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GEnder Politics, Feminism And Mai Hime

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GEnder Politics, Feminism And Mai Hime

Post by GAP on Mon Jul 25, 2011 2:50 pm

I got this from the Animesuki forum:

As a starting point for my thesis on Race and Gender in International Media, I am going to start several surveys on the racial/gender/ethical politics of popular films (live action or otherwise) and anime.

This one will be the first.

Here goes:

Would you Consider The Gender Politics of Mai Hime First Season to be:

1) Progressive Feminist (A celebration of the divine feminine, unbound by the ethical and social constraints of patriarchal capitalism perhaps?

2) Militant Feminist (Lionizing feminine power while simultaneously criticizing the failures of masculine patriarchy?)

3) Progressive Feminine (As opposed to progressive feminist, this school of philosophy would espouse heroism in femininity that does not break from the traditional values of patriarchy. The contention that Mai's heroism springs not from power, but her maternal love is a good example of a progressive-feminine contention. Also consider the loving yet generally unexploitative portrayal of the female physical form.)

4) Politically Egalitarian (The contention that this anime does not celebrate or criticize patriarchy nor femininity.

or

5) Regressive Chauvinist (An equally valid, though quite pessimistic, opposition to the above four schools of thought. Cruel or even cynical as it may be to say, the same love that gives the Hime Warriors their strength is also the singular crippling weakness that allows the cold-logic of imperialistic patriarchy to overwhelm them. Being overwhelmed by love made the heroicially assertive Mai ineffectually weak; a crisis rarely faced by traditional masculine heroes. Also consider the rather exploitative nature of some of the fan service scenes.)

Let the debate begin!!

IMPORTANT NOTE.

Do note that "Progressive Feminine" is not a dismissal of the validity of feminine sexuality like "Reggressive Chauvinism", but rather a loving and respectful celebration of it.

However, unlike "Progressive Feminist', Progressive Feminine:

A) Empowers feminine sexuality without attempting to alter it to patriarchal values. Valeria the She-Male Feminist Barbarian from Conan The Barbarian is a prime example of what is NOT Progressive Feminine: she was practically a male-hating man with breasts.

B) Does not stomp over patriarchy or masculinity in its quest for validity, unlike "Militant Feminist."


1) Nao of the first season is the transgressive figure of liberated feminine sexuality that lacks maternal love, and is punished (narrativally) for her transgression.

2) As much as Nao, sister Yukariko defers to patriarchy doubly in her lover and god, and yet simultaneously defies it with her love to a man.

3) The Symbolic Trinity of Femininity:

Natsuki: Sexuality
Mikoto: Purity
Mai: Motherhood

4) Akira = Defends Patriarchy by embodying it: and defeated when she she yeilds to love.

More philosophical rambling to come.


For the most part, Mai-HiME hits upon the Progressive Feminine option the most although other members of the cast do exibit nearly all the other types of gender politics that you mentioned before but I think these choices of cast members embody the types of Gender Politics:

Progressive Feminist - Natsuki
Militant Feminist - Haruka (ding ding)
Progressive Feminine - Mai
Regressive Chauvinist - Yurikako

Natsuki starts off as being the postergirl for Progressive Feminist - doing things her way, her standing as an untouchable 'goddess' amongst her classmates both male and female. The 'untouchable' aura she excluded, her self-reliance, as well as her ability for her to perform traditionally/typically masculine endevours (motorcycles, fighting w/ guns and unarmed) with feminine grace, beauty and even sensuality hits upon this very strongly. The negative aspects of Progressive Feminist are smoothed away by her relations with Mai, Mikoto, Shizuru, and even Nao, molding her into a softer, more personable Progressive Feminist-type near the end of the show.

Mai protrays Progressive Feminine to a 'T' over the course of the series. I'd go so far as to say that the anti-theory of Regressive Chauvinist became the perfect counter to the Progressive Feminine in that Reito seeked to show Mai how easily he dominated and controlled every outcome to get what he desired- case in point - he wanted her. In scripting the situations where the HiME fought each other and sending Nagi in to give them carefully worded information, Reito/OL protrayed an old adage dealing with men choosing/deciding everything and the woman just following along. Case in point would be who Mai loved: Tate - the one she chose of her own will, or Reito - the one who was most 'logically' perfect for her in his mind and some others. Mai refusing Reito/OL's offer in the end could be seen as a type of defiance to allow a patriarchal influence to decided something of that nature for a woman. In Mai's case, it was very well set up to be an arranged marriage.

