Autostraddle is an intelligent, hilarious & provocative voice and a progressively feminist online community for a new generation of kickass lesbian, bisexual & otherwise inclined ladies (and their friends).
Like the other such feminist blogs I read, it's largely concerned with pop culture and is sometimes called "pop feminism" as it is much more irreverent, provocative, and personalised than academic feminism (which can often sound stuffy, distant, or impractical), although I admit I am a fan of Feministe's tag line, "In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set." Sorry, not sorry, for my sanctimoniousness. Just because I screw up myself from time to time doesn't mean my own interest in these topics is disingenuous (which is what sanctimonious can mean, but does not here. Sardonically sanctimonious. Sanctimoniously sardonic?).
I'm very, very interested when my fandoms and my feminism collide, and so I was delighted to find this topic by Autostraddle contributor Rose: How Sailor Moon Made Me a Feminist: An Ode to Magical Girl Shows which I believe fully is completely and totally appropriate to share in a forum dedicated to "General Anime." It also mentions Madoka Magica, so it's not just catering to "teh oldz."
There's a lot in this article I can agree with. Sailor Moon, while not even in my Top Ten, and not quite overtly feminist like I believe much of Ikeda's shoujo work is, or even Revolutionary Girl Utena is, definitely had a major impact on my life, my adolescence, and my current worldview. Not a fan of many American cartoons, and not a fan of the one other anime on TV at the time (Dragon Ball Z, for its over-the-top displays of hypermasculinity), naturally I found Sailor Moon refreshing. As an impressionable youngster in the midst of early adolescence, it taught me much about being a young woman in a world hostile to my identity, and it is probably foundational for my feminism today.
Sailor Moon served as a counter to the masculine messages I was getting elsewhere. With Sailor Moon I learned it was okay to be frightened and even cry while trying to be strong (Usagi), for girls to be smart (Ami), for girls to be athletic, even fighters under the right circumstances (Makoto), that being "girly," fashion oriented, interested in pop culture, wanting to be a star were not inherently inferior, and now, I would argue are not inherently anti-feminist (Minako, who happens to be my favorite sailor senshi still today), and that being aggressive and assertive when it's needed is a proper response, even if you get labeled as "bitchy" (Rei). It even taught me that homosexuality was something to accept, not to fear, and that such a relationship was the equal of any straight relationship (Haruka/Michiru). It also taught me about the value of strong, platonic relationships between girls (something I struggled to find, and only in the past few years have managed to accomplish for myself). If Sailor Moon didn't make me a feminist right off the bat, and it certainly didn't make me a feminist activist or feminist blogger (both of which I most certainly am now), it at least made me a proto-feminist. It created fertile ground for two ideas to grow: "the radical idea that women are people," and that I didn't have to be ashamed for realising I was one regardless of societal structures which institutionalised the tearing down of anyone under the label of "woman."
Rose of Autostraddle writes:
Also, whether dark or light, straight or deconstructed, nearly every episode of every Magical Girl show, with their emphasis on girls solving problems and working together with each other, passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. They represent every type of relationship between women – and I do mean every. What's especially interesting about a lot of these shows is not just what they do for women in general, but specifically for queer women. At the very least, they're often chockful of lesbian subtext; in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Homura and Madoka all but kiss in the finale, and Kyoko could easily be read as in love with Sayaka. But some actually have canonically lesbian characters. They're all over the genre – even Tokyo Mew Mew has a girl confess her love to another in its anime – but one of the most notable examples of this is, again, from Sailor Moon: Haruka Tenoh and Michiru Kaioh, aka Sailors Uranus and Neptune.
Given that shoujo, at its base, (as I explained to Beowolf in my feminist critique of misogyny in AMV spaces) is not remotely about the male gaze or for the male gaze (written by women for girls), these queer identities cannot be seen as mere fanservice for male watchers. In many cases, I'd argue male interest in this homosocial, homoerotic (even overtly homosexual, like Haruka/Michiru) element of shoujo is entirely coincidental. Perhaps not unexpected, but in spite and of not because of the inclusion of these themes. I'm fairly certain the feminists who have written on shoujo before would agree. Yes, there are anime series which exploit elements of shoujo, including homosocial behavior for the male gaze (Kampfer immediately comes to mind), they are not shoujo and should not be classified as such.
Rose ends her piece with this paragraph:
It's often not easy to be a feminist, queer anime fan, as the culture, like a lot of other geek subcultures, is full of less-than-savory elements. A lot of other anime – even some that I love – are far from feminist or empowering to women. But if there's one thing that anime has going for it, it's so many of those Magical Girl shows that have given us something that's so rare in media from either side of the Pacific: truly strong, yet relatable female heroes, with close relationships – platonic or otherwise – with other women. I'll always be grateful that Sailor Moon was on my airwaves as a kid, to show me that girls could do everything the boys could do – and often, even more.