More on anime and feminism

There’s been a discussion over at Feministing as to whether feminism and anime can coexist. I thought I’d post my thoughts on the subject. I do believe anime and feminism can coexist. As strange as that may sound because there is a lot of anime out there that’s very derogatory towards women, but at the same time there’s anime out there which have very strong female characters.

Revolutionary Girl Utena in my opinion can be considered a feminist anime. Not only because there is a strong female characters (or characters) but it also addresses issues of gender roles and sexual orientations, which is something that feminism is known for. But I won’t ignore other anime which has strong female characters, such as Nausicaa of the Vally of the Wind, Princess Mononoke, and even Spirited Away (even though it’s mostly about childhood :P).

Now I just have a few questions:

Which anime that you know of that has strong female characters?
Which ones question gender roles and seuxality?
Do you think anime and feminism can coexist?

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12 Comments

  1. Maura

     /  December 16, 2008

    Here via WFA!

    Robotech! Or rather Macross, Super Dimensional Calvary Souther Cross, and Mospeada! All had strong women in positions of power. There are times in each series where the topic of female leadership is questioned, but the women always prove to be strong.

    I think they can co-exist. I guess it depends on what the industry wants to publish or produce.

  2. ignats82

     /  December 18, 2008

    honestly i have never really considered the presence of feminism in anime. Now that I think about it, I am going to have to say that feminism can not exist in anime. You are right there seems to be no limit of strong women in anime. Case in point, the captain on X’amd (sorry can’t remember her name) is a very strong female character. There are also several other strong female characters on that show, but she is the easiest to recognize. The captain is a freaking captain so strength, i think, is a given.

    Feminism can not exist in anime because for every strong female character there are a multitude of nearly nude, emotionally challenged, or weak, simpering, idiots to overshadow her. The lack of balance in female characters assures that feminism in anime will never exist.

  3. 1-. Hellsing, Nana, Magic Knight Rayearth, Card Captor Sakura, Battle Angel Alita,.
    2-. Utena of course, Kimi Wa Petto will not having an anime version still counts,
    3-. I think feminism can exist in anime, but the posibilities of it will be as varied as the opinions of all the original manga authors and directors than exist. (male and female by equal) Many probably won’t realize or take in account if they are being feminist of not when they are writing, but the portrayal of women in the later years seems to be improving lately so I think some progress is being made. But at the same time I don’t think ALL anime will become feminist, for the same thing of variety of opinion, and creators catering to all types of thinking, not all positive to our eyes.

  4. escharnianreiki

     /  January 13, 2009

    Some historians believe ancient Japan was a matriarchal culture, and I think this is reflected in most anime. If females aren’t the central characters, they are respectworthy characters who often drive the plot, not marginalized like females in a lot of US media are. I’m thinking particularly of animation aimed at families and children, like Robots, Cars, Toy Story I & II, and Ratatoullie, where the characters are mostly male, and maybe there’s one spunky female to appeal to the female children. (In Toy Story I, there wasn’t any save for a doll in the beginning and a bunch of idiotic Barbies.) In contrast, The Triplets of Belleville had FOUR spunky females who drove the plot and ultimately rescued the hapless protagonist. Can you tell I hate Pixar? :-(

  5. Riri

     /  April 1, 2009

    I know this is an old article but I love your writing. Anyway, I’m glad you pointed out Miyazaki. He considers himself a feminist and is against the “moe” culture so loved by Japan. Definitely a worthy mention in the movement.

  6. sakurapassion

     /  April 1, 2009

    Thanks for stopping by.
    I do admire most of Miyazaki’s work, for the very reason of having feminist elements in them. But what mostly fascinates me about his work are the issues of good and evil. The president Studio Ghibli called him a feminist because of how he treats his female employees, I guess sees them as equals. Which is good. :)

  7. Alex

     /  July 19, 2009

    Feminism is an idea from western culture that is built from western values, thought, culture and social-political society. Just because they’re strong women and how men treat women as equals doesn’t make them any closer towards feminism. In fact, feminism is so indulged in themselves and their ideas, it would be impossible for feminist to have the same success in western society than in other cultures. Japan, and other eastern societies have a different culture, different thinking process and above all, a different set of values. Otherwise if you try to constantly set your values on another culture, it is just being imperialistic and such feminists that take a huge left-wing stance upon the world. The site you have mentioned is just to name a few would be contradict many left-wing follows that set themselves against imperialism. In the end, feminism is coined from western culture and has NO place in Japan or any other cultures. You may think this is wrong, but it would just not work at all. Japan has to set themselves their own movements and idea for themselves, but lets be honest with the fact that Japan is an OECD country and can take care of themselves.

