Racism and Sexism in Manga and Anime

Manga and Anime are two popular story telling forums that traditionally stem from Japan. These two forms of media feature a particular style of cartoonish figure drawing accompanied by stories that range in subject from action-adventure, romance, and comedy, to science fiction, mystery, and even sexuality. Manga and anime have become increasingly popular in other parts of the world, particularly in English speaking countries, gaining large fanbases throughout the UK and North America.

The stylings and storylines of manga and anime tend to share a few common themes that could possibly reflect certain cultural attitudes of Japan spreading themselves to other parts of the globe. For instance, female characters tend to be depicted as genetically impossible figures with tiny waists, large breasts, and long flowing hair. Such an example can be seen in the following picture.

Image

This impossible female figure is seen throughout mangas and animes. Not only are their figures ridiculous, but their personalities are also usually girly, flirtatious, and submissive. This can be seen as a reflection of what Asian pop culture defines as the ideal of female beauty.

A similar ideal can even be seen in boy-love manga. Boy-love manga storylines feature two males in some type of homosexual relationship. Whether the relationship is the main focus of the story, or a subplot, one of the males always tends to be masculine, while the other is more feminine in personality and physical appearance. Such can be seen in the way the two figures are depicted below.

Image

These two figures are posed with such body language that the viewer must assume that the masculine figure is dominant in the relationship while the feminine figure is the submissive. This alludes to the belief that all relationships, regardless of the gender of either partner, must always have one submissive and one dominant. It can typically be seen that in Asian cultures, the female or feminine partner must be the submissive, and the masculine must be the dominant.

Another and perhaps more alarming theme across the genres of manga and anime can be seen in the way characters are drawn. More often than not, characters have more pale skin, large eyes, and small noses. In other words, manga and anime characters are drawn with features more typically associated with a Caucasian lineage.

This graphic depicts a typical anime character (who has Caucasian features) and a not so common counterpart (with more Asiatic features).

Image

Even across Asia, a figure with features more commonly associated with Asian lineage does not often make any appearances in popular manga or anime. This may directly translate to popular cultures of Asia having insecurities with physical appearance. Many Asian cultures pressure both men and women to adopt a look that is more “Western.” In fact, “Westernizing” cosmetic procedures are quickly becoming the norm, and include anything from eyelid surgeries to nose jobs.

More recently, Miss South Korea 2012 admitted to having had some Westernizing procedures done to make her more beautiful.

Image

Though these commonalities in manga and anime reflect an alarming similarity to generally negative ideals in Asian cultures. It is unclear whether these themes are the cause, a result, or a little bit of both.

Advertisements

Styling The Youth

Many men and women take pride in dressing themselves with utmost sensitivity to modern fashion cultures, whether their style is hipster-esque, hip-hop, business chique, or casual and classy. Dressing yourself for success every morning can boost confidence and even help define how you want to be portrayed and project where you want to go in life.

For young teenagers, the freedom to express his or her own style is a kind of right of passage. Many times teens’ fashion sense will sprout from pop-culture and teen idols they listen to on the radio or watch on tv. Sometimes the teen idols they are inspired by can sometimes be alarming, as it has been shown that the media children have access to is increasingly sexual. The internet, music, magazines, advertisements, and the like seem to become more and more bold in the way they portray the normalization of sexuality. While this much of this media was first exclusively aimed at adults, it is increasingly common for the market to incorporate hyper-sexualization at preteens and kids even younger.

As this hyper-sexualization continues to make its way into the homes of families, alarming images of young children seem to be popping up throughout the media.

Image

The model in this magazine spread is only age 13. She is adorned with heavy eye-makeup and lipstick, as well as high-fashion clothing and high-heels. The young model is portrayed not unsimilarly to a model who would be 20 years older. Is this image meant to be unsettling, or is it meant to portray some weird alternate universe norm?

If the age of a preteen wasn’t young enough to begin sexualization children, don’t worry, here’s your fix of cake-faced toddlers.

Image

Toddlers and Tiaras is a hugely popular tv program that features parents (mostly middle-aged mothers) who live vicariously through their children’s (infants and toddlers) accomplishments in the world of beauty pageants. It is one thing to teach your young son or daughter how to present themselves on a stage, through grace, elegance, and confidence. It is another thing entirely to play dress-up with you son or daughter in a many that would reflect what many would consider bad parenting. The image of the young girl on the cover of People magazine depicts a standard image of a toddler aged pageantry get-up. Thick makeup, spray tan, hair-extensions, proportionately short dress, and while not specifically shown in this image, the toddlers are many times told to wear fake teeth because their own full smile has not grown in yet.

Image

Many times the children are presented in a comic-relief, “kids say the darnedest things,” type of way. But many times, the children project alarming values that their parents have instilled upon them. These children seem to have a narrow grasp on what their own identities mean in terms of personal development and inner growth. They are instead told what they need to wear in order to “impress the judges.” Growing up in this type of environment is not exactly an ideal place for young girls to develop their mental and emotional health. When a parent encourages or even forces their child to step into the shoes of a hyper-sexualized, full grown woman, it is hard for them to be what they are, a child.

The Celebrity and the Suedo-Celebrity

ImageImage

We watch them on tv, we follow them on twitter, and we gossip about them with our friends. The latest story on our favorite celebrities flood media every day, and consumers eat it up. Why? These celebrities, like Justin Timberlake and Johnny Depp, are just normal people, doing their jobs. Actors, musicians, tv hosts, and the like. They don’t live for media, but the media lives for them. Their level fame only depends on their level of performance and actively producing films, musics, and the like for consumers. When their songs and movies are of high quality, more consumers buy them, and therefor more people admire their talent, and the more people want to know about them and their lives. The media fills this gap in the market by providing stories on the surface lives of celebrities. This, as the equation of the celebrity makes perfect sense.

However, a new market has become quite prevalent in more recent years. The market for the Suedo-Celebrity has seen increasing numbers on celebrity blogs and tv shows. What is the Suedo-Celebrity? The suedo-celebrity has not produced any chart-topping records or made any award winning movies, yet consumers go mad when one gets married or divorced or buys a new pair of shoes or makes a fashion faux-pas. The only parameters for their celebrity-ness is the fact that they are a celebrity. What? This equation doesn’t make any sense.

Image

The the Kardashian family (above), there are a select group of people’s lives that are put into hyper-focus, as if they were a talented singer/actor. It almost seems as if, when the media got bored with celebrities, they decided to create their own. And thus, the suedo-celebrities were born. Why do consumers watch them? Because, if they are being advertised and marketed by the media, then their lives must be interesting and relevant. We don’t want to miss out on what our friends and coworkers have to say about them, so we have to keep up with each and every show. Are they interesting, relatable, intelligent, or talented people with charming personalities? It doesn’t matter, because they are marketed in such a way that consumers don’t mind who they are watching, as long as they are watching someone.

Suveillance in Entertainment

The cast of The Real World: EX-plosion

People are generally uncomfortable with the idea that they are being watched. Active surveillance is generally thought to be a suspicious activity, whether it’s by a stalker, a random video camera, or even the government. Even so, within the past decade, there has been a huge increase in demand for the media to produce reality television. Reality television is literally just surveillance of a person or a group of people in order to capture reactions with each other in certain situations and observe their daily lives.

The Real World is a reality show series that has been aired on MTV for 21 years, with it’s most recent season (EX-plosion) incorporating observations of reactions between ex-boyfriends and girlfriends. It’s MTV’s longest running program and is associated with the creation of the reality genre on television. The show is meant to target young-adults by featuring concepts such as sexuality, romance, politics, substance abuse, and religion.

