If you’re about to click/google me to find out what kind of blog thingies I have done so far and why you haven’t heard of me - don’t! I am not a blogger and my appearance here is at the request of your one and only suffragette de animé, glorious figure of the even more glorious revolution of anime blogging for girls.
That very revolution is the reason I raise my voice for the very first time in the vast expanses of the blogsphere (am I allowed in here even without blogwork-genes?), as it piqued my interest in various ways. I am both somewhat an otaku and a sociologist and there specifically I have also worked on gender studies before. What a chance to neatly encompass both fields of interest! Now, I admit I am not the most informed person when it comes to this community and the events that transpired, but even without going into too much detail there (and certainly without name-calling) I’d like to add my views.
When I first read about this revolution, I smiled and then shook my head. What a classic, what a proverbial repetition of history! The deadliest trap ever laid has caught another unwary prey! I’m sure the irony is as delightful for you as it is for me - in order to talk about “gender separation” in manga and anime… we separate our gender from the other! Isolation instead of integration, subsequent mistakes as a solution to the first. Do two wrongs make a right here? Debatable. Separation always goes hand in hand with mistrust, misunderstanding and can easily cause more problems in a community than it solves and our dear “elitist” Sasa has surely experienced the ripples of its consequences by now.
Though I may paint in dire colors here, the picture is not without its bright spots. For before we condemn them as separatists and fan the flames of war, we need to look in the mirror first and face the sparks that ignited them. “All men are created equal” they say - and do not mention women in the least. The eternal problem that seems to spread throughout civilization since ages past has yet produced another sprout whose blooming we can observe. It is true, the world of otakus is ruled by the stereotypical, which among other less appetizing treats seem to be predominately defined by a certain appendage in the lower abdominal region. The fact that the culture originated in a country where, despite their best efforts, the archaic roles of society seem immovable by even the strongest quake certainly did not help. And thus we repeat what we learn, pass on the misconceptions to our offspring in the oh-so-convenient way of habitus, which ultimately brings us to the world in which we indulge ourselves and which suffers from the concepts its creators have internalized.
Rationally, most of us should have completed the tranition to a equal society that does not discriminate against gender. But the habits we acquire, the patterns we observe, they anchor in our deepest self and influence us on a level we can hardly grasp with our intelect. Boys read shonen manga, girls read shoujo - two simple words and yet we hardly even thinkabout how they restrain us. We are categorized, divided, split, just because we happen to be one gender or the other. There is a name for that: discrimination. Fulfil your role and if you don’t, be prepared to face the soft and cruel repercussions that society so masterly employs.
Harsh words, are they not? Too harsh, I admit. It is, of course, an overly dramatized view of things - but nevertheless, in its essence, it is true. We are forgiving in our field, because it is a “hobby”, it is a soft environment of playful recreation, where by definition the harshness of reality is to be left out. A girl reading shonen will hardly face an evil stare and even a boy with a shoujo will be accepted. Imagine the same in the “real” world - despite our best efforts, the conservative forces that make up the gross of our society openly turn their noses up when faced with an individual that dares to differ.
Now, one may wonder, if the otaku-blog community is so different from society, why this excruciating excourse? Why tackle an actual phenomenon when all we are facing is a problem in the virtual world? A different fruit, but grown from the same seed. It has no thorns, but it is still far from smooth, it might not be bitter, but it isn’t sweet either. And in order to make it edible, we have to cultivate it further.
I have explained the basic problem now, from a very broad point of view. I’d like to narrow that down a bit and focus not on the big picture, but on the particularities that originate from this specific community. Our common denominator is, of course, manga and anime. And even though they are mirrors of their respective societies, we as (mostly) foreigners have the luxury of observing it from a very different angle. As such, our reactions change as well. And I believe that such an issue as we face it now, having ultimately evolved into a separative act, is a phenomenon that would in this form hardly be found in Japan itself. The Japanese usually have a very pragmatical attitude towards things and being set in their patterns provides them with a powerful tool to circumvent social collisions. That is why they are often depicted as conservative, even stoic, but I believe it is also the reason they can deal with the gender issue in manga and anime much differently. We on the other hand, are overly rational and thus of course overly sensitive to the matter as well. We tend to interpret more, explore the complexities in many ways and thus ultimately tie our own nooses. Because at one point, the structure of the stories, originated in a society that is conservative yet strangely liberal, collides with the fragile lattice we wove from our rational acceptance and habitualized stereotype.
This problem is taken to the next level when we factor in the adaptional behavior “western” otakus like to show. Behaving like a “real” otaku is fundamentally flawed in a society that has never provided the ground for such a subculture in the first place. This leads to a general lack of acceptance within our own society and consquently, we turn to another community that we are sure will accept us instead - others like us. Thus we transfer: a subculture from one society to another and then to its own subculture. And otaku inside otaku, so to speak. Indeed, I believe that there is a fundamental difference between the various degrees of fandoms and I am sure others have recognized that as well. But I stray from my original subject here. These differences in the various layers of communities and societies may seem insignificant at first and indeed they rarely cause problems at all (apart from the odd looks you may get when riding the bus to your cosplay convention). However, they create fields of conflict that weren’t there before - I speculate but I would not expect a revolution of this kind to have taken place in Japan (outside of the otaku world though, there is the notable exception of Yotsumoto Naomi, who I greatly admire). And as I have pointed out, this is no surprise - it is not a phenomenon that has its origins in otakudom (is that a word?), but rather a mirror effect of our own social problems.
This has a very important implication: aside from the obvious ruckus it causes in the world of blogs lately, it is a perfect opportunity to observe, analyze and maybe even solve a problem that in its essence is still present in the “real” world. A rare chance to better ourselves, if you so will, and to prove that we are indeed in the process of transcending our habitus. But these words sound much more grave than their meaning really is: what I ask for, no, what I think should be demanded from the community in dealing with this current issue at hand is just that - a transcension of habitus. An overcoming of one’s own fundamentally imprinted views in a rational way. And we can do it because it is presented to us in a form we can deal with, our common hobby and interest.
How do we do this? Ironically, that is a problem even more complex than the one it originated from. As so often with social problems, identifying them is a much simpler task than developing a remedy, especially one that can be generally used. This is not a challenge we are meant to undergo in all its complexity. However, it is something we must, above all, reflect on. For reflection is the first step to better ourselves and creative, rational and careful dealing with the situation is imperative. Do not allow yourself to fall back into the stereotypes that caused it; I hope I could help you understand and identify some of them, so you can have a new perspective to work with.
I wanted to address gender in manga itself for a bit but, alas, I fear my space is dwindling. And statistics probably show you have stopped reading about 10 minutes ago anyway. If you liked this and Sasa asks me to, maybe I will adress this matter another time as I find it quite interesting.
May you forgive me my endless musings,