Karol G is a Columbian musician. She recently performed at one of the most popular music festivals, Coachella. She covered music from Latin icons such as Selena, Shakira, and Celia Cruz. She chose her outfit to have colors of the Columbian flag, as she wanted to honor Columbia. In 2022, she performed at Coachella, marking a step in the right direction for representation at this historically white festival. Although Coachella has stepped up its game this year, in the past its appropriation of different cultures has made it a toxic environment for minority attendees.
In Teen Vogue, Terri Burn writes about her experience attending Coachella as a black woman. Burns discusses how she witnessed white people scream the n-word during every rap performance, wear black hairstyles, and even encountered people who would ask to touch her hair. Even before she even went to Coachella, she stopped by an African braid shop to get her hair braided and for the first time she saw a handful of white and Asian women at this hair shop. They had just returned from the first Coachella weekend. Burns heard Kendrick Lamar perform “Alright”, and she pointed out how the song was not meant for all the white people in the crowd shouting the n-word. When Lamar starts of the song with “Alls my life I has to fight”, this is only truly meaningful to the victims of discrimination and police brutality. She witnessed appropriation to the highest degree.
In the 2022 Coachella there was much more representation. We saw Karol G, Mexican American artist Becky G and even banda act such as Grupo Firme and Banda MS. Here’s hoping that 2023 does even better.
The absence of female authors and the large majority of male readers has potentially skewed the comic book industry. Overly sexy female characters, constraining female characters to secondary roles, and dull or extreme personalities are the patterns of sexism observed in comic books or graphic novels. “Women in Refrigerators” or “fridging women” is a term coined by Gail Simone, which is used to refer to the disempowerment or maiming of female characters. The origin of the term came from the 1994 comic The Green Lantern #54.The hero, Kyle Rayner, returns home to find his girlfriend, Alexandra DeWitt, killed and stuffed in a refrigerator. This trope became recognizable as a way for authors to use female characters as devices to project their male characters forward in their story.
“Fridging women” as a trope applies to much more than just comic books. Utilizing female characters as assets to their male counterparts contributes to the sexism women are subjected to their entire lives. Young girls or women who consume this media get the impression that they are only a mere accessory to the plot rather than an influential factor in the story.
Acts of sexism extend beyond the over-sexualized characters. Female authors have become gradually marginalized with the growth in the industry and female fans are attacked and criticized for their opinions. The results of these problems can damage the social image of women and make it increasingly difficult to fight the gender equity issues concerning our world today. Equal representation in the entertainment industry must take precedence in order to undo society’s status quo.
Hi again, and welcome to a shiny new blog segment! Thrice a month, I’ll be diving into an aspect of pop culture with a feminist twist.I think this will be a great way to bring some awareness to popular media’s relationship with feminism. This time, we’re talking about anime. In other words, I’m going to ruin fun things for everybody by talking about how they suck.
Anyway, if you know anything at all about me, you know I’m a huge anime fan. My friends can attest to the army of anime figures on my bookshelf, my enthusiastic rants about the most newest shows, and those who have seen me at my most depraved will recall my Kuroshitsuji cosplay (we do not speak of those dark times). But as someone who has watched anime for half a decade now, there are things about it that I’ve never grown fully accustomed to.
There’s the fanservice- upskirt shots of barely legal schoolgirls, beach episodes showcasing cleavage, seemingly random nude scenes, and jokes that often end with an embarassed/angry woman as the butt of a joke. To clarify, I don’t have problem with dirty jokes or sexy characters in anime–this is not the issue. Rather, what skeeves me out is when sexual harassment is played for laughs, or when the “sexy” character in question looks like a child. For example, take the first season of the Netflix original anime, Seven Deadly Sins. The main character constantly harasses another character by groping or looking up her skirt, while the other characters berate him for being a pervert. This is supposed to be a running gag.
That’s not a joke. It’s just sexual assault.
Even elements of anime as simple as character design show blatant sexism. Let me present to you: a murderous assassin who attacks under the cover of London fog, Jack the Ripper. If you clicked that link, I’m sorry. No, the show does not provide a reason for Jack the Ripper, of all things, to appear as a skimpily-dressed minor. And no, there’s not a good reason for her to be wearing a bikini. And no, I have no idea why she’s wearing heels. We all know that if this character was a dude, there’s no way he would be dressed like that.