The main criticisms of highly viewed reality shows such as The Real World are such that one might not legitimately call them reality, as average people do not live in luxurious spaces, get taken to exotic locations for free, and party every night. Despite this obvious separation from reality, the question remains, why do so many people watch reality tv?

The fact is that people are generally curious as to how other people live, what other people think, what other people do, and if there are any similarities with their own personal lives. Reality television, even it is scripted or exaggerated, allows young viewers to connect and validate everything in the lives, ranging from their feelings, opinions, and interactions with other people to the clothes they wear and the food they eat. More recently, MTV has made an effort in include personal help for young adults with issues similar to those the subjects of the program face. The Real World: EX-plosion, in addition with the regular program, has provided support, help hotlines, and discussion groups for victims of violence, deaths of family members, issues with sexual identity, and unplanned pregnancies.

Among the criticisms of reality tv, it is hard to argue with the fact that even though many people are personally uncomfortable with being observed, they have no problem with being the one observing others.

Media Disaster

Image

A woman crosses a street of rubble in Haiti.

 

Day after day, year after year, newspapers, daily news stations, radio stations and online news pages cover tragedies and disasters from around the world. The media’s job is to convey information in whatever way the media moguls deem most interesting or eye-catching–whatever will make the best story. Sometimes, this means showing intense and disturbing images of destruction, war, and violence. Some might say these images are unnecessary, but many others would argue that seeing the full picture is what keeps them the most connected to current events as well as the people who experience them first hand.

However, the media often times wildly exaggerates the truth. When a natural disaster occurs, a similar picture is painted in the media each time. Often times exaggerated information, images, and interviews are all repeated on a continuous loop. Such repetition can grow dull, and cause the viewer to become numb to the information. When a serious threat actually occurs, such as predictions for violent hurricanes and tornadoes, viewers take in the warnings and process them as they would process other information like it, which is why sometimes serious threats aren’t taken as seriously as they should be.

When the story is no longer new, and no longer interesting to viewers, the media will drop the story in question and move on to the next one. Even though the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, and more recently the aftermath of the tornado that destroyed Joplin, Missouri, is still visible, the media chooses to not cover it because viewers have lost interest.

It is because of over-dramatized and under-covered tragedies in the media that viewers have a harder time understanding, assessing, and empathizing in moments of true disaster.

 

Reference:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/tv-radio/catastrophe-on-camera-why-media-coverage-of-natural-disasters-is-flawed-2189032.html

 

Hijabs in Fashion

RK Hijab Fashion

The history of Muslim women covering their bodies can find origins in the Qur-an, which can be seen in the following verses from the Qur-an:

And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their khimār over their breasts and not display their beauty except to their husband, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. (Quran 24:31)

When one considers societies that require women to cover themselves by law, the hijab is considered oppressive of women, and there are groups around the world that are trying to change the way women are viewed in these societies.

When a garment of clothing is so often associated with oppression, those that freely choose to wear the hijab as a personal choice or as a part of their traditional culture are too considered somewhat oppressed and perhaps even fearful. This, however, is not always the case.

Hijabs have been inserted into the pop-culture and fashion industry in both eastern and western cultures, even making appearances in pop icon’s music videos and every-day wear. When this dissociation of the garment with traditional culture or oppressive behavior and re-association as a garment that the wearer can be viewed as fashionable or well-to-do occurs, the garment becomes less of a symbol of women’s inequality and instead becomes a symbol of women’s rights and women’s choice to wear the garment freely.

If a garment such as this saturates the fashion industry, those cultures which use the garment as a symbol of oppression are forced to reevaluate the traditional use of the garment.

Much like Native American garments and headdresses have become disassociated with being savage or uncivilized, their saturation in fashion has transformed the garments into symbols of the wearer’s closeness to nature and freedom.

While some may believe the use of traditional cultural garments in fashion may be inappropriate and culturally insensitive, fashion and pop culture can also be harnessed as powerful tools in changing how the world will view something as simple as a piece of cloth.

