Author: has written 94 posts for this blog.

http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2007/12/10/and-this-is-the-part-where-i-stumble-in-kinda-late/
Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

99 Responses

  1. Peaches
    Peaches March 6, 2008 at 11:31 pm |

    Well when I first read this it brought to mind the Witch Touching game for the DS (http://kotaku.com/gaming/snk/more-on-that-snk-witch-touching-game-250873.php). Perhaps they wanted to balance things out for women, although most of the characters in that other game DEFINITELY looked underage.

    It’s interesting Japanese women find it as an outlet for letting out their grievances on men. From my view, they always seem to make bishounen androgynous… even in live action the “pretty” men tend to be the ones that look feminine (i.e. Gackt). I guess I always enjoyed them because they twist some of the boundaries for relationships, even if the top/bottom had specific qualities. Still, at least they can breach the subject in their animation and manga…. I remember back in the day watching Sailor Moon dubbed and referring to two of the scouts as cousins when originally they were lovers/partners (although not explicitly stated). Too bad people see it as a gross thing in real life :(

  2. Torri
    Torri March 6, 2008 at 11:41 pm |

    LOOONG time yaoi/anime fan here. I’ve found it interesting lately that there’s always a lot of easy to find complains about logical and realistic falacies in yaoi (where’s the lube? Why are the ukes always like that?) but maybe that’s because I only recently watched some actual hentai and there just seems to be a whole lot more to complain about there that I never see anyone bringing up but that’s another post entirly.
    One thing I’ll bring up about the Bishounen body type is that it’s a stylistic thing, it’s just easier to draw attractive figures if they’re exagerated a bit. Also I find it pretty exotic, just the aesthetics of really feminine boys or not necisarily feminine but just perfectly attractive in a way you would never find in real life. (Except maybe in VisualK bands) But then I tend to have a thing for androgeny in men and women. There are some styles you can find where the guys are more masculine (see Ai No Kusabi)
    When I first got into yaoi I was very shy about sex and all that so I wouldn’t look at stuff with girls because it would make me uncomfortable. Reading and seeing yaoi I was able to ease into stuff and not feel threatened.
    These days I’m more into fan made stuff though I do hang out for good yaoi. It’s true that a lot of it is formulaic but every so often you can find really nice stuff. I can find things be people I know on the net with couples that switch or that don’t fall into the steriotypical seme/uke roles.

  3. signthelist
    signthelist March 7, 2008 at 12:23 am |

    It’s a game about washing sweat off of guys?

  4. Norvegica
    Norvegica March 7, 2008 at 12:28 am |

    It will take a lot of time for me to untangle all of the critical impressions I’ve accumulated over the course of being an anime fan.

    - stereotypical dominant/submissive dynamics in yaoi with a substantial age difference and so forth just seem to me exaggerated Japanese heterosexual gender norms crammed into a yaoi mold. I’ve read romance-drama that uses heterosexual characters and the women/girls point for point have the same traits written for them; the blushing, the shyness, the innocence, the ditzyness, all combined into one nauseating package of genki kawaii. Ugh. It rather disturbs me that this is the sort of thing that is “sexy”. Spunky Western heroines are irritating too, but that’s just because many are written with more moxie than brains. Here, the characters are written with no moxie or brains. Blagh. So, yes, it would have very little to do with real queer relationships. Not to mention that also, I doubt there are very many healthy queer relationships out in the open, media-wise, in Japan.

    - The range of “slim” that goes from plausible to downright emaciated: There definitely is an aspect of nonthreat with these depictions of the male form. There is also something uncannily racially-motivated; tallness, whiteness, big eyes, other-than-black-tone hair, that is just not what one thinks of when one thinks of the Japanese, or Asian, phenotype.

    - There are conversely manga out there with male bodies depicted in the opposite extreme; hairy, often with facial hair, burly, with mass. The characters have “straight guy” personalities. They are depicted as atheletes or in blue-collar professions that require physical labor. Such manga, “bara”, is marketed towards gay men. It’s like the Japanese Tom of Finland. It is a niche market, not gaining big attention from publishers. I think the existence of bara further makes the point that the images from yaoi are not so appealing to gay men in Japan.

    - It is definitely objectification, but the social effect isn’t the same. Yaoi, because it is so clearly “imaginary and really unrealistic gay men” doesn’t become a facet of an encompassing male beauty industry that pressures men over appearances the same way that the media and beauty industry pressures women. With women, the models that they are pressured to follow are heterosexist in nature; make-up, weight-loss, hair-removal, etc. are for making themselves more attractive for men. That is the implication; do this and you are more a woman. Yaoi boys ostensibly look the way they do because that’s what other yaoi boys are attracted to. And heterosexual men, therefore, are not part of the visual equation. That is not to say that the readers of yaoi are not aroused by the images, though. Some of it, I think, can also be attributed to the “buffet affect” of having a whole lot of men who are expressing romantic, tender emotion on top of explicit sex scenes.

    -Some of the attraction to the yaoi genre also is the fact that since the target reader is a woman and there are little to no women in the yaoi comics, there is no negative self-comparision to a fictional character who is also stylized unrealistically. The yaoi boys are completely unattainable due to their sexuality; it becomes a voyeuristic experience, reading about the drama that goes on. Because of the de facto unattainability, I think that becomes another reason that the objectification of yaoi boys doesn’t really affect body standards for heterosexual men.

    - Viewing minors as sexual is a wholesale trait for Japanese manga as a genre. I do think that needs to be addresed. I do think it’s jarring to see visually a character of either gender that I would peg as around twenty and read that they are more in the ballpark of sixteen. There are all kinds of ridiculous about it. Shonen action manga marketed to boys has these steroid-esque characters who are warriors or fighters of some sort who are six-feet tall and so on and so forth who are sixteen, sometimes fourteen in the story. It’s ridiculous. Western comics in contrast has Batman in his early thirties. Manga has this weird age thing; Children who are no more than nine, then a jump to early-teenagers who look like they are twenty, very early twenty-year olds, then indeterminate adults who are listed as forty to fifty, and then the very elderly. There is a lot to complain about when it comes to the objectification in Western comics, but at least the artists are able to draw teenagers who look like teenagers.

  5. Neko-Onna
    Neko-Onna March 7, 2008 at 12:38 am |

    Why do I like this “look”? I’m a big fan of androgyny, so I love bishie boys because, well, that’s the kind of guy I like in real life (my husband is 5’10″, 135 lbs). I like pretty things- always have, and that extends to guys.

    Why is this look, pardon the bad joke, “big in Japan”? I think the general Japanese aesthetic naturally runs toward the more stylized and refined. I also think more Japanese men actually have the slight build of bishie boys. The role of women in that country is also rapidly changing, and I would have to bet women are probably very happy to see tortured bishie boys go through the same kinds of trials they go through. Also, there is something sexy about subverting gender roles, which the Japanese have always seemed to “get”. They also have a lot higher tollerance for pedophillia, which I, frankly, find disturbing, but which is a culturally defined practice, to be sure.

    Is it wrong to subject men to unobtainable body ideals? Yes. It is wrong to subject anyone to unobtainable body ideals. But, the truth is, we do it. My one hope is that if this catches on and goes really mainstream in the US, men will get a dose of their own medicine, and back off making women jump through crazy hoops. Maybe we can even look forward to a day when I can think my bishie husband is a hottie, and the lady next door can think her “big guy” is a hottie, and men who like to look at curvaceous women can stop pretending Paris Hilton is their ideal woman, and we can all start to feel good about our bodies.

  6. Danakitty
    Danakitty March 7, 2008 at 12:53 am |

    On the contrary, my first thoughts weren’t that the body type wasn’t about “girls exploring sexuality” or “gay men fantasies.”

    I thought that it was because of the shift of American models from muscular, large men to skinny ones. Most cartoons, including anime* overexaggerate features we find attractive. Overly curvy, yet slender bodies, like Jessica Rabbit (and Bugs when he dresses like a girl). If you look back a few years, you have Betty Boob, who is still attractive but has large eyes, like Audrey Hepburn, but is chunky by today’s standards… similar to Marilyn Monroe.

    Today, we have feminine-looking, tall and slender men. And in cartoons, that’s exaggerated as an attractive norm. So when I saw the game programming, I was thinking about how much American media and modeling has had on other cultures.

    And I’m a victim of this as well–my boyfriend fits the stereotypical tall (well, 5’10, but I’m 5’4 so he seems tall to me), slender, androgynous type. As a bisexual, I always just considered it getting the best of both worlds. :)

    *I don’t make a distinction between anime and American cartoons. Then again, I’m fairly non-artistic, so is just seems like another style to me. I don’t mean to offend any anime-lovers, so feel free to correct me if there is a huge difference and I’m just oblivious.

  7. Danakitty
    Danakitty March 7, 2008 at 12:54 am |

    Oops, I meant Betty Boop**…. damn freudian slip.

  8. Vail
    Vail March 7, 2008 at 1:05 am |

    I must admit I’m a fan of the anime “beautiful boy” look. Personally the overly-muscled-I-can’t-shrug-my-shoulders look is pretty gross to me. And the bulging veins on their arms . I like the look of the characters myself, but yeah, it’s pretty darn weird to have a game where you wipe down the sweat on guys. I think you get this type of body a lot because the big “super hero” type in Japan has always been the Samurai. Not overly muscled, cultured, well groomed, and bad assed. We’re talking guys who can slice up their own bellies and write death poems with their own blood.

  9. Cadence
    Cadence March 7, 2008 at 2:05 am |

    I… suppose I’m a yaoi fan. But lately it’s mostly from the fandom angle – I agree with your complaints. I really dislike the formulaic seme/uke dynamic you get in most yaoi manga/anime. (I hate almost all the characters in Gravitation with a passion.)

    Basically, I think yaoi is a (sort of bad) way of doing romance with gender taken out of the equation. Which… is appealing in a certain way? But since the same expectations are there, a lot of the time you just get the same ridiculous heteronormative relationship dynamic, only with two guys. And often one or both of them looks like a twelve year old girl. But he’s not a girl! So he’s not being passive because he’s a girl! And that’s probably appealing to some people, for all I wish it’d go farther and have people act like independent and equal entities regardless of gender.

    Fandom can be just as bad – I love the idea of Death Note yaoi, for instance, because the characters have such an interesting, competitive and screwed up relationship, but the majority of doujinshi or fanfic you see puts them in the same top/bottom mold. (News: if I look at your doujin and can tell who’s topping by which one of them is drawn to look like a girl, I’m not buying it.)

    I love my corner of anime/game fandom, though – fanfic taking interesting characters and pairing them up characters male/male, male/female and female/female in lots of different kinds of relationships, where gender influences the relationships but doesn’t define them. That’s how I like my anime erotica. But I think a lot of people haven’t gotten that far.

  10. Cadence
    Cadence March 7, 2008 at 2:07 am |

    Ack, that should be:

    fanfic taking interesting characters and pairing them up characters male/male, male/female and female/female

  11. Rosehiptea
    Rosehiptea March 7, 2008 at 2:12 am |

    I love my corner of anime/game fandom, though – fanfic taking interesting characters and pairing them up characters male/male, male/female and female/female in lots of different kinds of relationships, where gender influences the relationships but doesn’t define them. That’s how I like my anime erotica. But I think a lot of people haven’t gotten that far.

    I’m more into male/female and female/female in fic and art because I tend to gravitate toward female characters much more, but ideally yaoi can have an intriguing dynamic too.

    Someone was talking to me other day about yaoi art… and how women have been subjected to the male gaze and yaoi can turn that around. It was an interesting point, although I personally still find more appeal in pictures of women. And I do hope things get beyond “Women can look at pretty boys just like men can look at pretty girls.” (I’m not saying that’s evil and wrong, just that I hope it’s not the end of everything — but then it already isn’t.)

    (On an aside: I agree about Death Note yaoi; who decided L was such a stereotypical uke, or forgot the “death” part and made it a fluffy love-fest?)

  12. Marissa
    Marissa March 7, 2008 at 2:53 am |

    It seems like a “safe” way for young women to explore sexuality and a “safe” form of pornography. I say safe because the figures are androgynous, young, small, not things associated with aggressive masculinity, at least in the U.S. But I do wonder if it really is safe in the long run. Does it reinforce unrealistic body standards for both men and women? For men because these are male characters and also for women because they are appropriating the thinness associated with female body standards…

  13. Cadence
    Cadence March 7, 2008 at 3:06 am |

    And I do hope things get beyond “Women can look at pretty boys just like men can look at pretty girls.”

    Yeah – I do think yaoi helps for the “men have this thing called physical attractiveness too, and women can appreciate that” level, but I’d hope the goal isn’t to create a “female gaze.” More like to have looks be part of the whole collection of things that attracts you to a person/character, regardless of gender.

    I agree about Death Note yaoi; who decided L was such a stereotypical uke, or forgot the “death” part and made it a fluffy love-fest?

    I’ve seen Light-uke stuff too, which isn’t any better. Which is to say: Definitely not me. >_> My hope is, I guess, that they see the same interesting stuff about how the characters interact, but when they think “I want them to be together” they just only think of the one normative way that can happen. But yeah. They are both intelligent and slightly crazy, and they’re kind of friends, but they’re also definitely trying to kill each other at all times. Stereotypical yaoi romance = not so appropriate.

  14. EoL
    EoL March 7, 2008 at 6:22 am |

    If you’re wondering what the deal is with the guys’ bodies, just walk around Shinjuku on a Friday evening. You know what you’ll see? A lot of rather tall (5’10″+), really skinny guys with nice clothes and pointy hair. You know what they’re doing there? Trying to get girls to pay money to chat with them (hosting).

    The skinny, androgynous guy is what the ladies like. One of my coworkers just doesn’t “get it” since she initially thought pretty much every Japanese man was gay. She likes macho sorts. But that’s her culture (she’s hispanic) and in Japanese culture, it’s the girly waifs that are the male beauty standard.

    I prefer the girly men myself. But then again, I also like to dress up like a man …

  15. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Mar. 7, 2008: Gone all porno

    [...] Feministe attempts to unravel the fujoshi phenomenon. (Above: promo image from the Duel Love videogame, one [...]

  16. Anne Onne
    Anne Onne March 7, 2008 at 7:04 am |

    I’m not much of a yaoi fan/writer/user, but I guess as female anime fan, you can’t not be exposed to the various subcultures of anime and manga.

    I think it’s worth pointing out that they’re not ‘underage’ by Japanese standards, since their age of consent is much lower than that of the US or the Uk where I’m from. That’s not to say that I don’t think sexualiasation of sometimes very young teenagers is wrong – it is. I’m not a fan of pairings where one is an adult (whether they be brother, teacher whatever) because I don’t like the idea of relationships with minors. It’s creepy how many people will pair people off like this, but I think it’s mostly about the ‘taboo’, a kind of mroe extreme version of why some people pair two men together. I’m more worried about pairing a youngster with an adult than I am two youngsters. There’s no clear path through this, because on one hand it can be argued that dealing with youngsters and their relationships, shouldn’t be taboo in that we have to admit teenagers are sexual beings.

    For me, the unrealistic bodies, and whether I think the art is good or not depends on many factors. I’m personally more of a shonen manga person, so bodies bordering on more realistic (well, nearly nobody in manga/anime has body hair, but I mean in terms of anatomy) are more my thing. That said, manga comics that anime series are based on are graphic novels. They have their own visual styles, and sometimes super tall and skinny works. I’d probably choose CLAMP’s XXX holic as a good example of this:
    http://www.kimihiro.net/images/gal/CLAMP_and_manga/BW_splash_illustrations/bw06-1.jpg (that’s a chapter splash page, but the whole manga is composed as well.)

    – composition of the pages often borders on being a literal work of art, and the slender aesthetics fit into the layout of the pages, and the style. It’s not something I desire from art to have skinny, relaly unrealistic people), but rather something I tolerate if it’s pulled off well enough.

    Although there are plenty of series I think have scarily thin character designs, Code Geass for a start :
    http://ec2.images-amazon.com/images/P/B000JFY0QG.01._SS500_SCLZZZZZZZ_V35409971_.jpg

    I think part of the simple low anatomy quality is down to the amateurness of anime and manga. There are a LOT of manga artists, with wildly varying skills. In part, the sometimes shambolic art quality exists because the publishers think that there will be enough fans who won’t care about it too much, that they can publish it, and they’re right.

    There is a lot of fandom, and the simple style makes anybody feel they can write their own doujinshi (fan comic) or draw, which I think is a nice thing. It does contribute to the rather mixed art quality online that informs many people’s ideas of manga (and I cringe when I see some excruciatingly back breakingly posed woman with huge breasts and stick thin legs), but I wouldn’t say it’s any worse than any other medium we’re exposed to.

    I’m actually curious about the bizarre caucasianness of a medium created by the Japanese predominantly for the Japanese. That’s probably to do with the early Disney thing anime had going on, but I really would appreciate more people of colour in my anime.

    Cadence, YES! That’s the main thing that bothers me about yaoi, the heteronormativity of it. Despite being two men or two women, the dynamics are normally bland and repetitive. It’s because it’s the fantasies of lots of people, many of whom have no idea how restrictive ‘woman acts this way, man acts that way’ sexual politics are. I don’t think they shouldn’t be free to express their fantasies, of course. It’s the fact that I wish we could get beyond that reasoning. But I guess women HAVING and acknowledging fantasies is a step forward.

    That said, let’s not forget that fandom is amateur. It’s a way for teenaged girls and women of all ages (other people, too, but this is who we’re concentrating on here) to explore their fantasies of relationships, or just plain fantasise about male bodies. I don’t think it equateds the male gaze, because for most yaoi fans, character personality and interaction is very, very important. Although looks are a factor, it’s not purely about looks. Characters are taken to behave in many different ways, often in ways that are against gender norms. also, many yaoi fans I know are very supportive of gay rights. I think that in some ways, it might have helped some people to imagine same sex couples as people, and that can never be a bad thing.

    So yeah, mixed thoughts. There’s some good in there, and some bad. It’s a bit like any subculture or medium. Now, if only there weren’t so many female character-bashing fans out there, or so many bland fanservice female characters. But that’s another subject…

    (sorry if any related point I might have had seems to have been buried in my long reply)

  17. Astraea
    Astraea March 7, 2008 at 10:26 am |

    I’m a queer girl who loves yaoi, from the vanilla to the extreme. I tend to prefer fan-created yaoi because the manga so often do place the males into heteronormative roles, as others have observed. I find that the fanfiction challenges these roles more often than the professionally produced manga.

    The problem with coming up with a theory as to why women like yaoi is that yaoi fans are incredibly diverse. As an American yaoi fan I won’t even presume to make assumptions about the Japanese yaoi culture because while I am a consumer of the products, I’m not part of the culture that produces them. I can speak better to American fans and American producers (writers, artists).

    The criticism is that the slender, pretty style of the bishonen is pushing unrealistic standards really annoys me. I don’t know how this is any worse than the typical American idea that women like muscular, fit men. Holding yaoi out as an example of a female gaze that’s somehow problematic, while mostly ignoring the men featured in romance novels that American women read by the millions each year really gets on my nerves. It’s not any worse than the casting of Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp to attract female viewers.

    Frankly, I think a lot of non-yaoi fans miss the point because it’s seen as something so strange and deviant. But yaoi fans seem to me to be the same as anyone else… they’ve found something that is sexually/visually appealing for a variety of reasons that don’t fit neatly into any of the theories. I like it because I absolutely love pretty men with long hair and eyeliner, I love the androgyny, and I love the dynamic between two male characters.

    And I’ll just say that while others may criticize it, it has helped me more than I can express. I’ve grown up with so many sexual hangups, and I’ve had so much trouble understanding and accepting my sexuality that I often felt like there was something wrong with me. There wasn’t much that I could connect with, erotically. Until I discovered yaoi. I can dissect the reasons until I run out of breath, but the bottom line for me is that I found something that speaks to my sexual fantasies that I’d never had before, and a group of people who feel the same way.

  18. StarStorm
    StarStorm March 7, 2008 at 10:30 am |

    My two thoughts: “It’s nice to know that eating disorders are popular for japanese men too”.

    The second? “They also need regular tummy rubs.”

  19. MangaBlog » Blog Archive » Bad boys and good comics

    [...] has an interesting essay on unrealistic body images in BL comics (and a rather, er, interesting video game). (Via [...]

  20. Astraea
    Astraea March 7, 2008 at 10:40 am |

    Others suggest it’s a form of escapism into a character who you can identify with, but who’s different enough from you that it’s less threatening.

    I wanted to address this, as well. (You’ve got me started and I can talk Yaoi all day).

    This is one element of the attraction. I’m not sure less threatening is necessarily how I’d phrase it, though, especially for older Yaoi fans. The lack of female characters does provide a relief from having to identify with a character that too often is submissive, stereotypical, or otherwise problematic. And it’s a relief to not be suddenly jarred out of a nice fantasy by a completely unrealistic portrayal of female sexuality.

  21. William
    William March 7, 2008 at 10:52 am |

    I’ve always been amused by the shock some people express about Japanese porno comics for women. Ok, so its formulaic, derivative, often low quality, displays disturbingly unrealistic standards of beauty, and often crosses the line into creepy? Theres a sexualization of youth, uncomfortable power dynamics, and the plot doesn’t always make sense?

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but we’re talking about porn. These are the problems that tend to be associated with all wank material no matter what it’s target audience. I’d say that these problems stem from two major factors:

    1) Production and realism aren’t usually a concern in porn. First you’re dealing with fantasy and realism is always going to come second, someone reading a piece of yaoi probably doesn’t want a half dozen pages (or even panels) devoted to all the lubing up and slow going that real life buggery generally needs. Second, because there is such a stigma associated with the genre you tend to get the left side of the bell curve when it comes to artists. Sure, there will be exceptions, but if its selling either way most producers simply won’t care. Same goes for the script.

    2) The creepy factor isn’t really porn’s fault, it’s the fault of the society which made it. People buy what they need to get off, and repression makes some strange fetishes. I think the idea of this kind of material being projective and psychologically “safe” for it’s consumers is exactly right. If you have a target audience that has been told their entire lives that sex is wrong, that they should avoid it, that its something you do for someone else, that you aren’t supposed to be interested, then of course that audience’s needs are going to be distorted. Of course the material they find sexy but nonthreatening is going to have to take a few odd twists and turns to avoid all the anxiety and potential danger situations that normally block their ability to just let go.