Although these aspects of anime are unsettling, at least I can skip them. I can easily avoid a scene that will make me uncomfortable. If I’m bothered, I can just skip, or I can laugh at how stupid it is. But you know what I can’t skip or laugh off?
Crappy female characters—especially those in otherwise decent shows. Don’t get me wrong, anime has no shortage of awesome female characters, but too often, especially in shounen (usually action oriented and marketed towards boys), female characters are sidelined by their male counterparts. Take for example, a character that’s been universally hated since her inception: Sakura Haruno, from Naruto.
Sakura’s a train wreck of a character. Her deepest desire is to get together with a boy who has the romantic appeal of an enraged housecat. Sakura doesn’t have any complex desire for self-realization, or a reason to push herself that doesn’t involve a dude.
The manga’s creator intended for Sakura to be the quintessential “girl” character, which makes me pretty concerned about what he thinks the average woman is like. If every woman acted like Sakura, I think the human race would just be doomed. She’s a walking stereotype: a constant damsel in distress, weak, boy-obssessed, annoying, and vain. However, Sakura does have her redeeming moments- she gets very little action compared to the male characters, but she does have some fight scenes, and she’s regarded as a capable ninja in her own right. Personally, I can’t bring myself to hate her fully. I love Naruto, and since she’s one of the only major female characters, I have to take what I can get.
Although poor Sakura is an extreme case of a poorly written female character, I see the same issues she has in female characters all over anime. Female characters are seen as lesser in all contexts, both by other characters, the audience, and the people who create them. This issue is perhaps more complex than I give it credit for: anime is created for a Japanese audience, not an American one. They have their own unique issues when it comes to gender equality, as does the United States. The way Japanese society views women is different, and it’s important to keep that in mind as you enjoy your favorite anime. At the same time, I believe that’s a poor excuse for anime to have such poor female representation. I’ve seen great anime that don’t use the harmful tropes and stereotypes I’ve described, that allow female characters to be more than set-pieces for the male ones. It’s possible. Anime can do better.
If you’re like me, it can be hard to let go of anime, despite all of its systematic issues. I’ve spent my whole childhood watching anime. At this point, it’s just a parasite sucking out my brain noodles and replacing them with cup ramen. You don’t have to stop watching the anime you love. I understand it’s not possible for every person to do that. However, as anime fans, we need to at the very least, recognize the sexism at play in anime. The degree to which it’s ignored is astounding.
I get it’s asking a bit much to demand that the anime industry abandon its weird obsession with school-girls and french maids, but can we at least acknowledge it’s weird that it’s there in the first place?
Here at the UMKC Women’s Center, fall has definitely started. Our staff members are wrapping themselves in jackets and flannels, making extra coffee and excitedly prepping for October events. As for me, I’m making a trip home this weekend to grab my sweaters.
But what if fall was about more than just pumpkins, leaves and all things Pinterest? Here are four ways to make sure your feminism doesn’t cool down this season.
1. Get out & about
Feminist events are where it’s at this fall! The Women’s Center hosts Crafty Feminist Fridays and Feminist Film Fridays through October. Come and knit something to cozy up in, or come watch Hidden Figures and The Girl on the Train with a side of popcorn and feminist discussion.
Then, we’re gearing up for our biggest event of the semester, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, on Oct. 5. Watch men walk in high heels and gain an understanding of women’s issues.
On the big screen, Battle of the Sexes chronicles the historic tennis match between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell). The film depicts the discrimination female athletes face, but will likely leave audience members feeling empowered and inspired.
Lastly, one of my favorite feminist websites, Bitch Media, published this awesome list of September must-reads.
3. Fall in love with body positive fashion
Say bye to suffocating skinny jeans and limiting wardrobe options. Body positive online retailers, like ModCloth and ASOS, offer sizes up to 4X and 28, respectively. Snuggle into something from Aerie, a brand that offers comfy fall favorites like sweatshirts, sweaters and flannels in sizes ranging from XXS-XXL.
Need more suggestions? Check out this slide show of more inclusive fashion brands.
4. Plan your perfect Halloween costume— and avoid appropriation
I can’t wait to see lots of Wonder Women trick or treating this year! From Notorious RBG to Gloria Steinem, transform into your favorite feminist icon this October.
Be an unproblematic fave by avoiding cultural appropriation (using someone else’s race, ethnicity or culture as a costume).