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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Guess who's made her return to ANN's all-female roundtable? 
26th-Aug-2009 10:44 am
That's right--ANN's all-female roundtable has summoned me back, and so after a hiatus of a couple of months or so, I'm back. This week's topic is Shoujo Fans in Fandom. Some of the points of discussion have been covered in previous columns, but there is also new material. Plus, we have guest conversant Brigid Alverson of Mangablog.

And of course, the usual review beat--all girls' stuff, how appropriate *sighs*--marches on:

At Anime News Network:
Jyu-Oh-Sei Vol. 1-3 by Natsumi Itsuki
Ǒoku Vol. 1 by Fumi Yoshinaga (review copy courtesy of Viz Media)
Skip Beat! Vol. 17 by Yoshiki Nakamura (review copy courtesy of Viz Media)

At Graphic Novel Reporter:
Flower of Life Vol. 1-4 by Fumi Yoshinaga
Ludwig II Vol. 1 by You Higuri (review copy courtesy of DMP)
26th-Aug-2009 03:16 pm (UTC)
Interesting discussion and even more interesting (and enlightening) forum comments. The blog is about anime, manga and women; what did commentators expect? The point about it not being as big a deal as what Third World women face is true but also beside the point.

It infuriates me when a discusson of gender divides in pop culture fractures into a piling on against feminism. If feminism didn't exist, the commenters wouldn't have the wonderful non-sexist, gender neutral world you think you live in.

I do differ from you, though, in that I think it's important and useful both to point out a series' or mangaka's sexism and note that the work was created in an earlier time when different standards prevailed, especially if it's possible to articulate what those standards were.

That said, my feminism is much different from what it was years ago. I no longer think or expect women and men to react to things simlarly and I no longer think that the only difference between the sexes is our genitalia, which is the viewpoint that was pushed in the early days of feminism.
26th-Aug-2009 03:20 pm (UTC)
I do differ from you, though, in that I think it's important and useful both to point out a series' or mangaka's sexism and note that the work was created in an earlier time when different standards prevailed, especially if it's possible to articulate what those standards were.

Are you implying that you think it's important--or that it isn't?
26th-Aug-2009 03:31 pm (UTC)
If you parse the sentence, I'm saying it's important both to call the author, artist or series on its sexism AND note that the work was created in an earlier time when different standards prevailed. Bonus points if it's possible to articulate what those standards are. That way the reader can decide for her or himself whether to bother reading the work, having both the critique and the context.

Some things are IMO so awful that no context excuses them, but there are also cultural differences to account for as well, as I am learning reading The Tale of Genji in translation. It doesn't make me like the rape/non-con/dub-con themes in yaoi any more than I do but they bother me less. Or does that sound contradictory? It isn't, to me. I don't like them more but I loathe them less knowing how ingrained they are in the cultural narrative. Now I just think they're silly or stupid because I know they're not meant or taken the same way where the work was produced than they are by me.

Edited at 2009-08-26 03:32 pm (UTC)
26th-Aug-2009 03:39 pm (UTC)
Okay, I was confused because you said that you differ from me on this issue. In fact, we don't disagree at all. I believe in the importance of noting a cultural product's original cultural context--but when I am deeply offended, I am true to that feeling and note it. (Whether or not my feelings of outrage ever get published someplace besides this blog is at editorial's discretion, not mine.)

I'm not certain where you got the impression that I feel otherwise. Was it the Tezuka sub-discussion? I'll rephrase: One of my biggest problems with the Tezuka/sexism discourse that we often see here in the US is that "He was a product of his time, so you're not allowed to criticize." 1) He was producing sexist manga at the very same time that there were feminist agitations in Japan--and in the manga world--so to call him "just" a product of his time and not in dialogue with his time is an insult. 2) Ignoring the possibility that women today will be offended by some material and dismissing their feelings of outrage is sexist behavior in the present. Denying the validity and value of peoples' feelings is dehumanizing.
26th-Aug-2009 04:04 pm (UTC)
Yes, it was the Tezuka sub-discussion, because it felt like you were dismissive toward cultural context. Not that I know anything about it (or hiim), but just because he produced sexist manga at a time when there were feminist agitations in Japan doesn't mean it wasn't within the cultural norms of the time or that the feminist agitations had any effect on his work and how it was viewed. I have to think that pop culture was more openly sexist then and that there were many examples of it besides his despite the existence of feminist agitations, especially if that's all they were, agitations (implying no one was paying attention).
26th-Aug-2009 04:17 pm (UTC)
My point is that American fans often misunderstand the cultural context!!! The common US view is that cultural context=sexist Japan...which, besides being overgeneralized, seems to be a very condescending view of Japanese culture. Historically, postwar manga was the place where a lot of radical social dialogue was occurring because it was a fringe art form. During his life, Tezuka was acutely aware of new manga trends; he surely knew what women such as the 49ers were doing in the shoujo manga genre.
26th-Aug-2009 04:38 pm (UTC)
I'm not so much interested in sexist!Japan as where his work (I assume it was/is shonen?) fit within the genre at the time. How popular was shonen in general, if that's what his was? How popular was his work? How did his work and its sexism fit within the larger context of his genre? How popular was the work of the 49ers, or was it, as I suspect, cutting edge but ahead of its time?

