How Sailor Moon Made Me A Feminist, Too

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How Sailor Moon Made Me A Feminist, Too

Postby Athena » Thu Jun 06, 2013 9:13 pm

I read a lot of feminist or feministing leaning blogs, and that should come as no surprise to anyone who didn't just emerge from under an internet rock like five seconds ago. One of the blogs I read is Autostraddle. Autostraddle defines itself as:

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.


Fukkin SIGNED.
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Re: How Sailor Moon Made Me A Feminist, Too

Postby ngsilver » Fri Jun 07, 2013 1:03 am

I wouldn't have considered SM to paint a very empowering view of women, especially the dub as I remember it. However, I never even thought about all the other things that it did do and show. Good read.
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Re: How Sailor Moon Made Me A Feminist, Too

Postby -MD » Sat Jun 08, 2013 1:27 pm

I read this a few days ago....some of the points were poor. There were things that were worded terribly.
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Re: How Sailor Moon Made Me A Feminist, Too

Postby Athena » Sat Jun 08, 2013 8:15 pm

-MD wrote:I read this a few days ago....some of the points were poor. There were things that were worded terribly.


The Autostraddle article?

...are you being sarcastic? :|
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Re: How Sailor Moon Made Me A Feminist, Too

Postby -MD » Sun Jun 09, 2013 4:56 am

Nope (to the first question), should have clarified. I was talking about the magical girls article.
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Re: How Sailor Moon Made Me A Feminist, Too

Postby seasons » Fri Jun 14, 2013 6:05 pm

http://missturdle.tumblr.com/post/46471 ... l-heroines

This sort of blew my mind when I read it and changed what I thought I knew about Madoka. Definitely recommended.

I have nothing to say about Sailor Moon because I haven't seen it. :( I may still watch it someday but I don't know if I could possibly connect with it in the same way that Kionon or the authors of these posts did when they were younger.
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Re: How Sailor Moon Made Me A Feminist, Too

Postby Athena » Sun Jun 16, 2013 5:23 am

Oh, nice. Thanks for that addition, Seasons. Good stuff!
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Thank you Kionon!

Postby Eryl1981 » Mon Jun 17, 2013 7:28 pm

I began watching Sailor Moon when I was fourteen.
I'm now 31 and I still believe that it shaped my own self-image and later on my behavior as an adult.
It definitely influenced on what I like in anime and non-anime shows. Mainly romance with magic and some light comedy.
The fact that there are soo many strong-minded girls on this show, just made it that much more interesting from my point of view.
I wish that all girls and women would watch it, so they can see how it relates to their lives as young girls growing into young women.
Even guys from my school and neighborhood enjoyed watching this show, though probably for different reasons.

I never found the "lesbian" relationship between Amara and Michelle to be gross or unhealthy for girls to watch. There was so little romance between them that it was almost nonexistant.
Sailor Moon Sailor Stars is my favoirte season, even though I still think they should have English dubbed it.

Just like soo many girls, I have never liked DragonBallz.
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Re: How Sailor Moon Made Me A Feminist, Too

Postby Athena » Tue Jun 18, 2013 5:34 am

I myself graduated to High Shoujo, and I'm a much bigger fan of Utena than I am of Sailor Moon, but I will say that Sailor Moon (the Japanese version, at least) still holds its own, and if I ever had children, it is definitely something I would share with them.

Did you ever watch the S/SuperS subs or the movies? Because honestly, the yuri element of Haruka/Michiru is pretty blatantly obvious when you look at the Japanese (and have a really good, nuanced, and contextual English translation). Some of the stuff they say is pretty suggestive, especially if you know to what they're referring.
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Re: Watched some subs of Sailor Moon

Postby Eryl1981 » Thu Jun 27, 2013 6:50 pm

Yes, I've watched some subs of Sailor Moon, but I prefer dubbed versions more than subs, mainly because I like watching facial expressions and the action more than reading the text in subs.
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Re: How Sailor Moon Made Me A Feminist, Too

