Creating Manga Through a Feminist

*Quick disclaimer: The course I created is hypothetical at this time! This course was created as a final project for my graduate course – I would love to teach this class, but for now this course is not a reality*

It’s been FOREVER since I posted! I’m in the thick of writing my thesis so I’ve been buried in data analysis since January, but I wanted to take a break and share my project from last semester. I was enrolled in a Feminist Rhetoric course as a final piece of my graduate school coursework and our final project was to create a writing course that incorporated feminist theory. Of course, I jumped at getting the opportunity to create a course that’s main course reading was manga (because how could I not?). As I went through the creation process, I fell more and more in love with this course and would absolutely LOVE to teach it one day.

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Image from Skip Beat! by Yoshiki Nakamura

While the options are endless when it comes to manga, I decided to create a course that analyzed manga through a feminist lens; specifically, shoujo, yaoi, and josei manga. I chose the genres of shojo (girls’) manga, yaoi (boys’ love) manga, and josei (adult women) manga because these genres have historically been targeted for female audiences in that they provide readers opportunity to recognize “different ways in which sexual fantasy and fetish are imagined and configured…and give visibility to, the malleabilities and fluidities of sex” (Shigematsu 129).

Let me just pause and say thank you to all of my professors (both undergraduate and graduate) for taking the time it takes to create their syllabi. This is no cake walk people – not only do you need to need to select the course readings, you also create assignments, course policy, assessment policy, etc. But, the most work (in my opinion) goes into creating your course calendar; the tedious day-by-day break down of how your course is going to go from week one to week sixteen. Also, a major thank you to the faculty who helped me in not having to re-invent the wheel for some of my course (credited in the footnotes!) *End of rant*

Okay, so my overarching feminist principles for this class stem from Critical Theory because it provides excellent “tools that not only show us our world and ourselves through new and valuable lenses but also can strengthen our ability to think logically, creatively, and a good deal of insight” (Tyson 3). Critical theory also treats “human productions” such as literature, music, art, film, science, and technology as “outgrowths of human experience [that] reflect human desire, conflict, and potential” and, through reading and writing about these productions, we learn to interpret those productions in order to learn something important about ourselves” (Tyson 3). Critical theory is the driving force behind my pedagogy in that it structures how my course encourages students to disrupt and interrogate social constructions of gender, race, class, and sexuality.

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Image from Ten Count by Rihito Takarai

After all this, here is my “Manga Through a Feminist Lens” course: manga-through-a-feminist-lens_ke-syllabus

Please let me know what you think!

Works Cited

Shigematsu, Setsu. “Dimensions of Desire: Sex, Fantasy, and Fetish in Japanese Comics.” Themes in Asian Cartooning: Cute, Cheap, Mad, and Sexy, pp. 127-163, ed. J.A. Lent:         Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1999.

Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide. Garland, 1999.

How I See Transnational Feminism

Trans denotes both moving through space or across lines, as well as changing the nature of something. Besides suggesting new relations between nation-states and capital, transnationality also alludes to the transversal, the transactional, the translational, and the transgressive aspect of contemporary behavior and imagination that are incited, enabled, and regulated by the changing logics of states and globalization” – Aihwa Ong

With the semester nearing its end, I’m reflecting back on the articles I’ve read and found that I had several learning experiences. I started using Twitter – something I never thought I would do yet have enjoyed following my favorite manga authors all the way in Japan. I started this blog – which I have loved and will continue to post on after this semester. Through my passion for manga, I demonstrated the legitimacy of manga in the feminist classroom – and I’m in the works of creating a class about manga through the feminist lens (I’ll share it once it’s done!). I can confidently say that I am a “fat activist” in that I support the inclusion of the “fat” person in the feminist movement – I didn’t even know this movement existed until this semester. I’ve gotten to hear the personal stories/experiences of my classmates/peers as we all shuffled through defining what “feminism” is; a definition I still struggle to cleanly define.

