[OWLS Blog Tour]: Fetishization of the “Rose Bride” and Asian Women

Hey hey fellow ani-bloggers! It’s Archi-Anime’s turn for the April tour stop on the OWLS blog tour. Just a friendly reminded that OWLS: Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-Respect, is a group that hopes to spread the important message of respect and kindness to every human being. Our monthly blog tours that reflect this message of tolerance and self-acceptance, through various analysis of the anime medium; although it is not limited to anime.white-background-2

This month’s topic is Colors:

We are all part of one race, the human race. “Colors” refers to people of color in anime. For this monthly topic, we will be discussing how people of color or characters of different “races” (a literal alien race) are represented in anime. Some topics we are considering is the dangers of stereotyping, bi-racial characters, and the importance of racial inclusion.

An anime that stuck out to me for this prompt was Anthy and her brother Akio from Revolutionary Girl Utena. Their race/ethnicity is never exactly stated, and the more I delved into it and thought about it, the more this became a look at the symbolism of skin color and what Anthy symbolizes as a whole. I have personally found that skin color is often romanticized, and that Anthy is representative of a lot of stereotypes associated with Asian women.

Anthy and Akio are the only two characters of color in this anime. Does it hold a significance? Maybe. My analysis and interpretation will focus on Anthy’s role and is solely an opinion based on what I’ve seen on the show and some interesting parallel’s that I’ve found in my own experience and research.

Anthy’s Role

Anthytst2.png

Anthy Himemiya is a student at Othori Academy, and is also the sister of Akio.  She’s also the “Rose Bride” whom is engaged to the winner of duels that take place within the student council as she produces the sword from within her for the winners to use.

Overall she’s a mysterious girl who is often said to have no thoughts or desires of her own. She only supports whatever her “master”, or whom she’s betrothed to, desires. She doesn’t stand up for herself at all, she lets the winner of the duel walk all over her, and treat her the way they want to. In the anime you can easily see that she’s a “doormat”, she’s meek, quiet, and submissive. She’s basically a puppet that repeats what you say, or says what you want to hear.

Perpetuating the Stereotype

I find the choice of skin color rather interesting for what Anthy represents on the show. She and her brother are the only people of color depicted on this show and for the most part their race is pretty ambiguous. On the Utena Wikia, it’s also stated that Anthy appears to be an Asian Indian, and wears a bindi mark or jewel. It’s fairly apparent that the show is euro-centric just based on the architecture of the school alone. Also, in the manga’s prologue of Utena shows that Utena moves to Germany on account of her aunt’s job; another key point to note.

I want to point out that I love Revolutionary Girl Utena because I always find something new to analyze about this show. But I couldn’t help but notice that by depicting Anthy as an Asian in this proved to perpetuate several stereotypes that are associated with Asian women.

Here are a few of the stereotypes of East Asian women:

  • The Dragon Lady: women who are strong, deceitful, domineering, or mysterious.
  • The “China Doll”: Submissive, docile, obedient, reverential.
  • Model Minority: Asians as a whole are seen as hardworking, politically inactive, studious, intelligent, productive, and inoffensive people who have elevated their social standing through merit and diligence.
  • Asian Women: No Joy, No Luck: Asian women in golden era Hollywood film were represented as sexually passive and compliant. Good Asian women are portrayed as being childlike, submissive, silent, and eager for sex
  • The Tiger Mom: A stereotype of Chinese parenting in America. Americans perceive tiger moms to be highly controlling, strict, and severe almost to the point of abuse.

I want to talk mostly about the “China Doll” stereotype. This stereotype has a 200 year old long history. For 200 years East Asian women have been depicted as super feminine to boost the masculinity of the male in the West. Not just boost the west’s masculinity but to express their power, their dominance over the East. This was especially pronounced during the war.

If you look at the context of Revolutionary Girl Utena in the context of the China doll stereotype. Anthy is the perfect example of the fetishization of East Asian women in the Western world: submissive, coy, obedient, meek and shy. Anthy being the literal East Asian woman and the western world represented by Othori Academy (as stated the Manga says they’re in Germany) On top of that you have several males that fight in duels to lay claim to her; possibly representative of the major powers in the world that fought in the world wars trying to claim dominance over Asian countries. Clearly the duels are to express who is the most powerful over whom. Another example of “Orientalism” which is the persistent exoticizing and feminization of images of the east in order to, by contrast masculinize and project power of the West, as suggested by culture critic and theorist Edward Said.

What’s really unfortunate is that this stereotype is still something a lot of Asian women have to deal with presently. It’s hard to break a stereotype that’s been so long ingrained in our history, or rather, in hegemonic history.

“The Bride”

Utena_ANTHY

 

Anthy as stated before, is The Rose Bride. She is treated as an object; a symbol of power to the student council duelist winners. I can’t help but see the further parallel of the idea of the winner taking Anthy as a “bride” and that of an Asian Mail-Order bride.

