more negative side effects are often associated with Jock culture. Therefore, there’s a misperception that since geek culture is  in many ways an opposition or occasionally even a rejection of jock culture, it must therefore not be subject to the same toxicity and misogyny. Unfortunately that’s not quite true.

The values may have shifted a bit. Emphasis on physical strength may not be as prevalent and I think there’s a better acceptance of emotional expression but there’s still a definite tendency to have men involved in video games and media culture fit a certain mold. And a resentment against anyone who doesn’t. Let’s be honest guys, the internet is a minefield of unpleasantness and it’s not “jocks” that made it that way.

For anime in particular it can be seen in the aforementioned cosplay is not consent. It’s that certain small bit of fandom that gets honestly angry if cute girl shows have male characters or vice versa. It’s the slew of pointedly negative reviews about Tsurune on MAL and Reddit before the show even aired and aspects of the endless drama around anime YouTubers and particular fandoms.

And coming from anime fans, it’s a bit weird…

anme weird
admittedly not the weirdest anime related thing out there

The medium certainly has issues with representation and questionable tropes but I have always found it surprisingly open minded and inclusive about the definitions of both masculinity and femininity. Anime heroes can be short, tall, physically strong, intellectual, introverted, sociable, crybabies, stoic, shy… There’s really very few set standards and the same goes for heroines. If I was to describe a character as flirty, with impeccable make up skills, passionate but quick to lose interest, flighty at first sight but serious when the situation calls for it, you wouldn’t know if I’m talking about Fay Valentine or Hisoka. There are very few traits that come to mind that could be considered strictly masculine or feminine for anime characters and that’s actually really cool.

Sure there are character archetypes and genre staples but that’s not exactly the same thing. Since anime loves to specifically explore eccentric and unusual characters, by now, there are few absolute standards left standing.

I did it again guys. I prattled on forever and forgot to make a point. I’m not sure I have one. There are all these unpleasant events happening around me and I don’t quite know what to make of it. I do know that the medium itself isn’t inherently enforcing the mindsets that would lead us here so it must be something else and I can’t figure out what that is. And it makes me a little sad so I’m talking with you guys about it. Cause you always make things better. So do your magic! I believe in you!

Gosick magician

119 thoughts

  1. Okay, I’m not liking EVERYTHING on this one… and I never click like by any of my comments… but I’m still depressed.

  2. I read the entire post but was a little confused about the topic of toxic-masculinity. Being that I am in Europe and we don’t really use that term (most of us in my country don’t even know it), it’s hard for me to give my opinion on such a matter. However it did interest me that there seems to have been or there’s still being an argument over the Shield Hero I wasn’t even aware of. Having in account I myself spoke a bit ill of the anime for it’s use of young characters, willingness to be a slave (that makes no sense) and even stubbornness in acting angry by the main character. I don’t see what exactly people could be so angry or divided over.
    The show is great and is a lot of fun to watch. And some of my favorite scenes involve the main character getting trash from the royalty in the anime and showing just how tough he has to be to hide his anger and frustration. I think that’s what makes him so cool in a sense.

    Now that things are changing though it would make sense that he was scared of trusting others but wanted to go back to his former way of living life, sadly that’s not really what we see. So I was a bit disappointed.

    Not sure this was helpful in any way. But hopefully it makes you feel better that someone out there knows even less about toxic masculinity than you. Stay well and keep posting. Hopefully this issue won’t bug you much more.

  3. Really, this is a response for Fred but I’m gonna write it here that it’s not that I don’t have ANY games, I just don’t have the NEWEST games like Fortnite. Dad wouldn’t let me have it even if I wanted to. The stupid dances everyone got them irritate me for some reason but I don’t know what to think about Five Nights at Freddy’s. I’ve seen music videos of it but I’ve never played the game. I don’t even own it.

      1. I really am because my friends have really shown a LOT of concern. Rocky specifically, a friend of mine at school (his last name of course isn’t specifically), acted like a caring big brother and offered to beat the people up who were making fun of me and avoiding me because of the Brooke-Touch (a game I overheard a few other people talking about inventing) and my face. That specific event of the “Brooke-Touch” inspired me to write a poem called “The Contaminant” because I felt alone and isolated. My friends at school seem really worried about me. Faith and Haigan even drew a hand, with really nice drawing I might add (not that yours is bad, it’s actually really good), and wrote that it was from a secret admirer just to make me feel more welcome. Lots of the friends I’ve made seem really nice.

        1. When I was young it was called “cooties”. Just another no way to demean the already down. It is easy to say one shouldn’t let it get you down

  4. Anime’s great and everyone here has nice things to say about it as well. At least here I don’t feel alone. : D

  5. Gotta congratulate you, Irina! This post really elicited participation and discussion, and we’ve seen many diverse viewpoints. As to our own discussion of the subject, I was very confused why in your initial response you asked if your post had been angry, etc. Re-reading everything, I think I see the problem, and it came from me–I think you might have read the “you” in my own initial response to the post as meaning you, specifically, when I meant it as a general reference. I should have used the word “one.” This is especially embarrassing since I once taught English, albeit many years ago. But reading my response with my “you” taken as you, Irina, I can understand your own confusion. I’m sorry for the miscommunication.

