I haven't watched anime in awhile but writing a paper for English made me revisit some ideas and thoughts that I had back when I was a much bigger fan. Awhile ago, I made a thread in the DBZ forum about how I thought that its creator Akira Toriyama was a misogynist or at least his work was. For those wondering what that word mean, a misogynist is a person that hates women or has a very low opinion of them. A good example of this is Cerebus cartoonist Dave Sim who doesn't think to highly of the "fairer sex" but more on how this relates to the thread later. The thread quickly degenerated into a minor squabble between myself and another member. However I did come to the conclusion that while Toriyama and his work wasn't misogynistic yet it certainly wasn't in a feminist frame of mind.
So about a year passes, and I start working on this paper for English on the Cerebus graphic novel Mothers and Daughters
when I come across the word "anti-feminist" which Dave Sim used to describe certain parts of the story. I started thinking about that term and it brought back to that old thread and realized that it was the perfect way to describe a lot of anime. In fact it went back to a lot of the old ideas I used to discuss with another poster on the boards in that a lot of anime seems to be the anti-thesis of many feminist ideas and values that Western culture seems to espouse highly.
Think about it. Many of anime's heroines are either
- in shoujo are trying to find the perfect man and are usually very weak
- in more male oriented stories, are very shrew like and bitchy until they ultimately fall for the guy
- Or in animes, bicker and fight over one particular male character
I just find this to be very peculiar in that this seems to be very different from the Western idea of a female character who is usually cleverer and stronger than her male counterparts though she isn't domineering. I'm not going to say all women in Western stories are like that since there are quite a few female characters that fall into the traps that I mention though somehow they end up as being just as strong or intelligent as their male counterparts in the end. However, I don't think that it's nearly as prominent as it is in Japanese culture. Women seem to be portrayed as very different individuals there.
I think calling it anti-feminist is a safe way of portraying this attitude in that these individuals don't conform to Western ideas of feminism. I'm not saying it's right or wrong but I'm somewhat curious about this. What I'm wondering is just how different is Japanese culture from American and other Western cultures in it's attitudes towards women? Has feminism perpetrated the culture there as it has here or does it stick to the more "traditional family roles" that Western culture has seemingly abandoned?