Postby Miaka999 » Fri Jun 28, 2013 9:27 am

I watched Sailor Moon when I was five and watched Utena later on as well as Tokyo Mew Mew. I never looked at it in the way that it shaped my feminism. I just looked at it as a show and something so entertaining. I just liked it for the pure simplicity of enjoyment, not to mention the fancy art that went with it. For feminism I look at other role models like my mother or Obama's wife or Hillary Clinton. Someone that is real to me. Sailor Moon like Utena and other girl genre anime did not influence me in my feminism or shape me to think or become girly. They were just shows and even if I wanted to be like them, I knew that I could not because they were not real to me like for example my mother is. I saw many of my friends who got so influenced by Sailor Moon become anorexic or bulimic. Sailor Moon like Utena made most of my friends feel like objects, unworthy, ugly human beings. I saw that and it really left a bitter impression on me because really it is just anime. I could not understand how you can let anime change you as a person because really in this life and lifetime, it is more important accepting who you really are as person. Accepting your flaws or whatever, its important to accept who you are and be yourself. Don't let media change you because that is conforming to the norm and its unhealthy. We all are unique people and different. It would be so boring if all girls were Sailor Moon characters or something. Maybe not for boys but that's their hormones overruling them (just being honest). And same goes for Dragon Ball Z. If all boys were like Goku or Vegeta it would be very boring (lol maybe not in my dreams). But anyways, that is my opinion. Just like Barbie dolls, Sailor Moon is just fake. I rather get my feminism from reliable sources something more tangible and from real people. Like for example Charlotte Bronte or the Bronte sisters or Mary Shelley or Jane Austen (even though they died, they left a mark and an impression in this world).
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Re: How Sailor Moon Made Me A Feminist, Too

Postby Athena » Sat Jun 29, 2013 8:57 am

Miaka999 wrote:I watched Sailor Moon when I was five and watched Utena later on as well as Tokyo Mew Mew. I never looked at it in the way that it shaped my feminism. I just looked at it as a show and something so entertaining. I just liked it for the pure simplicity of enjoyment, not to mention the fancy art that went with it.


As I said, it planted seeds. Sailor Moon isn't overtly feminist, and it has many problematic aspects, but it is considerably more progressive on this score than western cartoons.

For feminism I look at other role models like my mother or Obama's wife or Hillary Clinton.


Well, I am not that familiar with Michelle's feminist activism. However, I am very well acquainted with Hillary's views and positions, having worked for her briefly.

Someone that is real to me. Sailor Moon like Utena and other girl genre anime did not influence me in my feminism or shape me to think or become girly.


Wait, what? What does feminism have to do with shaping you to "think or become girly." Feminism may value "girliness" as long as it as a choice made out of a woman's individual agency, but feminism is primarily devoted to transforming the gender paradigm. Not supporting it as is!

They were just shows and even if I wanted to be like them, I knew that I could not because they were not real to me like for example my mother is. I saw many of my friends who got so influenced by Sailor Moon become anorexic or bulimic. Sailor Moon like Utena made most of my friends feel like objects, unworthy, ugly human beings. I saw that and it really left a bitter impression on me because really it is just anime. I could not understand how you can let anime change you as a person because really in this life and lifetime, it is more important accepting who you really are as person. Accepting your flaws or whatever, its important to accept who you are and be yourself. Don't let media change you because that is conforming to the norm and its unhealthy. We all are unique people and different.


I'm seriously lost. No one is suggesting a conflation between reality and fiction here. And I'm really unclear how you connect eating disorders, a very, very serious issue amongst women (and, increasingly, men as well) with Sailor Moon. Are you attempting to articulate the argument that Sailor Moon's (and indeed anime's in general) character proportions aggravated these conditions in your friends? This is a very serious challenge, and therefore a very important and valid inquiry. However, might it not be the case that other messages in our society led to a perception of these shows which was not intended by their creators? Utena, especially, is highly critical of gender stereotypes, and questions gender expression, gender roles, sexual orientation, power dynamics between men and women, and many, many, many forms of psychosis. While Sailor Moon may not be overtly feminist, something I do not deny, Utena is. It's high shoujo/yuri, which has a long history of delving into these issues.

I'm really not following your criticism.

It would be so boring if all girls were Sailor Moon characters or something.


Uh... all of the characters in Sailor Moon run the gamut across personality types. We can all, I think, see elements of ourselves in at least one or more of the senshi... I really don't see what you're getting at here.

Maybe not for boys but that's their hormones overruling them (just being honest).


Woah. Uhm, no. Just no.

You are not "just being honest." You are being sexist. That's not what feminism is about, full stop. There was no excuse for that comment.