    Your posts are one of the highlights of my day; your intelligence, wit, and friendliness are all clearly evidenced. So please understand that even if I disagreed with you (which I did, to a certain limited degree), I would never have responded in a crude or confrontational manner, which I now realize might have been the impression given by that first post of mine. I should have chosen my words more carefully. Should I stray again, just respond to the tone of: “Are you talking to me or about me?” It will freeze my hand and heart, and we can immediately dispense with any unfortunate misunderstanding. Again, sorry.

    1. i loved this conversation and your comments to Crow cleared up your position a lot. Thank you for your honesty and for taking the time to state it. Not that my people would

    2. I don’t know why but I’m just clicking like on some of these. I’m still new to this site. I think it’s turning out pretty cool so far.

  6. Like you, I try to avoid controversy whenever possible. I’m also not prone to subject myself to material that I know will upset me, so I won’t be watching Goblin Slayer or Shield Hero anytime soon! I’m sorry that I don’t have anything more substantial or thought-provoking to add, but I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your post. I thought you expressed yourself very well (without being inflammatory or calling anybody out)!

  7. Anime is one of the most diverse mediums I’ve ever been affiliated with, and it could very well be. As far as being toxic, this is why I stray far away from any sort of vocal Twitter thread.

    It was a shame that Tsurune got blasted before it even aired, I do remember that. At least WE liked it.

  8. Great post on a really relevant topic. Unfortunately the attitudes and ideas that you discuss are very real and may be something that we will never fully get rid of as a species. I’m not saying it is right by any means but unfortunately there will always be someone who encourages this type of behavior. That saddens me honestly. Also sadly it isn’t just the anime community that contains those toxic people, certainly other aspects of geek culture are notorious for this as well. The thing that absolutely perplexes me is that the perpetrators of such actions are generally ones that would say that are victims as well and I can never understand how anyone can jump to those conclusions. Yes, we get crap for enjoying things like anime, Star Wars, comics and the like but that gives no excuse to then give crap to other people for enjoying what they do. You are then no better than the people who did that to you.

    I have always been judged for liking what I enjoy or how I spend my spare time. I was teased a lot for enjoying something like reading a book during my lunch break when I was in school and I still get strange looks and comments as an a adult for doing the things I like. The feeling absolutely sucks and I certainly would not wish that on others. Respect towards others is a wonderful yet increasingly rare thing. There is a line between disagreeing with someone (which is totally fine I may add) and being abusive toward someone. For example, I have opposite political views than a friend of mine that I have known for years. It doesn’t stop us from having respectful conversations and still being friends.

    To me those images of what a man or a woman are supposed to be are complete bs. Everyone just needs to be themselves and respected for being that way. Society sadly has dictated that it is ok to do immoral things in the name of being a man. It disgusts me when I hear stories of unwanted advances towards the girls/women at cons or the like. I don’t care if these guys are desperate or anything like that. I’ve heard many people complain that they want anime, etc to become more accepted by the public but then you pull that garbage. I would say that the vast majority of people in the community are kind and respectful people but that group who clings to an immoral ideal about how to act put a black mark on the rest of us.

    I am a supporter of bringing these issues that we face as a community and as a culture to light. As ugly as it is, we can’t turn a blind eye to what some feel is an ok way to conduct ourselves. We shouldn’t mock those who claim to be a victim, we should listen to them. And we should have an open mind when anime, tv or literature decides to explore these issues like we have been seeing recently. While it makes us uncomfortable, it is something that needs to be discussed.

    Hopefully, I didn’t rant on too long. Anyway, thanks for bringing up this topic. It was a great read.

  9. I don’t really have anything to add to this, but it’s a really thought-provoking piece. Honestly, the point about suicide rates in men is a really improtant one too, and I think you’re right about the motional side of it being a cause. Women have some really unfair things thrust on them in the media in terms of what looks/behaviours are expected, but the same does go for me too. As a species, we’ve ended up with some truly damaging things ingrained in us, I think.

  10. Twitter sux. Hate it. Only serves to reinforce our echo chambers.

    Toxic masculinity is a just buzz word. Like most epithets, it means whatever the speaker wants it to and is completely unmoored from any prison psychology roots. Most of the time I have heard it used, it is implied that the two just naturally go together. Don’t hear a lot about “nontoxic” masculinity from the folks that use the term a lot, although most people would agree it is much more common. And what about healthy masculinity, its polar opposite?

    I recently did a review on Rinchi!! Ekoda-chan, ep. 4. The BF in the episode is almost the definition of toxic masculinity. Doesn’t look much like a jock to me. If one wants to include physical power as part of the definition, the definition is wrong. (Of course, on other social media we have the standard claims that every man is like that, all men suck, etc.)

    But Ekoda-chan is no feminist manifesto. In ep. 3 we see that the women in her world are all “birds-of-prey” (in her POV) mimicking eternal kawaii-ness and moe-ness to ensnare drooling, empty-headed guys. Ekoda herself is an enabler of her bf’s pathology by not simply giving him the boot. You should avoid things that hurt you. Perhaps in some future Ekoda-chan, she will.