  22. Astraea
    Astraea March 7, 2008 at 10:54 am |

    StarStorm… what??

  23. William
    William March 7, 2008 at 10:57 am |

    And I’ll just say that while others may criticize it, it has helped me more than I can express. I’ve grown up with so many sexual hangups, and I’ve had so much trouble understanding and accepting my sexuality that I often felt like there was something wrong with me. There wasn’t much that I could connect with, erotically. Until I discovered yaoi. I can dissect the reasons until I run out of breath, but the bottom line for me is that I found something that speaks to my sexual fantasies that I’d never had before, and a group of people who feel the same way.

    Then I’d say yaoi has done it’s job. The same reasons it makes a lot of people uncomfortable are probably the same reasons you like it. Whatever your hangups and trouble, this was something that got through to you. I guess the question would have would be: do you feel that yaoi has helped you become more open and comfortable with who you are and what you like?

  24. purpleshoes
    purpleshoes March 7, 2008 at 11:20 am |

    I’m not Japanese, I’m not going to speculate on why yaoi works within a culture that I am totally unfamiliar with – but as for stateside consumers, yeah, I know plenty of those. (And I’m plumb tickled to get to straightfacedly share my thoughts on yaoi, hah.)

    While lots of yaoi manga stylizes the ectomorphic bodytype to unrealistic extremes, it does seem physiologically reasonable for teenage boys to be tall and scrawny in ways that teenage girls are not. I remember finding the beanpole look very attractive when I was sixteen or seventeen (which would seem to be the upper end of the target market for lots of bishi manga) – that’s because lots of guys were built that way well into college. Now, as guys in my age group start to settle into their frames, I find my tastes are changing, but I still find male scrawniness kind of adorable.

    I think the delicate builds might also be a visual shorthand for how yaoi manga allows young women to recast men in situations where they are vulnerable, emotive, affectionate, and passive in ways that are contrary to broader cultural constructions of masculinity. As a slash writer/reader, I think there’s some credence to the idea that plenty of women who write “gay men” for their own enjoyment are actually writing themselves as genderless agents, with fewer or different cultural constraints on their sexuality. I’m especially interested in the use of male characters by women to externalize fears about vulnerability to sexual violence, and shame over sexual desires. To someone raised in a patriarchy, the experience of sexual fear and sexual shame can be considered to be some inbuilt part of femaleness. By projecting these experiences onto male characters, women have a way to explore these experiences – and, often, the potent erotic charge they carry – from the outside. (It would be sweet if, for instance, the female-written coming out drama was intended as a cry for gay rights, but especially in previous decades, I suspect it also served as a way for female writers to wallow in the experience of feeling shame for being attracted to men. I am still a huge sucker for a good epic-length coming-out drama.)

  25. Astraea
    Astraea March 7, 2008 at 11:23 am |

    William, definitely. It’s also helped me understand and accept others’ “kinks,” like bondage, that I used to be very intolerant toward.

    Holly: “Is it really that untroubling to see a gay man portrayed in the same submissive/stereotypical/problematic ways with the same degree of unrealism, though? I guess I don’t get this either… can you really de-empathize enough with femmey gay guys that you can not be bothered by things happening to them that would bother you if it was a woman?”

    To some degree this might be a blind spot for me, or something that I like so I have a hard time analysing critically, but I’m not trying to say that I de-empathize completely with the male characters so that I don’t find stereotypes or problematic portrayals acceptable. I realize now that might have sounded like I meant because it wasn’t about a woman, it was okay for me to objectify others. That’s not what I mean. This, actually, is why I don’t like a lot of the manga, because it is much to stereotypical, and because too often the uke is reluctant or outright saying no.

    I don’t completely de-empathize because that would defeat the point, it’s just easier to find yaoi (if going beyond the manga) that doesn’t have those kind of blatant stereotypes than it is to find straight fanfiction or hentai manga that I can enjoy without the feminist alarm bells going off because sexism is so pervasive and I am so attuned to the effects.

  26. Astraea
    Astraea March 7, 2008 at 11:28 am |

    Holly, the shock factor and disturbing the norms is definitely part of the fun. I agree that everything deserves a deeper look and criticism. The other yaoi fans I know aren’t feminists, so I appreciate this kind of discussion even if it is hard. (er.. no pun intended.)

  27. C.
    C. March 7, 2008 at 11:36 am |

    I don’t see anything wrong with this by itself. If you put it into context of our entire culture, I can see it being a bit off — but on its own, I think it’s a way for girls to figure out who and what they’re attracted to.

  28. Vail
    Vail March 7, 2008 at 11:37 am |

    Actually I was basing what I said about Samurai on what I read in history books about Samurai (not TV shows/movies/anime/manga which are influenced by what is the popular version of manliness at the time). If they had worn heavy metal armor and welded Bastard swords, then they would be bulky husky guys. They didn’t. Their weapons used their sharp edge and skill, not the smashing damage of a huge heavy Bastard sword. Their armor was also very light (compared to medieval armor). As for their skin care, I don’t have much info on that. I do know they carried combs and made sure their hair looked good for battle by combing, perfuming and oiling it (they didn’t want it to look bad for whoever cut off their head and then displayed it). I also know that they were the renaissance men of their time, and that for Japan they are one of the iconic figures. For America we tend to look to heroes like Daniel Boone, Superman, Dirty Hairy and the like. Rough around the edges, maybe not well educated, but full of honor and guts. Basically not the poetry reading/writing type though.

    Yes I know that Anime/manga clean them up. Yes the time they lived in wasn’t very sanitary nor did they have sunscreen. I also know that Anime/Manga totally go overboard with the skinny thing, but I’m not surprised. Have you seen Comic books in the USA lately?

  29. Astraea
    Astraea March 7, 2008 at 11:44 am |

    Purpleshoes, you put it much more eloquently than I can!
    The idea of the shame for attraction to men is interesting and I can definitely see it with some fans, especially the younger target audience.

    because I’m not a big fan of the coming-out story or stories that deal realistically with homophobic societies. I’ve always been a fan of fantasy as a way to explore what-if scenarios with gender and sex, and I tend to prefer other kinds of conflict than the shame/guilt/external expectations.

    I’m trying to think of my favorite yaoi manga, and I’m having trouble coming up with one. The ones that are just suggestive tend to have better plot.

    I actually absolutely adore Loveless, which doesn’t have any sex. Talk about problematic issues! But it’s character-driven, and all of the characters are terribly damaged by abuse from people they trusted. it’s incredibly beautifully drawn, and the main female character while stereotypical is actually interesting.

  30. Marissa
    Marissa March 7, 2008 at 11:47 am |

    The other thing I find disheartening about this is that the girl is put into a role of selflessly pleasuring the male. He makes moaning noises according to the video, closes his eyes, and blushes. Naomi Wolf argues in one of her books that many women she knew growing up learned to please men sexually long before they figured out how to do the same for themselves. I think this holds true for a number of women. But whether or not that is true, this game does tell its young women players to please men and the emphasis is on the man’s reaction to the woman’s “scrubbing.”

  31. Rosehiptea
    Rosehiptea March 7, 2008 at 12:01 pm |

    Astraea: I agree that generalizing about yaoi fans would be a huge mistake, and I hope it didn’t sound like I wanted to do that. I definitely don’t. Many of my friends in fandom (who are usually in the U.S. and other Western countries) like yaoi and they have many different reasons, and I certainly wouldn’t speculate about Japanese yaoi fandom either. And I don’t expect an individual person to explain or “defend” why they like it any more than I feel obligated to explain or defend why I’m not particularly into it.

    (Which for me as far I can tell boils down to: I’d much rather read about/look at women, whether they’re great well-developed characters or not — plus I tend to see a lot of good in female characters other people hate. OK, I guess I did just explain it.)

    My comment about a theoretical female gaze was something someone brought up to me that I found interesting, and actually we were discussing all male/male art oriented toward women, including slash or whatever else. So I didn’t mean to single out yaoi; it’s just that that was what was being discussed here. And I don’t think that’s it’s “the whole explanation” and I’m not sure it’s a terrible thing either. Just, as I said, I hope it goes beyond that and for the yaoi fans I know it does.

  32. Astraea
    Astraea March 7, 2008 at 12:08 pm |

    Unfortunately I can’t see the video or game right now because I’m at work. I’ve been sick this week so I didn’t get to this post last night. Marissa, I think that it’s because it mimics the more common games that are aimed at men.

    I’m usually the first to find sexism, and I agree to a certain extent with Marissa, but I think at the same time it challenges typical ideas of women’s sexuality (and I’ll admit the blind spot so i don’t mind being challenged). Because the woman playing the game is not really servicing anyone but herself. Women are usually not expected to enjoy watching men, or get pleasure from pleasuring men. Obviously there’s not going to be any reciprocation from the computer.

  33. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos March 7, 2008 at 12:18 pm |

    Eh. As a bisexual man, I’ve not encountered any boys love that didn’t really irritate me. And IMNSHO, more attention is paid to the individual reader and not enough attention is paid to the fact that Loveless will get prominent display up front in the big chain stores like Barnes and Noble and Borders while queer lit is pushed to the special section and, with the token exception of Bechdel, queer comics are not stocked at all. So there is, in my mind, something deeply wrong whenever I see the monthly feature on how straight women writing queer relationships badly, and none at all on the underground and struggling queer market. I’m not one to believe that the heterosexism of boys love readers and slash authors is the only, or even the primary player in this market. The distributors and publishers certainly need some attention.

  34. Astraea
    Astraea March 7, 2008 at 12:20 pm |

    Sorry if I was overly defensive in my first post, lol.

    I have seen that the female gaze CAN be just as objectifying of real people at Yaoicon, where they have male models in a bishie auction and later stripping off articles of clothing for winners of a raffle. Those were both troublesome for me, because I very distinctly differentiate between fiction, roleplaying, and real people. I don’t see taking off clothes for a bunch of women as problematic in and of itself, but the attitude of entitlement and ownership over those bodies is a problem.

    I’m just not ready to make the leap that it’s a product of yaoi itself except as it is something produced and consumed in a patriarchal culture that gives us few models of sexuality that isn’t either dominance/ownership or submitting/being owned.

    ..I warned you I could talk all day.

  35. Marissa
    Marissa March 7, 2008 at 12:23 pm |

    “Marissa, I think that it’s because it mimics the more common games that are aimed at men.”

    I have a question as I do not frequent games. In the male versions, do the girls moan, close their eyes, and blush, mimicing in a more “clean” way a form of orgasm? I’m not talking about a forum for male players to grope women, but more wondering if the point of the male-oriented games is to bring the female character pleasure?

  36. Rosehiptea
    Rosehiptea March 7, 2008 at 12:28 pm |

    I personally would rather deal with problematic depictions of female characters (in anime or other sources) by making my own analysis and interpretation and telling my own stories about these fictional women in fanfiction. (And I do read plenty of fanfiction, m/f, or f/f or gen, where I like the depiction of women, but maybe that’s just me.) If other people would rather stick to m/m for that reason it’s got nothing to do with me… but then in a way it is hard for me because my own opinion is so much the opposite.

  37. Rosehiptea
    Rosehiptea March 7, 2008 at 12:30 pm |

    I’m just not ready to make the leap that it’s a product of yaoi itself except as it is something produced and consumed in a patriarchal culture that gives us few models of sexuality that isn’t either dominance/ownership or submitting/being owned.

    I think that’s at least a huge part of it, and I certainly wouldn’t say it’s a product of yaoi itself. I think people know (much) yaoi is unrealistic and have fun with that, though as you say if it starts involving real people it does become problematic.

  38. Astraea
    Astraea March 7, 2008 at 12:39 pm |

    Marissa, there’s a lot of variety and I’m not even close to an expert. But in the ones that aren’t just out-and-out rape fantasies or groping or stripping, they do have the orgasm as a goal, and the female character will blush, moan, etc. Some are pretty innocent, and others are really troublesome.

  39. purpleshoes
    purpleshoes March 7, 2008 at 12:52 pm |

    Marissa, I think that’s an interesting assertion, because one of the things that I (and other people who I’ve talked to, especially people presenting papers on slash/yaoi) cite as liberating is the way that the writer and reader can feel free to enjoy being active sexual agents, instead of passive sexual recipients. Look at how the scrubbing scene is laid out: the man is passive, flat on his back, vulnerable to both the gaze and actions of the (presumably female) player. There is a lot of hilarious and potentially disturbing subtext here (voiceover: Here we see the bishi in his natural environment -), but I would find a reversed-gender situation much more disturbing, and much more of a natural progression from mainstream-patriarchal sexual dichotomies.

    Astraea, thank you! I’m glad that that did not just read as high-falutin babble *g* Theory of slash is just about my favorite thing ever, and I’m always happy to extend it to yaoi, since in my side of the US there’s so much crossover.

  40. Astraea
    Astraea March 7, 2008 at 1:25 pm |

    purpleshoes, I so rarely get to discuss it this way (my little group of yaoi friends is not into theory or analysis), it’s very exciting to find someone who does think about it that way. In the US, I think you’re right that slash and yaoi function very similarly and a lot of fans enjoy both.

  41. Chris Huston
    Chris Huston March 7, 2008 at 1:34 pm |

    My 11-year-old sister still thinks this stuff is gross (Card Captor Sakura is more her speed)

    I…will just mention it’s pretty likely your sister has only watched the anime of Card Captor Sakura and not read the manga. You see….well…..I’ll just mention this is a show that was made by CLAMP and leave it at that.

  42. Astraea
    Astraea March 7, 2008 at 1:55 pm |

    A lot of the anime on TV has also been scrubbed of the less gender-conforming and heteronormative aspects as well. In Sailor Moon two sailor scouts were portrayed as cousins instead of lovers in the American translation and two male villains who were clearly romantically invovled were changed so that one of them was a woman (aided by the very feminine bishonen style!). Some episodes were censored and they never aired the late seasons with the male sailor scouts who transfromed into female bodies and even more revealing sailor uniforms.

    There are many suggestive jokes and gender bending even in “innocent” anime and manga. (Fruits Basket!) I can’t say why that is or whether it’s a good or bad thing in Japanese culture, but I certainly enjoy it. It also makes yaoi seem a little less like a strange phenomenon.

  43. Astraea
    Astraea March 7, 2008 at 2:00 pm |

    CCS is a gateway manga! hahaha. Don’t buy her Fruits Basket! LOL

    Yeah, now I’m just getting silly. Damn you, fandom.

  44. Nicole
    Nicole March 7, 2008 at 2:18 pm |

    (To jump off the yaoi wagon for a bit…) A pretty good manga series about women in Japan, particularly the workplace, is Kimi wa Petto (it goes by the title Tramps Like Us in the US). It was also made in a TV drama series, which you can probably find subtitled on any Bittorrent site.

    While issues for women in Japan certainly exist, I don’t think it’s very fair to measure them against Western definitions of feminism. I’m not being a moral relativist or saying that Western brands of feminism are wrong, but there is a different set of cultural, social and economic standards in place in Japan that women in that country work within, and just because they don’t mirror Western standards doesn’t make them 100% wrong. It’s just different, and women in Japan are working within those to better themselves.

    Holly wrote: “What’s been changing a lot in recent decades is actually the role of men, as people and institutions are starting to realize that keeping male office workers chained to their work for 18 hours a day is having a deleterious effect on health, family, the birth rate, etc.”

    Very true. Many people in Japan are forgoing marriage and having children all together because of how it would effect their jobs (men having to work more at soul-sucking corporate jobs, and women not wanting to get pink-slipped when they begin having children). Of course, the corporate culture that produces these results doesn’t seem to be receiving much scrutiny, so Japanese politicians like to lay the blame on women. (And the women basically go “lalala, we’re not gonna listen to you”.) Japan already has a very large retired population, and there are not enough adults working to sustain them. There are going to be big problems unless women are allowed to work when married with children, hours and working standards are relaxed for both sexes, and Japan relaxes its laws on allowing immigrants.

    /off-topic

  45. exholt
    exholt March 7, 2008 at 2:32 pm |

    Holly,

    Thank you for posting this topic. Now I have some idea what my younger friends are talking about when they discuss Yaoi.

  46. StarStorm
    StarStorm March 7, 2008 at 2:48 pm |

    Astraea @24

    StarStorm… what??

    Exactly what I said. The proper care and feeding of a “bishie” requires a lot of tummy rubs and a lack of food.

  47. deoridhe
    deoridhe March 7, 2008 at 2:50 pm |

    I’m on the sidelines of the yaoi movement, by virtue of writing some and reading some (CLAMP, the gateway drug to boy/boy fun; come for the kickass heroines, stay for the cute boys making calf eyes at each other), and I think what I’ve found most interesting is how misogyny is frequently writ large within Yaoi.

    To give an example, in the anime Weiss Kreutz, there are paired male and female, very cute and helpless-seeming, very young, very sweet. The boy, in fandom, is almost universally an uke (le sigh). The girl is almost universally hated, often for acting LIKE the boy. Within yaoi there is a pattern of “feminine in boy == good, feminine in girl == bad” which is really striking.

    To give another example, there was a manga where one of the characters, an evil mastermind who abused some of the other characters and was usually portrayed as a sadistic seme and sighed about, was thought to be male for years. When it came to light that she was female, a lot of the people who had loved their “sadistic seme” now hated “that bitch” while a bunch of other people who hated “that asshole guy” loved “that strong woman”. Very few people had their opinion of this character stay the same, even though the character WAS the same except for her gender and the baggage people carry about that.

    It was such a transparent case of prejudice writ large that it’s stuck with me ever since.

  48. Vail
    Vail March 7, 2008 at 3:08 pm |

    You all should check out a Manga called Wallflower. I love it. 4 totally bishie boys and one horror loving, beauty rejecting, girl living in a house. The boys try to “reform” the girl (to get free rent from her Aunt), while the girl just wants to be left alone with her horror flicks. The twist is… the guys start to respect her for herself. The female lead kicks much butt, runs away from any type of beauty treatment and wants nothing to do with becoming a “lady”. Her only “feminine” trait is her cooking and cleaning (and even that is unique). I must say though she isn’t your typical heroine. She’s a funny character and I love the art (though some people might not like the Gothic Lolita type artwork).

  49. Astraea
    Astraea March 7, 2008 at 3:28 pm |

    There is a lot of internalized misogyny among yaoi fans, and I think sometimes it’s complicated. A lot of yaoi fans are not feminist, so it goes unexamined.

    Some of the dislike for female characters is resentment for the way they idealize certain sexist stereotypes, or the fact that the female characters are so 2 dimensional. Instead of recognizing the sexism they’re really reacting to, they’ve internalized the sexism and lash out at the female character as female.

  50. Ursula L
    Ursula L March 7, 2008 at 3:31 pm |

    This has been a problem in television dramas here in the United States too — if you watch many TV shows set in high school, or about teenagers (again, Dawson’s Creek comes to mind, as does 90210, and there are many more recent examples…) they tend to be populated with actors in their 20s. Who just don’t look like teenagers in many cases, no matter how you try to dress them up. I think this has to do with cultural perceptions of “mature” faces being more attractive, mature meaning college-aged.

    There is also the matter of child labor laws. It is much, much easier to manage a business where everyone working is over 18 – they can sign their own contracts, work whatever hours you need, and you don’t have to worry about things like getting them hours set aside for school, etc.

    Probably enough that even if you want to have age-appropriate actors, you’re going to have a lot of pressure to fudge with older actors.

    The same thing for younger children, having them played by actors older than the character – actors who may be able to work longer and who are more likely to be able to read the script and follow directions.

  51. Anne Onne
    Anne Onne March 7, 2008 at 3:39 pm |

    … although we absolutely ought to be pointing out the effect of western aesthetic ideals on global culture, those ARE people of color, drawn by people of color, and people of color artists will keep representing ourselves however we want, even if they don’t look like people of color to you.

    Sorry, I guess I wasn’t being clear in exactly what I wanted to say. I didn’t mean to suggest that Japanese characters aren’t people of colour, or that they all aspire to some elite white standard. Rather, like your friend put, that:

    Interestingly, in a manga in which Chinese or European characters are the majority, such as a story set in China or Europe, majority characters are generally drawn exactly as Japanese characters would be drawn in a manga set in Japan…

    It confused me that appearance and race signifiers are often completely absent, and that at the end of the day characters form just about anywhere can look the same. I guess despite years of anime, I’m still used to the idea that if people look different (even subtly so) those differences would be represented on paper. I forgot about how simple manga faces are, though.

    Whist my white privilege still makes me read the average manga character as white (pale skin, blue eyes whatever), I understand the point that the medium and style being so visually unrealistic, these quirks are not seen as incompatible with being Japanese. Thanks for taking me to task for that, though, because I hadn’t really thought about it as much as I should have. :D

    But what I meant in my comment about people of colour was that I’m hankering after more variation of skin tones, to go with all the hair. Considering japan’s quite a homogenous country, I can understand that having lots of multiracial characters isn’t high on most mangaka’s long lists of priorities. I come form a mcuh more cosmopolitan place, and whilst I wouldn’t expect anything to be catered to the secondary market of foreigners that we are, I’d just like to see some more variation.

    Deoridhe, were you talking about furuba? ;) Definitely true that female characters get much harsher criticism from fans.

    I’d have to say that the yaoi fandom has had a positive influence on my sexuality as I grew up, and I wasn’t even that involved in it. But the fact that there were plenty of women out there unafraid to frankly share their fantasies, to challenge gender roles, to have fantasies, that being sexual wasn’t a wrong thing, and to build friendships and communities over it did make a big difference. For all the problems there are with yaoi (and everything, I suppose), I still think it’s a good thing for a lot of girls and women.

  52. Kelsey Jarboe
    Kelsey Jarboe March 7, 2008 at 4:57 pm |

    I’m going to an anime convention next week. You better believe I’m gonna write about it through a feminist lens.

    If I come up with enough material, maybe I’ll link it on a Sunday.

