This morning as I was scrolling through my LiveJournal friends list, I came across a post by a friend, lamenting the obvious sexism in both the LA Times’ Girls’ Guide to Comic-Con and the upcoming Marvel Divas comics. I bristled, just as she did, at the implication (or perhaps outright statement?) that the only things that could possibly interest women in comics are hot guys, romance, and shoes. It was only after my initial disgust waned a bit that I was able to stop and think about how much work I’ve put into proving that kind of thinking wrong and how much that has shaped my actions and decisions–to the point where I may be letting those ideas about women control me as much as if they were true.
It was just last night, actually, that I complained on Twitter about the fact that the front page of my blog was currently too shojo-heavy, and that I needed to review some different material quickly to better “reflect the site as a whole.” Of course what that really means is to better reflect me as a whole, and the more I think about that, the more uncomfortable I am with it (and not just because I wish I’d said “represent” instead of “reflect,” though that’s true too). I also took that opportunity to declare loudly on Twitter that my personal collection of manga includes plenty of (possibly even more) shonen and seinen manga, and while that’s true, the fact that I felt the need to say so I think displays my insecurity on this issue pretty blatantly. So why am I feeling this way? Now on one hand, I think it’s perfectly reasonable (and smart) to be concerned about maintaining diverse content in my blog. It’s not just that, though, and I’d be fooling myself if I pretended it was.
Let’s break down the front page as it stands right at this moment. There’s quite a bit of romance (Boys Over Flowers, High School Debut, Future Lovers, We Were There), and some hot guys (Wild Adapter, Silver Diamond)–not so much in the way of shoes, but those were never really my thing. There are a few other items on the page, but when you look over at what’s made it to the “Recently Recommended” widget in my sidebar, it’s all romance and hot guys. That widget only reflects my five most recent recommendations, and sure, just recently things like Fullmetal Alchemist, Nabari No Ou, and Detroit Metal City were on the list (“and I’m reading Pluto right now!” my inner angst insists), but today it’s all romance and hot guys. I feel kind of sick when I see this, and then I want to kick myself for feeling that way. Am I honestly ashamed of what I’m reading? Why? Who do I feel I have to justify myself to? Men? Women? Publishers? Fans? Maybe all of those people.
Now before this post spawns a flurry of comments regarding how stupid it is to care what other people think of my reading, “read what you want,” etc.–seriously, I know this. It’s idiotic to be worried about this or to be ashamed of my tastes (or what my blog currently displays as my tastes). Insecurity in general is idiotic, this I know. I also know that the fact that I feel the need to take preemptive measures to ensure that others will not view my tastes as too girlish and/or low-brow (or prickle when I think they are implying such) says more about me than it does about anyone else, and establishes the likelihood that I think my tastes are girlish and/or low-brow which is clearly my issue and nobody else’s. Yet I’ve had similar issues in the past, and I’m not sure I was always wrong.
Case in point–I faded out of slash fandom… well, for a lot of reasons, but mainly there were two: 1) I was uncomfortable with the focus on physical beauty and if I had to hear “It’s all about the pretty” one more time I was seriously going to slug someone; 2) I was uncomfortable with a bunch of straight women fetishizing gay men (somewhat related to “It’s all about the porn,” and “it’s all about the pretty,” see previous statement re: slugging) and what part I might be playing in advancing that by reading/writing slash fanfiction. The second of these issues is actually something very serious which you can still see playing out in my frequent discussions of BL manga which, as tiresome as it may seem to others, I think is important to keep talking and thinking about. The first, on the other hand, is clearly related to my concern about focusing on “hot guys,” which is part of what I’m bristling at now. Thing is, whether or not my objection then (or now) was about appearing to be part of that or actually being part of that (a fine distinction, but a real one) I don’t think I was wrong to object. So obviously I have a problem with the huge volume of proof that heterosexual women as a group do, in fact, like to look at hot guys. Still, I know I’m reading Wild Adapter and Silver Diamond, the front page of my blog knows it, and it is impossible to deny that these series were drawn to appeal to these exact tastes. I don’t think I’m reading them for the eye candy, but whether I’m acting out of paranoia over one too many articles like “Girls’ Guide to Comic-Con” or to fear that the people who write that stuff might actually have a point, it’s troublesome.
I’ve come to the end of this unsure of what I’m really trying to say, but perhaps it breaks down to this: I like romance stories. I really do. I don’t like all of them–not by any means–but a good romance will hook me every time. So what does it really mean that I feel like when I say that, I also have to add, “But of course I like many other kinds of stories too”? It’s true, but should I have to say that? Should I feel like I have to say that? I don’t think I should, but obviously I think I do have to. Similarly, if I like stories that feature pretty male characters, should I have to go on to specify that I like those stories for other reasons too? That a pretty character design is not nearly enough to satisfy me as a reader? I probably shouldn’t have to say that, but obviously I think I must. I’m offended at these generalizations about women, but am I just playing into them by protesting too much? Do my protests smack of truth? Is it actually important to take steps to prove that female fans can’t be defined by stereotypes? Is my concern over my front page something real, or does it seem like all I’m doing is keeping up appearances?
Overall, I think this blog post is befuddled and contradictory, doesn’t actually make the point it purports to in the beginning, and probably doesn’t have a lot of worth out there in the manga-verse, but I’m going to post it anyway in hopes of more enlightening comments. How do you feel about what I’m saying (if you can figure out what that is), and what does my front page say to you?