Friday, March 31, 2006

Is She or Isn't She?

Is Major Motoko Kusanagi a progressive female protagonist or a femme fatale designed for male titillation?

There are three Majors: one in the manga, one in the two movies, and one in an anime series. Each are separate of each other. I'm focusing on, for the purpose of this blog entry, the Major Kusanagi of the anime series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Along Complex (along with the second season GitS: SAC 2nd Gig.) Warning: I'll be discussing some details of a few episodes, so some spoilers are ahead.

When I initially began watching this show, I was pretty damn excited. The Major is a kick ass character: she's smart, strong, leads a group of men and is vocal against sexism. She never needs to be saved, in fact she's the one usually "saving the day." I've never seen her fawn over, or kiss a man--in fact the most pseudo-romantic scenes that have been portrayed with her have involved women. (It's generally accepted that she's bi.)

But then there's the matter of her clothing: thigh high boots, a pink leotard that cuts up above the hips and dips deeply into her cleavage. Her breasts, are they C or D? I'm not sure, but you can't help but notice them. In general her body is perfect. A drawn fashion model.

However, it's more complicated than that. Her body is completely prosthetic. If we are to take the episode 11 "The Grass Labyrinth -- AFFECTION" as her origin, we know that when she was young she was in a plane accident and the only way that she would live is if she underwent cyberization. This makes her whole body "fake." What does gender mean when you don't have a body? There are references to her gender through out the series. An important one was when Batou asked the Major why she chose a female body over a male body--a question she doesn't necessarily answer. Instead she mind-hacked him into punching himself in the face. What I can gather from this is that the Major is expressing that she doesn't need a pumped-up male body, that her own "female model" is just fine, and that the topic really isn't up for discussion. It's obvious that the Major takes pride in her body; it's the ultimate weapon that provides her income, it allows her to be mobile, and it lets her experience the five senses. Does she dress the way she does as a way to promote that her body because she takes great pride in it? Does she dress that way in order to feel feminine because her body is made out of machinery?

These were questions that I could ponder over without ever questioning that to me, the Major was a feminist hero. Yet, when I watched 2nd gig last Saturday, episode 17 "Mother and Child -- RED DATA," I became unsettled. Could I really claim her as my hero? Was she only created for the sake of fan service?

The premise of this episode is that the Major comes across a teenage boy while digging up information on a suspect. She then takes the boy under her wing because he's in trouble with the yakuza. This includes her renting out a hotel room for night. In this scene we watch the Major walk around topless with a red towel hanging around her neck. This shows no nipple but plenty of side-boob. She talks to the boy in this manner, and gets in bed with him like this.

We've seen the Major is various states of undress before but I always chalked it up to a) her loving her body or b) her not feeling as though she's really naked because her body is artificial. The images from this scene, and her teasing answer of "Do you want to find out?" to the boy's question of whether or not cyberized bodies could have sex made everything seem a bit much. The mocking answer to the boy fit in with her character, but all the boob shots seemed to be completely gratuitous.

I've decided for myself that the character of the Major suffers from being written by too many male writers that want to please their predominantly male audience. (Look, Kusanagi kicks ass, just look at how she handles those guns, and she's really hot too!) I think in regards to the Major, we can have interesting discussions on gender and artificial bodies and the concept of nakedness, but we become limited with the proliferation of fan service--which focuses only on one kind of expression that exists to serve male heterosexuality.

It's good that it's not easy to discuss the character of the Major. It means that she's a complicated character, and that some time and energy has gone into writing her. I'm just disappointed that she's being used to promote the mainstream ideal of what feminity is. I know I wouldn't be typing this up if she was a male character (the issue of fan service wouldn't be happening)--but if she was a male character, I know I wouldn't be interested. I want to claim the Major as a representation of a progressive female protagonist, but do the sexualized representations of her negate the positive aspects of her character?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Attention Women Poets

In my free time I'm one of the poetry editors for the literary zine Inkstains. We're based in Chicago but seek submissions from everyone, anywhere. One of the primary concerns of the zine is to publish those who have a hard time finding an audience (re: writers who are queer, are of color, are of the lower class, are women, or those who resist the gender paradigm.) I'm mentioning this here and now specifically because we haven't received many submissions for our future issues from women poets. For issue 4.5, due online this Spring, all poems so far are from men and for our issue 5 (which will hopefully be in print if we receive the grant we applied for) due out for Winter, we only have one woman poet.

Please if you have any work, or know any woman poets (we also publish prose), head over to our website, browse around and submit--we want to publish you!

Sunday, March 26, 2006


This is the last night of my break. What did I do? (Excluding work, homework and not posting here.)

1) Played King's Quest 1 (still playing King's Quest 2). I downloaded these two games from the great people over at AGD Interactive. What's disappointing however, is that they haven't worked on King's Quest 4--the first game I ever played that had a female protangonist.

2) Downloaded Dofus. My first MMORPG ever and it's bascially free. (You get access to the entire game by paying a monthly rate, but the free part is so large that I'll be busy for awhile.) Flash based, simple, a lot like Final Fantasy Tactics. If you play this be warned: starting out as a Feca's Shield is somewhat frustrating.

