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Gougai! Gougai!

HOLY SHIT PEOPLE, IT'S NOT BAD ENOUGH WE'RE GETTING AN UTENA EXHIBITION RIGHT NOW

THEY. ARE. MAKING. A. NEW. MUSICAL. NEXT. YEAR. START LOSING YOUR SHIT RIGHT NOW

#1 | Back to Top12-07-2007 01:50:32 PM

VerboseWordsmith
Wakaba Wrangler
Registered: 12-05-2007
Posts: 10

Gender performativity in SKU

Ok, so I stumbled across this forum few days ago in the middle of all my last minute research for a paper I was writing on SKU. My paper topic was essentially "how gender and sexuality are presented in SKU and What That Means," only with lots more words, but over the course of writing it, my paper switched to something like "gender in SKU and how it's performed and some analysis of it." On the introduction thread, Giovanna suggested that I start a thread about this topic. Since I have yet to see a thread that is quite on this topic, I think that's an excellent idea.

Judith Butler wrote this fantastic essay titled “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory” sometime in the 80s. Essentially it's about how gender is performed. So how is gender performed in SKU?

There's the super obvious topics: Utena as a prince and an example of genderqueer, Anthy as an example of performing femininity in a very specific way, which actually ought to start an interesting dialogue about how performative that is in her case (the whole free will thing). I'm sort of interested in where the other characters fit in, most of them  fall somewhere within the realm of "normal" binary gender roles/performance. Juri (and possibly Nanami to some extent, but I haven't seen most of her episodes) sort of exists outside the binary, but it's in a very accepted way.

Sort of related to this is that the binary gender system is rooted in the real world, and often times it's very rooted in Western norms. So in the case of SKU, you have the whole history/culture/ideals of Japan about gender. And you have the whole history of anime and manga, which is a really interesting synthesis of the aforementioned Japanese ideas about gender, Western influence, and Japanese perceptions of the West. Which really means that gender/roles in anime are pretty different than in real life. And then you have SKU and the crazy. So then, how much of how gender is done/performed in Utena would be because it's an anime series? How much of it is inherent to that fact that it's SKU? Anthy immediately springs to mind there, but there might be more.

I think I had more to say about this, but my brain is a little dead from paper writing and not getting close to enough sleep in the past 48 hours. Basically, gender roles and performativity in SKU. Discuss.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poststructuralism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queer_theory
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_role
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atypical_gender_role
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genderqueer
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Performativity

And I can that Judith Butler essay and a fantastic chapter from R.W. Connell's 2005 book on masculinity if you're interested. Perhaps I should have noted at the beginning that I study mass media/pop culture and gender and I'm in the middle of writing my final papers, so I'm all like, OMG must have lots of quotes and sources and explain everything ever that's relevant to my topic! Except that I just used Wikipedia here, instead of real sources. I'm proud of myself for not actually copying and pasting quotes and throwing around all kinds of culture studies terminology. That will probably come.

Last edited by VerboseWordsmith (12-07-2007 01:51:49 PM)

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#2 | Back to Top12-07-2007 10:13:57 PM

Alexandra
Covert Diarist
From: Dreamworld
Registered: 04-07-2007
Posts: 808

Re: Gender performativity in SKU

Do you think American society is much less open to accepting differing characteristics of people that may not coincide with their sex?  That I'm not sure of, because I've never left the country.  But I am sure that there is still quite a bit of resistance to stepping outside the lines of gender roles.  People don't react too kindly or often feel awkward when that happens, ie. a man crying.  I love that SKU toys with us in that the message of whether to follow those gender roles is a good thing or a bad thing.  It's difficult on both sides, so what is one to do?

Anthy plays the role of the eitomized feminine figure.  I believe it's partly how she is naturally and partly a way to work herself into the duelist's minds.  Her femininity is a caricature that everyone falls for and expects.  She realizes that the way to power for a girl is very different than a man's and she plays on that.  Partly.  I think deep down she's really a girly girl - the feminine to Utena's masculine.

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#3 | Back to Top12-07-2007 10:19:06 PM

Tamago
God of Comedy
From: Minami Goushuu
Registered: 10-17-2006
Posts: 14280
Website

Re: Gender performativity in SKU

Just to make this clear for everyone here, are you looking at it from a personal view, your countries view or the world view?school-freud


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#4 | Back to Top12-08-2007 12:55:03 AM

VerboseWordsmith
Wakaba Wrangler
Registered: 12-05-2007
Posts: 10

Re: Gender performativity in SKU

Really I'm just curious about what people think about how gender is presented in Utena, from whatever perspective they want to take. I'm probably coming from a slightly more academic stance than most, which is why I brought up how these things are cultural and what effect that may or may not have is how gender is "done" in SKU. I'm up for deep analysis or just noting that it's really interesting that we often see the main girls of the cast is masculine clothes. I also think it's interesting/pretty awesome that the guys are objectified along with the girls. If there's going to be objectification, then by all means, have it apply to everyone.