  53. Anne Onne
    Anne Onne March 7, 2008 at 6:05 pm |
  54. exholt
    exholt March 7, 2008 at 6:19 pm |

    Characters in Japanese comics and animation look like white people!
    This topic has been thoroughly written about. The best essay on the subject, in my opinion, is once again by my former classmate Matt Thorn:
    http://www.matt-thorn.com/mangagaku/faceoftheother.html

    One of the things Matt Thorn leaves out is how this is not just a Western perspective, but also a viewpoint held by other Asians as I’ve witnessed with many Mainland Chinese and South Korean university students in China during the 1990s and older first generation Asian-American parents of non-Japanese descent like my parents.

    The dominant narrative I keep hearing from all of those discussions along with some essays I’ve read is that this is another manifestation in a long pattern of the Japanese society’s desire to liken themselves to the “superior” Western European/American culture and thus, show their disdain towards other Asians whom they regard as “backward” and less “civilized”. The last part of the stereotype is considered bitterly ironic in light of what the Japanese colonial legacy has wrought on their societies.

  55. Vail
    Vail March 7, 2008 at 6:29 pm |

    Also another good site is When Fan Girls Attack http://womenincomics.blogspot.com/
    A very good website that collects links about gender in comics.

  56. Astraea
    Astraea March 7, 2008 at 6:30 pm |

    Thanks for the link, Anne.

  57. purpleshoes
    purpleshoes March 7, 2008 at 9:40 pm |

    Astraea, with regard to the internalized misogyny, I see that across all my fannish subcultures (Supernatural fandom, anyone?). While I agree that a lot of it is due to a lack of good analysis, and there are always female fans that claim that it’s straight-up sexual jealousy (wanting Heero all to themselves, etc), I also wonder how much of it is a knee-jerk reaction to having the canon – how to say this – put you in your place.

    Let’s take as a given (and I think this point is debatable) that the female reader/watcher is deriving enjoyment specifically from projecting herself into the gender-blurred world of yaoi manga, or into the “male as default gender” world of media about groups of men. The female reader/watcher is, let’s assume, imagining herself as these male characters, or sympathizing with them, or finding their struggles and experiences personally cathartic. As readers do, she is living through them; as we’ve previously theorized, she may well find the experience very freeing.

    All the sudden along comes the female character – if the media is about groups of guys, there’s usually just one. This female character usually conforms to a certain aesthetic presentation of femininity. Her femaleness is her primary identity within the group. Her existence is, in itself, sexually provocative and often problematic to the group; her actions usually take a back seat to the effect that the fact of her gender has on the other, male characters. The female reader or watcher gets yanked out of this pleasant fantasy of being a character whose gender requires no comment. She gets put in her place as The Girl.

    If I’m anything close to right, of course female readers of stories about groups of guys tend to hate that One Female Character. She’s profoundly threatening to the female reader’s ability to handwave gender and imagine herself as a full agent in the story; she’s a constant reminder of the imperatives and limitations that await the reader as soon as she puts the book down.

  58. Kat
    Kat March 7, 2008 at 10:27 pm |

    Maybe we can even look forward to a day when I can think my bishie husband is a hottie, and the lady next door can think her “big guy” is a hottie, and men who like to look at curvaceous women can stop pretending Paris Hilton is their ideal woman, and we can all start to feel good about our bodies.

    I don’t know any men who say Paris Hilton is their ideal woman. I’m not saying they don’t exist, but every man I’ve ever met has bashed Paris Hilton in both the looks and personality departments. However, there’s nothing wrong with finding her body type attractive. Some people like curvy, some people like thin, some people like in between, some people like all three.

  59. exholt
    exholt March 7, 2008 at 11:24 pm |

    I don’t know any men who say Paris Hilton is their ideal woman. I’m not saying they don’t exist, but every man I’ve ever met has bashed Paris Hilton in both the looks and personality departments.

    Not the fellow male co-workers at one law firm I used to work at. They were annoyingly incessant in their endless praises of her physical attractiveness and the fact she was rich. Sometimes from the way they talk, they fit the stereotype of the golddigger to a T…cept they were dudes.

    After badgering me for weeks, I frankly told them that Paris Hilton’s looks seemed nothing out of the ordinary to me and that the public persona she puts forth of an overentitled spoiled rich snob was a big turnoff.* From the looks on their faces, you’d think I was an extraterrestrial from outer space.

    * Finding out she was caught making anti-Asian remarks on video added to the turnoff factor.

  60. Torri
    Torri March 8, 2008 at 7:58 am |

    actually if anyone is interested there’s an anime called Ouran Highschool Host Club which is a bit like Wall Fower in that it’s the genre making fun of itself (possibly even more precisely then Wall Flower). The main male character set up a club and gathered boys who fit the ‘types’ you usually find in these sims (prince, cool, little devils, cute and strong and silent). They then find the main character Haruhi who gets pulled into it fitting the down to earth cute type… only for all the boys to figure out one by one that Haruhi is actually a girl, she never corrected them because she doesn’t care about gender much at all. Though the show is mainly silly comedy it has some really great serious moments that go deeper then one usually expects of a comedy or the ‘harem of boys’ genre.
    Opening animation

  61. Astraea
    Astraea March 8, 2008 at 8:29 am |

    Purpleshoes, I completely agree. I think that’s exactly where the reaction comes from, and not all of it is misogynist. Even when the media is fairly mixed and aimed at a more mainstream audience, the female romantic interest can fill the same role. I’m thinking of Rinoa of Final Fantasy VIII. She’s not the only female character, but she’s the one the main male character is supposed to fall for because she’s sweet, naive, and emotional. So while many of the women gamers might identify better with the main male character, along comes this female character to remind us of our proper place.

    The internalized misogyny comes into play when I see a lot of fans start calling that character the ugly bitch, or slut or other derogatory terms. But that it’s a gut reaction TO misogyny and sexism does make it a little more interesting.

    Ouran Highschool Host Club is on my list! I always get into things late. I’ll have to check out Wallflower, too.

  62. Vail
    Vail March 8, 2008 at 10:17 am |

    Did you guys know that they’re using Ouran High School as a basis for a new Manga X-men comic? I don’t know if it’s out yet but I’m curious enough to want to see it. Kitty Pride is the only female character (I don’t know much about her) but I wanna see what they do with Wolverine.

  63. Astraea
    Astraea March 8, 2008 at 11:05 am |

    So off topic from the original post, but Gambit is the one X-Men character I’d love to see bished up.

  64. Nicole
    Nicole March 8, 2008 at 11:29 am |

    Did you guys know that they’re using Ouran High School as a basis for a new Manga X-men comic?

    NO NO NO NO NO

    Dear Marvel: Imitating the Japanese manga “style” (as if there’s only one style of manga) won’t save your floundering ass. Writing better stories will. I love manga, and I love American comics, but rarely do I like the results when the two cross over.

  65. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos March 8, 2008 at 1:17 pm |

    Bishi Logan sort of misses the whole point of the “New” X-Men which was sort of like Welcome Back Kotter (or at its best Barney Miller) with super powers. Throw a bunch of stereotypes in a room and watch the drama unfold. Logan was the token redneck who wore the work shirts with a western hat, and irritated everyone by downing six-packs of canned beer and demonstrating a complete lack of tack.

  66. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos March 8, 2008 at 1:37 pm |

    And besides, why mess with the best example of “rough trade” in the Marvel universe?

  67. Anne Onne
    Anne Onne March 8, 2008 at 2:46 pm |

    Astraea, purpleshoes, I think that’s really interesting. I agree that some women’s reactions to female characters are probably based on not wanting to identify with ‘the girl’ stereotype, especially when said character makes a rock pool loook deep, and is really just a stereotype no woman wants to connect herself with, unlike the much more fleshed out male characters. But it’s also true that a lot of the reactions to female characters are from internalised misogyny. sometimes it’s calling them ‘ugly’, or ‘slutty’ if they fail to be suitably chaste. sometimes it’s lashing out because the female characther is submissive, looks like a caricature of a porn star, and basically fills the same role. But more worryingly, there is also a backlash from female fans against female characters who ARE fleshed out characters, who do more than sit around being eye candy. Normally it’s a load of bunk about how they are ‘cold’ and ‘a bitch’, if they don’t return the main character’s affections, are strong characters and have a personality.

    which isn’t to say male fans aren’t misogynistic, too, but rather that it’s a hard truth that a lot of women internalise mizsogyny, and interpret female characters through such a lens sometimes. That said, there’s lots of awesome fans, too.

    Incidentally, if anyone likes shonen series, I’d reccomend Kekkaishi. It’s won an award, is on a reccomended list for teen reading, is written by a female mangaka, and has a more thoughtful, mature plot and character development than most shonen series. And it has lots of kickass women! It’s been released in English up to volume 12 by VIZ. It’s such an underrated manga that I feel I can’t talk feminism in manga without mentioning it. It’s not feminist per se, but the main female character is actually given a chance to use her abilities, and is suitably kickass:
    musouka_manga sums her up excellently over at scans_daily (If you see some kind of adult content warning, click yes. I swear that page is safe for work, it’s a general warning for that community)

  68. William
    William March 8, 2008 at 5:15 pm |

    I know we were talking about how one dominant body stereotype is just as ridiculous as another. Until now, Wolverine has always been an example of the “hunched over, really hairy, growly” type. Not exactly something that’s been held up as a beauty ideal, even though it’s pretty macho. I guess I sniffle a little bit for the hairy Neanderthal types of the world. But I know that version of Wolverine will live on in many other versions of X-Men.

    Its ok, us bears are nothing if not comfortable with our bodies despite social messages.

  69. Astraea
    Astraea March 8, 2008 at 5:55 pm |

    Anne Onne, in my circles, at least, I find less misogynist attacks from women towards interesting, non-stereotypical female characters. Most of the women in Bleach, for example. Even Orihime, who has many of the characteristics… large breasts, ditzy, emotional. But she’s quirky and likable and I don’t see as much hate aimed at her. There’s also Yuiko of Loveless.

    I think it helps when a female character is not pushed too strongly as the love interest of a male character.

  70. Anne Onne
    Anne Onne March 8, 2008 at 6:09 pm |

    Yeah, it depends a lot on the circle in question, and the overall maturity of the fandom in question. That’s probably one of the reasons I’m not that active in online fandom (apart from not having that much free time) is I keep running into unpleasant fans. I’m not saying that my experience is any more comon than yours, since it depends on pot luck as to what kind of group you come accross.

    Obviously, there’s a lot of idiots on the net (and a trawl of youtube will throw up plenty of anti-anygirl material, which makes me despair- mostly because I can’t fathom why you’d spend so much effort flaming some het pairing you hate when you could be supporting whatever pairings you like), and I guess the take home message is there are a wide variety of fans out there, with different levels of maturity (and different places on the misogyny ——>feminism spectrum), and different reasons to like or dislike characters. I just feel that quite a bit of the heat directed at female characters is misogyny, though there can be other reasons that also make up the rest.

  71. Rosehiptea
    Rosehiptea March 8, 2008 at 11:13 pm |

    I guess the take home message is there are a wide variety of fans out there, with different levels of maturity (and different places on the misogyny ——>feminism spectrum)

    I see a lot of hate against female characters that’s supposed to be based on feminism. “I hate her because she’s not a strong woman.” (And I mean that sometimes the word feminist is used.) I never know what to say about that because it’s still a fictional character and they have a right to criticize her all they want. But not every woman in real life is strong either, and in my mind I start to tie that together, wondering if people think real women need to act a certain way to be acceptable — because there are people who do think that. Maybe I think about this too much.

