September 10, 2007

What’s Behind the Gender Roles?

Filed under: Editorial, ABC, Anime — jroxas @ 8:00 am
Buy Celexa Online Phentrimine Without Prescription Celexa No Prescription Ultram For Sale Elavil Generic Buy Glucotrol Online Lotrisone Without Prescription Toprol XL No Prescription Cipro For Sale Lipitor Generic

This is part of an ABC group discussion. Other participating blogs include: Cruel Angel Theses ♪, Anime Diet, tsuntsun, Drastic My Anime Blog, Daijoubu, and Heterochromia.

—–

This is probably obvious to most of you, but two nearly universal truths about Japanese animation are:

1. The primary purpose of its existence is, above all, to generate revenue.

2. They’re Japanese, and thus the various things that make up an anime series are naturally often going to reflect Japanese culture in some way.

Pretty much everything about any anime series can probably be explained by one or both of these ideas, including the gender roles commonly found in anime series. I’m going to go over a few gender-related common anime conventions, though the list will certainly not nearly be exhaustive (not sure that’s even possible).

1. Fanservice (in this case, referring primarily to the sexual variety), ecchi, moe, etc.

These are, of course, to a large extent found in anime simply because sex sells– an attractive character is sure to sell a large number of figures, posters, and other merchandise, as well as be an excellent means of drawing viewers to a series through advertisements and trailers. But is that really all there is to the presence of these things in anime?

As you may or may not be aware, Japanese culture is in some ways more sexually open than that of the West due to not having had a history of Christian cultural influence, but in other ways more repressed than Western sexuality. Of particular note is this tidbit taken from a study of sexuality in Japan: “Japanese youths, both male and female, show a remarkably slow development in sexual behaviors in comparison to other societies. The most probable reasons behind the slow psychosexual development lie in…the society’s strong respect for education, which results in suppression of sexual behaviors among the youths.” Because the target audience for much anime is generally the school-age male (of course, this is a broad range covering everything from middle school to graduate school), having large numbers of attractive, scantily-clad females their own age provides an outlet for their sexual desires that often are impossible to otherwise satiate due to the time consumption of other activities.

Another noteworthy finding from the same study: “such interest in the other sex among the girls is more mental and fantasy-based.” Perhaps this is why yaoi relationships in anime tend to more often be implied rather than explicit, and why yaoi fan fiction is such a huge part of the fandoms of series like Naruto and Gundam Wing. It’s certainly possible that these relationships are implicitly hinted at to provide young girls the same sort of outlet that males are given through more clearly visible sexual content.

It’s also interesting that, in anime, it’s always females vying (and even fighting for) the attention of their male crushes, when in reality the opposite tends to be the case. I don’t think there’s much behind this other than trying to appeal to the fantasies of the young male audience, though.

2. Domestic vs. professional female characters

While most of what I’ve read on the subject suggests that this is beginning to change, it is still widely believed in Japan that the role of the wife in a family is to be a domestic housewife and mother. From what I’ve seen in anime, it tends to be the case that married women have a tendency to be of the more domestic type, though there are certainly numerous exceptions as well. It’s also common for being proficient with home economics to be portrayed as a desirable trait for female characters, whereas males doing such tasks is rather scarce. This being the case is again most likely a result of trying to sell characters to specific target audience– your growing Japanese male probably wants his “dream girl” to be more of the submissive housewife type. At the same time, it reflects and perhaps reinforces the still-widespread view of how women “should” be.

That active mothers being mare common in anime than active fathers is a result of just trying to get more boobs on the screen to appeal to the young male audience is also possible, in addition to reflecting realities of Japanese society. (Insert MILF joke here.)

Within series that involve some sort of military organization, highly-ranked females such as officers and scientists are found in some abundance. While this is in a way empowering to them, it must be pointed out that in a sense this actually reinforcing the idea of the female’s maternal role: they are acting as mentors, lending medical or emotional support, and taking care of the home front while they send the male lead characters off into the battlefield to do the dirty work.

3. Firearm proficiency.

This is an easy one, really. How many girls/women you know in real life have any idea how to handle a firearm? Sure, there are female police officers and military personnel with competence in this area, but they are vastly in the minority. Yet, in anime, there are numerous examples of females (including little girls) being highly proficient with guns. Unlike the previous two items, this isn’t at all reflective of a culture reality and instead seems to purely be a conceived fantasy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that or anything, of course– I’ve enjoyed several good “girl(s) with guns” series. I am in the target audience, after all.


Part of Yoko’s widespread appeal is that her character possesses elements from all three common female character conventions as described above, which are all intended to appeal to males.

That should be enough food for thought for now.

21 Comments »

  1. “How many girls/women you know in real life have any idea how to handle a firearm? ”

    *raises hand*

    Comment by Marmot — September 10, 2007 @ 8:10 am

  2. […] out! Even white boys gotta shout! Published September 10th, 2007 ANGER , ETC LITTLE IN THE MIDDLE BUT SHE GOT MUCH BACK~ Yeah, baby, when it comes to females, Cosmo ain’t got […]

    Pingback by Gender and Anime: Turn around! Stick it out! Even white boys gotta shout! « tsuntsun: Marmot’s animu blog — September 10, 2007 @ 8:18 am

  3. […] is part of a series of articles about anime and gender across the blogosphere. Visit here, here, here, here, here, and here (for now) for what others […]

    Pingback by Anime Diet » “I’m Only Interested In 2D Girls!”: On Lust, Animated Desire, and Gender Expectations — September 10, 2007 @ 9:54 am

  4. […] , happiness! , musings Let’s do this again. Other perspectives are here, here, here, here, here, here, and […]

    Pingback by Gender in Anime: A Double Take of Sorts « Drastic My Anime Blog — September 10, 2007 @ 11:50 am

  5. Lots of common sense in this article. It articulates the underlying sentiments of many others’ thoughts well.

    The whole ‘chicks with guns’ is basically an extension of the ‘chicks with dicks’ fetish in many cases. Give a female character with bouncy boobs a massive phallus to swing around and you cater to a very established preference in male heterosexual fantasy. I’m not saying this is 100% the case (Motoko from GitS superficially abides by it, but challenges any shallow typecasting) but it’s shamelessly evident in someone like Yoko from Gurren Lagann - but with the added creditability of being a pastiche on the convention.

