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(incl. Anime News Nina!, ANNtv, ANNCast, Answerman, Astro Toy, Brain Diving, Buried Treasure, Chicks On Anime, Crashing Japan, The Dub Track, The Edit List, Epic Threads, From The Gallery, Hai Fidelity, House of 1000 Manga, Ima Kore Ga Hoshiin Da, Old School, Pile of Shame, RIGHT TURN ONLY!!, Shelf Life, Sound Decision, Sub Culture, Super Plastic, Tales Of The Industry, Tankobon Tower, The Click, The Gallery, The List, The Mike Toole Show, The Set List, The Stream, The X Button, This Week in Anime, Vice Luna)I disagree. BL is largely part of shoujo. Shoujo in general is deeply invested in gender non normativity. Look at the number of heterosexual romances in which the male lead has overtly non masculine traits, from his hobbies/personality (Otomen) to outright crossdressing (at least four in English; of those not in English, Usotsuki Lily is particularly interesting). Look at the shoujo series where sexually aggressive women target feminine uke ish men (TrainTrain, Gakuen Prince). Look at the sheer amount of shoujo related merch featuring cute uke type guys who are not presented as being in gay relationships. You can’t tell me that that is all byblows of stereotypes about homosexuality.I think it’s great that there are Shojo titles that features subversion of the usually romance tropes. Why is it that BL doesn’t also have this sort of diversity? BL seems to follow the “girly uke” and “manly seme” formula way too often. It all still seems pretty fishy to me. If defying conventional masculinity is really the goal, why are there not many feminine man x feminine man titles? I’m aware that they exist, but they aren’t nearly as popular as titles that feature the usual seme/uke BL relationship. I suppose you could argue that the presence of a “manly seme” would highlight the femininity of the “girly uke”, but then why must they always be in a relationship? You could easily place other manly characters around the feminine character to get the same effect, but this is not the strategy that mangaka use. There is still that “manly seme” that inevitably winds up with the “girly uke”, which mirrors heterosexual relationships way too closely.I really don’t think it’s only because gay men don’t want to be stereotyped generally. Japanese gay men’s media (and to a large extent Western gay men’s media) overwhelmingly represent gay men as uniformly hypermasculine, which is itself a stereotype. There are gay men who do not identify with this stereotype, and there have certainly been gay men who have complained about it, but not to the degree or with the vitrol that the majority complain about being stereotyped as feminine. The particular distaste for being represented as feminine is absolutely related to the devaluation of femininity.I’m sure that there are people out there who devalue femininity like you are saying, but you are making it sound like that is the main thing that’s going down. The main issue is still the larger cultural context of how homosexuality is perceived in Japan. Often, people react more extremely against a stereotype if its more prevalent. It’s something that you have to fight harder against. Some gay men are portrayed as hypermasculine, and if a gay man physically looks very masculine (muscular build, traditional masculine clothes and whatnot), then it’s true that he may be placed in this category. However, I would argue that the “feminine gay man” stereotype is so prevalent in Japan, that if a gay man does not look hypermasculine, he will automatically be seen as “feminine gay man who wants to be a woman”. I would not blame a gay man for being irked at this assumption.I feel that it’s similar to how lesbians can be stereotyped in America. There’s an expectation in American culture that lesbians should be “butch”, similar to the Japanese expectation that a gay man should be feminine. If a lesbian reacts badly to a person expecting her to be butch, it doesn’t necessarily mean she hates masculinity. In that video I keep referencing, the gay man (who didn’t want to come out to people because of that feminine stereotype) didn’t seem disgusted at being seen as a woman. The impression that I got was that he hated when people assumed things about him that weren’t true.Quote: I think it’s great that there are Shojo titles that features subversion of the usually romance tropes. Why is it that BL doesn’t also have this sort of diversity? BL seems to follow the “girly uke” and “manly seme” formula way too often. It all still seems pretty fishy to me. If defying conventional masculinity is really the goal, why are there not many feminine man x feminine man titles? I’m aware that they exist, but they aren’t nearly as popular as titles that feature the usual seme/uke BL relationship. I suppose you could argue that the presence of a “manly seme” would highlight the femininity of the “girly uke”, but then why must they always be in a relationship? You could easily place other manly characters around the feminine character to get the same effect, but this is not the strategy that mangaka use. There is still that “manly seme” that inevitably winds up with the “girly uke”, which mirrors heterosexual relationships way too closely.I feel the purpose of putting the two extremes together is simply to highlight the differences between them. Foils are a common thing in writing, and usually a character’s foil is equal in importance to them. A manly seme and a feminine uke when together emphasize the each other’s traits. It’s like how in heterosexual romances, say, a calm collected guy and a more whimsical girl are put together (though then we get into the possibly bad territory of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.). Also, conflict can come from both characters clashing with each other.If the Seme/Uke dynamic is popular in Japan because of their perception of gay relationships, as you say, then why is the dynamic popular in western BL fandom as well? Us westerners don’t have the “gay men are women trapped in a man’s body” idea (well, MOST of us don’t, hopefully!) and as CrowLia said