I think that Haruka's general behavior illustrates what Militant Feminist is perfectly. ^^ She intensely disliked Shizuru's (and coincidently Reito's) way of dealing with things in an easygoing manner, one that did not show strong force in the face of problems that arose.


This may get a few people angry, but here goes.

The Hime Version of Shizuru unfortunately would fit into the Regressive Chauvinist reading of the stereotypical lesbian female.

She, after all, represents the subconcious masculine anxiety of being consumed by feminine sexuality (a manifestation of the Vagina Dentata according to the writings of Sigmund Freud, if you will) unbound in the least by the morals and concerns of patriarchy.

Her love for Natsuki, though noble in its roots, is portrayed as anything but constructive or positive later on in the series.

I personally admire this lady, but the way the series judged her conduct is chauvinistic if not downright mysoginistic.


Nao turned somewhat nasty, because of the traumatic experience from her childhood.

That a bunch of a**h*le, f**ked up guys robbed her mother and implicilty hinted at that those jerks viscerally raped her mother, which literally turned into who she is at the start of My-HiME.

Unable to rely upon others and seek happiness from anyone else, save herself.

Actually, I found out that Nao's bleak outlook on life and childhood draws a bit few of fantastic parallels to the life of Valerie Solanas, the infamous writer of the S.C.U.M. Manifesto.

The woman better than all the male sex combined; the Woman Who Shot Andy Warhol.

I read her biography, and just like Nao she had a disastrously, f**k*ed up childhood. But unlike Nao, her childhood (Solanas) was far worse because her father in fact sexually abused her, and she ended up homeless by her mid-teens.

According to her S.C.U.M. Manifesto, women must engage in criminal and destructive activities NOT civil disobedience until 1) all patriarch-based systems and forms of government are dissolved; 2) all financial and transactions that involve money are eliminated and replaced by automated systems; 3) all men are literally GONE from the face of the Earth.

My opinion, Nao is the Militant Feminist icon from My-HiME

It would be a bit overboard to say this from me, but Valerie Solanas lives and is well alive in Nao Yuuki.

Nao is the Valerie Solanas of the My-HiME universe but toned down. Because if the real-life Solanas had the same powers and a Child just like Nao, then truly she would had changed the world to a female-only.

What do you think of these?

GAP
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Re: GEnder Politics, Feminism And Mai Hime

Post by BubuzukeOnna on Mon Nov 21, 2011 12:23 am

This is a really interesting post, and it makes me somewhat sad that no one has commented on it.

I'll preface by saying that when my brain is less occupied with other thoughts, I'd like to spend some time mulling this over and writing out my particular view of the subject. As a seinan show, it's certainly an interesting lens to look through. The female characters, having been written by and for Men (Japanese Men), probably reflect the ideas of women and female/feminist "archetypes" held by that demographic. It's likely to be colored by both institutionalized and overt misogyny, in a similar fashion as American media. Take Joss Whedon's female heroines as an example - he constantly uses rape and sexual abuse as the trans formative ingredient. It implies his impression that a woman must endure some kind of trauma as a catalyst in order for her adopt the independent take-charge persona.

Anyhow, this should be interesting - thanks for posting this up.

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Re: GEnder Politics, Feminism And Mai Hime

Post by Magus Phantalus on Mon Nov 21, 2011 9:02 pm

Well I just wanna get out of the way that it feels a little weird for me to comment on this being male and all it feels like I don't have any right to comment about this. Anyhoo if permitted;

I strongly dislike the idea of rape and sexual abuse as a trans-formative ingredient. From an artisitc point of view it is lazy story telling. I understand some type of trauma is usually needed to kick start a hero but why does it always have to rape for female heros?

As far Natsuki is concerned I like her ability to take charge and be independent yet still be capable of compassion and empathy.

I like Mai's ability to be both a mother figure yet still someone who will defy patriarchal authority.

Shizuru is a strange case for me. I can't even imagine what it might be like to grow up as a lesbian(or gay man or anything) in a japanese culture. From what little I know(and please correct me if I'm wrong), it is my understanding that japanese culture strongly tied to family and having a gay child is well not really approved of. So I sympathize with Shizuru's character but I don't really see her as an appropriate femminist model.

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Re: GEnder Politics, Feminism And Mai Hime

Post by BubuzukeOnna on Mon Nov 21, 2011 10:15 pm


Well I just wanna get out of the way that it feels a little weird for me to comment on this being male and all it feels like I don't have any right to comment about this. Anyhoo if permitted;
You're certainly permitted. Some of my favorite essays on feminist topics have been written by men. Admittedly, gay men - but I don't think your gender excludes you from commentary on feminism or gender binary.