    GAINAX’s crowning achievement is being able to create characters that both abide by really obvious stereotypes while having lots of satirical undertones for those wanting to look deeper. They’ve been doing it from the very early days and it’s a beautiful example of how to protect yourself financially while maintaining integrity. This is what happens when you let insiders - hardcore otaku in GAINAX’s case - get into the industry they love. Their accute understanding of their audience is pretty terrifying.

    Comment by Hige — September 10, 2007 @ 12:58 pm

  6. on the firearms thing, how many civillians (is that the right word to use here) in Japan know how to use a firearm period? Different countries have different gun cultures. *eurofag here*

    Comment by ik — September 10, 2007 @ 2:55 pm

  7. Yeah, my guess is that any kind of military and firearm fantasy–with girls or not–is conditioned by Japan’s pacifist contemporary culture. There’s SOOO much naive pacifism in anime it’s scary, with only a subset of nationalist type stuff (a lot of it produced by Leiji Matsumoto). Girls with guns is not a particularly Japanese thing though. There’s plenty of it in trigger-happy American culture and even La Femme Nikita.

    Great info on sociological studies of teen sex attitudes, btw. One thing perhaps, from what I heard, is that Japanese moms tend to spoil their sons in particular a lot, partly to make up for the fact that their dads often aren’t home, partly to encourage them to be good at their studies. (I don’t think the hikkikomori phenomenon would be nearly so serious if more moms would just kick their sons out of the house at a certain point.) I wonder if this is one reason why tsunderes are growing in popularity. A lot of guys have never been properly yelled at and/or spanked by their moms! We all know it’s for love. :)

    Comment by Mike — September 10, 2007 @ 8:08 pm

  8. […] here on the newest ABC topic — gender in anime. Other posters on this topic are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and […]

    Pingback by Gender in anime: The unloved, or, how I learned to trust fandom and love tsundere. « Stuff Happens — September 10, 2007 @ 9:38 pm

  9. Within series that involve some sort of military organization, highly-ranked females such as officers and scientists are found in some abundance. While this is in a way empowering to them, it must be pointed out that in a sense this actually reinforcing the idea of the female’s maternal role: they are acting as mentors, lending medical or emotional support, and taking care of the home front while they send the male lead characters off into the battlefield to do the dirty work.

    Does this mean, in other words, that you view Nanoha StrikerS as truly empowering the females? Wait, no, don’t answer that. SAVE IT FOR THE DISCUSSION THREAD. Or.. you can throw me a short answer if you must. But I love the common sense in this post.

    Comment by Owen S — September 11, 2007 @ 9:24 am

  10. […] A Stone and a Small Ripple […]

    Pingback by Heterochromia » “Gender and anime” - Blog collective post — September 11, 2007 @ 9:54 am

  11. I can only echo everyone elses’ observation of common sense in this post! As much as we like anime for its artistic merit and entertainment value, it is after all a manufactured product. Your insights into the rationale behind the marketing are especially enlightening and interesting though. I was intrigued by this bit:

    “such interest in the other sex among the girls is more mental and fantasy-based.”

    It certainly does explain the appeal of yaoi…perhaps extending this to Japanese youth as a whole, it goes a long way to explaining why people get their rocks off to cartoon characters! I’ve always held the assumption that education in Japan is taken VERY seriously indeed, which neatly explains why so many anime shows are set in or around school.

    Keep up the good work Jroxas! *thumbs up*

    Comment by Martin — September 11, 2007 @ 11:58 am

  12. […] http://jroxas.animeblogger.net/?p=118 […]

    Pingback by The Poetics of Genderbenderism, The Cacophony of Gender « “Lelangiric”, or so they say… — May 17, 2008 @ 6:52 pm

  13. […] http://jroxas.animeblogger.net/?p=118 […]

    Pingback by “lelangiric” » The Poetics of Genderbenderism, The Cacophony of Gender — June 27, 2008 @ 8:51 am

  14. Too bad i didnt come across this blog before. Great stuff you got here. Thanks.

    Comment by Psychic Advice — July 13, 2008 @ 1:11 pm

  15. good site xdgrkm

    Comment by ok — September 25, 2008 @ 12:46 am

  16. Hello Everyone! How is everyone doing???

    Comment by paulh0 — May 29, 2010 @ 10:14 am

  17. love robots in general, esp japanese gundam. Gundam is really a piece of arts, why do they look so detail. Japanese are sure incredible.

    Comment by pokemon white version — September 4, 2010 @ 11:41 pm

  18. I am confused by the thought, the know-how, the fitting-it-in throughout the relaxation of everything else I need to do as Chief Cook and Bottle Washer in my business

    Comment by wind blast download — November 14, 2010 @ 9:05 am

  19. Sow nothing, reap nothing.

    ———————————–

    Comment by harley davidson — December 13, 2010 @ 2:44 pm

  20. bonjour vous j’aime bien ce post mais l’ immobilier est mon objectif avant tout.

    Comment by immobilier — December 14, 2011 @ 1:06 pm

  21. Excellent post I have to admit.. Simple but yet interesting and engaging.. Continue the awesome work!

    Comment by probate houses buy — December 17, 2011 @ 8:06 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress