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Heterochromia - It’s a trap! - Recurring nightmares of the eternal battle between otakun and otachan

It’s a trap! - Recurring nightmares of the eternal battle between otakun and otachan

Greetings!

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,

adventurer_killy

Comments 16


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    IKnight wrote:

    Not a post about that kind of trap?

    What’s a habitus? (I’m guessing most readers will feel too intelligent to ask, so I’m going to stick my neck out - Wikipedia’s page on the subject is a little inadequate and confusing.)

    Anyhow, look forward to reading more from you, &c.

    Posted 19 May 2008 at 22:55 CE(S)T

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    Osu wrote:

    Wow. Very Susan Napier-ish. I, for one, am not so intelligent so I requests some pictures in between some of that text but other than that, all I got for now is “wow”. I’ll have to reread a few parts one more time. In the meantime, Welcome.

    Posted 19 May 2008 at 23:07 CE(S)T

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    Caitlin wrote:

    I found this interesting and would be interested in hearing your thoughts on gender in manga.

    Posted 19 May 2008 at 23:55 CE(S)T

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    Ryan A wrote:

    Interesting. Virtual problem set.

    Well, I feel many problems stem from predispositions and the inability to “flow” ( or the nature of “clinging” ).

    My philosophy is act in the moment, or accept and continue. Really, I don’t what all the fuss was about; I’ve already continued. ^^

    Posted 20 May 2008 at 00:25 CE(S)T

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    MrMayat wrote:

    Written like a true sociologist. Lots of big words and long-winded, just to prove a point. :p

    I like my posts short and straight to the point.

    In summary:
    Get rid of pre-conceived gender stereotypes and get on with the times. Accepting a foreign mindset/subculture takes time, especially in a populace that has it set rules in place for a long time. Equality begins with education and an open mind. No?

    With that settled, welcome to the team adventurer_killy. :D

    Posted 20 May 2008 at 04:40 CE(S)T

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    lelangir wrote:

    Transcend our habitus? “Unlearning” it is surely impossible, and I hate when I see that word in texts - however, we can surely develop it and, hopefully, reconstitute the discourse of gender, at least in the blogosphere.

    And, ah, the crux of academia: telling us how fucked up we are but suggesting nothing on how to fix it. We all get into ‘that’ life groove.

    This is just as much of a problem with the looking glass-self as it is the structural problems and habitus - it’s everyone and no one’s fault.

    The funny thing is how pervasive signifiers can be, even on the internet, the most face-to-faceless relationships ever conceived of, while not disregarding how identity is inserted into this sphere.

    Posted 20 May 2008 at 06:44 CE(S)T

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    Marmot wrote:

    It’s called preference, darling. I have a preference for women. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like men or that I “discriminate” against men. I simply tend to like women better on all levels–emotionally, mentally, and sexually.

    CONGRATULATIONS, DICKWEED, I’M NEVER GOING TO BE ABLE TO TAKE YOU SERIOUSLY! ♥

    Posted 20 May 2008 at 10:43 CE(S)T

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    Sasa wrote:

    Heh, what a wall of text! This is really the kind of posting I expected, very good. Of course, as caitlin has pointed out already, an analysis about gender in manga would be highly interesting for me as well. I would even find it unfair if you would hint at me with something interesting I cannot later ;)

    @IKnight: I am impressed, it seems like nobody has ever questioned the term “habitus” besides you, but everybody uses it without even giving it a thought! It’s quite beautiful *hrr* I guess Killy has not come home from uni yet to answer that question, so I’d like to try my luck: I’m sure he uses deliberately it as the complex sociologist notion (which is why he didn’t replace it with something else), and as I understand it, it’s a set of behavioural pattern and ways of thought as the result of socialization and culture, mostly very subtle and difficult to even assess.

    @MrMayat: I believe that is the point, and from the reactions to this post, understanding that is apparently not so obvious.

    @lelangir: As I am reading a bunch of academic papers right now, I totally agree on that it prefers to raise than answer questions. However, I think part of the answer is finding the roots of the ‘habitus’ separating genders, and that is what he was talking about.

