.ninja domain, ok? not ok?
January 11, 2021 5:15 PM   Subscribe

My friend wants to use the .ninja domain extension. Is this cultural appropriation?

Her name.com and her profession.com are taken. Her profession.ninja is available. We're both wondering if "ninja" is all right, given that the word has a life of its own in the context of tech hiring and turtles. Is this a terrible idea?
posted by blnkfrnk to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
I'm half Thai, not Japanese, but it seems more silly than offensive. Go for it.
posted by Alensin at 5:21 PM on January 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I can't speak to the cultural appropriation issue, but I know someone who has a domain name ending in .ninja. He occasionally has issues with web forms rejecting his email at that domain, presumably since the email validation assumes that there will only be 3 letters after the period.
posted by Lycaste at 5:41 PM on January 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: From an occasional hirer in tech, although not one with any cultural relationship to the ninja concept, it seems iffy. It might be memorable, but memorably iffy, if that makes sense. Also a bit out of date.

However, I’d be delighted by profession.pizza!
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:36 PM on January 11, 2021 [9 favorites]

+1 to .pizza. A friend of mine has nicole.pizza and it adds some whimsy to her professional site. Ha I just looked at it and saw the flying pizza. It didn't have that before and had no pizza reference, just the domain
posted by Jungo at 8:44 PM on January 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Being a ninja wasn't a culture, it was a job, and not a highly regarded one. Ninjas weren't magical invisible fighters, they were underhanded, sneaky assassins. I read an article which questioned a few Japanese people on this point. They were baffled that someone would be fascinated by antisocial killers - it's kind of like having a .sneaky_murderer_for_hire domain.
That said, western society has made them into something entirely different, keeping only the name, so perhaps they're something which in our society is culture where in the original one it was merely a rather loathsome job. Certainly the comic book ninja is an entirely western thing. (Not that I object if Japanese people read or draw western-style comics.)
You could stretch the point and say it was a subculture, but it's not one which is around any more. I don't believe that a culture belongs to anyone who happens to be standing near where it took place, so I'd suggest that anyone who is hurt by this is guilty of cultural appropriation, and you're not.
I can't see any way in which this could possibly be an issue. I'd say go for it.
posted by AugustusCrunch at 10:15 PM on January 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

My biggest concern, as someone with a ton of experience in the tech industry, is just that I'm leery of "ninjas" and "rockstars" because one's a lone wolf and the other's a primadonna and neither is really what most software teams actually need, even though a lot of hiring managers think it's what they want. But I don't even know if your friend is looking for such a job, and even if they are nobody will take the domain name as even close to the whole story (if they even notice it at all), so this isn't really a vote against it.
posted by aubilenon at 10:26 PM on January 11, 2021 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I’m a Japanese American, but I don’t speak for all Japanese Americans. Personally, I think using a domain name or company name like this is fine. However, I would shy away from logos/illustrations/pictures of “ninja” characters, just because of the possible overlap with offensive stereotypes. (If you need images, stick with swords and shuriken.)

As for Japanese people in Japan, my outsider’s understanding is that they are mostly unconcerned with outside appropriation of their culture, and instead tend to see foreign borrowing of Japanese culture as a positive force that increases Japan’s influence. For example, Japanese people mostly had a very different perspective from Asian Americans on that Boston MFA kimono story. (Appropriation is much more of a concern for victims of colonialism or minoritization, which is not the perspective that Japanese people have in Japan.) But again, there are a lot of possible views here and you can’t generalize across all Japanese people or all Japanese-American people.
Certainly the comic book ninja is an entirely western thing.
Naruto would like a word with you! (Seriously, though, our current pop culture ideas about ninjas have their origins in Japanese cinema going back to the 1930s, Japanese comics from the 1970s, and Japanese video games from the 1980s. They did not originate in the West.)
posted by mbrubeck at 10:43 PM on January 11, 2021 [15 favorites]

Best answer: I’m Asian - though not Japanese - and personally this would absolutely be enough for me to avoid hiring someone. It would just make me think I’d have to monitor their judgement all the time and deal with annoying pushback like “it’s a JOKE, man”
posted by nouvelle-personne at 7:38 AM on January 12, 2021 [4 favorites]

Tangential to the cultural appropriation aspect of this, "ninja" has a kind of "how do you do fellow kids" vibe, at least in my corner of my industry. I'd be really suspicious of the competence of someone who unironically described someone as a ninja or rock star.
posted by suetanvil at 2:20 PM on January 12, 2021

Response by poster: For what it's worth, we're really just talking the domain extension. Nothing "ninja" carries through the rest of the marketing. The person is a freelancer in a completely non-tech, personal services type of industry.

Mainly asking because we're both thinking "Well, if you have to ask..." She appreciates the feedback!
posted by blnkfrnk at 4:02 PM on January 12, 2021

Best answer: I'd like to second that the word is a red flag to a lot of people in tech — especially women, LGBTQ people, and people of color. Seeing the word in a job ad is often taken as a clue that the company has homogeneous techbro culture that prizes macho behavior and dominance over helpfulness and kindness. It's a stereotype, but it's one that's so pervasive that studies find women are less likely to respond to job ads asking for ninjas, and tools that check job ads for biased language frequently flag the word.

That doesn't mean she can't or shouldn't use it, or that she's doing anything wrong if she does. And being a woman herself may reduce the odds that people will project that macho stereotype onto her. But it's a thing to be aware of.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:22 AM on January 13, 2021

As for Japanese people in Japan, my outsider’s understanding is that they are mostly unconcerned with outside appropriation of their culture, and instead tend to see foreign borrowing of Japanese culture as a positive force that increases Japan’s influence

Yeah, for my wife and everyone else I've met in Japan, this is true (some Japanese people may have different opinions, of course). Japanese Americans often have different feelings, as it's extremely different to grow up as a minority in the US versus growing up in the majority in one of the richest countries on earth (Japan). [The Japanese people I know don't really get why Japanese Americans are upset about it, but again they mostly don't have experience with discrimination so that makes sense]

As a tech worker, I find "ninja" to be a red flag about work culture --- not in a race sense (although it can include that) but more in the "techbro" stereotype sense (and I'm a white man, but I still consider it a minus point when I see "rockstar" or "ninja" for example).
posted by thefoxgod at 4:26 PM on January 13, 2021

I cannot speak for cultural appropriation but I can speak as someone who has been responsible for tech hires - "ninja" is one of those red flag terms along with "superstar", "guru" and "rockstar" that screams marketing BS to me. It turns me completely off. Now usually, it's some macho recruitment consultant slapping this term onto someone's covering letter, or adding it to the job description, to attract attention. If someone labels themselves as one of these terms, I feel it comes across as boastful or arrogant.
posted by mathewbrowne at 4:39 AM on February 6, 2021

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