This is not Dragon Ball Z. Or is it?

I keep tabs on the Dragon Ball Z facebook page and frequently find their material strikes a chord with me. The page reminds me of all the reasons Goku is a loveable idiot, but such an amazing individual. The page reminds me why I believe in Goku and that there is so much more to DBZ than strong men beating each other to a pulp. Dragon Ball Z has provided me with heroes who are the epitome of fall seven times, get up eight times. 

But, as I’ve mentioned previously, DBZ is not perfect. It’s sexist toward men and it’s sexist toward women. What I haven’t had much time to explore however, is that as an extension of its sexism, DBZ is also homophobic. I’ll use this image posted on the DBZ facebook page to begin my point then I’ll explain further.

To begin, this image is homophobic. Even if it weren’t connected to DBZ, it would be homophobic. In this set of images, to be gay is something you want to get rid of in yourself. It is something that can be cured where you can walk away and be “better.” Especially in the context of this image set, it is the father telling his son not to be gay, to overcome his gayness, and–even worse–that gay here is used as a generic insult. The Great Saiyaman looks stupid and poses funny, that’s so gay! Yes, the Great Saiyaman looks stupid and poses funny, but all that means is that he looks stupid and poses funny. It has nothing to do with his sexuality.

When I first saw this image I commented and said how offensive it is. I also said it’s not DBZ. However, I was quite wrong in that second statement. This image set brings to the forefront homophobia that is present in DBZ, but never discussed.

What some people may not be aware of is that homophobia (and any other form of oppressive thought and action) does not need to be as direct as someone proclaiming “I hate gays” or “homosexuality is a sin.” Most bigotry is more subtle than that, but no less harmful. Because it is silent, it is allowed to persist.

So, how is DBZ homophobic? Let’s look at the images presented of men and women. The men are all the absolute epitome of “traditional masculinity.” They are muscular, they are courageous, they take punishment in battle without complaining and they are unfaltering in their straightness. The special cases are Goku and Piccolo. Goku exists in a state of partial asexuality–though more to comment on his purity than to ever suggest he is queer. Piccolo, as an alien, is also for all purposes asexual–but more to express his alien difference than to highlight a queer identity.

Of the main male characters, Tien is the only one without a love interest and fans speculate he is in a relationship with Chiaotzu. If this is the case and Tien and Chiaotzu are the only queer characters in the show, their relationship is entirely speculative and because Chiaotzu looks and acts so different from every other character, even the hint of being gay becomes something to look askance at. If Tien and Chiaotzu were to be openly together, their queerness would be immediately visible because Chiaotzu does not look or act human. If Chiaotzu is written as a gay character he is an offensive stereotype.

As for the female characters, the few there are are unfaltering in their straightness as well. They may not always be perfect paragons of female virtue–Chi-Chi fights in DB and Bulma is a computer tech and scientist–but Chi-Chi is also introduced from the start as a love interest for Goku and Bulma’s original quest is to find the perfect boyfriend. Android 18 winds up marrying Krillin. Even Launch from DB is last seen chasing after Tien. Lesbianism is a foreign concept in the DBZ universe.

So, when the DBZ facebook page posts an image such as this:

it is actually being very honest about DBZ’s homophobia. In DBZ, being queer is speculative (at best) for the men and impossible for the women. It makes perfect sense that this image set would blatantly highlight the resistance to queers. Being queer can be the butt of jokes because there are no openly queer characters to offset the stereotypes. There is no one to defend the queer community and so to be anything but straight puts you in direct conflict with the rigid gender binary of masculine men and feminine women who only desire heterosexual relationships.

My response is that you cannot “get a little gay” and there is no way to “better” from your gayness because there was never anything to be fixed in the first place. I know I would feel better if Gohan if DBZ was not so heteronormative.

Thank you to all the women in my life

For International Women’s Day, I don’t want to spend time honoring famous women. There are other writers and researchers more skilled than I who know the details of these women’s lives and can-and will-relay them. It’s not that these famous women are not important or don’t deserve their day to be remembered, but for my own celebration I want to do something closer to home.

I may never be able to properly thank all the women who made a difference in my life if I don’t take the time to honor them alongside the pioneers in feminism. It would be a disservice to what they have taught me if I disregard them in order to spew out facts about Adrienne Rich or Judith Butler.

