Anonymous asked: Have you seen that post going around about tumblr feminism and anime and imposing US feminism on anime/manga while disregarding Japanese gender roles? What do you think about that?
I’m assuming you mean hisanakagami’s post? Here it is, for folks who haven’t seen it.
I think it’s a great and incredibly important post. It actually nails one of the reasons I’ve been a little reluctant to write about Madoka Magica—I love it to death, but it was in many ways created for a male audience, though that isn’t immediately obvious to Western viewers. Moe anime in general is a weird thing to talk about because, by Western feminist standards, it’s totally ace—female-dominated cast, lots of different female relationships, and to Western eyes, no overt objectification. But within its native context….it’s a very different, far less progressive affair. Or take Haruka Tenoh—people can draw empowerment from her however they want, death of the author and all that, but I see tons of people grafting Western (and especially US-specific) ideas of gender onto her without a single thought given to what she means within Japanese culture and that’s just…wrong. If you want to talk about these incredibly important, incredibly complicated, and incredibly fraught issues of gender and sexuality, you need to understand what shaped them and where they came from, and if that isn’t where you come from, you need to sit down and crack a book before you speak.
That said, I don’t think that means Western folks shouldn’t have opinions on, or draw empowerment from stuff like Madoka or Sailor Moon. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the latter was an enormous formative (and oftentimes empowering) influence on this generation’s crop of geeky/fannish/comics-inclined people, especially its women, and we can’t just ignore that. Studying what these things mean, and celebrating them when appropriate, is absolutely valid in my opinion, even if the empowering aspect is only truly radical within a Western context. But we all have to remember that we’re operating within that Western context. Our reading of these stories is not more important than a Japanese reading of them, and we should absolutely not regard our analysis as the “canon” one, or the one the author really intended. The story’s meaning within its original context needs to be understood above all, and can never, ever be disregarded.
My senior thesis dealt, in part, with women in postwar Japan, and in the process I came across some really great books about gender and feminism in Japan written by Japanese women. I highly recommend the following to anyone interested in learning more: