Manga: Racy Fluff --or--Reading Aid?

What are kids reading these days? Many are reading manga, the Japanese graphic novels that can offer extreme sexist stereotypes and gratuitous situations, atypical if what you're used to is the American version of comic book heroes and villains.

At Deering High School in Portland ME, the manga collection is so popular that it needs to be kept under lock and key to prevent theft. This story from the Portland Press Herald tells how many middle and high school students find the novels both fascinating and off-putting; parents, librarians and comic-book store owners weigh as well on this popular genre.

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sexist stereotypes

Yowza! I don't think manga is much worse than mainstream superhero comics when it comes to sexist stereotypes and gratuitous situations. Also, it is much easier to find female author/artists in manga than in American comics.

Manga and sexism

Sure there's sexism in manga, consider the culture.

There's also sexism in American comics, consider the culture.

Mainstream American comics have the same images reproduced over and over again. Male superheroes tend to be massive, hulking, body builder types with body styles ranging from well built (Daredevil for instance.) to absolutely massive (The Incredible Hulk). Even normal people in comics are pretty well built. J. Jonah Jameson is not a superhero. But, he's not fat, he looks really good for his age and occupation, and he smokes but there's no ill effects visible.

Female superheroes are all built the same for the most part, no matter their powers, abilities, or background. Take Storm, from Marvel Comics. She's Black, controls weather, flies, and has long hair. Now look at Rogue, also from Marvel. She flies, drains power off people, is super strong. and has long hair. Wonder Woman, from DC, has flight powers, is super strong, a goddess, and has long hair. The Sensational She-Hulk, from Marvel, is almost as strong as the Incredible Hulk- keeping in mind that he can bench press small cities. She's green and has long hair.

Anybody seeing a pattern here? All of the female superheroes are built almost exactly the same. Even though She-Hulk is capable of shattering concrete, she doesn't look like female body builder. Why? Because a lot of people don't think female body builders look feminine. All of them have long, flowing hair. Because it's a feminine trait to have such hair. Indeed I can only think of a few female heroes with short hair and nine times out of ten it's either because the character is a rebelious punk type (Boom Boom from the X-men) or it's used as a device to indicate their youth. And, like their male counterparts, non superheroic comic females are all built like sexy little superheroes, but without powers. Today's Lois Lane is an exceedingly hot brunette. Likewise with Linda Park West, the wife of the Flash. Hell, they could be sisters.

So of course comics are sexist. Manga is sexist. This is normal, always has been. The difference lies in what we see as sexist and what the Japanese see as sexist. But, as was said before me, women have a much easier time breaking into manga. Takahashi Rumiko, creator of Ranma 1/2 and Maison Ikkoku is just one of many examples of populer female creators in manga. Quick now, in five seconds name a female writer or artist that's made a big name for herself in American comics.

Time's up.

Re:Manga and sexism

Quick now, in five seconds name a female writer or artist that's made a big name for herself in American comics.

Devin Grayson

She-Hulk currently looks like a body-builder. Storm at one point sported a mohawk. Rogue's hair has had a number of incarnations (and if *that* ain't typical woman I don't know what is). Agatha Harkness is like 101 years old. A lot of this depends on the artist, some artists have all the men looking alike and all the women, the better the artist the more differences you'll see. If there is sexism in American comics its how women characters get treated not how they're drawn.

If there are more female artists in manga I don't consider that a good defense if they are still drawing all women as if they had the face of a 14-year-old and legs up to their armpits.

Re:Manga and sexism

If there are more female artists in manga I don't consider that a good defense if they are still drawing all women as if they had the face of a 14-year-old and legs up to their armpits.

Now, this isn't entirely true. There are 2 major classes of Manga, the group for men and the group for women. The Manga that is aimed more at males will be more action oriented, with more scantily clad ladies and more blood. The female Manga is generally more soap operas on paper. Not all the female characters in these series are the stereotypical supermodel-type bodies, there are the shy, geek-y types and the weirdos, etc...

Traditional Manga is on the sexist side... it is where men could indulge in the fantasies that they could not experience in real life. That mentality has carried over into the Manga that makes it in the U.S. and marketed to kids. My friends in college nicknamed some Manga and anime "Ultra violent porn cartoons" and with good reason.

Re:Manga and sexism

"If there is sexism in American comics its how women characters get treated not how they're drawn."

Are you serious? Sequential Tart was able to devote a column called Bizarre Breasts to problems with superheroine anatomy, and you don't see anything stereotypical in the images these artists are drawing? People like Greg Horn build a career on drawing cheesecake, and you don't think there are any implied stereotypes there?

OK. Um, since most of the manga series I read tend to be set in high school, I don't find it odd that they look young. There hasn't been tons of josei manga translated here, but Erica Sakurazawa's characters look their ages, and her manga is marketed to women, not teenagers. I find it weirder that in American comics you will find teenagers drawn like twentysomethings.

Re:Manga and sexism

You can't say its sexist if they screw up male anatomy just as badly. Superman and Batman would have to be juicing pretty heavily to have the definition they do, that and major surgery to add a few extra muscles here and there.

I find it weirder that in American comics you will find teenagers drawn like twentysomethings.

Probably because in America you can't always tell in real life either.

Re:Manga and sexism

I will say it isn't stereotypical the day I see Batman wearing a metal thong, and Superman in fishnets.

Re:Manga and sexism

What? You missed that issue?

Good one.

Many are reading manga, the Japanese graphic novels that can offer extreme sexist stereotypes and gratuitous situations, atypical if what you're used to is the American version of comic book heroes and villains.That is outright laughable. I hope that was meant sarcastically, or else whoever wrote this has never even seen American comics.

Manga

i agree there is a element of stereo typing however when you take into account the market manga is trying to sell to; the male teenage 'nerd' who reads these magazines there is no doubt that they would rather look at a curvy female with a small waist and long hair than an overwieght 'unattractive' version. Male teenagers read comics to escape reality in comics they can fantasise about women who they would never have a chance with otherwise. Manga does what any comic in any other culture would do which is to cater for their readers

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