And same goes for Dragon Ball Z. If all boys were like Goku or Vegeta it would be very boring (lol maybe not in my dreams). But anyways, that is my opinion. Just like Barbie dolls, Sailor Moon is just fake.


I agree with your first opinion, certainly. However, I completely disagree that Sailor Moon is lacking in genuinely complex characters. You're asserting that Tsukino Usagi, Mizuno Ami, Hino Rei, Kino Makoto, Aino Minako, Tenou Haruka, Kaioh Michiru, and Setsuna Meiou are in some way cookie cutter characters. This is far, far, far from the truth. Indeed, Takeuchi Naoko spent a considerable time on her female villains as well. Galaxia is especially complex.

I rather get my feminism from reliable sources something more tangible and from real people. Like for example Charlotte Bronte or the Bronte sisters or Mary Shelley or Jane Austen (even though they died, they left a mark and an impression in this world).


And you think I don't? As someone who holds an English degree and, you know, teaches English for a living, I am well familiar with 19th century female authors. If you want actual feminist scholars, what about belle hooks? Judith Butler? Leslie Feinberg? Just to name a few...
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Re: How Sailor Moon Made Me A Feminist, Too

Postby Miaka999 » Sun Jun 30, 2013 8:35 pm

I agree with you that Sailor Moon as well as other girl genre anime is progressive and better than some Western cartoons. To me, yes feminism has to do with transforming the gender paradigm (as you have stated), but also and most importantly how much influence we/women have in society. To me, feminism is the power we as women have (it is all about being equal and having power equal to men), so in other words, girl power.

Feminism partially has to do with the way women are brought up (how they are encultured, taught, raised) in assessing their identity, that being feminine/girly. Girly is a poor word to use in this context of feminism, so I apologize for having used this. What I meant by Sailor Moon, Utena, and other girl anime shows, not influencing me to think or become "girly" is that those shows did not teach me anything about girl power or feminism or anything of the sort.

When I saw those shows growing up, they did not teach me much about being a young woman in a world that is hostile to women. I saw it more as entertainment, and it fueled my love for anime. I identified myself with characters on personalities but they did not shape me in any way to think of feminism. These shows did not teach me the values of feminism or about women's rights and being equal to men, economically, socially, politically...nothing at all.

To me these shows were fake, fictitious, unimportant, and imaginative. Instead of seeing feminism in a positive light, I saw feminism take a wrong turn. My friends took Sailor Moon, Utena, and other girl anime shows as a way of being. My friends aspired to be Utena, Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter, Sailor Venus, etc. Instead of feminism, I saw distorted feminism. The anime caused my friends to devalue themselves as human beings. This is what I saw. I saw the negative consequences of watching girl anime, the negative consequences of letting something over rule your being and state of mind. My friends wanted to be skinny and beautiful just like those characters on those girl anime shows are. This is why reality and fiction got so intertwined that it came to a point where my friends did not know reality from fiction. They were confused and falling into a trap. This is an example of media over influencing girls in a wrong way.

It would be really boring if all girls were like Sailor Moon characters because physically we are all different. We also do not think alike, so it would be boring if we were all Sailor Moon or Utena or Card Captor Sakura or what have you. Yes I agree we see something in these characters, but we are not them and it would be boring if we were. Girl anime characters like Utena and Sailor Moon are drawn and displayed in an exaggerating manner. They are all exaggeratingly beautiful. In real life it is not like that. Women do not look like Barbie dolls or like Utena or Sailor Moon, because these are fake dolls and fake people (don’t forget that Sailor Moon was made into dolls). This is why I stress the importance of accepting who we are, accepting our flaws whether it is physical, accepting ourselves and being ourselves. Changing ourselves to be like something fake in order to be beautiful is dangerous and I saw people get hurt in the long run.

My apologies for my sexist comment, but I do not apologize for many of those men out there who objectify women as sexual objects whether it be by comments or behavior. I feel that men in today’s society see women as objects and mistreat women (of course not all men, but there are those men who do exist that objectify women and abuse women). Of course, to those men what man would not like for women to be like these Sailor Moon characters (not personalities but physically) or other girl genre characters. What man wouldn’t want for women to be like Sailor Venus or Sailor Mars or Sailor Moon or Utena or Barbie?