    Also, I’m not so worried about the unrealistic body types, though I’d love to see a wider range portrayed. People realize some things are a fantasy, or at least I hope so. I’m a huge anime fan, but there are many features real people possess that anime characters don’t that I’m rather happy with, such as body hair and eyes smaller than salad plates.

  72. wiggles
    wiggles March 8, 2008 at 11:45 pm |

    I see this and think, “creepy!” Dudes see pics of female characters in similar or even more degrading situations and think, “hawt!”

  73. Cola Johnson
    Cola Johnson March 9, 2008 at 1:15 am |

    The dudes that I like to see kissing are uniformly closer to my age, but still a little more androgynous, but still usually men I like or have dated. Throughout my adolescence, however, I drew and looked at images of women together. Oddly, none of my sexual fantasies have involved these combinations. I only ever fantasize about me or an alter ego with dudes I like. I just happen to have a male alter ego who entered the equation once or twice.

    I’m sure you were all so curious.

  74. Astraea
    Astraea March 9, 2008 at 8:24 am |

    well, wiggles, yeah… humans of all types tend to think “hawt” when they see characters they find attractive naked or in sexual situations. I’m not sure what’s particularly degrading about the male characters being strong fighters, and fantasizing about giving them a nice rub down. That’s not even a particularly strange fantasy.

    I was thinking about this more and among American yaoi fans, I’ve found the exoticization of Japanese people much more problematic than the body type imagery.

  75. Anne Onne
    Anne Onne March 9, 2008 at 10:23 am |

    I see a lot of hate against female characters that’s supposed to be based on feminism. “I hate her because she’s not a strong woman.” (And I mean that sometimes the word feminist is used.) I never know what to say about that because it’s still a fictional character and they have a right to criticize her all they want.

    I know, it’s a real problem. I don’t think it’s all that different from some women criticising stay-at-home-mums, or the way that women often tear each other down. It’s the way the patriarchy has made us women much more critical of women, real or imagined, than we are of men. They have a right to criticise, but if they can’t disengage from the plot and realise it’s not a real woman, but a representation (probably written by a man, aimed at male readers), then their gut instinct reaction to the inherent sexism in the story may well get manifested in as hatred of the female character (which is what you were saying earlier).

    Now, actually feminist critique of a character would not blame the character for the characteristics they have been given, or the role they are allowed to play in the plot, and would recognise that a. I don’t think there’s anyhting wrong with a ‘weak character’, at least not one weak in an emotional or physical sense, because they often can be well-written and interesting. Although female fans might attack characters for being ‘weak’, I think what contributes to it is the fact that rather than being complex and weak, they are often not fleshed out. If it’s an action series, they might be put in the role of a caregiver. They often have less of a backstory to them, and make up less of the characters in total. Their powers/skills are given less attention, even whent hey are equal to the male characters, but they are often nowhere near equal in terms of abilities. and they often have highly gendered abilities and interests. Their powers/abilities tend not to be as badass as those of the males. I like many female characters, but if I compare how much attention the plot gives them as opposed to the males, I find that they get a lot less of it. I’m pretty mainstream in my manga/anime choice, and the shonen genre’s attitude to wome particularly pisses me off, so that’s where my focus is on.

    Also, I’m not so worried about the unrealistic body types, though I’d love to see a wider range portrayed. People realize some things are a fantasy, or at least I hope so. I’m a huge anime fan, but there are many features real people possess that anime characters don’t that I’m rather happy with, such as body hair and eyes smaller than salad plates.

    Same. I think as long as it’s clear that it’s fantasy, then a lot of what makes anime distinguishable is not necessarily harmful. That said, I am worried about the way female characters are portrayed, because it often mirrors real life porn and objectification. For a lot of people, real women in porn and anime seem to bleed together, and the unrealistic physical ideals of porn do inform a lot of how women are presented in anime (or in western comics, which look more realistic on the surface). I’m particularly worried about the gendered poses that women are drawn in, and how awfully backs are drawn. I would say that large breasts aren’t an issue per se, in that many women in real life have large breasts, but if we’re talking about breasts on pubescent girls as big as the ones in Eiken, then there’s a problem. It’s also quite telling that such a large proportion of anime women have large breasts, even by anime standards. It doesn’t mean any female character is less

    But I’m looking at this from the perspective of all comics, and not just ones aimed as pure fantasy, which probably explains why I’m more critical. I think the problem is not just that women in fantasies are often presented in a very limiting, unpractical way, but that that ideal crosses over into other genres, indeed nearly everything. I just don’t think it’s possible to say that for most people, the misogyny they absorb from the real world doesn’t affect their fantasies, anime included, and I think it’s worth examining it.

    Cola, women feeling free to have fantasies is ALWAYS a good thing. I’m not a good person at guaging TMI, anyway. ;)

  76. Rosehiptea
    Rosehiptea March 9, 2008 at 10:53 am |

    Anne Onne: I really appreciate your comments and I agree with a lot of what you have to say. I’ll admit there are characters I love (certain video game characters come to mind) that could nonetheless be submitted to some harsh critique from a more unbiased point of view, and I have no problem with that. On the other hand you have a character like, say, Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop. She’s not always a strong person, and not always a good person, but she’s definitely very complex. (I’m not saying she gets a huge amount of bashing, though I’ve seen it occasionally. But other characters who I do feel are complex, not just in anime, do.)

    I’ve also seen a certain amount of fetishizing of male/male relationships and occasionally even a belief that only two men can have an optimal kind of love, in some fandom circles. It’s a rare sentiment but it does confuse and depress me when I see it. (And the exoticization of Japanese people is definitely a problem too.)

    I do think having more realistic depictions of bodies, or at least a wider range of body types portrayed (and not just in anime at all — in fact not being Japanese it’s not really my culture to control that) is a good thing.

    For the TMI, I think it was realizing I wasn’t all that into yaoi but rather something with women in it that made me realize I like to fantasize about women’s bodies. Which may or may not mean anything about my sexuality. It’s just funny realizing it from being in fandom.

  77. Anne Onne
    Anne Onne March 9, 2008 at 1:31 pm |

    We need a feminist manga fans blog! :D

    On the other hand you have a character like, say, Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop. She’s not always a strong person, and not always a good person, but she’s definitely very complex. (I’m not saying she gets a huge amount of bashing, though I’ve seen it occasionally. But other characters who I do feel are complex, not just in anime, do.)

    Bad thing is, just like real women, being amazing, or in this case well-written doesn’t mean you don’t get bashed.

    I’ve also seen a certain amount of fetishizing of male/male relationships and occasionally even a belief that only two men can have an optimal kind of love, in some fandom circles. It’s a rare sentiment but it does confuse and depress me when I see it. (And the exoticization of Japanese people is definitely a problem too.)

    I know! On the one hand, I feel like getting homosexuality into the minds of people as being normal, as being an acceptable thing, is good. On the other hand, the kind of roles that are enforced can throw up some ugly realities.

    Same with the Japanese people thing. Whilst I think it’s good that a lot of people who might normally never learn another language or care about any other culture, are being introduced to the ins and outs of another culture, and that they’re not really that different from anybody else in the end, being human. Unfortunately, that’s not the message that everybody gets, and I hate it when a whole culture is fetishised, or used to justify misogyny (as in ‘Asian women are so hot and so subservient’ ), and trivialised when people look at it as some kind of freak show. But then, the West does that to any culture, more or less.

    For the TMI, I think it was realizing I wasn’t all that into yaoi but rather something with women in it that made me realize I like to fantasize about women’s bodies. Which may or may not mean anything about my sexuality. It’s just funny realizing it from being in fandom.

    I think getting into fandom, and seeing all the different combinations/ideas out there really can be an eye operner, whatever floats your boat. Also, realising that fantasy and reality are different, and that you don’t have to feel guilty for whatever fantasy it is. Having lots of women be open about all amnner of strange fantasies really helps, I think.

    Whilst I think there is something to be said about how few non-skinny people there are in manga (chubby people exist in Japan, too!), I think Cola’s right in being worried about the way people can use exports from Japan to feed into their fantasies about Asians. Would anybody think it’s mostly the more realisttic series more noticeably based in everyday Japanese life that contribute to this, or the more fantastical made-up-world scenarios? My bets are more on the former, though I’m sure anything Japanese would contribute, to a point.

    Are we derailing things too far, or is it enough that we’re talking about anime/manga and racism/homophobia/sexism?

  78. exholt
    exholt March 9, 2008 at 2:27 pm |

    I think Cola’s right in being worried about the way people can use exports from Japan to feed into their fantasies about Asians. Would anybody think it’s mostly the more realistic series more noticeably based in everyday Japanese life that contribute to this, or the more fantastical made-up-world scenarios?

    Based on what I’ve observed as a club officer in my high school’s Animation club and from accompanying younger friends to anime conventions, I would say it is a combination of the two coupled with an interest piqued by the “exoticness” of anime’s Japanese origins and an disturbing inability/unwillingness to distinguish between reality and fiction.

    In high school and among convention goers, I’ve often overheard comments such as “Japanese society is far more exciting and action-packed than the US…”, “Japanese girls are so much more kind and understanding than American/American-born Asian girls…”, “The Japanese are more enlightened about sex than Americans”, and “How does Japan beat the US economically if their cities explode on a regular basis??”. The last comment was especially common in high school…a combination of watching too much action-based anime such as Akira and attending high school only a few years after MSM fanned fears of a wholesale Japanese takeover of the US economy/society.

  79. Rosehiptea
    Rosehiptea March 9, 2008 at 2:34 pm |

    Bad thing is, just like real women, being amazing, or in this case well-written doesn’t mean you don’t get bashed.

    Sad but true. I just don’t see the same standards applied to male characters as are applied to female ones and even though it’s fiction it bothers me. I’ve heard people try to explain it, and say “Well traits such as being emotional that are different and positive in males are stereotypical and annoying in females” but it still sounds wrong and I can’t help wondering how people carry that over into real life. (But again, this is definitely not only an anime issue, though I think it gets extreme in anime fandoms.)

    I know! On the one hand, I feel like getting homosexuality into the minds of people as being normal, as being an acceptable thing, is good. On the other hand, the kind of roles that are enforced can throw up some ugly realities.

    The roles are disturbing, but also the whole concept that male/male love is “better” when the emotional parts (I’m referring more to fan writing here, which may not have the same roles) are just emotions that can be in any relationship. Again, most people realize this but I’ve heard people say otherwise. And I don’t mind if people only enjoy male/male in fiction but it’s pretty important to have a healthy attitude about all kinds of relationships. Though again, it’s few people and maybe not such a problem. And the overall fact that ideally it gets people to think beyond heteronormativity is of course good! (Though I have sympathy for the comment that anime/manga with these themes gets more attention than actual writing by GLBT authors.)

    Whilst I think there is something to be said about how few non-skinny people there are in manga (chubby people exist in Japan, too!), I think Cola’s right in being worried about the way people can use exports from Japan to feed into their fantasies about Asians. Would anybody think it’s mostly the more realisttic series more noticeably based in everyday Japanese life that contribute to this, or the more fantastical made-up-world scenarios? My bets are more on the former, though I’m sure anything Japanese would contribute, to a point.