  11. I’m not yet willing to accept the validity of the idea of “toxic masculinity” as I’ve had it explained so far, basically because those explanations tend to focus pretty much exclusively upon Western culture[s]. But how can we seriously discuss such concepts if we don’t confront the fact that entire cultural systems exist that espouse the disenfranchisement of women and their literal subjugation to men. Read the memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran before you bother me with self-righteous but suspiciously narrowly directed anger. Yes, we have problems over here and, yes, we need to address them. But “toxic masculinity?'” When in certain regions of the world a woman can be jailed or even executed for venturing from her house unescorted? For being the VICTIM of rape?

    Sorry, but I’m not buying into this particular cultural movement until it recognizes its place in a wider and often more oppressive world.

    1. My thesis is simply that assigning a set of rigid imperatives to a particular gender and dismissing everything else is difficult on people who now feel they need to conform.
      Is that what you disagree with?
      My post wasn’t angry, did it come across that way? Yes I have grown up in such countries. It sucks.

      1. Looks like it kicked out my first reply, so, short version: No, you were neither angry nor preachy. I, however, am rather irritated. Not by you, but by the way in which this whole concept suddenly appeared and ignited. It seems very self-serving to focus criticism on Western culture, what with us constantly–if slowly–becoming ever more tolerant. The complainers seem to be playing it safe. If one really wanted to confront culturally sanctioned contempt towards and abuse of women and LGBTQ, look farther afield. In my opinion, focusing these arguments on our culture trivializes the oppression endured and actual physical danger risked by women and LGBTQ in more brutally oppressive cultures. Places such as Iran, North Korea, and parts of India come to my mind–I’m certain that you can think of other such places, Irina.

        1. Well I don’t think the concept is limited to western culture by any means. It applies just as much – if not more so elsewhere.

          1. I guess that I’m trying to say that I don’t actually believe in the concept as it’s currently being discussed on a wider social and societal scale. At the risk of alienating those who rush to each new cause celebre, I view this as more of a manufactured construct, especially as applied to Western culture. It’s true that equality and acceptance still elude us as a society, even as a culture. But this sudden emergency to save us all from “toxic masculinity” is an artificial conceit, a manufactured construct designed to panic the public into supporting the cause without question–and likewise a blatant threat to shame those who dare disagree. (What? You don’t unequivocally acknowledge our moral superiority and support our brave social justice warriors? Really? So why do you hate women? Why?)

            The problems are real. The monster, however, is not.

            1. I’m not sure you are going by the same definition as I am which is not particularly recent nor Western. But of course you can disagree I’m just not sure which part you disagree with. As I mentioned in my post this is not related to misogyny or the treatment of women. Is it just the expression that you dislike as it has been used in a lot of different ways lately?

            2. Responding to Irina, below: As simply as I can put it, I disagree with the existence of the idea of “toxic masculinity.” It is a bogeyman, a creation to distract from the actual problems it claims to embody. I think that we are at a point in our collective social consciousness that blaming cultural influence for what is clearly asinine individual behavior is a cop-out, an act of cowardice. I believe that “toxic masculinity” as a cultural entity does not exist. Some people do terrible things, period. But that person makes an individual choice to do those things. No convenient cultural entity such as “toxic masculinity” makes that decision, the individual person does–and should likewise be held individually accountable. “Toxic masculinity” is nothing more than an excuse, both for individual wrongdoing and for the creation of an inflated sense of victimhood. So don’t be an enabler: purge the term from usage.

            3. I respectfully disagree. I think social pressure to conform to unrealistic norms does and has always existed and can be harmful to those in more fragile places in their lives. I personally beleive they have a right to their existence and personality even if it isn’t the norm.
              I do respect your wishes though and will make sure to never use the term on your blog.

          2. I like a lot of cultures and don’t see how people can dislike others just because of skin or hair. When I encounter somebody with a different skin color, I get fascinated and sometimes I like to try and get to know them a little better because of it. Unlike Hitler and Trump, my 2 least favorite people of the world that I know.

            1. Of course I didn’t really know them in person. I just hate prejudice just because of characteristics that they have and can’t change.

        2. There’s really only one culture I have a hope of influencing, and that’s the one I’m immersed in: Western culture. I completely agree with you that North Korea and parts of India (Iran is a complex case — Mohammad Mosaddegh still haunts me…) are comparatively worse than Western culture.

          But I am a part of Western culture.

          To the extent I allow injustice in my culture, I am part of the problem.

          The flames may be more intense elsewhere.

          But I don’t want even a small fire to burn anyone if I can help it.

          Isn’t that my responsibility as a human?

          1. Indeed it is, which has been my point all along. It boils down to individual responsibility for both your own actions and the protection of your community. And I feel that constructs such as this “toxic masculinity” afford people a way of avoiding responsibility for their actions AND their failure to act. (As the Church describes them, sins of commission and of omission.) It gives these offenders something to hide behind, and a way to claim victimhood themselves. And if you think that’s a stretch, attend court sometime (I must for cases in which I’m involved). Listen to defense attorneys argue that, however heinous the crime, their clients didn’t act so much as their clients were the tools of their upbringings, which then acted through them. They would have you believe that an entire community committed that brutal rape, that grizzly murder.

            As I said before, the problems are real. The monster, however, is not. We need to quit giving people excuses to hide behind when they make a deliberate choice to hurt others. NO MORE EXCUSES! Just individual accountability for that individual’s choices and behavior.

            1. “It gives these offenders something to hide behind, and a way to claim victimhood themselves.”