As for the Dragon Ball Z comment, it would also be boring if all men were like Goku or Vegeta, because not men are all like that. Not all men have fire blazing from their heads nor do all men look like they are on steroids or like super strong.
I really do not like taking these shows and deconstructing them. To me these are shows so I will leave it at that, just shows, nothing more nothing less. I see them as cookie cutter characters because they are fake to me. Yeah they are complex characters but at the end of the day they are not real. Just because I see my personality in some of these characters does not mean that I am going to emasculate myself to be like them. I am not going to be or change myself to be like them.
And lastly, of course I am not implying or saying that you do not get your feminism from reliable sources or other feminine role models. We all get our influences from many sources. I don’t get them from anime; I get them from 19th Century and 20th C feminine authors. I am not saying you don’t either. Look, I am not implying anything on your part; I am just saying that I like getting my influences from real powerful women not anime.

I am sorry for confusing you once again. I apologize if I was hurtful in any way. This was not my intention. I was only stating and clarifying my opinion. It sounded like you were quite mad at me and I am sorry for causing you to be mad.
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Re: How Sailor Moon Made Me A Feminist, Too

Postby Athena » Mon Jul 01, 2013 12:00 am

I'm on my iPhone at immigration, but I have quite a few things I feel need to be challenged in your most recent post. There are a few points we never disagreed on, but there are also a number of points where I am unclear about your points of view. You also seem to be somewhat confused about basic tenets of feminism.

I especially find your comments about Utena perplexing. The show eviscerates gender roles and questions gender expression starting from the very first scene where Utena insists she has the right to wear the boy's uniform.

Otohiko brought up a great point elsewhere about the materialistic, commercialised version of feminism in the 90s that turned "girl power" into a commodity, one devoid of much of the teeth of current third wage intersectional feminism. I think fitting shoujo, especially high shoujo like Utena, into a western "girl power" framework does a disservice to shoujo.

Oh, and no, I'm not mad. I haven't really been angry in quite sometime. You're mistaking the combination of academic tone and genuine passion for the subject with anger. Never a good idea.
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Re: How Sailor Moon Made Me A Feminist, Too

Postby Miaka999 » Mon Jul 01, 2013 1:08 pm

In my whole education trajectory in the American system, I have to say that feminism has been overlooked. I went to a Catholic all girl high school and feminism was not taught at all. I had to get my sources elsewhere, but it was not taught at my school. I guess the nuns were not all about girl power. But that is what I usually have associated feminism with, girl power. I also associate feminism with women's rights ever since we were granted the right to vote in 1920. It was only in my college years that I got a more in depth look at feminism. I am no expert on feminism, I just know that feminism revolves around the belief that women are equal to men on the social, political, and economic level. There are still problems women face on the grounds of economic status, career choices, and women are still discriminated and victimized. There are still some gender issues. According to Sue and Sue (I feel like I am writing an essay), "The stereotyped standards of beauty expressed through advertisements and the mass media have had an impact on the health and self-esteem of girls and women." This is what my friends went through and to me, to see my friends go through this, was heart breaking and traumatizing at the same time. They wanted me to participate in their behavior, that being starving myself to death, just because I was their friend.

I love Utena and I loved how strong she was and being a tom boy, or whatever you want to call it. Your right that Utena removes and takes away any gender roles. But then again, I was very young when I watched these shows and did not see it in the way you saw it. Not till now when you point it out so clearly. Yeah, I agree with you completely about Utena removing any gender roles and questions gender expression. But there were people like my friends who took Utena in a distorted way, and wanted to become her completely and physically, to the point that it almost destroyed their lives, because some ended up in the hospital because they were undernourished. Looking back now, I feel that those friends lost their identity, like they knew they were girls but, they lost their sense of who they are...I am not sure if I'm expressing myself clearly. I am sure that the message of these anime is not to loose weight or become 100% into these characters...but not all people think alike and there are some who misinterpret, and gain distorted messages.

I would love to read more about the third wage intersectional feminism. And yes, I agree that the 90s was a time when girl power was a commodity. In a way, I feel that Utena was a little bit about girl power. I mean she was a strong individual, who decides to be a prince. You may be right about fitting shoujo into western "girl power" framework does a disservice to shoujo. So many people have interpretations about it. I don't know. I just don't like it when people like my past friends who had this societal pressure to be thin and led to the internalization of an unrealistic body shape and a body dissatisfaction, just from watching these girl genre shows....I mean that is taking it a little bit too far.

this is a great subject of discussion :book:
I love these types of discussions and learning something new everyday
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