Sexism in Naruto: What Do the Characters Say?

When you have a story where men and woman work closely together, they will inevitably mention gender. It’s true in real life, so of course this will be reflected in fiction. As one can rib another and make harmless jokes based on appearances, voices, opinions, and performances, men and women will make jokes about each other. Although many comments people make about each other are mean-spirited, other statements made can be relatively harmless.

As it pertains to Naruto, I think the in-manga statements about gender are quite troublesome. While many of the quotes one can find in this group may be harmless on the surface, I feel there were clearly times when Kishimoto inserted lines and references about gender that really had no place in the story. Of course, Shikamaru is the worst offender, and I feel that most if not all of his quotes were out of place.

I have made this list of the various examples I could think of and find from various chapters. This encompasses what was said and done to put things into context. However, it should be noted that I have left out some pages where Tsunade and Chiyo were call old hags. Take a look.

Chapter 4

Kakashi’s lines about Sakura early on in the manga — when he first met Team 7 and told them to introduce themselves — shouldn’t be ignored. On Page 8, He referred to her as “the girl.” On the following page, Kakashi thought, “Girls her age only care about romance…” This was foreshadowing of how Sakura’s character would be tied down by her canonically unexplained infatuation with Sasuke. What makes this worse is how Kakashi neglected Sakura as a student, even during the 2 ½ years when Naruto and Sasuke were away.

Chapter 53

On page 14, Kin grabs Sakura’s hair. The Kin then teases Sakura for having lustrous hair and calls her “female swine.” Kin may have used the term 女性の豚 (josei no buta), but it looks like the word “buta” was definitely used. (I must note here that the term buta has been used by Sakura, but in a different way. Those who have followed the story of course know that Sakura called Ino a pig — “Ino-pig!” That was a retort to “billboard brow” — a reference to Sakura’s large forehead — and it was clearly a play on Ino’s name, which means “boar.”)

Now, Kin’s insults were nothing out of the ordinary when considering the worst Japanese insults. They fit here given Kin’s role. She liked to torment her opponents, which other shinobi liked to do, and she did make fun of Sakura keeping up her appearance and focusing on boys (one, to be exact).

However, this incident clearly shows that there was little to Sakura’s character, particularly in comparison to her teammates. Girls were also tied to love; and despite Lee making advances toward Sakura, he was never teased in that way.

Chapter 54

On Page 14, it is made clear that Sakura abandoned her friendship with Ino over a boy (Sasuke). The girls also started growing out their hair because they thought that would attract him.

Chapter 55

Shikamaru’s comment was cut off, but he implied that it would be shameful for him and Choji to hide, “As men,” if Ino was willing to go help out Sakura against Team Dosu.

Chapter 57

Page 8: In the middle-right panel, Lee tells Tenten why he momentarily left Team Gai in the Forest of Death. He wanted to help Sakura and he thought that it was his duty “As a man.”

Chapter 71

Instance 1: This is not exactly dialogue, but on Page 3, Asuma’s thoughts are highlighted. He thinks that Ino is exceptional among female ninjas. Of course, he used the term “kunoichi” in Japanese, but there was a clear distinction there.

Instance 2: During a shared flashback starting on Page 4, Ino and Sakura meet during a class set aside for young girls. Two things are wrong with this. The first problem is that there was even such as class, which would never be mentioned again or have any real relevance besides establishing how Ino and Sakura met. The second problem is how Sakura decided to break off her new friendship with Ino over a boy.

Instance 2 ½: On Page 15, the girls’ flashback ends where Sakura challenged Ino. This is shortly after they graduated from Ninja Academy. Sakura says that as a kunoichi (female shinobi), she refuses to lose to Ino.

Chapter 73

Instance 1: On Page 4, Naruto tries to encourage Sakura, who’s at the edge of defeat by Ino. He screams that if Sakura loses there, she is not a woman. This was certainly playful, because Naruto referred to Ino as a “Sasuke-baka.” The same type of encouragement would be returned by Sakura in the following chapter.

Instance 2: On page 8, after Ino is forced to release her Shintenshin, Sakura says that women have to be tough to survive.

Chapter 74

Shikamaru had a number of comments made about women in Part 1. First, he was complaining about having to fight girls during the Chūnin exams on page 8 when he found out he would be fighting against Tsuchi Kin.