    I don’t see that many of the more realistic series so it’s hard to say. The only exception I can think of is Genshiken which actually does have larger characters (though they’re all male.) There is a perception out there that Japanese men really look more “feminine” than U.S. men, but it’s also based on certain Japanese musicians who became popular with Western fans and not just anime and manga. Most people I know realize that when they’re watching a Japanese anime series, even a realistic one, they’re not getting exposure to what Japan is really like, but not everybody realizes that.

    Are we derailing things too far, or is it enough that we’re talking about anime/manga and racism/homophobia/sexism?

    Well, we’re also talking about body image which seem to be part of what the OP is about? I hope?

  80. Anne Onne
    Anne Onne March 9, 2008 at 3:39 pm |

    In high school and among convention goers, I’ve often overheard comments such as “Japanese society is far more exciting and action-packed than the US…”, “Japanese girls are so much more kind and understanding than American/American-born Asian girls…”, “The Japanese are more enlightened about sex than Americans”, and “How does Japan beat the US economically if their cities explode on a regular basis??”.
    OMG, really? I mean, it’s something I wouldn’t put past youngsters (anyone who reads the occasional youtube comment can’t doubt that a lot of people out there are logic-intolerant or just plain ignorant), but wow. Most of the youngsters I ‘ve intereacted with on the topic have been fairly mature and knowledgeable, but it probably helps that they come from a wide variety of cultures, so are more likely to

    But it’s quite worrying when people can’t draw a line between fantasy and reality, and it probably affects the way these people view homosexual relationships, women and Japanese culture/history. I don’t know what could be done about it short of hoping that by more exposure to Japanese culture, and growing up a little these people might learn something.

    I’ve heard people try to explain it, and say “Well traits such as being emotional that are different and positive in males are stereotypical and annoying in females” but it still sounds wrong and I can’t help wondering how people carry that over into real life.

    I wonder… is it akin to Hillary baiting whereby they look down on women for acting the same way they’d praise a male character for their vulnerability, or is it that the way ‘female emotional-ness’ is shown is different than ‘male emotional-ness’? I think it’s a bit of both, because whist female characters aren’t given a lot of leeway where male ones are, there is also a real difference in how they are shown. IMHO female characters are normally seen to cry a lot more than most male characters. Lots of rivers of tears, even at relatively straightforward problems, or even when slightly upset. In contrast, when male characters cry, it’s presented as bieng less frivolous, more dignified. Their eyes are shadowed over, and the tears are less theatrical (I’m not referring to comedy river tears in either case- that’s another matter). Male emotion is presented as more serious than female emotion, and fans react to that, by being more accepting of the male displays of emotion than the female ones. I think emotions, whe well done, are important in both sexes of character, and females should not be judged as less if they are given emotions. That said, they are often given more emotional scenes, whereby the character despairs over some relatively little problem, rather than getting over it or fixing it. Eve since I became more observant of gender roles, I’ve noticed that female and male characters are very divided, with different poses, behaviours, clothes, and a verr different way of being portrayed. It’s sometimes subtle, but it’s always there. Naturally this doesn’t mean anime is any more sexist than any other medium.

    There is a perception out there that Japanese men really look more “feminine” than U.S. men, but it’s also based on certain Japanese musicians who became popular with Western fans and not just anime and manga.

    I’d like to hope it’s because on the whole Japanese men might not be quite as obsessed about machismo than their US counterparts, but it’s probably just anxiety about people who look a bit different. I think that that assumption is really based on the fact that ‘manlyness’ is itself based on ‘whiteness’. Even black men, which are stereotypically supposed to possess the manly characteristics (large muscles, physical strength, sexual prowess, long penis, to name a few) aren’t described as manly so much as animalistic. You’re only ‘manly’ if you fit certain criteria, and only then if you’re white. So I’d not be surprised if your average Japanese bloke doesn’t fit the hyped-up white neanderthal vision of manliness, but I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily because they are particularly stereotypically ‘feminine’ but because the goalposts exclude them from the start.

    And I don’t mind if people only enjoy male/male in fiction but it’s pretty important to have a healthy attitude about all kinds of relationships.

    Yes! And friendships, too. Personally, I’m much more of a ‘friendships’ fan, myself. I mean, I’ll buy any pairing at the end of a series if it looks like the author’s spent some time and effort showing how they interact and why it works, whether m/m, m/f, or f/f, but i really think series could put even more of a focus on friendship. I think that culture in general can be very romance-obsessed, and relationships that are not sexual or romantic aren’t explored as well or as often as they should be. I like to see people interact and grow, but sometimes I feel I’m in the minority.

    Though I have sympathy for the comment that anime/manga with these themes gets more attention than actual writing by GLBT authors.)

    Definitely. Although I wouldn’t blame anime/manga, or even yaoi fanfiction for that. It’s a popular, moneyspinning medium, and is bound to put mroe meaningful literature in the shade, being a type of bestseller in itself. That said, we do definitely need to do more to encourage the mainstream to read/think about LGBT issues.

    Yes, body image. Thanks for reminding me :D I think the difficulty is for me at least that there is so much one could say relating to feminism in manga, anime and the fandom, and a lot of things are so intertwined, that it’shard to talk at length about one without mentioning the rest.

  81. Astraea
    Astraea March 9, 2008 at 5:08 pm |

    I’d be happy to host these discussions on my blog :)

    Lots of issues came up while I was out! I’ve also been fighting off the nasty flu and I’m so tired, but I’m very interested in this conversation.

    First, female characters that are the target of misogynist bashing. There’s a lot less of it among the very talented, thoughtful fanfiction writers, because they see characters very differently. I also find much less bashing of the interesting, complex female characters among the group of friends I tend to stick with, who are all either lesbian, bi, or otherwise identify as queer. Because we all can also find female characters attractive, I think we’re less likely to dismiss them all or see them all as just getting in the way of some good yaoi. (which is another reason I’ve heard).

    I still think much of it is a refusal to identify with the female character and that may explain the “Well traits such as being emotional that are different and positive in males are stereotypical and annoying in females” comment.” I’ve found most often when female characters exhibit traits that women feel pressured to live up to, they are most hated by female yaoi fans whereas they are loved by more mainstream fans.

    This is going beyond Yaoi manga, because I don’t personally know many people for whom the manga is the main staple of their yaoi fix.

    An example: Rinoa from Final Fantasy VIII. Squall is the main male lead, and he’s very stoic and depressed, disconnected from those around him. Rinoa is a naive girl with a rich father who is a rich military General. She pushes herself on Squall, trying to draw him out. She’s coy and doesn’t fight well, and is very stereotypically feminine. A lot of mainstream fans totally get into the romance. You’ll find AMV’s on YouTube that focus on Squall and Rinoa. But most yaoi fans I know absolutely hate her. I find her incredibly irritating, and the romance very unrealistic.

  82. Anne Onne
    Anne Onne March 9, 2008 at 6:12 pm |

    Sounds cool. :)

    I still think much of it is a refusal to identify with the female character and that may explain the “Well traits such as being emotional that are different and positive in males are stereotypical and annoying in females” comment.” I’ve found most often when female characters exhibit traits that women feel pressured to live up to, they are most hated by female yaoi fans whereas they are loved by more mainstream fans.

    Hmm, I agree. I can’t help but find very stereotypically feminine traits irritating sometimes, and I can imagine that many female fans feel condescended to by being given sometimes very bland characters to identify with. I do think it all comes back to female characters being written very differently than male ones, and how they are nearly always essentially second to the male characters. I can’t help feeling that if more female characters were taken seriously by the plot, and given some of the perks male characters get (eg, supercool powers or interesting backstories, being the main character of a non-shojo series, having emotions that are taken seriously by the mangaka) that we’d have less fans who are dissatisfied with female characters. It’s not smething that can be solved immediately, and I think just focusing on male characters a la yaoi, though it’s OK in its own right, won’t in itself help change how female characters are portrayed. I love anime and manga, male characters and female, warts and all, and I want it to be better.

    I’m not familiar with Rinoa and Squall very well (what? an anime fan who ISN’T obsessed with FF?!?), but I know what you mean about contrived het relationships within stoylines. They can completely ruin a plot, because they aren’t well thought-out, and seem a bit of a sell-out at the end of a story. Though there plenty of decent het pairings that don’t mangle the sotryline. I think in part it could be because a lot of mainstream culture sees het romance as the pinnacle, so doesn’t put much effort into drawing out the relationship (‘he’s a boy, she’s a girl, obviously they go together, duh! Who needs an explanation!’), which is a shame, because you end up with some schmalzy twoo wuv story instead of an interesting one. I can really see where a lot of Yaoi fangirls get their proof (not that you need proof for a non-canon fantasy or fan story) because elationships between male characters iare the most fleshed out, more so in your average series than relationships between females, or between males and females. That depth, whether you think is friendship, romance, or pure sexual chemistry, gives it a depth other types of relationships in anime don’t always share. I don’t think it’s unique to anime/manga in that it’s present everywhere – think of Bechdel’s Law – but in anime and manga i think it adds overall to why we as fans might engage better with male characters.

  83. exholt
    exholt March 9, 2008 at 6:51 pm |

    I’d like to hope it’s because on the whole Japanese men might not be quite as obsessed about machismo than their US counterparts, but it’s probably just anxiety about people who look a bit different. I think that that assumption is really based on the fact that ‘manlyness’ is itself based on ‘whiteness’. Even black men, which are stereotypically supposed to possess the manly characteristics (large muscles, physical strength, sexual prowess, long penis, to name a few) aren’t described as manly so much as animalistic. You’re only ‘manly’ if you fit certain criteria, and only then if you’re white. So I’d not be surprised if your average Japanese bloke doesn’t fit the hyped-up white neanderthal vision of manliness, but I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily because they are particularly stereotypically ‘feminine’ but because the goalposts exclude them from the start.

    Ironically, it was not that long ago in US history that Japanese people, especially males were depicted in animalistic terms and portrayed as inhuman in order to stoke hatred against the Japan during WWII.* One immediate byproduct of this was the unjust and unconstitutional internment of Japanese-Americans. In fact, traces of this have continued to the present as shown by anti-Asian/Asian-American violence such as what happened to Vincent Chin during the height of the MSM fanned hysteria over Japan’s supposed takeover of the US economy and thus, the US.

    In an East Asian Studies grad course, several Asian-American classmates mentioned that this discourse continues into the present with the stereotype that all non-Western men…including Asian-Americans…are irredeemable male chauvinists as opposed to the “more enlightened” White men. In short…we’re either irredeemable “savages” or too effeminate by arbitrary American popular cultural standards.

  84. Astraea
    Astraea March 10, 2008 at 7:19 am |

    I can really see where a lot of Yaoi fangirls get their proof (not that you need proof for a non-canon fantasy or fan story) because elationships between male characters iare the most fleshed out, more so in your average series than relationships between females, or between males and females. That depth, whether you think is friendship, romance, or pure sexual chemistry, gives it a depth other types of relationships in anime don’t always share.

