Here, I’m going to start to hash out some of the ideas and content I want to cover in my Otakon panel. Feedback is always appreciated and don’t assume that anything in any of these posts will make it into the final panel. This is more a way for me to organize my thinking and find precisely what I want to say.
[Hot Springs Slide]
As a pretty common trope in anime that include women or girls, hot springs episodes offer a really good jumping off point for discussing sexist leanings in anime. First and foremost, these episodes serve as straight fanservice, as the point of the bath is to strip naked and splash around in water, but this is the obvious problem.
Nothing is wrong—on the surface—with a little titillation. But there are a few disjoints going on under the hood that point to a medium that’s not distributing its objectification equally. Even in coed series, there’s a tonal difference between the interactions between the women in the baths than those between the men.
Nearly all conversations between bathing or changing women eventually gravitate towards or touch on appearance. What’s striking here is that regardless of the women involved, the conversation turns to a discussion of beauty which further enforces the idea that what’s important about them is how they look. Not their goals, not their skills, not their interests.
Lauren, when you meet other women, you spend lots of time talking about how each other look, right? Not the newest episode of Medaka Box or how much you love Nerima Daikon Brothers? You like to talk about how clear your friends’ skin is, right?
Of course that idea plays right into a central concept of feminist theory called the “beauty myth”. Our society judges women by how they look, and there, in the bath our animated heroines perpetuate this idea when they drop all relevant conversations to compliment each other on their bodies.
But sure, they’ve stripped down and they’re showing skin so it makes sense that they’re talking about what’s on hand. Except, well, what’s going on across the way in the men’s bath? Not that. Even when it should.
If I’m gonna make a case about asymmetry, I can’t just compare in shounen works. So, let’s look at Ouran for a second…