It’s no secret that I have long thought the modern feminist movement had gone off the rails. Recently, I ran into the knowledge of the existence of a group called Anime Feminist. Because if there is a form of media that has never needed a ‘feminist’s touch’, it’s anime. Understandably, this might seem an odd thing to say about an industry known for its gratuitous fan service, boob bounces, and panties shots, so hear me out.
To define the integrity of characters by the length of their clothes is absolutely childish.
Most anime understands the world, and the culture and community at large is capable of a level of self reflection. They can look at a culture of weirdos, perverts, loners and neets, and overall accepts them into their society with little effort and a dash of self-deprecating humour. The ‘hentai’ character or ‘otaku’ archetypes are a start. Sure, there are the occasional mad individuals, but they are not a norm. Overall, the anime culture has a form of diversity along lifestyle not normal in most media.
But the most important reason why anime does not need the feminist touch or vision is simple. Anime culture knows how to treat females (and males) as humans, arguably more so than any other media culture. And the culture itself understands that fan service is just as it is. Marketing. Think about some of the more recent anime that have cropped up and been labelled as ‘sexist’. Think about the female characters in those shows and remember what was their most memorable scenes.
What defined them was not the scene where they showed a little too much skin in, or the way they were dressed. They were moments of great humanity. Acts of character that made them empathetic or heroic. It is a far cry from the westernised media’s norm. We need to understand that there is a difference between a sexualized show and a sexist show.
Going on and on about women being sexualised in media is absolutely asinine. Anime alone has more than their own share of sexualized males, from shows like Kyou Kara Maou to The Prince of Tennis. Sex sells. To think otherwise is completely immature. A grown person can look at a depiction of a human body of their sexual preference and be attracted by it. That’s how people work. And anyone unable to distinguish between the body and the mind is the true sexist. To define the integrity of characters, and by extension, people, by the length of their clothes is absolutely childish.
For example, I do not hate Edward in Twilight (vomits*) for being topless all the time with an unrealistic expression of the male body. I hate that piece of crawling dung pile because he is a terrible excuse for a living creature. Likewise, while, as a male, I am attracted to the physical appearance of the character of Yuki Nagato from The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan (I like short girls with glasses. Sue me), what sold to me was that she is an absolutely amazing character.
We often forget why the feminist movement began. It’s to earn equal rights between men and women. That includes being paid equal wage for equal work; not being denied healthcare based on sex; to not be marginalised in media; and a whole host of equality issues. But to fight for those rights means fighting for the same negatives males receives in return. Equality is not equal if only one side gets the better treatment.
If these misguided feminists wishes to fight for less sexualised female anime characters, they too must do the same for the males. This means Ayashi no Ceres, Saiyuki, and Free! (especially Free!), all needs to be taken off the air, because seriously, no man can be that handsome and perfect, and their toned body is starting to make me feel bad.
We must always remember one thing. Sex sells. That’s it. Free! gets gratuitous male fanservice for the same reason Oreimo does. A certain section of the population went to see Transformers for the same reason another went to watch Twilight (Blergh*). Some people who might eventually like the stories might have their initial attraction to the show because of the fanservice. I won’t lie, I’m one of those people, and it does not make me feel like less of a person. I’m just a healthy male, after all. I’m sure the same can be said for Free!.
Including fanservice in good stories is simply a good marketing solution, as it covers more ground for viewership without really losing much in the value of the story, and can help attract certain bases of demographics. An individual then is required to differentiate the point of a good story from the fanservice, a process that has been dubbed “being an adult”. People who are not able to get past the fact that fanservice exists and judges an entire character or story based off that concept is childish, and are unable to see past the physical attractiveness of a person of either the same or opposite sex in order to enjoy a show.
A grown person can look at a depiction of a human body of their sexual preference and be attracted by it. That’s how people work.
What feminists needs to understand is that what they should be fighting for is not for the art or even the system to change. Yes, changing those things will be a jarring lesson, but the true fight for equality lies in changing the mindset. As much as I hate the word, I can identify myself as a feminist. And if we want to effect true change, we must first ourselves be able to differentiate the value of the body from the value of the mind.
As an overweight, ugly man, I can identify with the fact that my body is not physically attractive, and can healthily accept that. But at no point do I wish for my body’s look to define my mental capabilities. As such, I do not mind if a male character is portrayed as handsome, fit, fat, ugly, weird, normal, short or tall. Because as a person, I am ultimately attracted to a personality and understand each individual is different, and can overlook the physical attractiveness of a person as simply being a bonus service for fans.
Add-on: I should point out that these views are a part of a larger world view of mine. When The Debt Collective, an activist group associated with Occupy Wall Street accused John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight of copying their debt erasing tactic without attributing them, it is in blindness to the larger issue that presenting The Debt Collective as an equal partner would undermine the validity of the piece and bring less attention and unneeded, unprofessional scrutiny to a very important, and in turn, life-saving issue. OCW’s overall failure in properly conveying a message of import that would have irreversibly changed the discourse of a country showed a unorganised, screaming mess. Activist groups and individuals (such as myself), have the tendency to be too opinionated to verify any facts or host non-partisan discussions, thus my disagreement with the larger body of the feminist movement lies in their inability to value logic, reasoning, and reality, over the hurt feelings and black/white morality that is not in tune with the grey nature of the world.
Header Image by Deyalith R (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons