gender roles

Shinka: How Anime’s Helping Along Evolution

The anime world is one that provides solace, entertainment, and enjoyment to millions of people around the globe.  To many, it’s a weird subculture that reveals just how committed humans can be to fictional realms and characters. What they tend to overlook however, is that like literature, sitcoms, movies, etc., it provides yet another escape from reality, if only for half an hour (the average length of most anime episodes). You get to see just about anything in anime (and hentai: anime porn), and as a person that has seen about 400 anime series/movies (I know, my life is awesome), I much prefer it to the largely depressing, discriminatory, and all around unsavory reality that we live in.

 

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Now I could go on about how amazing anime is, and how everyone on Earth should watch it, but a particular notion about anime viewers was drawn to my attention: we are hardly ever sexist, homophobic, trans-phobic, or really discriminatory at all. I say this based upon the members of the anime community that I interact with, and while I have interacted with quite a lot, I can hardly speak for every anime watcher out there. What I will say is that if you do watch heavy amounts of anime, your chances of remaining averse to people that society loves to deem “abnormal” is going to be drastically reduced.

 

Why?

 

The first word that comes to mind is ‘androgyny’. The Japanese, and by extension, anime, is very androgynous in not just their dressing, but their character aesthetic design as well, and the behaviors of said characters.

 

 Shinka 2

This is Haku. He’s a guy. He’s hot. Admit it. 

 

We become attracted to the characters we admire on television, and anime is no different in that regard. I remember the first time I saw some of my friends drooling over anime girls, I was so confused. Like, the fuck? Next thing I know I find myself in love with Haruko Haruhara from Fooly Cooly. It just kind of hits you. But I digress.

 

It’s immensely difficult to maintain sexist views when you find yourself drawn to males/females that you initially thought were the opposite gender. You start subconsciously breaking down those barriers you had put up against them. If you find yourself attracted to an anime guy that you thought looked like a girl, you’re really just one step away from being attracted to males in real life that have the same attributes. Can you really be homophobic then?

Shinka

 

What’s even more fascinating is how these characters behave. Gender roles still exist in anime, but to a far lesser degree than in other forms of entertainment. Men cook, women are frequently breadwinners (it’s REALLY interesting to note that fatherless homes are a lot more frequent in anime than motherless ones, but that’s another discussion entirely), male friends are very openly comfortable with each other… it’s really ideal. So when you watch a lot of this happen, one has to wonder why on earth we so strictly adhere to those roles in reality, when they seem so easily negligible in anime.

 

Women are stronger than men.

 

Shinka 3

 

Scenario: You’re a sixteen year old boy, living a boring life, and nothing exciting ever happens in your town

 

PLOT TWIST: a magical girl bursts through your ceiling, fighting a creature from a different dimension which she obliterates with ease, and you fall in love at first sight with this super strong girl that’s going to change your life forever and make you her bitch.

 

I just described the introductions of probably hundreds of different anime.

 

To be fair, I’m not entirely sure that the roots of female power in anime are righteously rooted. It seems to be more of a fetishizing of the powerful girl, but it’s one that has worked out positively, in my opinion. If you’re an archaic misogynist you do not have a place in anime. Female characters are just as, if not more, popular than their male counterparts. We fucking love them. They wreck shit. They make men do dumb shit for them. They become student council presidents and take control of their entire school (I’m looking at you, Kill la Kill). There is just such an overwhelming amount of anime focusing on female empowerment, from the magical girl variants to the bad ass action ones that you’re just better off learning to love them as much as you should.

 

Cross Dressing/Futanari

 

There is a ton of anime content centralizing around cross dressing and transgender characters. Unfortunately, the latter is still purely restricted to hentai, which leads me to believe there is a large amount of aforementioned fetishizing involved, but I do hope it turns out useful in destroying the very negative stigmas usually associated with trans people. I’m waiting for an anime to actually feature an openly transgender main character, so I can advertise the hell out of it.

 

Cross dressing, however, has been very frequent in anime for many years now. As if the androgynous dressing wasn’t enough already, many anime feature plots where a man/woman is in a scenario where they are either forced to dress as the opposing gender, or they simply enjoy doing so. Now in these anime the initial reaction is always one of disgust, which mirrors society quite aptly. But the beautiful thing is, that these anime use their plot devices to make the cross dresser just as accepted as any other member of the anime.

 

 Shinka 4

Ranma 1/2, one of the most popular comedy/action anime ever released, features a protagonist that changes between a male and a female.

The majority of these anime take place in school settings, where, say, a boy/girl “accidentally” gets into an all-boys/girls school, and is ergo forced to dress as a boy/girl to not get caught (it wouldn’t be anime if they did the sensible thing and just transferred schools, now would it?) They almost always play out the same way: guy/girl starts cross dressing, and is exposed to the various stigmas members of that gender face, which changes their opinion of said gender, and they slowly start enjoying the cross dressing. The climax occurs when the class/school find out about the cross dresser, and they are usually subjected to initial bullying. In the resolution though, the classmates/school members eventually realize they were all changed by the cross dresser(s), and accept that they are just as normal as anyone else.