Sleep is calling my name, so I'll end on this note: playing with gender is fun and it makes me so happy that SKU does so much with it. Yay genderqueer heroines! Though, protagonist might be the word to use since Utena pretty much operates outside the binary, which is pretty awesome in and of itself. Granted, I'm thinking of American media here, but that just doesn't happen often enough.

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#5 | Back to Top12-08-2007 01:01:29 AM

Clarice
Well hello, Clarice...
From: New Zealand
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 3102
Website

Re: Gender performativity in SKU

VerboseWordsmith wrote:

Juri (and possibly Nanami to some extent, but I haven't seen most of her episodes) sort of exists outside the binary, but it's in a very accepted way.

Ah, Nanami would be very interesting to look at, I think, because she exists outside the binary because it doesn't quite apply to her worldview. This is a bit off the cuff because I'm only working with the vaguest ideas of the principles you've mentioned, but Nanami doesn't strike me as accepting gender stereotypes in herself because she hasn't reached the developmental stage where they become important (this is her state at the beginning of the series, at least; by the end she has calmed considerably, even taking up the tea ceremony...which is interesting, actually, because from a Japanese cultural standpoint I'd assume it was an indication of her calm nature as the tea ceremony is protracted and requires concentration, grace and skill, but is there a link with womanhood and making tea and whatnot? I need to go look this up somewhere).

...but er, I wandered from the actual point. I'm assuming you're saying Nanami isn't conforming to the binary because she takes on her brother's role? I think that's because she sees herself and her brother as interchangeable. Which is how young children see themselves. Sure, there are minor anatomical differences, but before secondary sexual characterisitics appear children don't really bother much about gender unless they're told to. So, I think Nanami is just working outside of the gender roles because she simply doesn't see them. It's only as she notices her brother moving further and further away from her -- and gets a crash course from Akio in the disturbing reality of dodgy brother/sister relationships -- that she starts to cotton on. And in the end, what does Nanami do? Sheds her brother's skin and goes back to her school uniform. It's very different from when Utena does it, too; Utena dressing femininely is a sign of mental weakness; in Nanami in becomes emotional maturity. But I'm quite possibly bleating on about nothing. I'm going to go watch The Venture Bros. emot-biggrin


It takes forty-seven New Zealanders eight months to make just one batch of 42 Below Vodka. ...luckily, that leaves one of us free to be Prime Minister.

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#6 | Back to Top12-08-2007 11:31:22 AM

Romanticide
Cow Bellhop
From: Mazatlan
Registered: 10-18-2006
Posts: 447

Re: Gender performativity in SKU

I remember a exact moment in the series, The one is the first episode, when she is asked to become part of the basketball team, the guy who asks her doesn't seem very bothered she is a woman and more eager to have her in the team because with her the team has a bigger chance to win the next tournament, Utena refuses because she doesn't want to dress in the boys locker. I find it curious that one of the first people that reming Utena she is "a girl" is herself. Sometimes I get the impresion that Utena doesn't believe at the beginning that a prince has to be ultramasculine. Does this speaks of how people tend to be more genderblind when it suits their circumstances?


http://img156.imageshack.us/img156/1390/firmautenaji0.jpg

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#7 | Back to Top12-08-2007 02:42:34 PM

Clarice
Well hello, Clarice...
From: New Zealand
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 3102
Website

Re: Gender performativity in SKU

Romanticide wrote:

I remember a exact moment in the series, The one is the first episode, when she is asked to become part of the basketball team, the guy who asks her doesn't seem very bothered she is a woman and more eager to have her in the team because with her the team has a bigger chance to win the next tournament, Utena refuses because she doesn't want to dress in the boys locker. I find it curious that one of the first people that reming Utena she is "a girl" is herself. Sometimes I get the impresion that Utena doesn't believe at the beginning that a prince has to be ultramasculine. Does this speaks of how people tend to be more genderblind when it suits their circumstances?

...damn, I'd forgotten that incident entirely. (I very rarely watch the first arc of the series, because I just don't tend to find it as interesting as that latter parts...which is a bit naughty of me, really.) Now I'm beginning to wonder what that means -- is it a sign of her emotional maturity, or immaturity? (This relates back to what I was saying about Nanami above.) I think it's immaturity, as Utena seems to accept her gender and operate outside of it in that she can behave like a boy, but still knows she is a girl. However, Touga beats that out of her by forcing her back into the "girl's" uniform (although as we all know, Utena's outfit isn't what all the boys are wearing anyway...which probably says something itself, something almost hermaphroditic in that she's wearing a "boys" uniform with a distinctly feminine slant). Utena then takes back her own uniform. Akio then talks her out of it (in more ways than one). So...yeah. Uh, I've completely lost my trail of thought, again. (You can tell I haven't done this sort of thing in ages.) I suppose what I wanted to say is that Utena's being genderblind at first because she thinks she understands the genders and feels any distinctions between them don't apply to her (because of her childish wish to utilise the "heroic" aspects of being abiy to save the damsel in distress). As we go through the series her own oncoming adolescence and the external factors of the student council, Akio and Anthy challenge those beliefs and she has to work through them to get to the last duel, where she rejects the dress Akio puts her in and takes out her own gender-neutral (if we assume that one is cancelling the other) and duels for Anthy's sake.

...is any of this making any sense? Or am I just talking out my ass again? emot-wink


It takes forty-seven New Zealanders eight months to make just one batch of 42 Below Vodka. ...luckily, that leaves one of us free to be Prime Minister.

Beyond The Silver Leaves

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#8 | Back to Top12-08-2007 06:22:41 PM

Giovanna
Ends of the Forum
From: Edmonton, AB
Registered: 10-12-2006
Posts: 8730
Website

Re: Gender performativity in SKU

Clarice wrote:

by the end she has calmed considerably, even taking up the tea ceremony...which is interesting, actually, because from a Japanese cultural standpoint I'd assume it was an indication of her calm nature as the tea ceremony is protracted and requires concentration, grace and skill, but is there a link with womanhood and making tea and whatnot? I need to go look this up somewhere

When you phrase it that way I can't help but wonder if Nanami is a commentary on the modern Japanese woman, and how their values in youth are very far from the traditional. Young women in Japan are getting more and more power, rejecting the traditions, which often placed them in submissive positions, and in doing so are also rejecting a lot of the merits those things had. There is something of value in tea ceremony because it does require skill and grace, but it's easier to reject it entirely as a submissive act. Nanami for most of the show sucks at concentrating, and isn't especially graceful, at least not in the traditional sense. But perhaps it's a sign of maturity for her in the end that she's taking on some of the older traditions, hopefully for what really was valuable in them, and not because she needs to settle down and be a good little woman now.

There's enough to say on this subject that I couldn't possibly post it all in one post. emot-gonk I will note here for the record that I believe Saito (or Ikuhara, been a while) said flat out that Saionji represents the traditional Japanese male, and it would be hard to argue in the superficials that Akio, and to a slightly lesser extent, Touga, are meant to be anything less than the traditional alpha male; defined in a way that applies in by far the majority of cultures.


Also, do thou wear thine suits and cuffs, be thee male or no, for such attire doth please my girl parts. - Gios 3:15
Chiefest of Calamities

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#9 | Back to Top12-08-2007 07:09:28 PM

Clarice
Well hello, Clarice...
From: New Zealand
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 3102
Website

Re: Gender performativity in SKU

Giovanna wrote:

When you phrase it that way I can't help but wonder if Nanami is a commentary on the modern Japanese woman, and how their values in youth are very far from the traditional. Young women in Japan are getting more and more power, rejecting the traditions, which often placed them in submissive positions, and in doing so are also rejecting a lot of the merits those things had. There is something of value in tea ceremony because it does require skill and grace, but it's easier to reject it entirely as a submissive act. Nanami for most of the show sucks at concentrating, and isn't especially graceful, at least not in the traditional sense. But perhaps it's a sign of maturity for her in the end that she's taking on some of the older traditions, hopefully for what really was valuable in them, and not because she needs to settle down and be a good little woman now.

Ah, you see, that's what I want to look up, because my understanding of the ceremony is quite limited. I just can't recall if it's male/female dominated, or it's just for anyone who can do it. I seem to remember reading about it in my geisha books as one of their skills, but I'm sure some anime had a male practising it (...oh, yeah, it was Rurouni Kenshin, which is semi-historical...but then it was Aoshi doing it, and he was nuts emot-biggrin). But I really like your spin on it; it takes was I was bumbling through and gives it real clarity. I etc-love Nanami. I'm probably totally alone in that, but I really do. She just develops in such a fascinating way, and bugger it I want to write another essay about her development across the entire series using something like this gender idea as a basis. It would work so well with her. emot-mad

Giovanna wrote:

There's enough to say on this subject that I couldn't possibly post it all in one post. emot-gonk I will note here for the record that I believe Saito (or Ikuhara, been a while) said flat out that Saionji represents the traditional Japanese male, and it would be hard to argue in the superficials that Akio, and to a slightly lesser extent, Touga, are meant to be anything less than the traditional alpha male; defined in a way that applies in by far the majority of cultures.

