In 2015, I started this blog with the intention of reposting some old stuff, expanding on it, and adding more new content. And one of the topics I wanted to address in particular was the topic of sexism in the Naruto manga. My last post in the series, “It’s Not About Feminism,” was one of the most important posts I wanted to make.
In that post, I took some old thoughts and expanded on them. Overall, I wanted to voice my frustration with certain people in the Naruto fandom who always reacted harshly to the topic of how the women in the manga were treated. Specifically, if baffled me why people would get angry at the question; even more, I was baffled by people who got angry at the question and then proceeded to justify it by their disgusting behavior.
This year, someone responded to the post I had written and gave me a few things to talk about. Among the things this other blogger said was that this series was about feminism given of the type of literary analysis I was doing. I was in fact looking at a finished series through the lens of gender portrayal and Kishimoto Masashi’s own views and experiences had influenced how he presented female characters. So, when I said the series was “not about feminism,” I was ultimately undercutting my most important points.
Now, I will not go back and edit the post (outside grammatical and spelling errors, if I find them), but I want to clarify some things in this post.
Why Did I Said, ‘It Was Not About Feminism,’ What Did I Really Mean?
When I gave the post that title, I was responding to accusations hurled by those on the anti- side of the argument. 1 In the post, I called this “accusations of feminism,” and the person responding to my post questioned my usage of that term.
To be clear, when I used the term, I was referring to how the anti- side called the pro- side feminists in an accusatory tone. The antis tried to shut down all argument and discredit their opponents. That meant feminism had been thoroughly discredited in their eyes.
Do I Agree with the Assertion That Feminism Has Been Discredited?
In a word: no. I don’t describe myself as a feminist, but I feel feminism is needed in day and age, even in the United States. That’s due to how I define it.
Depending on who I talk to, people may feel that feminism is vital or divisive.
There are women and men who identify as feminists. They insist that feminism is about equality between the sexes. They also insist the movement encompasses many other subjects, like racism (and I mostly agree with this).
Others say feminism is unneeded (in developed countries) because now women have more rights than men. And they like to point out cases in which well-to-do women lose their minds because people disagree with them. The antis also love to point to faulty arguments made by self-proclaimed feminists.
Some people even question the use of the term “feminism” since feminine is a root word and it’s specific to women.2 These same people might also insist that all feminism is bad and oppressive.
I am also appalled by people who take serious cases of females being abused and murdered and use those stories to tell First-World feminists to shut up. The first thing that should be addressed in the time of a tragedy is the tragedy. Why should we have to put up with someone who has an ax to grind?
Addressing ‘Ideological Shaming’
In the post (“It’s Not About Feminism”), I mentioned “ideological shaming on campuses,” I was making a quick (if lazy) reference to incidents on American postsecondary campuses. This was before the Berkley incidents, but I was thinking about a speech former Harvard President Lawrence Summers made at National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) in January 2005. Shortly after, he resigned due to the anger over his comments about gender differences.
I had also heard how some speakers at campuses were being turned away because of their political opinions over the years.In most cases, speakers have been turned away by liberal students, although there are conservative students turning some speakers away. And it was those on the far left who were instituting things like trigger warnings and safe spaces. This was easy to lampoon and these extremists were already being used to pigeonhole feminists and lefties as a whole.
A Few Points I Need to Make to the Antis
Still, I would like to counter those negative lines of thought with a few points:
- Women need advocates, as do men.
- Women around the world are subject to oppressive governments and social rules around the world. They especially need advocates.
- Not all women in the United States enjoy full freedom. Women still have to deal with income inequality in an unexplained 4% of cases at the very least and the minimum wage fight concerns women, too because there are more women working minimum wage jobs. Additionally, women who work as prostitutes are abused and there are women who are brought to the country as sex slaves.
- Activists should be aware of many issues surrounding them and recognize where areas overlap. At the same time, if one person is drawn to one area in particular, it’s understandable for them to focus most of their energy there. This is true of feminists and other activists, advocates, and leaders of movements.
- Reproductive rights go beyond abortion, which will happen regardless of the law.
- Many girls around the world are murdered just for being female.
- There are many women who like to look at things objectively, but are often ignored. They might even be allies against extremism.
These are reasons feminism is still important today. The work isn’t done and I’m disgusted by the assertion that it is.
Now, as I pointed out above, it’s true that there are extremists who call themselves feminists and rely on faulty arguments. However, is it fair to criticize the whole group? Of course not.
How Does All This Pertain to Naruto?
When people argue about whether or not the portrayal of females in the manga is sexist (it is), the antis bring the above negativity and BS into the discussion. They refuse to look at things in the story objectively and weight them. That’s why I made my series and decided to break things down the way I did.
The discussion of sexism in Naruto was more complex than I first realized. Naruto is a series with 700 chapters, if you count the 10-chapter gaiden, so there were many chapters I needed revisit and look at the dialogue. It was pretty jarring to see how often references to gender were made when male and female characters — and even characters of the same sex — talked to each other.
There was a lot of unnecessary dialogue in there, much of which was denigrating to women, if only the women in the story in some cases. Thus, it was fair to question how bad it was and why the mangaka3 felt the need to put those things in his story. Much of it still leaves me scratching my head.
- (The affirmative or pro- side of the argument had people like me who were convinced the portrayal of women in Naruto was in fact sexist.)
- The irony here is that people don’t realize the term was coined by a man, Charles Fornier, who agreed with the movement. Also, throughout the years, feminism and causes important to women, like the suffrage, were advanced with the help of men.
- For those unfamiliar with the term a managka is the main artist and story writer on a manga. A manga is basically a Japanese comic book.