              I’ve seen that. It’s why I’ve rejected the phrase “toxic masculinity” in favor of “morally reprehensible behavior.”

              Language in motion. We try to come up with a phrase to describe a “thing.” We start talking about that “thing,” and the definition morphs. Pretty soon, we have to come up with another term because of misappropriations or misapplications.

              In the context of this discussion, my objection is to any decision or action that interferes with someone’s freedom/responsibility to be themselves (to the extent that they don’t interfere with someone else!). As a group, we seem to be struggling with the definitions and examples, and I think that’s a good thing — we’re trying to communicate!

              In some ways, the nature of global communications makes the discussion more difficult, because language doesn’t change at the same rate for all regions. Some places might not even have any idea that “males behaving badly” (a hopelessly vague meta definition of toxic masculinity!) is a harmful thing, where other portions of the world are already moving on to another phrase because of the issues you raised.

              It’s remarkable that so many of us here, in this Comments section, can discuss such a potentially divisive topic (based on how we’ve all seen such discussions develop on, say, Twitter!). Figuring out why would make an interesting research thesis!

            2. Yeah, I wish there weren’t such things as prejudice or corruption. But then again, the stories would be boring and so would our lives a little bit. There’s no such thing as perfect. That’s what I say. Other than, OF COURSE, intentions and feelings.

      2. I sympathize. I have kind of a tough family though I’ve always been living in America. I just hate how some people can dislike someone else just because of their looks. I’m against prejudice.

          1. I hate what some of our ancestors did but if some of the bad things that happened didn’t happen, some of us might not’ve been here today and I really like some of my friends here.

            1. That’s cool! I hear that Canada’s cold but my current crush in High-School (sadly not the Middle-School I’m in anymore) is from there and he apparently likes one of my other friends called Savanah (or so I’ve heard). I’m not sure if it’s true or not and I’m still naive but I’m learning more and becoming wiser as well as less naive. I’m kind of happy about it but I’m also kind of sad about it.

            2. Oops, the comment below turned out weird in one part. I meant to say “… and my crush was from Canada too.”

            3. Hateing the past is about the most useless thing one could possibly do. This is just as true of something that happened a year ago in your own life as something that happened to your ethnic group ten, a hundred, or a thousand years ago. You can’t change it. It doesn’t even exist anymore. What happened, happened. Filling your life with hate for it is self-destructive and self-perpetuating.

              Learn from the errors of the past, recognize that today isn’t yesterday, and move on.

              For many, this will be impossible. People define themselves by the past. Holiday meals become a relitigation of wrongs from many years ago. People live with the anger and rage for past wrongs still in their hearts and thirst for compensation for that which cannot be compensated. This is especially true of groups that have historically been treated poorly. All that anger prevents them from seeing the good all around them.

              What everyone needs to do is take stock of their current condition and resources, look at the direction things are going now, and attempt to position oneself for a better future. The less baggage from the past you carry the more agile you will be in the future. The more agile you are, the quicker to seize the tiny and fleeting opportunities that life offers everyone.

              Even if you don’t become the President or a CEO or an astronaut or rich or famous, you did the best you could with what you had and that is to be proud of. And never forget: The most important legacy we can leave to the future are happy children who are not chained to the pains and failures we experienced in our own lives.

  12. I’ve got a degree in sociology, but I never did anything with it, and I’ve left university before the term “toxic masculinity” became popular, so I’m hardly an expert either, but your post is very good and pretty much delinates the core meaning very well. It’s probably a better article than I could have written (because technobabble tends to destract me). After a little research (starting off wikipedia), the current use of “toxic masculinity” seems to stem from a psychological article by Terry A. Kupers, called “Toxic Masculinity as a barrier to mental health treatment in prison,” and according to the abstract it seeks (among other things) to examine the “relationship between hegemonic masculinity and toxic masculinity.” “Hegemonic masculinity” is the entry under which you’ll find “toxic masculinity” on Wikipedia, but that’s a little confusing, as the term “toxic” is used as an adjective in different-but-related contexts. There’s a suggestion on the discussion page of the article to separate the topics, which (with my limited knowledge) I’d support.

    As for “toxic masculinity” and what it is, I think your blog post is very good (along with your reply in the comments about “toxic feminity”) and I have little to add. Once you realise that the term originated/concretised in a study interested in psychotherapy in prison, you can see why it’s important.

    One thing important here is this: you can analyse stories in that way. Last season, for example, there was Goblin Slayer, which I thought was a fairly good (though not excellent) portrayal of trauma; much, much, much better than say Your Lie in April. However, it’s plot progression could be analysed as supporting a toxic masculinity:

    *****Spoilers from here on out*********

    Goblin Slayer’s trauma stems from the fact that he saw his sister “brutalised” by goblins, and that he couldn’t do anything against it. As an emotion, this is easily understandable, but if you look at gender relations, you could ask whether he would feel same pressure to protect his (much older) sister had he been a girl. You could say that the source of the trauma is partly a culturally acquired feeling of duty conveyed by him being boy. In an environment that uses rape of women as a broad brush to demonise goblins, this reading is at least not implausible. And the plot progression doesn’t seem interested in questioning that aspect. Goblin Slayer’s healing seems to come from two sources, plotwise: (a) that people recognise the danger of Goblins, and (b) that he gets to protect other people (women close to him being a prominent example). Very little time was spent on making him realise that sometimes bad things happen and you are powerless, and that not being able to protect someone may have horrible conseqences, but is unavoidable.