3) I knitted. Started on a pair of legwarmers for my bro's girlfriend. Made a hat. Currently finishing a scarf. I did this while watching CJ play RE4, which I think might be scarier than Silent Hill 3.

4) I took my cat to the vet, which turned out to be pretty expensive. Good thing I love her so much.
5) I took a personal oath to participate in Nubian's Blog Against Heteronormativity Day, which is scheduled for April 22. I have a few ideas knocking around my head that should bring me far away from my belly button full of videogames, cats, and knitting. Also, I need to say, her blog kicks my ass daily. If you don't read it, you need to.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Shojo Power

This exhibition has recently come to my school. It's not up completely, so I can't yet comment extensively about it, but so far it's awesome. Original CLAMP artwork. Watch me swoon.

From the website: Shojo Manga! Girl Power! is an internationally touring exhibition. The show includes more than 200 artworks from 23 artists who have contributed to the development of modern Shojo Manga (girl comics) in Japan since World War II. The medium reflects the evolution of the social roles of Japanese girls and women during this period. The exhibition also documents how the visual composition of manga mirrors the developments in Japanese aesthetics.

NAEA Convention Reception, March 24, 5—8 pm

College-Wide Reception, March 28, 5—7 pm

Both receptions feature lectures by Curator Masami Toku and a Shojo Manga artist at 5:30 pm.

This makes me happy, especially since I've been hearing a lot of snooty commentary recently about anime and manga: that it's a sexist, perverted artform. That aspect does, of course, exist in the artforms, but that's like saying all American film is porn, or that all American TV is reality TV. Not the best comparison, but you know what I mean. Sometimes I just can't shake the feeling that people write manga and anime off quickly because it's foreign, an Eastern artform. The best parts of manga and anime is when it challenges societal conventions, such as playing with gender or promoting pacifism.

Monday, March 13, 2006

What I'll Be Doing Over Break

It's next week. Yes I'll be a slave to homework. But I'll also be playing. A lot. Especially here:

The Museum of Science and Industry presents Game On 2.0. Explore the technology, culture and future of video games through more than 100 playable games! Find out how games are made, discover games from around the world, even put yourself inside a game!

You're mine, Bust a Move 4--all mine.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Horribly Sick--of Sexism

Today is Blog Against Sexism Day. Make sure you click over to the blogs on my sidebar, many of them have participated with excellent posts.

I however did not--I have the stomach flu something awful and it has not given me any respite.

The worst part, well one of the worst parts,(and completely unrelated to the importance of this blog-o-event) is that it started the day when we finished Shadow of the Colossus. A game I was truly entertained by ended in disaster. Stomach flu and that melancholy ending...all I can say is that when I hear about it or look at the poster I have hanging up, I feel a horrible pain in my stomach.

My advice: don't play that game when you're depressed or sick and fight sexism.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Finally--It has been realized.

We finally bought a copy of RE4 to play. Player's Choice = cheap. But I'm sad because Spike TV's videogame award insignia is also printed on the cover. Why couldn't it have been a sticker that I could have deftly peeled off? Who's brilliant idea was it to put the name of something crappy onto something that is good? Mutants and good graphics are synonymous with James Bond movies and cars? I don't think so.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Typos Incarnate

I just realized today that I was using the wrong "mold" in my profile. It should have been mould. I also have been turning in essays with lots of mistakes, such as misspelling Harryette Mullen and The Color Purple.

The blood--it is rushing to my face.

Here's some pictures of my cats to make me feel better.

Heterosexim 101--A questionnaire

I received this handout today from my Gender & Culture class and thought that I'd share.

1. What do you think caused your heterosexuality?

2.When and how did you first decide you were a heterosexual?

3. Is it possible that your heterosexuality is just a phase you may grow out of?

4. Is it possible that your heterosexuality stems from a neurotic fear of others of the same sex?

5. If you have never slept with a person of the same sex, is it possible that all you need is a good gay lover?

6. Do your parents know that you are straight? Do your friends/co-workers know? How did they react?

7. Why do you insist on flaunting your heterosexuality? Can't you just be who you are and keep it quiet?

8. Why do heterosexuals place so much emphasis on sex?

9. Why do heterosexuals feel compelled to seduce others into their lifestyle?

10. A disproportionate majority of child molesters are heterosexual. Do you consider it safe to expose children to heterosexual teachers?

11. Just what do men and women DO in bed together? How can they truly know how to please each other, being so anatomically different?

12. Despite all the societal support marriage receives, the divorce rate is spiraling. Why are there so few stable relationships among heterosexuals?

13. Statistics show that lesbians have the lowest incidence of sexually transmitted diseases. Is it really safe for a woman to maintain a heterosexual lifestyle and run the risk of disease and unwanted pregnancy?

14. How can you become a whole person if you limit yourself to compulsive, exclusive heterosexuality?

15. Considering the menace of overpopulation, how could the human race survive if everyone were heterosexual?

16. Could you trust a heterosexual therapist to be objective? Don't you feel s/he might be inclined to influence you in the direction of her/his own leanings?

17. There seem to be very few happy heterosexuals. Techniques have been developed that might enable you to change if you really want to. Have you considered trying aversion therapy?

18. Would you want your child to be heterosexual, knowing the problems that s/he would face?