The Mail-Order bride also has long-standing history stemming from the 1800’s; and falls in the gray area of human trafficking.  I find both the history of Orientalism and the history of the mail-order bride to go hand in hand. I did a lot of heavy research for a paper (although, it was years ago) on mail-order brides from the Philippines and found that Western men often wanted Asian wives because of the perpetuated stereotype. Underneath the fetishism of wanting a submissive wife, the women more often than not felt becoming a mail order bride was the only way out.

Most women that become apart of the mail-order service are looking for a way out of their economic situation, especially coming from a third world country. The Philippines is famous for mail-order brides. Poverty and the lack of employment in the Philippines have forced millions of Filipinos to find work abroad and some to seek marriage with foreigners. For those coming from the Philippines, these women hoped to find a husband abroad that would be able to help sponsor the family back home for immigration. In 1990, the Philippines passed the “Anti-Mail Order Bride Law” as a result of stories in the local media about Filipinas being abused by their foreign husbands.

SAIONJI_ANTHY
Saionji hitting Anthy

In the photo above is the unpleasant truth that is often found behind the relationship of mail-order brides: abuse. Being treated like an object versus cared for and cherished. Saionji is basically the scum of the earth in Revolutionary Girl Utena, and is the classic example of a mysoginistic male. He treats Anthy as his property and sees what he does to her as no one else’s’ business but his own, and can do whatever he wants to her. Unfortunately a lot of  women who join an agency that helps find husbands often hope to escape a rough life are often faced with an even harsher reality of a violent husband. A lot of the men looking for a bride abroad aren’t necessarily for love. There have been reports of certain types of twisted men that go to mail-order bride services that allow him to find a woman who will not be as hard to get as the women he’s usually surrounded by; allowing that mail order bride to then become a victim.

Final Thoughts

Mail-Order brides is still an agency in practice in places all over the world. The US has established some protocol to weed out potential violent men and sex offenders that work with agencies to obtain a wife. The US also provides protection to these women the moment they arrive since the federal court specifically found that he rates of domestic violence against immigrant women are much higher than those of the U.S. population.

Concerning the stereotype of the “china doll”. Unfortunately having to go against 200 years of history of Asian women as solely submissive ultra feminine objects will be a daunting task to undo. Unfortunately media isn’t making as much headway in that regard since they still write them in some stereotypical sense. The fetishization of asian females through some crazy ideals from way back when is clearly prevalent in our present situation, and it’s still something we’re wording towards correcting.

I originally had struggled with what to write about Anthy in terms of the topic “colors” as I had only looked at the literal skin color as an analysis at first but then my brain reminded me of a few classes I had taken awhile ago about History of Consciousness and my Anime class that introduced me to Utena to begin with. The two classes had overlapped and I had the sudden realization mid-last week that Anthy symbolically embodied both the stereotype and the symbol of objectification that’s associated with being a mail-order bride, and I’ve felt these were very important topics to bring up for this month’s topic.

Skin color was used here to differentiate Anthy from the rest of the cast that’s presumably European (the setting again is Germany). I’ve always found that brown skin color has been romanticized by others. Our skin and other features make us look exotic; and because we’re exotic we’re definitely looked at through a different lens. Many Americans wish they could tan to the nice tan browned skin that most of us were born with. Unfortunately, sometimes our skin color is looked down upon in our own culture. Personally speaking, I love my tan skin. My Mom is fair skinned and my Dad is much much darker. They’re both obsessed with being lighter skinned using Papaya soap to whiten their skin. I’m the black sheep because I don’t care to be lighter skinned- I want to embrace my brown skin.  But I’ve found that culturally in the Philippines, whiter skin was usually akin to being of a wealthy family. If you were fair-skinned that meant you didn’t do physical labor. Whereas if you were darker skinned meant you worked in the rice fields. Most of the celebrities there are fair-skinned and endorse skin whitening products. Maybe a part of this is also connected to the Spanish blood that runs in Filipinos. There’s definitely a stigma in the Philippines when it comes to skin color, and I wish it wasn’t necessarily the case, but everyone is just so obsessed with being fair and white – well at least in my family it is.

Again, keep in mind there are many different ways to interpret Utena, it’s such a great anime! I just noticed this parallel but there are different facets of Anthy that can be discussed. This by no mean tries to box her up into one thing; this was only one observation of one of her traits that make her so fascinating!


Well, that just about wraps up my tour! Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Feel free to leave any in the comments!

There are quite a few more posts coming up left from the rest of the OWLS members. Please be on the lookout for LynLyn’s post at her blog lynlynsays.com

And check out these previous posts from other OWLS members this past week:
Lita’s Genetic Hate – Gundam Seed

Kat’s  Bleach, Diversity, and Celebrating Color

Remy’s Social Projecting and Self-Stereotyping in Japanese Media

Also, if you haven’t don’t forget to follow us on facebook as well as our twitter @OWLSbloggers and our official blog.  And if you’re interested in becoming an OWLS member, you can contact us here.