    In other words, you have a system that plausibly assigns responsibility according to gender (Cowgirl’s treatment, for example, also re-inforces a femininity = emotional support interpretation) and that is not questioned by the story in any way at all.

    This interpetation is not absurd and can be talked about – if people are interested and actually listen to each other. It’s important to note that this doesn’t necessarily mean that characters have to act differently; it’s a way to spot blind-spots in a narrative the way you spot blind-spots in a society. And after you’ve come to an interpetation of Goblin Slayer under the header of “toxic masculinity”, you still need to talk about how having such a story impacts real life; that is a theory how fictive activity supports/subverts real-life activity, and that’s hard enough, too.

    Talking about this is difficult. If you talk about it in the terms you’re used to, usually only people who you associate with will get all the “lingiustic shortcuts” you take, while other people may think you’re saying something simpler. I’ve seen many people think the problem with Goblin Slayer is the inclusion of rape: that the show glorifies rape, or that critics think people will want to emulate goblins. With using loaded terms such “toxic masculinity” or “rape culture”, you raise emotional involvement, which often lowers the willingness to uncover potential misunderstandings.

    Feminists are so familiar with this terminology that they often skip stages when explaining stuff, sometimes because they’ve internalised these steps so thoroughly that they’re not aware they’re doing it, sometimes because they’ve explained it so often that they’re just tired, and sometimes because emotional agitation leads into rants (which may end up being “more of the same”). Meanwhile people unfamiliar with the arguments might simply not understand what’s being said, or might be less willing to try and understand what others are saying because they feel attacked.

    Personally, I’m in the weird situation where I sometimes feel uncomfortable or unfairly criticised by feminist critiques, and then read other posts that say something in response to these articles that says pretty much what I would have said, but makes me equally uncomfortable. It makes me feel like I have no position at all, though that’s not true. It’s a very weird situation. On balance, I tend to slot with the feminist critiques.

    I’m not on social media, though I sometimes read twitter threads, when someone links them. I was unaware of the Vic Mignona issue, and reading up on it is… a jungle. I wonder how many posts appeared while I was typing and deleting and re-typing for the last 2 – 3 hours… I’m tired and confused.

    1. “With using loaded terms such “toxic masculinity” or “rape culture”, you raise emotional involvement, which often lowers the willingness to uncover potential misunderstandings.”

      If you remember our discussions around my review of Goblin Slayer ep 11, we danced around this issue. I generally reject “toxic masculinity” because I think the phrase has been co-opted, and I substituted “reprehensible moral behavior.”


      The perspective you just painted, along with Irina’s analysis in the post and some of her comments, got me to thinking that maybe my view was too narrow. I was focused on the impact of a male acting out a set of imperatives on the people around him (particularly but not solely women).

      Irina’s point both about toxic masculinity and femininity and its impact on the individual, as well as your revelation that the root research stems from a study regarding “mental health treatment in prison,” prove that.

      It’s kinda like talking about bullying. Most of the time, I think of the impact of those who are bullied. But excluding the impact on the bully means I ignore 50% of the problem and so miss out on at least 50% of potential solutions.

      Though I suspect solutions are exponential instead of linear…

      You’ve both made some interesting points!

      1. The problem with such terms is that they often presume a perspective, which isn’t always acknowledged and causes problems when these perspectives are neither acknowledged nor shared. The bigger problem is that the terms change, spread, and diversify, which is why academia insists on definitions to locate the terms within the semantic tempest.

        In politics? You can use the same terms and not talk about the same thing at all.

        1. which is why open communication requires that both sides state their thesis clearly. I’m not saying this is easy by any means but I think it is possible.

      2. And so have you in fact. Everyone ignores the bully, and you’re absolutely right, the solution must take into account both sides.

        1. I agree very strongly. If you ask me, people should try to look in both perspectives of almost any situation.

    2. “you could ask whether he would feel the same pressure to protect his (much older) sister had he been a girl”

      Probably not. But that isn’t just a societal question of boys being culturally conveyed a protective duty. How about women NOT being conveyed a protective duty? Is one or both of these concepts a bad thing?.

      Does not the girl who didn’t get culturally infused with a protective duty come out ahead? The result is the same for the older sister.

      Most boys love their much older sisters. So do most girls. If we allow such things to assort independently, I am convinced that some people will naturally have hero “genes” and some will not. There are those who have had hero “infusion” and those who haven’t. The ones who have both will be the ones crushed by helplessness because even the most culturally infused child needs protection.

      You have to judge the characters by the world in which they are immersed. Our standards don’t count because we don’t have a clue of what it is like to be menaced by goblins at every turn.

      1. “You have to judge the characters by the world in which they are immersed.”

        That’s sort of a problem, though, when the world is a fictional creation that springs from the world we live in. You can always ask what is topicalised and what isn’t, and the answers aren’t only to be found in plot.

        To be a little more precise, in GS big sis probably deliberately hid him (I can’t remember): it’s a two way hierarchy: older sibling protects younger sibling; male protects female. Then there’s the biographical element: sis was an adult, while GS was still learning to function in society. This in itself is complex enough so people can write pages and pages on it.

        The question here is to what extent is this constellation compatible with the world we live in? How much do we have to re-orintate ourselves? If you don’t have to re-oriantate yourself much to understand a fictional world, then the story likely contributes to prevalent cultural narratives – through simple repetition.

        You can’t say that our standards don’t count, because we can only understand fictional worlds in relation to them. Without our standards, they’re meaningless – these worlds have no standards we don’t give them, because they have no independent existance. They’re not different lived cultures; they’re a concept built from concepts we already have. And if we don’t need to work very hard to understand the basic emotions of characters in such a world, the idea that these fictional worlds are very different from the one we live in isn’t very plausible.

        We don’t have a sentient species around that uses human wombs to reproduce. So much is true. From an SF/F perspective, though, GS did next to nothing with the concept, except contribute to a justification of why goblins have to be exterminated. I may even agree that the characters have no choice; but the reason they have no choice is because this piece of fiction has been written this way, and it could have been different. A lot of peoplethink this sort of criticism accuses the author of malice; most of the time it’s more thoughtlessly importing real-world habits into narrative, though. Fictional worlds are always extensions of the culture they arise in: perpatuating it, criticising it, subverting it, affirming it, etc. This is independent of authorial intent.

        1. All worlds are fictional including the ones on the history books. Doesn’t matter who writes it. Times and places and named are usually reasonably accurate because we have source documents. Intents, motivations, rationales, and desires are often constructs of the author’s political mind.

      2. I’m also not sure where I stand on this one. There have been plenty of stories with heroines haunted that they failed to protect a loved one.
        Also the gender imperative flips when it’s parents. Mothers are expected to be more protective, present, nurturing and so on.
        If it was a stranger I would agree that the social pressure falls on men to be protectors but within a family context I think that may be debatable. Then again this may also change from one culture to the next.

      3. Hehehe, yeah…. I’m not as mean to him as I used to be with him and I’m leaning how to control my temper better… I don’t understand how I can be so calm with everyone else and not him. (Then again, he does make those irritating fart-noises………)


      4. It’s not really bad, in fact, I like that he seems to care so much about his weaker friend here and it’s flattering but it’s just not the thing that usually happens, that’s all… Plus the fact that he’s only known me for about half a school year….. You know? It’s hardly the kind of thing you’d come to expect from someone like him…

    3. Now this is the type of comments I basically write for.
      That study sounds heartbreaking.
      I do not have a degree in sociology and rather limited academic contact with the humanities in general. I’m also super insensitive. I’m very relieved that what I wrote makes some sense to others as well.
      I’ve only read the first volume f Goblin Slayer. As it’s a light novel I have a feeling the experience (and corresponding outrage) is quite different without the pictures because I just can’t see how it would glorify rape (or rape culture which is a term that needs serious definition).
      For what it’s worth, I’m a proud feminist. I’ve always thought women should be allowed to study and own property and all that but I occasionally feel uncomfortable with these issues (both sides as well). I do tend to go with the side that doesn’t openly threaten me.

      1. I’ve only seen the anime, and I’ve used it as an example, because it recently finished and had this controversy surrounding it. Also, because unlike “Shield Hero”, the series’ season 1 is finished.

        “Rape culture” is another one of “those” terms. The idea is that stories like GS push the narrative of the stranger who jumps you from the bushes so to speak, making this the core emotional problem. This effects the discourse around “date rape”, “marital rape”, etc. All this on a “innocent until proven guilty” legal system where pushing charges is often more stressful than just letting the perpetrator get away with it, which further makes it hard to crystallise social norms. Meanwhile, stories like GS use rape to make “strangers” look more evil. That’s not so much glorifying rape, as exploiting the subject to justify violence. Now, it’s very hard to argue that the characters in GS have any other option than violence, because they’re not amenable to communication (not that anyone tried). Combine this with a the-ugly-races-are-evil trope, and you get a situation where you can just kill a goblin on sight, no questions asked, because they all rape our women.

        In world, that’s true. But I didn’t see GS exploring how such a world might look like. The idea seems to be: much like our world, except racism is justified. And the role rape seems to play here is to make the goblins more despicable, the women more threatened, and the men more heroic. Other people might have other takes, and there’s a lot to talk about here (what with a lot of heroic women being present in the story).

        When I talk about the show like this, it sounds like I didn’t enjoy it at all, which is not true. I also don’t think any of this is part of the author’s intention. A lot of it is just a combination of DnD legacy (which in turn harks back to older fantasy and mythology), and what you find attractive in women. It just plays out like this. (I’ve talked about this at length over at Crow’s blog, so I don’t feel like going into much detail here, as that’s not the point).

        I’m a cynic. I think, no matter how you organise a society, some people are going to have it systematically harder. And I wouldn’t want to tell those people to shut up. But the problem here is that, as we grow into such a society, we assimilate a lot of this as the way things are. And if we turn out fine with it, with no problems whatsoever, then other people calling for change are going to discomfort us. That’s a core conflict that will always be present in any society, and the conflict will be fiercer in societies that aren’t as restrictive as others, as the disadvantaged need less courage to speak up, which means more people on both sides.

        It’s exactly this engrainedness in a cutlure (“structural sexism”) that makes this hard to tackle, as for many people it’s “just a story”.

        1. One could argue that part of the purpose of fiction is to explore uncomfortable questions without having to create real world consequences. And here we have a whole different issue.

          1. It seems to me that GS is exploring uncomfortable feelings more than uncomfortable questions.

            I can’t tell whether you’re disagreeing with me and if so with what.

            1. I’m not – I’m agreeing with the principals and have no opinion on the details as I don’t have the proper context for it.
              I’m also very tired but I really like he conversation

          2. “One could argue that part of the purpose of fiction is to explore uncomfortable questions without having to create real world consequences.”

            Kinda like Animal Farm.

            Horse absolutely broke my heart…

            I know too many Horses.

            1. That’s me with many Romance shows I’ve watched when someone else likes the Romeo/Juliette and doesn’t get him/her at first. My family needs more sleep though. I always feel stressed when my dad yells at me about something stupid that no sleep fuels. Then again, I’ve always been scared of my Dad and have always had family problems.

      2. When I hear words like “rape culture” part of me says down. Rape is a problem with outliers. It isn’t the culture. I can look outside my window and see multiple cars. We have a car culture. We have a data communication culture. We do not have a rape culture.

        Such terms are used by people who look at every male as a potential rapist. It is no different than any other kind of “I fear you and hate you because of the group you belong to” statement.

        1. I’m sorry I’m too sad for this conversation at the moment. I do know several survivors of rape though.

          1. I understand and agree, I feel sad for the poor victims. I feel bad for the survivors too, they had to witness that!

    4. I guess hating is just one of our humane flaws. It’s a shame we all have to have some. One of mine, I think is clumsiness… Though I suppose that’s a little personal for this comment.

  13. I kept nodding to this post, but I don’t really have anything substantial to add. And I’m not really involved in grand Twitter drama, so…

    But props to you for including that Gosick magician dude in the end! One of the insignificant side characters I had a minor crush on…

  14. “After a tiny little taste test by making a fairly neutral comment on Twitter about the Shield Hero debacle, I quickly learned to stay far away.”

    I had the same experience (for the same show!) after using the word “triggered” in the DSM-5 sense. Got called all sorts of things — even a millennial! They only missed it by several decades…

    “but we rarely hear how horrible it is on straight men.”

    That’s a fantastic point! I’ve always focused on the impact on the other communities you mentioned, so you’ve given me something new to consider.

    I’ve stopped calling it toxic masculinity, because some folks seem to wear that as a badge of honor. I’ve taken to calling it morally reprehensible behavior now. It seems more accurate, but I’m wondering if it’s too confrontational…

    “As an aside, suicide rates are substantially higher in men and I’ve long believed that denying them emotionally may have something to do with that.”

    I think you’re right.

    “Anime heroes can be short, tall, physically strong, intellectual, introverted, sociable, crybabies, stoic, shy… There’s really very few set standards and the same goes for heroines.”

    I love that about anime. I’ve been wondering why I’ve migrated from live action sci-fi to anime, and I think you just figured it out! It’s hard to explore different perspectives if convention limits choices. Anime’s farther along in removing some of those. That makes it more attractive to me than western sci-fi, at least.

    Thanks for an interesting and thought-provoking post!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I suspect this is a post that will get better in the comments. At least i hope so

  15. I think the key point to remember in this is that, as much as it might seem like the be-all and end-all of online discussion these days… Twitter is not representative of real life. Everything gets emphasised, exaggerated and blown out of proportion on there, and it is not conducive to helpful discussions. Which is why it baffles me when so many people who want to talk about complex issues feel like Twitter is the ideal place to do it. As you’ve seen, saying just one mildly contentious thing can invite the ire of one of the many “mobs” that spend all day online looking for trouble.

    There’s no nuance on Twitter, no opportunity to explain what you mean. This means that people take things very much at face value, and in turn arguments are oversimplified and not representative of the broader discussion. And that just leads to everyone on all “sides” getting pissed off.

    About the only thing Twitter has going for it is that it’s (theoretically) easy to get a large audience for what you have to say. But with the pace at which Twitter moves, that audience is rarely going to stop and think about what you have to say; they’re going to give a kneejerk response the moment they see something, then move on and get pissy about something else that catches their eye five minutes later. But with everyone doing this at slightly different times, the most mundane of shitstorms can linger for several days.

    I used to really enjoy Twitter. It was a great place to hang out with friends, meet new people and discuss things I was into. Since the huge spike in “EVERYTHING IS POLITICAL” we’ve seen over the course of the last five or six years or so, though, it’s become much less fun. While I’m still reasonably active on there, I increasingly feel like it’s a waste of time, and right now I’m very close to just setting it aside for a period and only auto-posting tweets to promote my articles a few times a day.

    1. I agree that twitter isn’t the best forum for serious discussion but I wonder why. In theory, the format is good. The character limit forces you to be concise and clear, the possibility for instant feedback keeps the conversation going and the anonymity allows people to be bravely honest…yet…cesspool…

      1. I think you answered your own question with all those positives, which can also be negatives!

        Short format = oversimplified responses
        Instant feedback = kneejerk responses
        Anonymity = dickishness without consequence

        Cynical? Yes. But unfortunately accurate. I wish it wasn’t. 🙁

        1. I think it’s getting better Pete. As people start growing up with Twitter as a legitimate and major method of communication they’re going to naturally adapt it to share information instead of just vent. It’s natural selection – you’ll see! 🙂

  16. I do agree that this is an issue. We always talk about this in my film and literature courses. In my opinion, I feel like the media is sort of off-balance with how things are represented.. of course, they were never quite balanced to begin with as we have seen in classic literature and 19th century film. On the topic of toxic masculinity, I do believe that it is an issue, but I also believe that people tend to focus more on one side of the spectrum and rather than looking at both sides (the other one being toxic femininity). The media does a good job in showing one side of things, but in doing so, they turn a blind eye in other things. That being said, I don’t like how people generalize a certain group either- especially after recent media tactics. And when that certain group of people get angry, others laugh at them and said that they’re the ones who are the problem when it’s really a minority (based on the group as a whole) doing that certain action. And I’m sorry if I rambled a bit here. xD

    1. I agree with everything you say, but I’m curious: what is toxic femininity? I’ve never heard of it before, so what’s your definition of it?

      1. Toxic femininity is basically the yin to toxic masculinity ‘s yang. Where as toxic masculinity has to do with their actions such as sexually harassing others- specifically women, toxic femininity being manipulative in every sense of the word. Nowadays, many people don’t think twice when a woman makes an accusation (whether or not it be true) that a man has sexually harassed or assaulted her (which sadly makes the #Metoo movement less credible because there are some women who do make false accusations as a means to ruin a man’s reputation). Some women tend to spread rumors and gossip (which isn’t necessarily only in educational institutions) which is dangerous because once the mind is manipulated, it can lead to destroying another’s reputation and self-esteem. In work and school there’s something called the “queen bee theory” which, based on the name, is woman on woman manipulation (which the queen bee theory is originated from the “queen bees” in school). Women (at least some of them do, I’m not saying all) tend to be more critical when it comes to appearances and are more vocal about them- which leads to others not having confidence. There’s also many women who are gold diggers- or rather they use other people to gain economic status (while yes, there are certain men who do that same behavior, if you look up gold diggers, the results will show that they’re female) . The thing with toxic femininity is that the media decides to leave a blind eye with toxic femininity because they truly don’t believe that it exists when it does the thing is is that, toxic femininity is more manipulative whereas toxic masculinity being more physical.

            1. well much like toxic masculinity isn’t about men, toxic femininity isn’t about women. It’s the exact same concept a set of attributes associated to femininity (sometimes arbitrarily) and the enforced so that anyone not exhibiting those attributes is considered somehow lacking. The sad part is that it’s usually self imposed.
              Not so long ago for toxic femininity that meant a drive for family and motherhood. Women uninterested in having children or putting their own careers aside were considered somehow not quite right. Selfish, or unbalanced in some way. Often assumed to be gay just because of that. For a long time women had to be *nice* as temper was a sign of weakness or *having your period* code for being unable to handle yourself. To this day there’s a prevalent school of thought that women who are sloppy in their appearance either have low self esteem or are depressed for some reason.
              Ironically, lately toxic femininity seems to have taken a more martial turn with the rise of more militant feminist mouvements. We now often think of women with traditional values who wish to tend to their spouses as *traitors to the cause* if you will. If a young lady’s greatest goal i life is to get married and stay at how to care for her kids, instead of admiring her femininity like we used to, most women feel sorry for her lack of ambition or dismiss her as lazy, and some people would even call her a golddigger.
              This is how we are framing women to fit into a very narrow role which can be harmful, not to mention super boring.
              I’ve never really heard of a society that considered manipulation a must for femininity and a required quality for the ideal woman.

            2. That’s every interesting. I can see why that would be considered toxic femininity. From what I have seen, I saw that toxic masculinity is what certain men do such as sexually assault and harass women, whereas toxic femininity is what I explained earlier, but your definition of it also makes sense.

        1. Interesting, thanks for clarification 🙂. There isn’t a lot of talk/research being done on it (seems to be a relatively new concept), but I’ve seen a lot of that sort of behaviour with women. I’m curious as to how our understanding of femininity will evolve/deepen as women become more prominent, and how this will change the whole gender balance. Where I go to school, there’s a strong ‘lad’, macho, ‘tolerating the silly women’ (which I hate) mentality among the boys, but months ago I was at an all girl’s school where we were all experts at tearing each other down, and there were certain, unspoken rules about who we should like/dislike and how vocally we should like/dislike them. And the sixth form boys were routinely harassed through stalkery behaviour. I think the media’s insistence on sweeping that kind of thing under the rug is only going to alienate men further😥. It’s such a vicious cycle.

          1. Yeah… I wish it wasn’t so but I sometimes think you’re right. Some people who have only old games that nobody plays anymore (like me), ore people who don’t have games at all are thought to be psychos and are outcast and isolated.

            1. You are not alone. I don’t have any games either. Haven’t played any in years. When I review an anime I don’t have a clue what went on in the game, the manga or the lite novel or usually the live action movie.

      1. So many comments!!! When I write a comment and want to look at other comments, I have to scroll down SOOO far! It’s a little bit irritating but at least I get to see other peoples perspectives of things… Plus I don’t feel so alone in some situations knowing that other people have gone through some of the same things.

          1. Very true. Like how I like to get feedback on my songs, stories poems I write. I write songs more than anything but I hardly ever write stories.

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