Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Is Online Anime Fandom Missing a Demographic?

Age is a powerful social status. It often decides who we hang out with, what we drink, where we can go, and how we travel. 

One thing I’ve found both interesting and wonderful is that, like other social statuses, age matters a lot less on the internet. Teens and grandparents may participate in the same forums, comment on the same blogs, and hang in the same social networking circles. Kids and responsible adults may play the same RPG, and plan strategy together as equals. They may be friends on the internet, to one extent or another, when in Real Life age would separate them.

I’ve had the most experience with this in the anime community, first on Anime-Planet forums, then on blogs and Twitter. Age, gender, religion, race, location... all these things become less important when we’re connected by the internet and a shared interest. It presents a great opportunity for discussions that wouldn’t happen otherwise.

I feel on equal footing with many of these people, even those decades older than me. I still have an underlying respect for my elders, but I can see beyond that. In groups away from my computer, I sometimes feel shy and awkward with mixed ages and genders. In front of my screen, these things don’t matter so much. I feel more at ease.

Yet, despite the diversity and welcoming spirit I’ve encountered among online anime fans, there’s one demographic I haven’t noticed: older women. I’ve seen men up to their early sixties in forums. I’ve found anibloggers that are in their forties, around my dad’s age. Today, I looked at the birthday list on Anime-Planet and found a user who just turned 59. But, as far as I know, I haven’t seen a woman beyond her thirties or so, and early thirties at that. There’s the possibility that I just don’t know the age behind the avatar, of course. I’ve been around other anime fans for less than three years, so it’s not like I have a vast experience to reflect on. Still, I’m curious.

Why do I notice older men in online fandom, and not older women? Is it some reflection of our society?

I wonder if, particularly in previous generations, women feel more pressure than men to grow out of “childish” or “unproductive” pass times. It seems like a lot of fandoms have been tolerated, even encouraged or expected, for men well into adulthood. The biggest example of this is sports. Some plan their days and weeks around catching the big game on TV. Their sports fandom takes priority. There are women among the fans, of course, but stereotype holds that the men will be in front of the TV, maybe even on Thanksgiving Day, while the women act like “grown-ups” and do the cooking.

Whenever guys get excited or sucked into their tools, cars, fandom, or whatever, we say “boys and their toys,” whatever that means in the given context. From tots to grown men, we expect them to have something non-responsible that they’re into.

What about women? Is there a saying for us? “Girls and their frills,” perhaps? Do our mothers and grandmothers feel the same freedom to follow sports or anime, collect fandom memorabilia, play video games, or explore the far corners of the internet? Or do they feel like they must stick to the expected hobbies, like reading, quilting, cooking, art, and perhaps (nowadays) fitness? Do they feel like they must be “adults” while their husbands and brothers and sons indulge the kids in their hearts? 

Maybe I don’t know enough, but it appears that fandom/geekdom/otakudom are underrepresented in the older generations of women. I don’t see them online, at least. Am I missing something? Or is this really a missing demographic in the online anime communities?

Bonus question: Do you know of any women anibloggers who are past (or even in) their thirties? If so, where can I find them? 


  1. You've raised an interesting point here, though I think it's something that we'll see change in the near future.
    Things like anime and video games have just always been viewed as male past-times. Girls grow up having heard that idea for most of their life and believe that those things simply aren't something they would enjoy.
    Since "geeky" things are more accessible (and more acceptable) for women these days I think we're going to see more and more older female fans. I know i've done my best to get my girlfriend interested in the same things I am, and now she watches way more anime than I do XD

    1. I find it interesting that anime, video games, sci-fi, etc. are still stereotyped as guy territory. Even I, who know several girls in real life with interests in "geeky" things, have that lingering impression. Especially about video games.
      I'm sure that you're right that it will change as the current generation of fans grows older.


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