  8. sakurapassion

     /  July 19, 2009

    Alex:

    Actually, if you read the history of Feminism, you would know that feminist thought has existed long before the feminist movements in the West. So feminist and feminist thought isn’t exactly just a Western idea. I won’t get into that for this post. This isn’t about me imposing my ideas on Japanese culture, I am very well aware that Japanese society can take care of itself, so I don’t know how you’re getting that from this post. In what way am I imposing my ideas on Japanese culture? The purpose of this post was to argue whether feminism and anime can coexist.

    I have also pointed out that even though in Japan there is no feminist movement, but there are these ideas of changing gender roles and pointing out the issues of gender roles. That is just a small indicator of the existence of feminist thought.

    Also, I pointed out that Hayao Miyazaki is considered to be feminist. So I disagree with you about how feminism has no place in Japan, also feminism doesn’t have to be just a Western idea, Japan can have their own kind of feminism.

  9. Alex

     /  July 20, 2009

    Feminist thought as in the idea of equal rights for women or something much more? But you have to agree that Feminism has made its largest impact upon the west than anywhere else in the world. Yes, this post is about feminism and anime can coexist and I am saying it cannot because the influences of western culture in feminism. If feminism and feminist thought is universal to all other cultures, the ideas must have been universally accepted as well. In fact this is further from the truth, because the only dominate group and most leaders of feminism are middle class white women.

    I see, it might not be YOUR ideas, but feminism from the west have already began its influences and ideas of Japanese society.

    http://www.sankakucomplex.com/2009/05/29/rape-eroge-banned/

    Bah, Miyazaki’s is a feminist? I agree that his films show female power and strong women, but as far as to go to call him a feminist is not something I would agree with until he said it himself. I do love his movies though.
    If japan sets up their “own” kind of feminism, the NOW and other large feminist organizations are going to spread their ideology like the plague that they are. This is to say that the NOW does a lot of good, but when you have UNICEFF and other organizations that mislead and distort ideas and statistics. It makes me wonder what feminism is trying to promote to do good rather being a power political party.

    Casey Roberts wrote an editorial on UNICEFF.
    http://www.ifeminists.net/introduction/editorials/2006/1011roberts.html

  10. sakurapassion

     /  July 20, 2009

    Alex:

    Depending on what kind of feminist you are, it can be much more than just equal rights. Now I’m not talking about having “special” rights, or anything like that. For some, it’s just a political view for others it is a philosophy.

    And yes you’re quite right about the feminist movement being led by middle class white women. I don’t know if you read-specifically-black feminist thought, but that has been a main criticism towards the second wave feminism.

    Also, yeah also I should have said Miyazaki has been called a feminist, he doesn’t embrace the label, but I don’t think he rejects it either I guess. But I’ll agree to disagree.

  11. samuel welsh

     /  October 7, 2010

    Japan needs a strong movement in femanism to remove all this gross sexism

  12. Kelsey

     /  December 13, 2011

    Japanese society is traditionally a patriach society, meaning that they favor the males. In fact, the traditional idealized Japanese woman, known as a Yamato Nadeshiko, (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yamato_nadeshiko ) is a woman who is always loyal to her husband and other male figures.

    Japanese culture is steadily evolving, but I don’t think it’s really as progressive as Western society. For example, a common problem occuring on Japanese trains is the “Chikan” or the act of sexual assault by groping. Believe it or not, this happens very frequently to women on Japanese trains, because the trains are so crowded, it’s hard to locate the perpetrator. However, if a woman is groped, she is not expected to make a fuss about it. She is expected to remain silent, because doing so means she is dignified, and it goes with the attitude of female subordination.

    As for anime, it’s pretty evenly split between strong women and submissive ones. However, alot of anime do portray women as weak or needing to be rescued by the males. One of the animes that does this alot is Death Note. Most of the characters are strong, successful males. There are few females, and when they do appear, they tend to be much less capable compared to the males. Not to mention, most of them end up as hostages at one point or get killed off somehow.

    Anyways, Ghibli films tend to avoid that. Most of Miyazaki’s movies tend to have strong female leads, and even if the main character is not female, there are usually plenty of strong female characters in the movie regardless. For example, Princess Mononoke has a male lead, but there are alot of tough female characters- San, Lady Eboshi, the women of Iron Town, e.t.c. In this way, I do think feminism is a theme in Ghibli films. Studio Ghibli is one of the most popular Japanese animation studios, so hopefully this is reflecting a more positive change in modern-day Japan.

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