Chapter 93

After his Chūnin preliminary fight against Gaara, Lee had to be hospitalized. That didn’t stop him from doing one-handed push-ups outside on the hospital’s grounds. Sakura and Ino found him and rushed to his side as he collapsed. Sakura asked why boys try so hard and Ino responded that she didn’t know since she was a girl, too.

Chapter 106

In this chapter, Shikamaru was set to fight against Temari in the Chūnin Exam finals. In his thoughts, he was bummed out about having to fight another woman (he had previously defeated Kin). On the last page, Shikamaru vows not to lose to a girl.

Chapter 107

On the first page, Shikamaru restates what he said in the previous chapter. In his thoughts, he said that a guy shouldn’t to hit a girl. That was a ridiculous thought because he and Temari were both ninja.

Chapter 119

Here, Shikamaru thinks to himself as he faces Orochimaru’s subordinates. As part of his plan, he acted as a decoy in order for Naruto, Sakura, and Pakkun to catch up to Sasuke and Gaara. Anyway, Shikarmaru’s stamina is fading and he is preparing to die. His thoughts are shown to be ordinary, like the woman he would imagine marrying. He wanted to have a girl first then a boy then retire once his boy was independent and the daughter married off.

Chapters 146-147

Jiraiya begins his speech in front of “You don’t seem to know very much about me. I’m better at getting girls than they are at trying to get me. Even though it doesn’t look like it. It’s my specialty. I, Jiraiya, this epitome of manliness! I will fall for no woman’s femine wiles!! When you’re someone like me, you’ll only have to flash that sexiness to have women fall at your feet.”

This was in response to the trap Itachi and Kisame set up for Jiraiya in order to separate him from Naruto. The two Akatsuki members were trying to take Naruto at that point and they were using one of Jiraiya’s weaknesses (his perversion). It was known how Jiraiya was a pervert. He wrote the Ichi-Icha novels, which were understood to have sexual content, he fell for Naruto’s Sexy No Justu, and he spied on naked women in hotsprings.

Still, the Akatsuki pair thought that was a weak attempt to lure Jiraiya, who quickly saw through it anyway. While setting the woman down on the floor of the room he rented for himself and Naruto, Jiraiya stated that using a Sharingan genjutsu on the woman was not a manly way of doing things.

Chapter 150

Jiraiya talks to Naruto about the “three sins” a shinobi should avoid. They were: alcohol, women, and money. This actually sets up a funny sequence as Naruto enjoys himself with a limited amount of his own money at a festival. When he catches up to Jiraiya, the Ero Sennin is seen drinking with women draped on his arm and Naruto sees his wallet has been emptied.

Chapter 156

Kishimoto’s theme of scary women most likely begins here. As Orochimaru and Kabuto proposition Tsunade to heal Orochimaru’s arms, Tsunade, busts a wall with her right fist. Kabuto thinks to himself that Tsunade is destructive, fearsome, and definitely single.

Chapter 158

Naruto and Jiraiya caught up to Tsunade and Shizune at a tavern. Jiraiya eventually asks Tsunade if she would take on the title of Hokage, which Tsunade initially turns down. She became very bitter since her contributions in the Second Great Shinobi War and her comments about the title of Hokage and those who held the title offended Naruto and took Jiraiya by surprise. On Page 15, Naruto blurts out that he didn’t care whether or not Tsunade was a woman…he wanted to kick her ass.

Chapter 159

In this chapter, Jiraiya sent Shizune and Naruto away to look for hotel rooms. He wanted to have a drink with Tsunade and warn her about betraying the Leaf. Before that, though, he broke the ice with some ribbing. Tsunade thought perhaps that Jiraiya was flirting with her and said that he was the only one she turned down. He responded that since she was his age, she was told old for him anyway.

Chapter 172

Shikamaru strikes again. Here, he bitched about Tsunade being made Hokage on Page 5 (“Damn, a woman Hokage). He also made comments about women being troublesome ─ and that includes his own mother. In Particular, Shikamaru said that he hated women and girls. To him, women were dishonest, selfish and annoying, and always tried to boss guys around.

Shikaku countered by saying that men and women needed each other. He also pointed out that some women are nicest to the men that they love.

This didn’t sway Shikamaru. He saw his dad as being whipped.

I honestly think that was Kishimoto [inadvertently] breaking the forth wall, but maybe’s that just me.

Chapter 174

In one of her worst moments, Ino alludes to Chouji’s weight. She stresses that girls need to be skinny in order to attract the boys they like and that Chouji needs to look after his body or he will never attract a girl. What a thoughtless thing to say.

After she walks away, Shikamaru tries to cheer up his friend. Shikamaru tells Chouji that not all guys like skinny girls but stacked chicks may have an advantage. The newly appointed Chunin also says that his friend is funny and smart.

Chapter 177

Tayayu is quickly shown to have a foul mouth. She harshly criticizes and insults her teammates. She calls Sakon something akin to a fairy. Jirobu quickly tries to say that a girl shouldn’t say things like that, but he is cut off.

Chapter 181

Sakura told a departing Sasuke that she valued him over her familial bonds. She also said that she loved him with all her heart. While this alone may not be remotely sexist, it ties into the point above about how Sakura’s character was mainly tied to romance, more so than any other type of goal she had in the story.

Chapter 182

At the beginning of this chapter, we see Shikamaru and Shikaku eating breakfast. Shikamaru’s mother was scolding Shikamaru and he said she was nagging all morning. As she answers the door, Shikamaru asked his father in an aside why the man married such a strict woman.

Chapter 202

Tayuya teases Shikamaru for assembling a team to look for just one boy. She calls the boys in the search party a bunch of homos.

Chapter 209

Shikamaru gained a momentary advantage against Tayuya in their battle and was going to engage in close-quarter combat. Here, the boy says he wouldn’t normally hit a defenseless woman but Tayuya wasn’t exactly defenseless.

Chapter 213

In the previous chapter, the Sand Siblings intervened in three fights, saving Shikamaru, Kiba, and Lee from Tayuya, Sakon/Ukon, and Kimimaro, respectively. Shikamaru, of course, complains about having to be protected by a woman. Temari calls him out on this.

Chapter 214

After Temari defeated Tayuya, Shikamaru thought to himself that Temari was scary, much like his mother.

Chapter 235

Shikaku seems more progressive in comparison to Shikamaru, but the father may very well be a source of his son’s sexism. Let’s remember Shikaku’s words to Shikamaru when the guys were awaiting word on the Genin who came back from the failed mission to retrieve Sasuke.

On Page 14, Shikamaru was criticized and questioned by Temari. As he walked away, Shikaku called out his son. The father said something along the lines of, “You’re going to let a girl talk to you like that…” Shikamaru responded that he didn’t want to have a troublesome argument because he wasn’t a girl. To that, Shikaku said that his son was also not a man.

Chapter 238

The Sand Siblings prepare to leave Konoha and they are met at the gate by Shikamaru. Temari gets in yet another jab at Shikamaru. He then tells her she talks too much and starts to make another statement about women but trails off.

Chapter 244

Kakashi and Rin’s conversation after Obito died always sat with me the wrong way. Kakashi brings up how much Obito cared for Rin and Rin tries to tell Kakashi about her feelings. The conversation was wildly inappropriate ─ at least in terms of the angle ─ and it left so much room for it to be interpreted in a certain way. Many male readers took that and called Rin a whore. She also had the misfortune of being compared to Sakura, due to how the teams were set up and her relative role. Kishimoto would have done better to just have Kakashi say that it was Obito who had the drive to come back and rescue Rin, then showed her mulling that over.

Chapter 267

Having said what I did about Chiyo, I still have to make note of the various things she and Sasori said to each other.

Chiyo says that no man should interrupt a lady when she’s speaking.

Chapter 270

Sasori quips to Sakura, “And you call yourself a girl with that unnatural strength.”

Chapter 272

On Page 14, Sasori laments how he would tell the tale of how long it would have taken him to defeat “a girl and an old hag.”

Chapter 275

Once Sasori was defeated, Chiyo gave up some of her life energy to save Sakura. Once the girl regained consciousness, she went up to Sasori and punched him in the face. However, since Sasori was a puppet, he could feel no pain. He pointed this out to Sakura and added, “Women like to do useless things, don’t they…kuku…”

Chapter 328

Asuma has last words for his students. He tells Ino to take care of her teammates and not to lose to Sakura in ninjutsu or love. He tells Choji to believe in himself in order to because the strongest shinobi (on his team?) and to maybe diet a little. Asuma has the most words for his favorite student, Shikamaru.

Chapter 366

Jiraiya teased Tsunade about her breasts and that conversation has always offended me. Look at it again. On Page 13, he says that even if Tsunade looked beautiful, she was still a 50-something bag. He goes on to say that the men she has lost in her life have added to the increasing size of her breasts. Even if the two were friends, that was really rude and what place did that have in the story?

Chapter 367

Jiraiya and Tsunade also had lines about men and women just before Jiraiya left the village for the last time. Jiraiya first says, “Getting dumped makes men stronger. And if he hasn’t experienced it enough to be able to laugh and joke about it, or at least use it as material, he can’t fulfill his duties as a man.” Tsunade replies that men are all alike and without women to reject them, the men would have no one to toughen them up.

Chapter 371

Jiraiya remarks on the improvements Konan made with her paper jutsu and her beauty.

Chapter 372

In one of Jiraiya’s flashbacks, he is sitting with Nagato, Konan and Yahiko as they all prepare to eat a meal. Nagato is crying because the togetherness reminds him of his family. Yahiko remarks that Nagato should stop crying because he’s a boy and that would signify weakness. There is a callback to this in the following chapter as Jiraiya brings up Yahiko’s words as the former departs.

Chapter 373

Jiraiya had trained the Ame Orphans for three years before returning to Konoha. One of the things he says is that Konan was developing into a real beauty and that she should call him once she reached 18. While I take this as a half-joke, it was wildly inappropriate for a sensei to say to his student.

Chapter 429

In Chapter 427, Tsume and Kiba busted into the morgue to find Preta Path. The Path was moved in order for Deva to use Shinra Tensei. Moments before Shinra Tensei hit, Tsume remarked that the path was probably too scared to stick around. Kiba thinks that was the case for his father. (Hurr-hurr…)

Chapter 450

What the heck…I’ll just mention the silly ramblings of Omoi and Karui here. Omoi worries if they meet a bunch of hot girls in Konoha on their way to send a message from their Raikage. He also asks what if Karui meets a hot guy. Karui fantasizes about meeting a tall, rich, and handsome guy in the village. In context, this was more about contrasting the serious mood in Konoha, which had just been destroyed structurally by Pain’s attack.

Chapter 452

Mei was bogged down by the running gag of being spurned by love. This was even carried out in the epilogue of the manga proper. It really makes no sense that she couldn’t find love if she was so inclined, but that’s beside the point. Her character could have been so much more, particularly in terms of her Kekkei Genkai and some history of how she faired when there was a purge of bloodline limits during the Bloody Mist Era.

Chapter 465

At the end of the chapter, Mei flirts with Sasuke. She remarks that the Uchiha clan had a lot of good-looking men.

Chapter 466

An incensed Karin remarks that “an old hag” like Mei has no business flirting with someone.

Chapter 469

This was the chapter with Sakura’s infamous confession. She was lying to Naruto and he knew it. Near the end of the chapter, Sakura had an “interesting” line. She said she just switched from Sasuke to Naruto, because, “As they say, ‘A woman’s heart is as fickle as the autumn sky.’” WTF?

Chapter 500

Kurenai’s father’s lines to her were unfortunate. It’s one thing to tell your child that you want them to live long enough to reach adulthood and hopefully start her own family, but specifically pointing out that she’s a woman? Can someone explain this to me?

Chapter 504

Minato told Kushina that he could not take her place as a mother. That alone is not bad, because it’s true. However, Minato essentially ducked out of being a parent…for a hunch, and the village would have been better served if he had lived. Honestly, this offends me more for the sheer stupidity.

Chapter 576

During the Fourth Great Shinobi War, Edo Madara talks down to Tsunade by calling her a weak woman, telling her that Hashirama’s healing abilities were superior, and the weak people are repulsive to him. (It’s as if Kishimoto was aware of the charges of sexism or that he was reading NF threads, although he does not speak English.)

Tsunade responded, repeating that yes, she was a woman but…

Chapter 690

Naruto and Sasuke were needed to seal Kaguya, but they needed a bit of help to get her in place and hold her there. Sakura’s help comes in the form of a punch. As she attacks, she proclaims she’s still there and says something akin to “From one woman to another…” The point?

In the next post, I’ll look at various quotes from Kishimoto from verified interviews and summaries.


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