A Japanese-style maid cafe in Manchester, called Animaid, has been the subject of arguments and newspaper stories in recent weeks, after a Labout councillor said that its no-touching rule made her flesh crawl.
The cafe, which is located in an indoor shopping market in the city, has a list of rules outside its front door. The first two rules in the list are “No touching or asking to touch the maids” and “No asking the maids for personal information.”
A story on the website of the Manchester Evening News (MEN) paper at the end of January was headed “Afflecks’ Japanese ‘maid café’ hits back after Labour councillor brands it ‘disgusting.'” (Afflecks is the indoor shopping market where the cafe is located.)
The MEN story quoted Joanne Harding, a Labour and Co-operative Party Councillor for Urmston Ward, near Manchester. According to the paper, she Tweeted a negative comment about the cafe. ““A ‘maid cafe’ – No touching or asking to touch the maids. We have a gender based violence strategy and ask ‘is this ok?’ – this makes my fresh [sic] crawl.”
Harding also Tweeted, “If you’ve got to have a sign up saying don’t touch the maids, there might be an issue. Women dressing in skimpy clothes, acting subserviently – what’s not to love” [followed by a facepalm emoji].
The MEN also quoted Vick Littley, one of the cafe’s managers, who said, “(Harding’s) post has been done with no grasp of what we actually are… We’re family-friendly place and do many events days for families.” Regarding the rules, Liittley said they were “for the peace of mind of our staff and anyone else. It’s to empower and support our staff that if anything does happen that makes them feel uncomfortable they have the rules to back them up.”
AJ Martyn, General Manager at the Afflecks indoor market, defended the cafe as “a welcoming hub for the anime community and a popular and positive environment for all.”
Harding told the MEN she was not lobbying “at all” for the café to be closed, and that she had not suggested she wanted it to close. She added, “I am also not about preventing young people from meeting and having fun. I am about the safety of women and girls in Greater Manchester in line with our Gender Based Violence strategy.”
She later told the Mirror that she had received heavy online abuse following her Twitter comments
She says that while a lot of people might think the cafe’s clientele would be grown men, in fact the cafe mostly attracts teenagers. According to Littley, “High school can be awful and many people can be judgmental and make you feel ostracised for liking something ‘weird’ because it’s not super mainstream. Having a space like this draws in a lot of people going through that who want somewhere where they aren’t made to feel like that.”
The Mirror article also includes comments by Professor Patrick Galbraith, whose books include Otaku and the Struggle for Imagination in Japan.. He talks about the wider issues raised by the argument in Manchester.