So the internet is a mysterious, fun, and sometimes scary place. I have observed many strange statements and maybe that is the way of the internet but really. When I hear arguments that reverse harem, BL, and ren’ai games are smart or incredibly artistic, I have to wonder if we are seeing the same things. Of course these genres have examples of greatness, but could anyone really believe that an entire genre of anything is all good? I have even seen people claim that these types of genres are the way to combat an alleged boys only attitude in fandom. It seems like a similarly elitist attitude that plagues everything.
Before we begin I would like everyone to be on the same page. So I begin with a definition. What exactly is a fujoshi? We have mentioned them in the past but I have never really talked in depth about them before now. The simple definition of fujoshi is a female otaku who focuses on BL/yaoi and BL/yaoi related material. I have seen a trend to try to label any female otaku as a fujoshi but I think this is a grave mistake. Fujoshi have very specific tastes that warrant them having their own sub-classification. All fujoshi are female otaku but not all female otaku are fujoshi.
Something strange is happening. And while it certainly isn’t just these genres, it seems to be quite prevalent. Some girls actually think that BL, reverse harems, and girl-oriented dating sims are automatically deep. I get that girls want to have their own sub-genres that are specifically created for their enjoyment, that speaks to their fantasies, but why go putting meaning in things that have none? I feel the same way about anyone who actually believes moe is the be all end all of high art. It is becoming quite apparent to me that there are some fujoshis who are a whole different class of women in denial.
You unruly cad! Are you implying that Fushigi Yugi, Fake, and Angelique are not the pinnacles of visual literature whether it be in the pantheon of Eastern or Western civilization? Next you are going to tell me that Fate/Stay Night, Strawberry Panic!, and Negima! aren’t high literature! All kidding aside, no one sane that I know has ever attempted to even imply that Night Shift Nurses or F-Force has a grand amount of subtlety and deep insight into society. They are animated porn for men to masturbate to. Any social insight gleaned from them is ancillary to the actual “narrative.” And I use narrative in the loosest sense of the word. Porn is porn and titillation is titillation no matter if it is made for men or for women. I will bet good money that 75% of all BL, reverse harems, and girl-oriented dating sims are as shallow as shows made for men. They may be entertaining and enjoyable but they are almost always about as far from deep as Naruto is far from the actual practices of ninjas. I’m not saying it’s all pop culture junk food but it is certainly the dominant percentage.
Yaoi is to manga what romance novels are to literature. Not all books containing romance go into the romance novel section, but you can bet on what you are going to find in that section. Sure some of it has some semblance of plot but that isn’t why the reader is reading it. That is not a bad thing! Read for your own enjoyment but don’t try to tell me that it is saving the world. To ascertain that BL is the answer to the “male dominated world” of anime and manga is not only wildly exaggeratory, it is insulting. That seems to imply that women are only superficially interested in these mediums. As if they could only possibly care about pretty faces and boys touching each other. I mean no woman actually wants a plot line or character development, right? Aren’t these kinds of statements ghettoizing females and making them seem even more remote in a fandom that has a great number of men?
I think that the real problem is horribly vocal crusader fujoshi. They then assume their fellow female fans are just as shallow as they are. I think that female anime fans can be similar to their male counterparts but I don’t think that one gender is filled with nothing but intellectual pursuits where as the other group only wants shallow fan-service. I think that anime containing a wide variety of genres including genres aimed at females of all ages that are often written by women makes it appealing to women.
It is true that much of geek culture has a large gap in the male to female ratio. However, I frankly think it has quite a lot to do with women more than men trying to keep girls out. Women keep women out. And this has a whole lot to do with society and many outside factors that have nothing to do with geekdom which I could go on and on about. But I won’t, not right now. Geek pride is on the rise and with the growth of online communities, one not even need to leave their house in order to interact with their chosen fandom. I’ve mostly found a female opinion welcomed.
I think that most geek guys would give their eye for more women to be into their chosen hobbies. One problem is that most geeky guys lack the interpersonal skills to easily draw more women to their groups. I will also admit that a certain percentage of any geeky community will have a no girls allowed attitude but I think they are in the definite minority. Plus, they mostly have that attitude due to bitterness of the small numbers of women actively in the community. Women stay out of geeky hobbies because they think they don’t have a place in geek fandom or it holds any interest for them. Why this happens is another debate beyond the scope of this article and perhaps even this blog. The main point is I don’t think there is a cabal of men trying to keep women out of anime and only though the diligence of Light x L and Kyo x Yuki doujinshi authors are girls watching anime.
What about that shojo manga? Manga written for young women has been a popular genre since the 1970’s (though obviously appeared much earlier) so I think it is safe to say it has plenty of influence on why women/girls like anime and manga. And shojo manga sells quite well here these days, some have even made it on to the best-seller list. What about Sailor Moon? She was a phenomenon! Half the girls I know my age remember her fondly and can credit her, atleast partially, to their thrust into fandom. Yes, there has been an influx of girls in fandom as of late but there is more than one reason for this. I just think they are overlooking huge things just to make their given preferences important.
More girls start watching anime and reading manga due to non-sexual reasons. You usually have to hook girls on the shojo and the shonen before they go out and start reading the BL and doujinshi. It’s an outgrowth of their interest in the medium. Women don’t primarily come to anime for any one reason. There is the universal appeal of Studio Ghibli films. There is the wish fulfillment magical girls. There is the simple pure-hearted romance of young girls’ shojo. There is the drama and excitement of older girl’s romance, fantasy, and adventure shojo. There is the more mature look at love and life in josei manga. Many shonen shows have had almost as many female fans as they have male fans. Do some girls just watch these shows as fodder for their BL doujinshi? Sure. Are some girls only reading Fruits Basket because they want to be surrounded by the handsome men of the Sohma family? This is an undeniable fact. I just feel that the appeal of anime and manga is stronger than that. I have always loved the attitude of certain fujoshi that their favorite pairings are not just in their heads but actually a secret between them and the author. They also usually have the feeling that anyone who does not realize this is a plain idiot.
Everyone isn’t just here watching, reading, (blogging) for purely aesthetic, superficial reasons. We all know that anime offers both things to its fans. We can have over-the-top, shallow, or silly stories and we can turn around and move on to deep, thought provoking, or endearing tales. Nothing dominates bringing female fans in as far as I can tell. It is just the vocal minority on the internet that gives this weird illusion. And don’t get me started on the obsession with non-canon relationships that do not exist. Please don’t imply that all women are that delusional. Do I read doujinshi? Yes. Do I read about characters that will never be in a relationship? Yes. Do I insist that it is real? No.
I just want to make it clear that I don’t mind fujoshi in general. Everyone is entitled to like what they like. Women should be able to indulge themselves and be catered to with all the gusto that any male would. I feel fujoshi are no better or worse than moe fans, mecha fans, hentai fans, classic anime fans, or sports anime fans. I would even go as far as to claim that American fujoshi make the U.S. market more robust and healthy. What I don’t like is fujoshi running around with a superiority complex. Even moe fans don’t claim to be the saviors of fandom.