This is not just an ode to the women who are closest to me, but a sweeping thank you to really every woman I have met. If I have passed you on the street and exchanged polite hellos, if I went to school with you, whether I liked you or not, thank you.

If I have learned anything from being a feminist and looking at the women I have interacted with, it is that there is no right way to be a woman. There is no one image that can be the face of feminism, and there is no one woman to celebrate.

I honor the women who know that International Women’s Day will pass. When it is gone, sexism will still exist. These women I have met, live with, or love will wake up on March 9th and know they will still be denied equal pay, still live in rape culture, and still live in a world where they are taught to hate their bodies and teach their daughters to do the same.

I honor the women who are proud to be women anyway. The women who will wake up on March 9th and fight for gender equality because they know there is a long way ahead of us.

The Gender of God

I understand I am getting into dangerous territory in bringing religion and spirituality into my post. I take full responsibility for anything that I say and I will try to be as unbiased as possible. For the purpose of this blog I am working from the established principle that God exists and I do not seek to prove or disprove any issue on this point.

Now as I introduce my question of God’s gender, I wish to point out that I am also in the middle of reading some gender criticisms. I know that the term gender is controversial and when I use the word gender in this blog I will be referring to masculine or feminine pronouns.

It has already been said, debated, and fought over that God has been portrayed as a man in art work and when speaking of God the terminology is always He or Him. This becomes a bit rocky when Christianity is involved and questions as Jesus was a man the masculine pronouns could have some legitimacy.  But if at all possible, take God out of religious context. There is no doctrine, no dogma, no congregations. There is you and there is your relationship to God. God can be whatever you believe God to be, in any shape, and in any form. The possibilities are yours to decide.

From this relationship with God it is possible you see God as a person, perhaps as a man, I know I do though I am trying to deconstruct this habit. Deconstruct with me.

God is depicted as a man because what do people know that will be recognizable except other humans? If God were depicted as a woman, God would be a new term, Goddess. We are limited to language and that is the greatest limitation. Because we do not know how to explain God universally we use the masculine word God and the masculine pronoun He. We bring the unexplainable to a level we can all understand: we use language. But here is where our language fails us.

Why do we think the earthly language we possess will be applicable to the Divine? Going off the notion that God is Divine and therefore wholly different from God’s creations then why do we fit God with the limiting ideas of masculinity? Does God have a gender? Would it make any difference in the overall belief in God if God were not enclosed in our language?

There is no reason for God to be a He. There is no reason for God to be a She. Both do an injustice to a Being that is, as far as we know, without sex. I know I am working from a lot of preconceived notions with this argument, but there is no easy way to bring about this discussion without presuppositions. I only hope they have not hindered my argument or lessened my credibility.

You Deserve to be Beautiful

When I was a child I loved dressing up in fancy outfits. I was in elementary school where boys had cooties and if you were a girl you couldn’t be friends with a boy.  If you were friends you were obviously dating. There was such a divide between the boys and the girls that I never thought about why I wanted to dress up. I liked the dresses I wore, I felt beautiful so I wore them.

But as I got older and understood my asexuality it became embarrassing to look pretty. I didn’t want the attention from men and dressing up made me feel awkward, as if I were borrowing someone else’s body.

I was-and to a certain extent, still am though I’m working on overcoming it-operating under the sexist lie that women should look beautiful to impress men. Because garnering the attention of the opposite sex never applied to me, I thought I didn’t deserve to be beautiful. No matter what my mother or grandmother told me about how pretty I would look when I dressed up for a family event or party, the compliments that were supposed to matter the most were from my grandfather and brother. I would always go downstairs on display so my grandfather could tell me whether I looked right or not. To the entire family, his opinion was the one that mattered the most. I’m old enough to make my own choices and I choose to ignore his advice on how to be beautiful. But ignoring the advice of one man is not the same as speaking out about changing the notions of beauty.

A woman should be beautiful for herself. Single or married, straight or not it is wrong that women are not only judged based on their beauty but that beauty is only relevant through the eyes of men.

I ask all women who have ever felt they didn’t deserve to feel beautiful to take this day and dress for yourself, in whatever brings you the most joy and however you feel most comfortable. Be beautiful by being you. Be beautiful for yourself.