While I learned a lot about myself, I am also reminded that there are voices around the world who are silenced, ignored, and disregarded as invalid. Most importantly, this semester reminded me that I am an extremely privileged individual; despite being plus sized, I am an educated, employed, able-bodied, hetero-sexual white woman living in the United States, a country that expresses itself through it’s “Freedom” – speech, religion, etc. Within that freedom, our citizens are given numerous platforms that allow us to speak our minds, both in positive and negative ways. However, there are a multitude of places within the world that do not grant their citizens the irreplaceable privilege of “freedom.” During the early parts of this semester I began following the body positive page “I Heart My Body” on Facebook – it’s a beautiful page that celebrates the differences in all bodies. I stumbled upon this great article discussing the experience of 7 plus-size bloggers from around the world and it was both similar and surprising to the experiences these women had from their respected countries. Essentially, these women addressed the issue that the ideals of beauty are harsh around the world (in some cases worse than others). This article reminded me that there are voices around the world that are silenced/ignored and may never be heard. I believe that social media, and it’s various platforms, have turned up the volume of these voices, allowing them to be heard across the boundaries of space. While social media can be taken advantage of in the sense that many voices are still being muted, I think that we are making waves towards bringing out the voices that have historically been disregarded.

If you’re interested, this is the article I was referring to from I Heart My Body: http://www.revelist.com/body-positive/what-its-like-to-be/3256?utm_content=iheartbody_fanpage&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=sm

Blind Review & Author Voice

Just a brief PSA: My blog started as a place to discuss my current course reading for my graduate class. While I attempt to always connect my blogs to my own research interest (anime and manga) the past couple of weeks have been deviating from that track as we are getting closer to the end of the semester. I’ll still make my connections were I believe they are suitable, but it may be a few weeks before I can go all out. Thanks for reading!

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This week I read an interesting article by Christine M. Tardy and Paul Kei Matsuda titled “The Construction of Author Voice by Editorial Board Members.” This article addressed the idea that event with a blind manuscript review, removing the author’s name and institution of affiliation, the reader will, at some point, attempt to construct the author’s identity. Essentially, “blind peer review of manuscripts offers a unique context for examining the ways readers construct the identity of an unknown author” (Tardy & Matsuda 33). Interesting idea right? As a graduate student I am starting to look into journal’s that I could potentially submit proposals to for publishing, but found the idea of how my author’s voice could be interpreted by any given reader interesting. Does my writing style give any hints to my gender, my educational background, my field, etc?

As I was reading this article I began to wonder how blind review could be integrated into the classroom and came to the realization that blogging is a form of blind review. When creating a blog we assign ourselves a username which serves as a means of removing a piece of what Ivanic termed our autobiographical self (Tardy & Matsuda 32). This is also demonstrated by the photos we choose for our profiles where some users use a piece of art, a character, or nothing at all. However, as Tardy and Matsuda assert: “blinding does not completely remove the traces of author identity” (32). For example, disregarding that my own username and profile picture, my blog focuses on being a proud anime and manga otaku and how those things can be incorporated into the classroom. If I had a writing sample in a blind review, any reader who may know my areas of research and interests would be able to narrow the field drastically to discovering my identity. Writing about manga in the field of composition studies is a feature that “might spark a hunch” (39) about with my identity and I like that. While I don’t self-reference in my pieces (I haven’t written/researched nearly enough) I like that my writing can be recognized because it is uniquely me and explores topics that I find meaningful and applicable to my field. However, every “reader forms some sort of notion of the anonymous person who has written the manuscript – that’s a inevitable part of reader response of any piece of writing” (Tardy & Matsuda 38). Whether the reader knows me personally or not, they will in shape or form construct an image of me because it is “a natural tendency of a reader to try to imagine who the author is” (Tardy & Matsuda 38).

 

Works Cited
Tardy, Christine M. and Paul Kei Matsuda. “The Construction of Author Voice by Editorial Board Members.” Written Communication, vol. 26, no. 1, 2009, pp. 32-52.

How Reading Assessment Made Me Who I Am

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This week’s reading focuses on writing assessment and, as I was reading, I recalled the time in my life when my own literacy level was found lacking based upon standards established by the state. While my experience was based on my reading level, there is a connection between reading and writing. Nadia Behizadeh states “literacy varies depending on the particular context in which a reading or writing event occurs” (3). For me, I was found lacking because I could read a set number of words per minute our loud. Essentially, we were handed a History or Language Arts textbook, were told to open it to a specific page, and then were timed for one minute reading aloud as the teacher followed along marking missed words and then counting them; I hated when our class had to do these reading assessments because, at the time, I hated reading. I guess I shouldn’t say I “hated” reading; I was just more interested in writing my own stories than reading big words I didn’t understand out of a book. It was also nerve wracking to not notice the pencil movements when I stumbled over words and that just freaked me out event more. This anxiety is similar in writing; Behizadeh asserts that “when a single story of deficiency is repeated again and again to a student, that student develops low writing self-efficacy and a poor self-concept of himself/herself as a writer” (1).