    Oh, definitely. Relationships between the male characters are so often more well-developed in most genres. I’ve found that most quality yaoi fanfiction is set in series which are not part of the boys love genre at all. Sukisho, for example, has some very nice shonen ai going on, and there’s a lot of room for playing around even within canon, but I see very little fanfiction about it. But I have no trouble finding Fullmetal Alchemist yaoi fanfiction.

  85. Anne Onne
    Anne Onne March 10, 2008 at 1:48 pm |

    Exholt, I didn’t know that, thuogh it doesn’t surprise me. I must admit my knowledge of WWII is very Eurocentric, in part because the history taught in the UK focuses on the war in Europe.

    Astraea, you know, that’s very interesting. I think it’s because of a lot of things, but part of it may be precisely because an openly shonen ai series already focuses on m/m love, whereas other series which don’t feel like they have the potential. I can understand the urge to adapt a story, to make it your own and give it a different interpetation which I think drives fanfiction somewhat, and part of the allure is knowing that it will be different to canon. Maybe there’s a sense of needing to write your own because you know that you’re not going to get canon romance between your two favourite guys in a non-shonen-ai series that isn’t present in a well-written series that aready focuses in that direction.

    Thuogh I think it’s partly about popularity, and having just the right kind of fan conditions online . Really popular series will have lots of fanfiction of all sorts, because millions of people watch them. It’s a bit of a positive feedback situation, because to get a very large fanbase a series needs to be popular enough, but once it becomes famous for being famous (kind of like a bestseller book or cult movie), it carries on building momentum. A lot of series don’t get that amount of exposure, and in a smaller fandum, it’s up to luck as to what you get. That’s what I feel, at least. :)

  86. exholt
    exholt March 10, 2008 at 11:10 pm |

    Exholt, I didn’t know that, thuogh it doesn’t surprise me. I must admit my knowledge of WWII is very Eurocentric, in part because the history taught in the UK focuses on the war in Europe.

    Anne Onne,

    Join the club.

    What US history taught in most US schools from kindergarden to the end of high school also tends to be quite Eurocentric. I was luckier than most American students as I had the privilege of attending an urban public magnet school with good history teachers who encouraged us to go beyond and question the standard American history texts along with offering elective history courses on topics such as the history of genocide. This was one reason I was shocked to find plenty of American college first years who did not know about US historical events such as the US government’s unconstitutional internment of Japanese-American during WWII until they heard about it from college classmates such as myself or happen to take a college-level American history course covering it.

    Then again, I don’t know much about history education in the UK, but the average American’s knowledge of their nation’s history…even of seemingly popularly dictated “need to know” aspects seems to be wanting from my experience and that of many friends and acquaintances. I’ve witnessed too many cases where immigrants, international students, and foreign tourists…even ones who did not have much formal education knew far more about US history than your average American adult.

    If you’re interested, one amusing book by a history professor I would strongly recommend is “Non-Campus Mentis”. A similar older book dealing with British history teaching published in the 1930′s is “1066 and all that.”

  87. Anne Onne
    Anne Onne March 11, 2008 at 1:24 pm |

    History education here is…patchy, I suppose. You aren’t required by law to study it after you’re around 14 or so, and the time before is pretty much enough to cover medieval UK (1066 to the Stuarts), then the industrial revolution. Children do learn about the wars, but given how much there really is to history, a few years at school can’t cover anywhere near enough of the subtleties, differences in opinion (history is written by the victor, right?) and sheer amount of infromation. I think it’s pretty much up to ourselves to carry on our education in all subjects after we leave school and grow up. But if they can only instil in children a sense that in history, there has never been a war where one side was good and the other bad. Even WWII, one of the more clear cut wars was full of terrible things done by the Allies that we shouldn’t forget.

    I’ve witnessed too many cases where immigrants, international students, and foreign tourists…even ones who did not have much formal education knew far more about US history than your average American adult.

    Funny that. Same here! It’s hilarious considering they are always talking about the relatively new citizenshop tests for immigrants, that many born cicizens would not be able to answer.

    I think I might pick up one of those books at some point. :)

  88. Jackie
    Jackie March 12, 2008 at 9:49 pm |

    Heh heh heh…>:) What.. I wasn’t thinking naughty things, really! *whistles*

  89. Jackie
    Jackie March 12, 2008 at 10:05 pm |

    Ok, now that I’ve collected myself. I think that some women, like me, do like what most people would consider unnaturally affeminate men, or at least men that are most likely gay. Most of these women, tend to really being into Japanese culture, because they feel there isn’t not considered as freakish as it is here to like men who look somewhat adrogynous.

    I don’t know how well the game would sell here. Alot of women might feel embarassed about buying it, cause in our society it’s considered bad for women to actually display sexual desire. I mean, outside of mainstream liking jocks or manly-men desire.

    It’s really difficult for me to say why I’m attracted to Bishounen, when as you pointed out, they do look disturbingly unrealistic and young. However, I think there are alot of women out there who like guys with long hair, like from the hair-band metal days. Or women who like men who look more sensitive, instead of the standard jock format all girls are supposed to like.

    I think if they wanted to make a bishojo game for American girls, they should have it be more like a dating sim. Like going on a date with a Bishounen or something. The whole idea of the boys being naked, and the showers and stuff frankly just seems too uh…stimulating, to make for good gameplay. It’s frankly, rather hard to play a video game while blushing, and then being embarassed cause you’re blushing and people will wonder why ect.

    I’m glad the video game community is embracing gay players, which like women have been mostly ignored by the gaming community. Of course, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that Nintendo would be the first, if not only company, to target gay gamers. Since you know, all the systems that may have been originally from Japan, but now are so Americanized all you can buy for them are fighting games and sports games. Nintendo is the only game system that has retained a good sense of Japanese culture.

    I also know this might sound stereotypical of gays, but since I don’t really know any gay guys personally, I was kind of wondering if they were happy about Nintendo releasing a Pink DS. Cause it’s like saying, “Ha! I’m the non-standard gamer who isn’t insanely wrapped up in people seeing me as macho!” or something. That line sounded like something crazy out of a comedic Anime.

  90. Rosehiptea
    Rosehiptea March 12, 2008 at 11:01 pm |

    Relationships between the male characters are so often more well-developed in most genres. I’ve found that most quality yaoi fanfiction is set in series which are not part of the boys love genre at all. Sukisho, for example, has some very nice shonen ai going on, and there’s a lot of room for playing around even within canon, but I see very little fanfiction about it. But I have no trouble finding Fullmetal Alchemist yaoi fanfiction.

    The thing is, as long as I’m writing fanfiction and speculating anyway, I’d rather take a female character and speculate on her personality and backstory and on her relationship with a man or another woman.

    It’s not that I think people shouldn’t write yaoi instead if that’s what they want to do, and I do understand what you’re saying. It’s just that my perspective is so different on this, because I’m not so fascinated with the men or their relationships, and people complain about female characters I actually love and love to write for. (I can plead not guilty to Rinoa though, not having played Final Fantasy VIII and barely knowing who she is. I love FFX Rikku though, and various other female anime and video game characters. I love Yuna too, who is widely seen as “weak” and “useless” — though I don’t write her that much.)

    It’s not that I feel like people need to justify liking yaoi to me, anyway! It’s just that… well, like I said, I have such a different perspective and sometimes it leaves me feeling left out, or like I have bad taste in characters or admire the wrong kind of women. (I don’t mean people here are accusing me of that, though. And I don’t mean to get so wildly off topic. But it’s an honest feeling I do have when these discussions start up.)

  91. Sabrina
    Sabrina March 15, 2008 at 3:46 am |

    I have a bother with the “what happened to romance-cover guys?” comment since–eh, I don’t know–I just like skinny guys. :\ I associate muscular or athletic guys as being horrible. I find it considerably stranger that so many girls are attracted to the totally bland, practically featureless guys in some highschool movies in the US.

    On the other hand, yah the guys in this particular game aren’t very attractive (except that bookish fellow–hi!) but that’s the artist’s fault, she appears to have misplaced some of their muscle groups. :\ Technical artistic flaws are the reason I don’t read this stuff too much . . . it’s one of those unintentional turn-offs . . . but you find that in any kind of manga, it’s just the nature of a very mass-produced medium, I guess. I actually think there are a lot of fan artists, including here in the U.S., that make the shounen-ai that I would actually want to look at (and they usually don’t go as far as these games in terms of obvious fantasizing, hahah).

    However I do think a big draw for girls to shounen-ai is the absense of a female character–it either distances you from the scene (which may be preferable if you’re uncomfortable with yourself or just don’t think you’re particularly pretty) or removes the “rival” female figure–I notice in a lot of fanfiction communities, female characters are often brutally attacked and bashed by female fans. There seems to be an innate competition and irrational hatred–even for a fictional character–that can distract you from enjoying the story. Sure, it’s kind of immature to flat-out reject female characters just because they’re there–but since when is the teen romance genre supposed to be mature anyway?

    I think a lot of people complain about shounen-ai but I kind of like it because it makes it acceptable for girls to be into that sort of thing. :\ It’s annoyingly acceptable for guys here to want to see two girls making out but apparently it’s TOTALLY GROSS AND WEIRD if it’s the other way around.

  92. Sarah
    Sarah June 18, 2008 at 8:06 pm |

    I know I’m waaay late to this discussion, but I have to toss out an anime suggestion to everyone. Black Lagoon is the only series I have ever seen where I can *unreservedly* say that I *love* what is done with the female characters. (Also, plenty of people of various colors! Black, East/South Asian, Middle Eastern, European… you name it.) Nice art, good plot –not for kids, though, because it’s fairly violent.

    To relate this to the discussion, this is also the *only* anime show where I actually *like* the main, het pairing, and didn’t feel a need to “slash” any of the male characters (ie, have them hook up with other dudes). Probably this is because the stereotypical male/female dynamic is broken down so effectively in the show; the main female character Revy is a good shooter first, a dangerous opponent second, a good “coworker”/pirate third…and happens to be a Chinese-American *woman*. The main male character (and burgeoning romantic interest) is quieter and more polite than Revy, and is the only one of the group to ever actually cry in the show, but he also calmly instructs a mafia boss to execute a group of enemies at one point. There is nothing obnoxiously stereotypical or sexist about their relationship, and neither one is hyperfeminized or ridiculously masculine (okay, so Revy’s a little macho sometimes; she *is* a mercenary… :p)

    Compare this to some of the shows I prefer yaoi pairings for: generally male/male relationships and male characters are made to be more interesting/realistic/emotionally charged/significant to the plot/etc, and female characters seem to just be tossed in to prevent a total “sausage fest” (…not to be crude! :p) For example: “[some dude] and [some other dude] are childhood companions and lifelong rivals, struggling in the midst of a war with divided loyalties that threaten to bring their friendship to the brink of destruction!!! …Oh, yeah, there’s this chick that likes one of ‘em, too.” Somehow, the male/female relationship is not the most compelling one here… :p

  93. BrigetRose
    BrigetRose June 26, 2008 at 12:45 am |

    Amusing, but very informative. I guess this is a means for girls to know and learn about the kind of boys they would find themselves interested in. Thank you for sharing!

  94. Things in yaoi that bother me « The Yaoi Review

    [...] sure like many fans there are things within the genre that bother me. Some more than others. Here is an interesting post from Feministe, posted back in March of 2008. Essentially it’s [...]

Comments are closed.