...dammit, now I find that really interesting too. In some ways you could almost say that Touga and Saionji are West versus East, because from my viewpoint Touga is quite westernised -- as is the entire school, I suppose -- but Saionji seems far more traditionalist. Which is interesting. But then Touga does occasionally slip on his heritage and duels with Saionji in the dojo. Hmm. I think I need to have a think about this. This whole thing is fascinating, and geez, you're right, Gio -- there's so much to say! You could write reams on just how this sort of thing applies to ONE character, let alone the entire cast....


It takes forty-seven New Zealanders eight months to make just one batch of 42 Below Vodka. ...luckily, that leaves one of us free to be Prime Minister.

Beyond The Silver Leaves

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#10 | Back to Top12-08-2007 07:58:44 PM

Giovanna
Ends of the Forum
From: Edmonton, AB
Registered: 10-12-2006
Posts: 8730
Website

Re: Gender performativity in SKU

Clarice wrote:

Touga and Saionji are West versus East

OH NO YOU DIN'T

This is eversoslightly off topic but in a way I think is applicable here. I'm pretty sure I've never discussed this on the forum, but I have a theory. I'm certainly not arguing this was deliberate but it's an interesting way to approach the characters. Akio, Touga, and Saionji represent different regions of the world in how they operate. Naturally because I'm me, this is clearest in the way they would do business. Saionji? Japanese, of course. Strict traditionalist, probably doesn't think women should be in the boardroom, views a company as a family affair to be passed only onto his son. The type to flaunt status more than wealth or power; a man of means is a man who has the respect and reverence of others. Touga? Far more European mentality. A leaning toward keeping wealth in the family, but only if the family proves capable of handling it. He'd be more willing to let a woman into the circle, but she'd have to prove herself a thousand times over before she had a scrap of the serious attention he'd pay to other men. Touga would flaunt power and to a lesser extent, wealth; a man of means is a man that can control others. Akio, finally, is American, through and through. His heir would never automatically be his own blood, rather it would be who has served him best and would continue to serve him and what he's built. Ironically, he'd be the most tolerant of women jockeying alongside the men for power, he'd figure if they want to swim with the sharks, let 'em. And like most American businessmen, he flaunts wealth and lets it create the power and status that others mistake wealth for including.

So uh...yeah. emot-redface


Also, do thou wear thine suits and cuffs, be thee male or no, for such attire doth please my girl parts. - Gios 3:15
Chiefest of Calamities

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#11 | Back to Top12-09-2007 02:12:15 AM

Clarice
Well hello, Clarice...
From: New Zealand
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 3102
Website

Re: Gender performativity in SKU

Giovanna wrote:

etc-wankgirl

YOU MAKE MY BRAIN LOVE YOUR BRAIN. etc-love Seriously, though, but I totally see what you're getting at -- and as I drove home this evening I kept thinking about this. I mean, the basic way I was looking at just Touga and Saionji seems to fit this better than I'd thought. In the end, it could be an analogy for the way Japan was forced out of its insular traditions and had to adapt to the Western world that was encroaching upon its own. Saionji's stubborn refusal to see the world except through the glass of the past could be a reflection of that, while Touga moves towards the future, appropriating anything that works for him as he sees fit...as well as eventually discarding it when it has outlived its usefulness.

Oh, I wish I didn't have to go to work, I want to think more about this. emot-mad


It takes forty-seven New Zealanders eight months to make just one batch of 42 Below Vodka. ...luckily, that leaves one of us free to be Prime Minister.

Beyond The Silver Leaves

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#12 | Back to Top12-09-2007 07:12:51 PM

brian
Atlantean Singer
Registered: 10-22-2006
Posts: 588

Re: Gender performativity in SKU

I didn't think Nanami was doing a full-blown tea ceremony. In any case here is a link to Tea Ceremonies.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_tea_ceremony

Last edited by brian (12-09-2007 07:14:57 PM)

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#13 | Back to Top12-17-2007 05:17:50 PM

Anthiena
Egghead
From: ...the space between your ears
Registered: 10-21-2006
Posts: 1107

Re: Gender performativity in SKU

According to your little essay, it was most likely cha-no-yuu and it can be done by both sexes... I really propose that the aim of gender maturity as veiwed by what happens to a number of characters that evolved in their gender-roles is really that of androgyny rather than either/or/nueter. A common blend, keeping in with a sort of yin-yang kind of aesetic.

Pardon me... my brain still hurts from a rather good debate essay on quantifiable reality, the uncertainy principle and determinism... part of which is quoted in my sig now.

Last edited by Anthiena (12-17-2007 05:18:29 PM)


I stopped seeking to be sought after. That wasn't being true to myself.
I want to become someone who can exercise power. I want to become a prince. - Ikuni

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