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Anime: The Ugly

Right, there is sexism in anime, and if you are looking for a bit more of original take, then look elsewhere. But if you do not think that is a problem, then I would invite you to hear what I have to say. And I am by no means an expert. I am man, after all, and not often the target of sexism. But I will try to have my take on it, and what bothers me about it.

So, I feel like there needs to be lain some ground work here, to understand what sexism is and isn't, and how sexism manifests in anime. Some sexism 101 if you will. I am going to use Food Wars as an example, not because it is the worst, but because it hides it the best. But I will say right now, that just because there is problematic stuff in what you watch, does not mean that you should feel bad about enjoying it, as long as you are aware that it is problematic. For me, it does not keep Food Wars from being a great anime, it just means I sometimes I cringe when they does not do enough to balance things out. See, here is the thing. Nudity in itself is not sexist. It is just a naked person, as is every person when they shower. No the problem lies in how the nudity is portrayed. I would even say than just because the nudity is portrayed sexy, does not mean that it is in itself sexist. Okay, so when is it sexist? It is, when there is a difference on how nudity is portrayed between genders. Nudity in Food Wars is portrayed thusly: The female moan, cover themselves in embarrassment, and stick their buts out a lot, or take on another submissive pose. The male are either comedically spread out, their pasty bums for all to see, with a face like they just had a wee, or they are standing strong and proud about all they are, from their muscular chests to their swinging thing-that-make-me-feel-inferior. The men are funny (often by taking on female characteristics) or they are strong and dominant. Women are submissive and stick their bums out. That is a problem, because it divides the sexes. It is sexist. And no, men and women are not the same, but they are equal, and this is not equal.

To be fair, there are a few times where the two are portrayed equal. Sometimes they do the enlightened shine with arms stretched out. Good, I like it. It does not excuse the other things unfortunately. To try and make it more clear, I'm going to spoil the ending of Food Wars, so if that bothers you, skip to the next paragraph. So at the end, Erina eats Soma's food, and her clothes rip off her and she is revealed, naked, submissive. It does not fit her character, and does not fit the way the series then ends, with Soma, again, loosing to Erina. Why not have her inherit the chest-baring? Her clothes exploding, and her, standing defiantly, arms crossed, abs and breasts on full display, standing strong and proud about all that she is. Firstly, it would have been funnier, in a series all about comedy. The subversion of the expectation. Secondly, that would have been a huge step in the right direction of making all of it okay. Just throw in a few more, and some girls comically on their stomachs, pasty bum for all to see, alongside some men hiding their junk and sticking their bums out, moaning as they do. Or whatever women finds sexy, I'm not sure. This is something that you see explicitly in Food Wars, but it exist implicitly as well, in gender rolls and camera angles, both subtle and not.

How women act and react in things that are for guys matter. It creates expectation in how a relationship should work between man and woman, even if it is a relationship between friends. When I got married, we talked to our pastor about how married life is, in all aspects. When it came to a marriage he said that the biggest hurdle is your own expectations, your images on how married life should be, versus how it will actually be. The same is true about sex. If your experience with sex is based on media and such, you might have a very different image of sex than what it will be. Knowing that is half the battle, replacing those images with new images of what sex is, it the next. And it is here that sexism becomes a problem. There are no girls like anime girls. There are awesome women, better than then things you imagine, I happen to be married to one, but it is not what I had the image of, and so it is still somewhat if a disappointment. But that is entirely on me and my skewed expectations, and I can change those, and see that nothing and no-one is better than the person I get to wake up to every morning.

There are a lot of things ugly about anime, besides the sexism. There is racial stereotyping, there is unhealthy expectations about success, there are problems connecting to even the good in anime, like those who strive the hardest succeed, but that is not always the case. There is the more insidious sexism that portrays women like little girls and thinks that is okay just because you say they are over eighteen. If people don't find what they expect where they are allowed to look, them might look elsewhere.

But, here is what I guess is the defense of it, because it is still a genre of media I love. Well firstly, hashtag notallanime, but that does not excuse the ugly tropes. But I believe we need to be better at highlighting the good then, those who does not fall in most of these traps, like Erased, or any movie from Studio Ghibli. Secondly, I don't think that it is done in any sort of malice, except maybe the last one. That is what I mean by unapologetic, they do what they like and just does not think it through enough, often. Again, this is not an excuse, just a point of view. Will I stop watching anime because of it? Not really, I just need to be aware, and I wish with all I have that the creators could get more aware of this problem as well. Because it is a problem, and it needs to be dealt with, not made worse, as it seemingly has over the years.

And there it is, Anime, the good, the bad and the ugly. What are your own good, bad and ugly when it comes to this interesting genre of animation? I would love to hear it! Next, I think I'll talk about something else instead. Like Lovecraftian horror and racism. Sure, why not.

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