are a little further ahead of Japan when it comes to homosexual stuff (though we’re far, FAR from perfect) and yet the dynamic is very popular here as well. Are we simply missing the context and interpreting it through a different cultural lens?Well, a couple of reasons. As Chagen46 points out, it’s an axiom of shoujo romance that there should be a strong contrast between the leads (see both of the translated “how to be a shoujo mangaka” books). Another is that it allows the female reader to occupy a traditionally masculine role (in the several reader response surveys of Anglophone BL readers that have been published in the academic literature, about one third of women readers report identifying primarily with the seme.) And I don’t think femme x femme BL is all that rare, actually; it just doesn’t get translated that often.I feel the purpose of putting the two extremes together is simply to highlight the differences between them. Foils are a common thing in writing, and usually a character’s foil is equal in importance to them. A manly seme and a feminine uke when together emphasize the each other’s traits. It’s like how in heterosexual romances, say, a calm collected guy and a more whimsical girl are put together (though then we get into the possibly bad territory of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.). Also, conflict can come from both characters clashing with each other.I suppose I can accept that as being one reason why the girly uke/manly seme trope exists. However, I still find it unsettling that the relationship dynamic tends to mirror heterosexual romance clichs. If we were to give this the benefit of the doubt and say that the characters were given their traits solely to defy gender conformity, is it now inevitable that the couple must have a dynamic that is more stereotypical of heterosexual couples? When you compare the relationships in BL and shojo works, it’s easy to see how similar the formulas are.If the Seme/Uke dynamic is popular in Japan because of their perception of gay relationships, as you say, then why is the dynamic popular in western BL fandom as well? Us westerners don’t have the “gay men are women trapped in a man’s body” idea (well, MOST of us don’t, hopefully!) and as CrowLia said are a little further ahead of Japan when it comes to homosexual stuff (though we’re far, FAR from perfect) and yet the dynamic is very popular here as well. Are we simply missing the context and interpreting it through a different cultural lens?Ooo, this is a super interesting point to bring up. I’m definitely not an expert on this particular topic of sexuality, but I have dabbled in researching some theories behind this and I love to speculate, so here goes. While there are various types of anime/manga in Japan, the most popular tends to make its way to the US. I would argue that the most popular BL in Japan is of the “manly seme”/”girly uke” variety that is targeted towards women. Consequently, that is the prevalent type of BL that we see in the States. For lady anime fans that like guy on guy, this may have been what they were more exposed to, and thus grew to enjoy. From what I’ve witnessed of American non anime fan women who like guy on guy stuff, they tend to like the more masculine guy on masculine guy stuff (again, totally haven’t seen research on this, so relying on my own anecdotal experiences). We can also speculate that heterosexual women may rely on or be more comfortable with romantic dynamics that they are more familiar with. So although they may enjoy seeing/reading about guys loving other guys, they may wish to see romantic aspects that are found in more familiar heterosexual relationships, such as one of the guys having more stereotypical feminine traits and the other guy being more stereotypically masculine. Lots of possibilities!I have to disagree with your view on characters in yuri titles. Lesbian stereotypes are a bit different in Japan than in America. From what I’ve read, lesbians in Japan don’t quite have the same sort of prevalent stereotypes as gay men do. In fact, it’s not really a strange concept for girls to “admire” other girls in Japan. Kind of the “Senpai, notice me!” thing. I do believe that it’s considered strange for women to identify as lesbian, but I’m not aware of any notions of “lesbians are men trapped in women’s bodies”. That being said, I always feel like rolling my eyes when I see the yuri couple following the heteronormative relationship dynamic of the princely girl and the girly girl, just as I would at the BL couple that follows the manly man and the girly boy dynamic. Yuri is interesting though, because it doesn’t seem to follow that dynamic very closely, mostly because of the general acceptance of girls admiring each other and being affectionate in Japanese society. Two traditionally feminine girls are likely to be yuri protagonists because a romantic relationship is not too far off from what is normally expected of two feminine girls.Gay male relationships in Japan are a different story though. I believe it was CrowLia that mentioned that Japanese society is just plain uncomfortable with guys loving guys. I’ve already described how this is harmful to gay men, and that perpetuating the stereotype is problematic. I’ve also already explained that gay men have every right to reject the feminine stereotype if it doesn’t suit them. If BL mangaka really are only defying conventional gender norms, why are they perpetuating the all too conventional stereotype of the feminine gay man? It would be far more impactful if they stepped away from the stereotype and defied conventional masculinity in a heterosexual male character (which surely some shojo mangaka have done).People rag on the “girly ukes” because we see it for what it is an attempt to heteronormalize a gay relationship by giving one of the male characters feminine characteristics. Now why do we westerners feel the need to rag on the “girly uke”? Probably because gender and sexuality issues are huge in the western world right now. hating a feminine man because he’s feminine).I get the impression that you don’t read much shoujo; check out Otomen sometime, which is specifically about a man with a feminine personality and interests and how awesome he is. It’s terrific and hugely popular both in Japan and here almost every volume has been a NYT manga list bestseller. Or try The Story of Saiunkoku (which is also terrific): the pretty blond romantic interest (on the cover of V1 and V9) has feminine mannerisms, is slightly ditzy (but very smart), and is completely clueless about everyday life (because he’s been cloistered in the palace his whole life). And he blushes on occasion. If he was in a BL manga I’m sure people would be complaining about “girls with penises”. In SoS he’s a hot dude with gratuitous bathing scenes.It’s very common for Western men to reject the male leads in shoujo manga as not really being men, as being ridiculously girly, as people they can’t identify with and don’t want to imagine being. A fair number of Japanese men do this too. The key point here is that men don’t like women’s fantasies about men. They don’t match up with men’s fantasies about themselves. This isn’t restricted to gay men, and it isn’t restricted to Japanese media. Look at the amount of whining about “sparkly emo vampires” in Twilight; I can’t stand Twilight, but a lot of the vitriol coming from men was aimed at the insufficient masculinity of the love interest.You can’t tell me that effemiphobia isn’t a real issue. Feminine men in the US take a huge amount of shit. Feminine gay men take a huger amount of shit. Japan is more tolerant of pretty metrosexual guys because it’s understood that women go for that, but overtly feminine men still get shit on for not being “real” men. I’ve seen straight Japanese men talk about liking BL because it validates male femininity as natural and desirable, and presents a different form of male sexuality that isn’t dependent on being aggressive and “carnivorous”.You’re bringing assumptions to the table here: women aren’t attracted to feminine men, women don’t want to be penetrative, women can’t identify with the more masculine character. BL isn’t a coded heterosexual relationship unless you insist that women have to identify solely with the uke. Try looking at Japanese fujoshi culture: they talk about how BL allows them to “take both roles”. Try looking at the academic studies of Anglophone BL readers: they talk about how BL allows readers to fantasize about being dominant and penetrative. Heck, try looking at depictions of fujoshi in Japanese pop culture: the stereotype is that they want their boyfriends to be uke (this comes up in Genshiken, Fujoshi Rumi, My Girlfrend’s a Geek, Tonari no 801 chan)Quote: It’s very common for Western men to reject the male leads in shoujo manga as not really being men, as being ridiculously girly, as people they can’t identify with and don’t want to imagine being. A fair number of Japanese men do this too. The key point here is that men don’t like women’s fantasies about men. They don’t match up with men’s fantasies about themselves. This isn’t restricted to gay men, and it isn’t restricted to Japanese media. Look at the amount of whining about “sparkly emo vampires” in Twilight; I can’t stand Twilight, but a lot of the vitriol coming from men was aimed at the insufficient masculinity of the love interest.Oh man, I’m so glad that someone else believes this. I always wondered why my fellow male anime fans had a tendency to have this wierd bitter hatred for BL/Shoujo going far beyond “I don’t read it” and encroaching on “I hate it and it shouldn’t exist” (such as how many male anime fans despise any kind of yaoishipping) like it’s personally attacking them. I ended up supposing that they hated them because the guys of BL/Shoujo were “stealing” “their” women from them (basically “why are these bitches fawning over them and not MEEEEEE”) combined with a refusal to accept that perhaps their efforts to attract women weren’t lining up with what women actually WANTED.It’s very common for Western men to reject the male leads in shoujo manga as not really being men, as being ridiculously girly, as people they can’t identify with and don’t want to imagine being. A fair number of Japanese men do this too. The key point here is that men don’t like women’s fantasies about men. They don’t match up with men’s fantasies about themselves. This isn’t restricted to gay men, and it isn’t restricted to Japanese media. Look at the amount of whining about “sparkly emo vampires” in Twilight; I can’t stand Twilight, but a lot of the vitriol coming from men was aimed at the insufficient masculinity of the love interest.Girl, I agree with you so hard on this. Like seriously. However, I don’t agree that this necessarily extends to BL. From what I’ve seen on these types of discussions, it seems to boil down to some men viewing male leads in shoujo manga as “setting the bar too high” or maybe more accurately “setting the bar in a place that I’m not going to go”, because they see the male’s charm work on the female lead. I would argue that this doesn’t apply in BL because men who aren’t into BL tend to view it as “guy on guy for girls” and pointedly aren’t really interested. People who are BL fans tend to be more versed in the debates that circulate through BL fandom (such as heteronormative homosexual relationships), and thus throughout their opinions on topics like the “girly uke”. In short,
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guys who rag on the shojo male lead are different from the people who rag on the “girly uke”. Which I suppose I’ll talk more about further downYou can’t tell me that effemiphobia isn’t a real issue. Feminine men in the US take a huge amount of shit. Feminine gay men take a huger amount of shit. Japan is more tolerant of pretty metrosexual guys because it’s understood that women go for that, but overtly feminine men still get shit on for not being “real” men. I’ve seen straight Japanese men talk about liking BL because it validates male femininity as natural and desirable, and presents a different form of male sexuality that isn’t dependent on being aggressive and “carnivorous”.