I strongly dislike the idea of rape and sexual abuse as a trans-formative ingredient. From an artistic point of view it is lazy story telling. I understand some type of trauma is usually needed to kick start a hero, but why does it always have to be rape for female heroes?

Agreed.



As far Natsuki is concerned I like her ability to take charge and be independent yet still be capable of compassion and empathy.

Would you give examples of actions and words that you felt reflected compassion and empathy on her part?



I like Mai's ability to be both a mother figure yet still someone who will defy patriarchal authority.

Likewise, what actions do you feel that Mai took which reflected her defiance of patriarchal authority... and what you mean by patriarchal authority?



Shizuru is a strange case for me. I can't even imagine what it might be like to grow up as a lesbian(or gay man or anything) in a Japanese culture. From what little I know(and please correct me if I'm wrong), it is my understanding that Japanese culture strongly tied to family and having a gay child is well not really approved of. So I sympathize with Shizuru's character but I don't really see her as an appropriate feminist model.

Despite growing up with a Japanese influence, that part of my family might be considered fairly well Americanized - so I can't really reflect overly on what it would mean to be homosexual as a Japanese person.

We can grasp that Shizuru herself believed her feelings and sexual preferences were incorrect through her words and actions - whether that's intended to be interpreted as a cultural context or as the context of her specific upbringing it's hard to say.

Either way, she certainly took a lot of care to present her image as a poster child for femininity, while when crap hit the fan we discovered she had it in her to be quite a bit more aggressive and "masculine." Part of this might just be the AB blood type villain "loose cannon" trope.

I don't want to outright say that she's not feminist, because it's difficult to tell without having more solid information about her character as the author(s) imagined her.

I don't think embracing femininity per se is anti-feminist. That's difficult to accept for some, because there tends to be a degree of andro-centrism. It's ok to be a girl...as long as you don't act like one. If you're a boy, don't act like a girl - many insults so disparaging to men are centered on the idea that the worst thing you can be is a girl. How are girls supposed to feel about being simultaneously expected and punished for being feminine... (even by other women/girls/feminists). I think it's working backwards at that point.


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Re: GEnder Politics, Feminism And Mai Hime

Post by Magus Phantalus on Tue Nov 22, 2011 6:36 am

I think Natsuki's biggest examples of empathy and compassion are reflected in the theme of forgivness. She forgave both Nao and Shizuru unconditionally for their crimes against her and even went outt of her way to save Nao and prevent Shizuru from becoming the monster she was willing to become. In my opinion Natsuki's ability to forgive speaks volumes of her character it is far easier to swing the sword than to stay one's hand.

When Mai rejected the Obsidian Lord's offer she chose to stand for what she believed in, something seperate from his views. To me both of these characters are strong femminist models because they are both strong and capable women who are not only strong in diffrent ways but they remain strong without sacrficing their femininity.

Also just saying cause you touched on this a bit BubuzukeOnna, gender roles of any type are aggravating to say the least. Being expected to act a certain way just because I am male is diminishing. Hell any type of sexism is diminishing to both men and women because it says that both men and women have to act a certain way. It's why I've been trying to go out of the way to correct people who tell me to "act like a man". I say don't tell me to act like a man, if you're going to tell me to act like anything tell me to act like me.

Also as far as sexuality is exploited in My Hime I... am not a fan of episode four. Most creatures with tentacles disgust me simply because of that fetish. I'm just glad it wasn't serious and Natsuki killed the damn thing.

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Re: GEnder Politics, Feminism And Mai Hime

Post by BubuzukeOnna on Wed Nov 23, 2011 1:15 pm

I have more questions for you Magus, but I don't have a lot of time right this second. I was wondering about whether or not you view compassion, empathy, and forgiveness as more feminine traits? If so, why do you think that is?

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Re: GEnder Politics, Feminism And Mai Hime

Post by GAP on Wed Nov 23, 2011 11:21 pm

Hmmmm I never thought anyone would reply to this thread but those are some really good thoughts on the subject.

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Re: GEnder Politics, Feminism And Mai Hime

Post by Magus Phantalus on Thu Nov 24, 2011 12:08 am

@ BubuzukeOnna: I believe those concepts (compassion, empathy, and forgivness) transcend both masculine and feminine (like wise their oppisite concepts hatred, rage, and enmity transcend both the masculine and feminine aswell) although from my observations compassion ect. tend to be associated with the feminine while hatred ect. tend to assoicated with the masculine.

@GAP I'm glad I noticied this thread it's nice to hear other's thoughs on the matter.

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Re: GEnder Politics, Feminism And Mai Hime

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