While my experience is rooted in reading, the development of low self-efficacy is the same; watching that pencil mark the paper, getting my assessment back, and the threat of being held back a grade level made my confidence as a reader dwindle. It wasn’t until I began reading manga (InuYasha to be exact) that I found my love of reading and I mean a real love of reading, like I love to sit down in a comfy chair and read a book for the entire day kind of love. Manga made me a confident reader because it allowed me focus on one speech/thought bubble at a time and read it out loud to myself until I could read through panels without stopping. Behizadeh argues that “students need to see how their out-of-school literate practices connect to in-school practices” (9). In my case, incorporating manga/graphic novels into my classroom provides students with an opportunity to take their out-of-school practices and apply them to their in-school practices. It is because of my literacy experiences that I strive to develop a personal pedagogy that incorporates popular culture into every part of my teaching.

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Works Cited
Behizadeh, Nadia. “Mitigating the Dangers of a Single Story: Creating Large-Scale Writing Assessments Aligned With Sociocultural Theory.” Educational Researcher, vol. XX, no. X, 27 Mar. 2014, pp. 1 – 12. AERA, doi:10.3102/001389X14529604.

Body Image, Pop Culture, and the Classroom

This week I’m revisiting the issue of body image, specifically body image within the academic classroom. In a previous article a critiqued a shoujo manga, Kiss Him, Not Me, with a fat activist feminist lens. However, as part of my pedagogy, I believe that manga provides an opportunity for students to see real world issue (like body image) and apply critical reading/acquisition to these texts in order to explore how social constructs can be reconstructed. To do this, I will address how body image is taken into consideration within the academic classroom and how manga can be used to address body image.

In her article “‘They Are Weighted with Authority’: Fat Female Professors in Academic and Popular Culture,” Christina Fisanick argues that, according to contemporary American culture, “fat bodies do not equal authority, truth, or much in the way of positive attributes” and that fat hatred is considered “one of the last acceptable forms of discrimination…[which extends] to almost all areas of life, including the home, the workplace, and…the college classroom” (237). Did I mention how much I hate the word “fat?” Why do we use this word? It’s derogatory, demeaning, and associated with negativity. Yet, this is the word that for the majority of my life society has given me. And, for a long time, I believed that this condemnation was what defined me as a person. Eventually, though, I began to accept myself and my body to the point that I could ignore the discrimination – do I still have struggles? Of course. American culture treats “fat” people as “second-class citizens” (237) and, unfortunately, I doubt that this behavior is likely to drastically change in the immediate future. Similar to the early/continued struggles of feminism, fat activism is just breaking ground on addressing the discrimination that “fat” people are treated with.

However, I think that there is an opportunity, a need, to address body image within the classroom because “students bring cultural meaning to bear in the classroom” (246). My way of achieving this is through incorporating manga which address the issue of body image into the classroom. For this post I will be using Suki-tte ii na yo (Say “I Love You”) by Kanae Hazuki to make my argument. Say “I Love You” is a great manga because rather than focus on one type of body image struggle, Hazuki-sensei addresses multiple struggles with body image through both her female and male characters. In a nutshell, the story centralizes around “friendless, anti-social” Mei Tachibana and her blossoming relationship with the popular boy, Yamato Kurosawa. This is definitely a shoujo manga targeted at female readers, but (in my opinion) it provides any reader with an insight into body image issues.

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*Volume 1 of Say “I Love You” by Kanae Hazuki*

Two of the characters I want to briefly talk about are Aiko Muto and Asami Oikawa. Aiko rapidly lost 20 kg for the guy she liked and due to that has stretch marks on her stomach that she is extremely self-conscious of. Asami, on the other hand, has a complex about the size of her large chest. These two characters present real-life body image issues that women can relate to, but they also demonstrate the pressures to “change” or “reconstruct” yourself by society’s demands.

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 *Aiko Muto before and after in Say “I Love You” manga*

I agree with Jo Anne Pagano when she states: “When we teach, we mean to change people. We mean to bring them to new ways of encountering and constructing the world” (247). I believe that manga, like Say “I Love You,” give students (or any reader) the opportunity to encounter the world in a new way and from that new encounter students can apply their new knowledge in order to “go alone and make their own stories” (247).

The Feminist Otaku’s Pedagogy

This week’s reading is all about feminist pedagogy and pedagogical practices and what else would I talk about other than manga in the classroom! This post will address how manga influences my feminist pedagogy.