    Finally, a little anecdote: This post reminded me of the greatest answer I’ve ever seen to the question “What is equality?” It was on this interactive thing in the Jewish Museum in Berlin in which the visitors can write their answers onto paper: “Communism.” LOL

    Posted 20 May 2008 at 15:09 CE(S)T

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    Shizukie wrote:

    I’m not really feeling the social implications that you’ve highlighted here. The formation of the round-robin is, in my opinion, very superficial - from what I see, it’s a group formed out of camaraderie. Granted, the camaraderie is limited to females, but again any and every group is limited to a certain demographic.
    For example, an anime club would be a ‘group’ that excludes all those who do not watch anime. Now, it’s true that most people who do not watch anime would not want to join an anime club even if they are free to, the isolation is still there. Relating this to the round-robin, it is males in this case that are barred from joining. If you relate this to the anime club example, the round-robin is hardly regressive - it is merely the group’s defining trait. You may play whistle-blower on sexism and whatnot, but you’d just be creating an issue out out of air. I can assure those that the round-robin’s purpose is not gender isolation, but as a closely knit community with which to discuss certain pertinent topics. I’m sure the guys will go ahead and post their takes on the topics that the round-robin produces anyway. So it’s not like anyone’s losing anything here.

    Posted 20 May 2008 at 20:23 CE(S)T

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    adventurer_killy wrote:

    @Shizukie: Your example is flawed. The criteria “interest in anime” is something deliberately chosen and in itself not exclusive. Gender however, at least in the way it is used here, is. And that is really what it is all about, deciding, grouping, arranging based not on flexible criteria but a defined, unchangable characteristic. Maybe the flaw becomes more clear if you use a very drastic example: imagine not gender, but skin color being the criteria. Would you say it is appropriate if the “white” part of the community split off?

    However, and I can’t stress this enough, be aware that I deliberately used very harsh words to describe the situation. Of course the actual revolution wasn’t an event that shook the foundations of our society. But I found it interesting because it illustrates several key points very well, points that matter in the “real” society.

    Posted 20 May 2008 at 21:46 CE(S)T

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    Shizukie wrote:

    Actually, I explained why my example is not flawed. You mentioned isolation, and I used the anime club example to show that just about every group has isolation. I know that the degree of isolation is variable, and I touched on that.
    That’s not the point, though. The point is that you’re bringing up a lot of issues regarding the R-R that, frankly, have no place regarding it. The R-R is one thing and one thing only - a group formed to cater to a certain demographic. As itsubun mentioned in her post that links back here, the purpose is to gather those who would be more comfortable discussing topics that are more relevant the the said demographic.
    In regard to your example of the ‘white’ community splitting off, I really wouldn’t mind. The ‘white’ demographic has issues pertinent to themselves that may not be so relevant to other races. You said so yourself, that it’s hard to break from society which groups people and treats them accordingly. (Okay I’m getting dangerously off-topic here.) In my opinion it’s not really purely equality we should aim for; that’s nigh impossible in my opinion, since people ARE different. Rather, it’s a degree of equality and respect.(/offtopic)
    Anyway, rehashing what I said earlier. I think you’re looking too much into the social implications of the R-R. It’s just a group bound together by gender, as opposed to race or interest or whatever.

    Posted 20 May 2008 at 21:59 CE(S)T

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    adventurer_killy wrote:

    And yet again, the trap is perfect. Instead of approaching the issue from a core perspective originating from the topics and questions at hand, the opposite is done: the topic is handled by attributing certain treats to a group characterized only by an unrelated factor, in this case gender.

    This is again a very perfect example of how easily one slips into the same habitus over and over again. The very fact that people seem to accept what is “male” or “female” so readily is proof of the problem.

    I for once can say that although I am not female, the topics proposed by the R-R do interest me. Would that mean I am excluded, based solely on my gender?

    Posted 20 May 2008 at 22:46 CE(S)T

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    Nagato wrote:

    Blue != Red, killy.
    As for the topics you’re interested in, you’re more than free to write about them. There’s no exclusion here.

    Posted 20 May 2008 at 23:30 CE(S)T

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    Nagato wrote:

    Correction: *There’s not exclusion there

    Sorry, I’m not part of that girl blogging club, but I really don’t think they’ll mind if we other bloggers write on the topics they post.

    Posted 20 May 2008 at 23:49 CE(S)T

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    KaeBoo wrote:

    Little knowledge of something, feeling one knows everything… X(

    The ladies would simply want to have a stable network, nothing more… They just want you to “stand up and be recognized” that you are a girl hovering in the blogosphere.

    If there would be guys who would want to post their on views in the topics chosen by the ladies of the collective, there’s no constraint. It would even be more fun that way.

    Chill!

    Posted 21 May 2008 at 02:49 CE(S)T

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    lelangir wrote:

    Trackbacking is acting really stupid. So..

    http://lelangir.wordpress.com/2008/05/20/coalitions-versus-spaces-reconsidering-exclusiveness/

    Posted 21 May 2008 at 06:19 CE(S)T

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 9

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