 

I think that the effect that anime has on breaking down these discriminatory notions is much needed. The messages conveyed of acceptable differential norms are ones that needs to be widespread in our world, in our cultures, and become rooted in our humanity. We cannot continue being so wary of change and difference, and continue to subject the people that are different to negative labels.

 

I guess what I’m trying to say is, go watch some anime and become a better person.

 

-Charles

 

**Charles says “Coming up with bios is difficult” so there’s that.

Find him on Twitter or read his work here.

Destiny’s Child: A Letter To Young Women

It takes strength, determination and commitment, as a young woman, to get up from under the thumb of Society’s expectations and burdens.  We’re raised to believe we need to put others before us in a way that goes beyond simple altruism. A woman is to carry her family, her friends, her neighbours and society at large on her back and do it gracefully. 

But who thinks of the woman’s needs?  Who thinks of her dreams and aspirations?

Society’s taken strides to encourage independence in women but I’ve found, whether in a bid to keep us realistic or simply because a lot of people still feel that way internally, their encouragement always has a limit. 

A glass ceiling. 

How many of our own parents have encouraged us as young women to truly be independent?

Destiny's Chils

No one seems to discuss the fact that a degree doesn’t guarantee that.  Nor does money or a car, although they might make your life a bit more comfortable. 

Independence starts from within.  It, like knowledge, is something no one can take away from you without your consent. 

As one grows, one experiences loss.  We lose friends, partners, family, mindsets and assets. In fact one might say the only constants in your life right now, truly, are yourself, and change. 

But when was the last time you thought about your goals and aspirations? Without the little voice in your head reminding you of what everyone else expects of you. 

When last? 

To quote the author  Paulo Coehlo  “To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation.” 

It sounds a bit unrealistic, granted, but the older you get, the more important this message will become.  There will never be a shortage of people who want you to do what they want you to do, and everyone seems to know what’s best for the next person while never taking their own advice.  

As much as I don’t know anyone else’s destiny, I can tell you this, it’s never to become somebody else’s project/puppet.  Your separate existence as an entity is so for a reason.  You have a life and you have choices. 

Destinys+Child+Survivor+Crop

Independence also requires a lot of self love.  

You need to love yourself enough to want the best for yourself, by your standards. But desire is not enough, you must also love yourself enough to seek it out.  This will mean endless hours of self actualization, some of which may be rather tedious. You may become the boring [read: focused] one, and you WILL face quite a few hurdles, but the adversity faced will seem rather minuscule once you achieve your goals. 

There is no specific mold to the perfect life.  No one has the blueprint and therefore, no one can truly tell you you’re wrong to follow your passions. 

A woman is capable of so much, far more than we can ever imagine.  

destinys_child

Why not achieve it all? 

Put yourself first for a change. Put your dreams first. 

Put your Life first. 

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” 
― Paulo Coelho, Alchemist

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Strength of a Woman

Things irk me. I wish it were as simple as saying they annoy me but when it comes to womanhood, the things that make me feel like being a woman is a burden, a curse, something to be ashamed of, hurt me in a rather unique way.

Most days I’m okay with the fact that, going out into the world, logging onto a social network, hell, going on Yahoo, means I need to switch off internally to a certain degree and get ready for hostility. Being a Woman is much like being a warrior, even when you aren’t actively at war, you’re ready to fight.  And sometimes, I wish it wasn’t that way. Some days I get tired of fighting.

You can only ignore so much, I find, til you probably have to break down, then wipe the slate clean and start again. Start registering more hate and more pain and more of what comes with being who you are, where you are, and what you are.

Women aren’t meant to complain. And by “complain” I mean be honest and vocal about what hurts them, or what hurts anyone else. We are everyone’s punching bag. Everyone’s dump site. Everyone’s maid, lover, stress ball..Anyone’s anything.

Facelessly.

Silently.

I wonder, if it weren’t for “radical” friends, books, social media, all the ways women show support to and for other women, how many women would know they actually exist?

As people and not Lesser Beings.

How many would know they need to be their own Everything and not someone’s something?

I realize I’m faceless when I’m harassed on the street. There I’m just another body.

I realize I’m faceless when I’m shamed and stared at for my shorts or cleavage or walking a certain way.  To them, I’m just another [young] woman being nasty and disgusting. Something to hate and judge.

I realize I’m faceless when my parents tell me I’m a disappointment. To them, I’m just a dream gone wrong.

I realize I’m voiceless when I try to explain [myself].

When I come home, dead tired, and have to cook because I’m a woman. When  my brother, who’s 11, does nothing more than fry drumsticks every two months because “he’s still a baby” and I’ve been cooking for all of them since the same age. I realize I am just an able [female] body then.

When I hear the many variations of “dark skinned VS light skinned women” and I’m told I’m alright because I’m light, I know  to some men, we’re just colours with vaginas.

The arguments over what a woman should look like or be. We aren’t people,bodies,women..we’re clay everyone thinks they have the right to mould.

And how do you think it feels to live in a society that only acknowledgeS you exist when either degrading, dismissing or dehumanizing you?

To work at enlightening and emancipating people who think you’re silly?

What it’s like to live when you’re dead in other people’s eyes.

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