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*Panel from InuYasha by Rumiku Takahashi*

First of all, I love manga. Manga has made an major impact on my life and developed me into the person I am today. When I was in eight years old I was not meet the reading comprehension “standard” set by my school district and was at risk of being held back a grade. My mom tells me that instead of reading books, I preferred to write my own interpretation. Around this time I started reading InuYasha (if you haven’t picked this series up I highly recommend it) and immediately became obsessed. The blend of images and words made it so I could understand the story by sounding out new words and reading out loud. Manga made me a confident reader. It is my passion for manga that drove me to research the impact of graphic novels on reading and writing practices. Robbin Crabtree and David Sapp state that “feminist pedagogy is not simply about learning the theory and applying it in a classroom, but more important, a way of living personally and professionally” (132). I believe that reading manga (or graphic novels/comic books) can make a positive impact on the reading and writing practices of students across the board. I also believe that these types of texts can also be incorporated into the writing classroom.

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*Ritsu Onodera from Sekai-ichi Hastsukoi by Shungiku Nakamura*

From the perspective of parents and teachers manga is often associated with the notion that reading them is “unproductive” in the sense that they are “dulling readers’ minds, making readers lazy, and making readers lose their knowledge” (Allen & Ingulsrud 677). However, “reading manga is not a mindless act” (Allen & Ingulsrud 681); the combination of graphics, format, and text “make reading manga a complex process” (Allen & Ingulsrud 679). I think that manga provides a multitude of opportunities to “share in the intellectual and spiritual growth of students, to raise awareness about the world in which students live, to respect and encourage students voices, and to help students critically reflect on and analyze their place in society, especially in terms of racism, sexism, oppression, and domination” (Crabtree & Sapp 132). Manga requires the reader to be “adept at negotiating multimodality, using image plus language in increasingly complex ways as they partake in the dynamic interplay among cultures, identities, and literacies” (Schwartz & Rubinstein-Avila 41).

So how does manga apply to feminist pedagogy? Manga, like any form of literature, is broken down into several genres; these genres (in a nutshell) include: shounen (boys’) manga, shojo (girls’) manga, seinen (adults’) manga, and rediisu komikku (ladies’ comics) – of course there are a variety of sub-genres within these, but for the purpose of this post I will only be referencing these genres. Within the classroom, students could use these genres of manga “as an entry point for critically examining social disparities in the representation of gender and sexuality” (Schwartz & Rubinstein-Avila 47). For example, the class could be asked to analyze the portrayal of women in shounen manga whose female character have been criticized because they are “still placed in situations aligning them with traditionally feminine [characteristics]” such as being “stereotypically feminine in personality, roles and occupation” (Unser-Schutz 136). Alongside these depictions, these stereotypes tend to be “idealized” or fetishized in the sense that women are depicted in an oversexualized manner such as having large breasts and skirts that always seem to catch a breeze showing their underwear. For example, the image below is from the manga Shokugeki no Soma whose female characters, I would argue, represent strong females (especially in the highly patriarchal culinary community), but they often are depicted in sexualized situations when they are overcome by the flavor of culinary dishes.

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*Nao becoming “enslaved” by the taste of a curry dish*

Essentially, manga provides students the opportunity to recognize “different ways in which sexual fantasy and fetish are imagined and configured…and give visibility to, the malleabilities and fluidities of sex” (Shigematsu 129). From this manga connects to feminist teaching because it offers students “intellectual skills to expose ideologies and complicate the concept of authority” (Crabtree & Sapp 132).

Does manga fit into your pedagogy?

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Works Cited:
Allen, Kate and John E. Ingulsrud. “Manga literacy: Popular culture and the reading habits of Japanese college students.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 46.8 (2003): 674-683.
Crabtree, Robbin D. and David Alan Sapp. “Theoretical, Political, and Pedagogical Challenges in the Feminist Classroom: Our Struggles to Walk the Walk.” Teaching College, 51.4 (2003): 131-140.
Schwartz, Adam and Eliane Rubinstein-Ãvila. “Understanding the Manga Hype: Uncovering the Multimodality of Comic-Book Literacies.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 50.1 (2006): 40-49.
Shigematsu, Setsu. “Dimensions of Desire: Sex, Fantasy, and Fetish in Japanese Comics.” Themes in Asian Cartooning: Cute, Cheap, Mad, and Sexy, pp. 127-163, ed. J.A. Lent: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1999.

Yaoi & Feminism: Out With the Norms, In With the Yaoi

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*Image from Sekai ichi Hatsukoi manga – Color Fill Artist: Unknown*

A little about why I’m talking about Yaoi: First, I self-identify as a proud Fujoshi (a fangirl of yaoi, a genre of homoerotic romantic relationships between male characters); I love this genre and, for the past few years, I have been “in the closest” (pun intended) about my fandom because people have an adverse reaction to hearing that I enjoy reading stories about homoerotic relationships between men. My dad, for example, jokes with me about if my Amazon packages are my “pornos” (insert eye-roll here). When I started reading romance novels as a teenager I got similar responses as well. I think that these genres are attached to the misconception where the genre is not “serious” literature or that it’s “fluff” reading (another post for a later date). However, the Yaoi genre is abundant with opportunities of analysis. Out of this week’s reading, what stuck with me the discussions about sexuality. My second reason is the belief that Yaoi reflects the social construct of sexuality. I’ve previously expressed my belief that gender is a social construct and have come to the consensus that sexuality, too, falls into my social construct category. Jane Ward and Susan Mann’s note that “[for Foucault] people are not naturally anything nor do they have any essential features in this regard. Rather we are socially constructed selves that also are historically variable” (Doing Feminist Theory 226). For these reasons I will be discussing Yaoi’s common theme of at least one male character claiming to be straight.

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*Ristu Onodera from Sekai ichi Hatsukoi anime*

A few months ago a link to a blog was posted to a group I’m associated with on Facebook and I’ve wanted to write something about it since reading it. Titled “Answerman with Justin Sevakis,” AnimeNewsNetwork blogger, Justin Sevakis, answers questions posed by internet users and this particular post addressed the question of “Why Do Guys in Yaoi Claim To Be Straight?” This is a great question because for a genre about romantic relations between men you’d think there were less resistance to be attracted to another man. Not in Yaoi! The genre itself is “produced almost entirely by women for women” with it’s “eroticism geared towards the female gaze” (Sevakis). Sevakis addresses two theories: 1) Yaoi is a safe way for women to think about love and sex without having to deal with any baggage that can happen with a heterosexual arrangement 2) having the guy be “straight” is a way to keep the character normal and ordinary.

From a feminist perspective, the language Sevakis uses in these descriptions is definitely ripe for unpacking, but that will (again) be another post in the making – what interests me is the second theory, the need to keep the character “normal” and “ordinary.” Foucault uses the term gaze “to describe another modern technique of normative discursive power” (Doing Feminist Theory 225). The gaze of both the author and the reader influences the structure of the Yaoi  genre – the male characters and their relationship(s) reflect the “equally important” notion that “the institutional and everyday practices by which our experience of the body is organized” (Doing Feminist Theory 225). Essentially, this gaze represents what Alerado Zanghellini describes as the “historical problematization of (homo)sexuality” (Zanghellini 280) where we, from our historical notions of sexuality, attempt to deem this type of behavior as “acceptable.” Despite being a fictional space, Yaoi’s depiction of sexuality is a direct reflection of society’s definition of “normal” (heterosexual) sexuality. However, similar to romance fiction formula, as the reader we know that, despite the obstacles in their way, the main characters are going to end up together. But why all the drama? While not every Yaoi ever written does this, why do so many Yaoi manga give a nod to societal expectations? Do writer’s fear condemnation if they don’t do this? Despite being considered “overwhelmingly supportive of gay rights” (Zanghellini 280) why does Yaoi, as genre, feel it’s necessary to adhere to established norms?

I believe that, as a genre, Yaoi provides an opportunity to address Foucault’s assertion that “we have to create ourselves as a work of art” (Doing Feminist Theory 227). From this notion, Ward and Mann suggest that viewing life in this manner presents “new ways of defining sexual practices – not as acts conceived in scientific or reproductive terms – but more as forms of eroticism or bodily acts that give rise to pleasures” (Doing Feminist Theory 227). As individuals we have the right to establish a new norms, a right to provide “a more open and creative notion of sexuality” (Doing Feminist Theory 227).

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*Takano and Ritsu from Sekai ichi Hatsukoi – Artist: Unkown*

Works Cited:

Sevakis, Justin. Why Do Guys In Yaoi Claim To Be Straight? AnimeNewsNetwork, 3 Feb. 2016, http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/answerman/2016-02-03/.98211.

Zanghellini, Aleardo. “‘Boys love’ in anime and manga: Japanese subcultural production and its end users.” Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, vol. 23, no. 3, 2009, pp. 279-294.