Men are People, Women are…Not

I’ve been getting a lot of comments on my post about The Women of DBZ as well my post on rape culture in Teen Titans Go!

Mainly, commenters tell me that I am over reacting. These are cartoons and anime, after all! What does it matter? Why do I care, especially when this media is out for ratings, not appeal to feminists.

And though I’ve replied with my own comments and counter arguments (because yes, DBZ and Teen Titans Go! are two of many examples of sexism and misogyny in animated programming) I have yet to formulate a cohesive rebuttal. Until now.

Critiquing sexism in animated programs (or any media) is necessary because this criticism challenges the idea that men are people and everyone else are not.

women-are-people-too

When we tell stories about men, make male centered narratives the only stories, consume media that features almost exclusively straight, white, cis, male protagonists, we create a culture where men are the only ones who matter. Men are human and we can connect with them and their struggles and triumphs.

Male characters have a backstory, dreams and a life beyond the constraints of plot. We know Goku since he was a child, we age with him as he develops into an adult and we believe his actions come from a deep rooted place of emotional honesty. He’s an alien, but we believe he is complex enough to be human. We can see ourselves in Goku, regardless of our gender.

Female characters in mainstream media, however, exist for a male hero. She is his lover, his mother, his friend, his ex. Whether explicitly or implicitly, he owns her, the same way male viewers own her. She is created for male pleasure because she only exists on the page or the screen only so long as the male hero exists. Her conversations (and relationships to other women–if there are other women in the narrative– revolve around men, (so much so that we can test this with the Bechdel Test). She has no real struggles or triumphs of her own. We do not believe she is alive.

By extension, it is such a small, dangerous step, but so simple to believe women are not alive. This is one facet of rape culture: dehumanization.

The media representations of women are flat, sexual beings who exist only for the male hero. The real life women who jog down the street, bag your groceries, practice medicine, sleep in on Saturdays, drown their cereal in skim milk, drink their coffee black, become flat sexual beings. We have no responsibility for them because they are the shadows and cardboard cut-outs on the periphery of our lives. They are not human. They are receptacles for violence.

This is why when even well-intentioned people fight rape culture, they can resort to the argument: “This could be your sister. Your daughter. Your mother. Your aunt.” It’s a tempting argument, one I’ve considered using with my own brother. It’s a tempting argument, but a flawed argument. Just like the media we consume, we are then saying that women only matter when they are placed in relation to a man.

I am a sister, a daughter, a niece, but I am a human being! A human being in my own right. Women exist, even if a man isn’t watching. And if media, especially media geared toward young people, refuses to acknowledge female autonomy then I will continue my criticisms. Because with the media we consume being so male-centered, there is no way in hell I am going back for a second helping.

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4 thoughts on “Men are People, Women are…Not

  1. I know, right? I mean, Android 18 went from being strong enough to kick Vegeta’s Sayan Ass to being just a baby momma in Dragon Ball Super. She’s portraied as secondary to Kirilin. fucking *Kirilin*! He was the one who went to help in The Return of Frieza, when 18 is ten times stronger than he is!

    God, I hate this. At least it has never been a problem in my writing. If anything, I tend to have too many women, because of how fun it’s to write about them in a medieval setting. Inherent conflict and all that…

  2. I really roll me eyes when people defend DBZ or any shounen series feminist. I know shounen’s not supposed to be feminist but would it really kill the writers to write three-dimensional nuanced female character who’s not stereotypical or cookie cutter or even objectified? But hey that’s what appeals to hetero cis men and boys (sarcasm)! I watched DBZ and the only female character i still like is Bulma (even though she was objectified and used as fanservice alot). Bulma doesn’t stop her hobbies and still maintains her personality even though becomes a parent. and is pretty darn useful! I sometimes find Chi-Chi funny but it’s sooo irritating that in the series she’s nothing more still than a nagging wife! I liked Videl when she was introduced but when she got with Gohan I was like disappointed not cuz i didn’t like them as a couple but did she really have to be demoted into someone’s love interest? After she lost the tournament the writers had nothing else to do with her they so made give up martial arts and fighting crime just because she started a family. :/ There’s nothing wrong with being a housewife but dang she showed some real interest in fighting… 18 to me fits the nice guy gets the girl trope. She was such a badass independent woman now she’s a housewife which I find very OOC of her. The men in the series get character development and agency while the women get tossed to the side to become housewives and nothing else…

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