Chaim Machlev

Intricate and pristine designs by the German artist

Intricate and pristine designs by the German artist from Berlin

With the demand for tattoos going into overdrive, people search far and wide for the most world renowned tattoo artists. There are year-long waiting lists just for one session with a talented tattoo artist. Why are people suddenly caring so much about who does their tattoo? It seems that less people want a random person to create a permanent image on their body; it’s not significant enough. People want to be a part of a work of art.

Chaim Machlev, a highly-sought after tattoo artist from Berlin, Germany, creates stark-black ink tattoos that demonstrate a highly intricate sense of geometry, while also having a crisp, pristine quality. Machlev’s process is no less significant than that of any other artist. In fact, compared to a painter, a sculptor, or any other fine artist, the art of tattooing is a highly complicated process. Since the canvases are human skin, the standards for quality and care skyrocket above other art.

Imagine being able to say you are the proud owner of a Picasso. Now imagine being able to say your body is a Picasso. Same concept. Among other tattoo artists, Machlev is the type of skilled artisan whose work people crave to be a part of–a mass collection of highly-detailed works that are always moving and literally alive.

Not only is Machlev’s work visually stunning, but it’s also highly emotional. In an interview with SkinDeep223 magazine, Machlev described the experience of getting a tattoo: “I cannot put my finger on it now, but something meaningful happened and I realised how strong the effect of putting your trust into someone you just met, to let them change your body, when all you have as a reference is some work of theirs you’ve seen before, or some recommendation. I see it as leaving your ego behind and going through something very deep; a process of self-healing using art.”

With a desire for this type of artwork running ever-deeper in modern cultures around the globe, it is hard to imagine why these beautiful pieces are still frowned upon in the professional workplace. Living art with personal meaning and personal experiences is an art form that will continue to grow and evolve throughout history.

 

SkinDeep interview: http://www.bigtattooplanet.com/node/94274

Process of tattoo: http://www.dotstolines.com/independent-reality

More highly sought-after artists: http://www.buzzfeed.com/peggy/coolest-tattoo-artists-in-the-world

We Can Do It!

Image

This image is a spin-off of the famous World War II propaganda poster that was meant to boost worker morale during the time of the war. The original image has a feminist message and is hugely popular in the feminist campaign.

This new image, however, depicts a Saudi-Arabian woman adorned in a traditional hijab. There has been much support of feminists trying to gain women’s more rights for women in the middle-east, most notably and symbolically removing the hijab from covering the face.

This feminist action is perhaps a direct effect of globalization in that the major countries around the world have seen a huge improvement in women’s rights in the past few hundred years, and the middle-east is seeing more and more pressure to follow suit. Because a lot of middle-eastern culture is patriarchal and nomadic, it is much more difficult for women to take a stand for themselves. Images such as this one that simply suggest an image of a powerful woman are a huge step forward in middle-eastern countries.

Three Girls, by Amrita Sher-Gil, 1935

Painted in 1935, Three Girls won the Gold Medal at the annual exhibition of the Bombay Art Society in 1937.

Painted in 1935, Three Girls won the Gold Medal at the annual exhibition of the Bombay Art Society in 1937.

Amrita Sher-Gil was an important female Indian artist in the 20th century whose work often depicts poor Indian villagers and women in reflection of their condition. Instead depicting the women as sensual creatures, Sher-Gil chooses to show the subjects in a state of meditation through the skillful use of facial expressions and tone.

I think it’s important to acknowledge that Sher-Gil chose subjects who were not wealthy or who wore elaborate costumes, but instead chose subjects who appear to be quite regular in social status. The bright colors Sher-Gil uses is juxtaposed with the deep contemplative expressions the subjects wear, creating a kind of richness in their state of thought. The image itself seems quiet and reflective, prompting the viewer to try and empathize with the women, rather than to see the women as objects of desire.