What is good about his work as well as being bad or unnecessarily offensive? I assume his work isn't praised and considered classic for no reason. Just because there's a thread in manga in a different genre aimed at a different audience doesn't mean the sexism in his work isn't typical of its time. Of course, that doesn't mean it is; I don't know. It seems to me those are the questions that need to be raised.
26th-Aug-2009 04:56 pm (UTC)
Honestly, all the questions you ask have already been answered at length by other people. The very fact that you're asking means that you've got lots of reading to do! ^_~ If you're interested in the original cultural context in all its complexity, I highly recommend all the writings of Frederik Schodt and Matt Thorn, for starters. That should keep you busy for quite awhile. *laughs*

What *does* interest me in the context of this column--I'm a sociologist, after all, so it's the social interaction that's important to me--is when Westerners excuse sexism in manga by invoking the sexism of Japan and flattening the considerable cultural and historical complexities at play. As I said, it's a condescending pose.

Bear in mind also that calling something "classic" is not due to inherent features of the text itself but due to a *present* critical judgment. Ask yourself this for starters: Who has the authority to deem a work classic? I'll give you a hint--it's not usually a woman or group of women. Therefore, understanding an old text as a classic must be done so while conscious of modern ideology.
26th-Aug-2009 05:09 pm (UTC)
It seems to be that caseybrienza is saying that white, English speaking men are calling it classic and guess what? Those white English speaking dudes generally don't worry about those issues of sexism because of their privilege. They also tend to like stuff by other white, English speaking dudes who don't interfere with their privilege.
26th-Aug-2009 05:11 pm (UTC)
*nodnod* Or, in the case of somebody like Tezuka, a male who is an ethnic/racial majority in his own country who, again, does not threaten or interrogate the underpinnings of their white male privilege.
27th-Aug-2009 03:39 am (UTC)
I'd add to that also that even now manga is a place where a lot of radical social dialogue occurs. Maybe not necessarily in the meaningful ways in which it has in the past, but there is a lot of bending of social norms in manga even today. But then again, historically, fiction in general is often the place where such social norms are challenged across cultural divides and at the fringes of movements for change.

The fact that Tezuka could be a pioneer of manga as an artform after the war, but at the same time ignore social progressive movements like feminism is interesting, though not necessarily unexpected. As always, I would fall back on my belief in the importance of honesty, even when it might shed a less than positive light on someone who is generally otherwise "revered."

I'm sort of disappointed that Chicks had a column I was interested in for once on a week when I was too busy to participate in the discussion afterwards. *sigh*
27th-Aug-2009 05:57 pm (UTC)
Well, on the bright side, the discussion is always ongoing when dealing with topics--gender relations in fandom subcultures, the place of women's literature, critical distance in the evaluation of texts, etc.--as complex as these. I doubt anyone'll have the last word on them anytime soon. ^^;;
29th-Aug-2009 01:46 am (UTC)
Yeah, but I really could have used the distraction this week. Sometimes I want to get away from the internet and live my life, but other times I want to get away from my life and spend more time on the internet...
29th-Aug-2009 01:51 am (UTC)
*sighs* True that about life and the Internet.

Well, for what it's worth, you might like to know that the roundtable column is now aiming for biweekly (once every two weeks).
29th-Aug-2009 01:54 am (UTC)
That should help with avoiding resorting to less interesting topics in order to fill space, I suppose. Not going to help distract me, though.
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