What does controversy mean to you? Is it a childish argument over seemingly inconsequential things? Is it a way to flex the intellectual differences that divide (and unite) us? Is it some kind of government scheme to fuck with and manipulate their populace? Or it something else entirely? What constitutes a “controversial” topic or subject matter in your eyes?
With that, I welcome y’all to Controversed: A Workshop on Sincere Criticism that is hosted by the bitchin’ awesome, Moya (she’s one of the cool kids on the block, so definitely give her a follow if you aren’t already!). This month-long event challenges content creators (or anyone who is interested in the art/value of analytical thinking and writing) to reflect on themselves as critical thinkers within their surroundings, especially amid the many communities that they engage with. Where do we stand on polemic perspectives within our respective fandom communities? What constitutes a “right” or “wrong” opinion and is there really such a thing? Things of that nature.
Every Monday Moya is going to hit us up with a brand-new prompt and we can choose to answer them or not (to partake you merely have to respond to one prompt at the very least, by November 29th on any platform that works for you!). Since this gig started last week, I’m a bit late to the party. Then again, I am an introvert, so this is pretty standard behaviour, if I do say so myself.
If you would like more information on Controversed, including how and where to submit your posts, please go ahead and check out Moya’s awesome introduction, which also goes over the first week’s prompts. For the second week’s prompt, just click this boldy linky thing here.
Week 1 Prompt Thingy
In the pilot prompt, so to speak, we are asked to answer a couple of rather straightforward questions:
- What is a controversy in the (anime/manga/other) community that bothers you, and why?
- What do you think of controversies? Do you consider yourself or your blog controversial to any degree?
To start things off, I’m going to address the second question first. My blog is most-definitely not a controversial space, most of the time. I have created posts that definitely have garnered their fare share of critique, discourse, and conflicts (here is one example and here is a second), however, the majority of the content here is a reflection of my cultural and historical passions for Asian communities and the creative content that are crafted in representation of said communities, particularly in how Asian identities are not monolithic.
For some people, this can be a grotesquely controversial thing, especially if it challenges the many ways they have perceived specific “cultural identities” (usually toxic stereotypes), thus challenging the potential nature of them being close-minded or worse (oops, is this is a controversial statement? Oh myyy). Even so, based on the comments and engagement that I receive on most of my write-ups, my discussions are relatively safe and squishy. Nevertheless, I do believe that I can be a very controversial individual myself if I chose to be.
I tend to keep the bulk of my stronger opinions to myself because I want to craft a space that is welcoming for everyone who visits; wanting them to feel safe (mentally and emotionally) to engage with the stuff that they see here. But this doesn’t mean that I don’t have strong subjective takes on certain topics. I’m just not someone who thrives off the drama or intensity of the conflicts that comes with igniting contentious exchanges of conversation.
Getting all of this out of the way leads me right on back to the first question: what is a controversy within a community that I’m a part of that bothers me and why. When I read this question, I shook my head because there is one big take that I have (from the bookish community specifically) that I know many, many people feel very differently about: gatekeeping (multi)cultural identities.
I have read many reviews by folx living in their native countries, or who have had more traditional/conservative experiences growing up, that read books authored by diaspora or biracial individuals (about those very experiences) and then write such furiously disrespectful reviews about the “inauthenticity” of the cultural representation. “This is too Western.” “The author doesn’t know anything about being [insert qualifying identity trait]!” “This isn’t how Muslims behave.” This to me is so fucking harmful and a very close-minded way of perceiving the multi-faceted nature of cultural identity. Of course a Canadian-Indian teenager (for example) is going to have a very different upbringing and cultural experience than someone living in India. But that doesn’t make it any less authentic. It makes it different and unique and even unfamiliar to some folx. Not inauthentic. When we say that this identity “isn’t brown enough,” what we are really saying is that this person “isn’t a member of this community because they don’t fit a preconceived mould of what I want this identity to represent,” and thus telling our kids that being biracial or not having the knowledge of living in one’s native land, or having a more liberal religious home life makes them inadequate in their multi-ethnic/multi-cultural identities. They will never belong. Their existence is just wrong.
Of course, there’s a lot of people who completely disagree with this sentiment. I respect that everyone is going to have their own opinions. Sometimes it will make me feel extremely frustrated, but I don’t have to engage with it. I don’t need to make a gigantic hoopla out of a situation I know that I can’t control and opinions I know I won’t be able to change. So, while I recognise controversies within my chosen communities of fun, I also don’t actively wish to exasperate them.
My idea of a “community” is a sense of unitedness. To be able to come together in spite of differences and find common ground. Controversies, most of the time from my personal experience, only work to enflame the opposite. To formulate a divide so wide and obscene that the entire purpose behind said divide to begin with gets lost somewhere in the shadows of its maw.
Yes, people are controversial to one extent or another by nature—where there are differences of opinions, even on something as stupid as toppings on a pizza, there is controversy—but choosing how to wield those scandalous thoughts and beliefs is what really dictates how much a controversy shall grow and mutate.
FYI, pineapple has no fucking place on a pizza. Yes, I shall end this gig on a big ass hill of a controversy. ✌🏾✌🏾