Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon – Feminist Icon ? ? ?

Moon Prism Power - Make Up ! ! !

Solider of Love and Justice – Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon


Sorry Spiller Guys, this post is about feminism, but I hope you will read it also.

Feminism is about empowering women, equality and social justice . . . so why is it so unpopular with young women and girls ? ? ?  Most girls I know either deny they are feminists or are embarrassed to admit it.  Why on earth should this be so ? ? ?  What is wrong with feminism ? ? ?

A new series of Sailor Moon has started in Japan and it has caused a lot of debate about the nature and role of this manga ( and later anime series ) People seem divided equally between those who think that Sailor Moon is an icon of feminist literature and those who think the complete opposite.

Sailor Moon was first published as a manga ( Japanese graphic novel ) in 18 volumes which sold over a million copies and later made into an anime series which was one of the most popular ever.

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon is the story of an ordinary middle school girl who through a magic talking cat discovers she is one of the Sailor Guardians of Princess Serenity who was in the distant past the Princess of the Kingdom of the Moon.

School Girl Superhero - Sailor Moon

School Girl Superhero – Sailor Moon

She discovers she has a mission to find the other Sailor Guardians and a magic crystal and defeat the evil threatening the world and also find and protect the Princess.  Quite a job for a middle school girl ! ! !

So, a typical anime or manga story . . . . . and in many way it is ! ! ! But Sailor Moon was on a different level to most manga and anime. The characters were really well described and the relationships between Sailor Moon and the other Sailor Guardians friendship and caring about each other was paramount.

In most magic girl manga and anime, the character transform into some sort of masculine space armor wearing power ranger type of character.

But watch the transformation of the middle school girl into Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon.

Middle School Girl Transforms Into Cosmic Superhero ! ! !

Sailor Mars has the best taste in shoes of all the Sailor Guardians ! ! !

Sailor Mars has the best taste in shoes of all the Sailor Guardians ! ! !

I will talk a little more about the significance of that transformation later but first I want to talk about power.

In the 1990 decade when Sailor Moon was first published and the anime series was made this was revolutionary.  Power is a masculine thing, particularly in Japan.  Femininity is associated with weakness.  In order to be taken seriously women had to become more masculine.  I read an article recently which showed that women newscasters in the USA had lowered the tone of their voices over the last 25 years to become more masculine and even the first female  British  Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher had voice coaching to sound less feminine.  To be taken seriously girls dressed in more masculine ways, and cut their hair short and did not wear make up or girly things.

Also girls literature  ( particularly western girls literature ) is full of spunky tomboys climbing trees and beating the guys at soccer or whatever.  Feminine girls are usually  shown as  dumb, weak, shallow or manipulative even in stories for girls.

Actually, the entire iconography of power in developed economic counties is masculine.

I do understand why girls would want to be seen as more masculine, as after leaving a sheltered upbringing in a rural environment followed by an idyllic time  at an all girls boarding school I moved to Tokyo to attend university and was confronted with all the preconceived ideas about feminine girls ! ! !

Which brings me back to school girl Usagi’s transformation to superhero Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon.

The transformation starts with a manicure ! ! !  She starts the transformation by calling for make up ! ! !  She gets new ear rings, ribbons for her hair nice boots and a mini skirt. She does not transform like a female power ranger into some masculine figure

The power of Sailor Moon comes from her femininity.   To move from klutzy schoolgirl to the super powerful Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon who will save the princess and the world, she actually becomes more feminine. The source of her power is her femininity.

For me, I saw no conflict in being a feminine girl who likes make up, fashion, shoes, handbags jewelry, nail art and accessories and being someone who believed in empowering women, social justice and equality.  I did of course realize, I had to overcome peoples idea of what I was like and I had to prove myself as being intelligent and strong as people would normally just assume the opposite. But I did not really see it as a major problem for me.

However my first contact with Feminism as an ideology was when I went to the USA for a year to study and I had to take a compulsory Gender Studies class.

Feminist icon Sailor Moon

Feminist icon Sailor Moon

It was frankly the worst experience of my life until that point. The whole concept seemed alien to me. The feeling of confrontation towards men was something I could not understand, but most of all the rejection of anything feminine seemed totally alien.

Clothes needed to be masculine, the tones of voice and manner of speaking and acting was masculine and aggressive. What I believe to be feminine values of love, caring, nurturing, and the validity of feminine choices to be a home maker as a positive choice were totally rejected.  and some of the views on topics like abortion were frankly shocking to me.  In the class I was ridiculed and bullied for being feminine in the way I dressed, acted and spoke, not only by the other students but by the teacher also.

One year of Gender Studies ( and the only F ever in my academic career ) and I had learnt to hate feminism.

But I had forgotten Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon ! ! !

I believe traditional western feminism is being rejected by girls and young women around the world because it portrays our femininity as weakness.  Actually, many western feminists are just like men in this respect because they also see femininity as weakness.

I think the real fight now is not to gain power by being more like men in the way we behave and understand power, but by accepting femininity as our nature and source of strength.

Sometimes, on a bad day, I actually believe that the efforts to get girls to play with gender neutral toys, avoid pink and cute things and all the other things i read about in the Guardian about gender, is at best a form of surrender and at worst  is joining the the patriarchy in their war against girls.  What is wrong with femininity ? ? ? I think it is a positive alternative and a necessary balance.

I am a girl, and guess what . . .I run like a girl and hit like a girl, but just like Sailor Moon, I do not need a white knight to save the Princess – I can do it myself thank you ! ! !

For me, this is what Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon is all about.

~ ♥  ~ ♪ ~  ♫ ~  ♪ ~  ♥ ~

As this is a music blog I should share some music ! ! !

So here is Miwa, the most feminine of feminist girls,  singing like a girl, performing like a girl, and kicking some grass in concert like a girl ! ! ! 

I hope you brought your towel ! ! !

~ ♥  ~ ♪ ~  ♫ ~  ♪ ~  ♥ ~

By the way at some point in this song she sings:

Okashi konna sekai jan

Jibun ga dare nanoka wakaranakunaru

 Wafuu ni hanaritakunai ka

Kimetsukenai de yo

In English this is:

This is such a crazy world,

Sometimes it makes me lose sight of who I am

 Do you want to leave the traditional ways?

Just don’t make that decision for me


Miwa – Change

21 thoughts on “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon – Feminist Icon ? ? ?

  1. An excellent post, Sakura. I heartily agree with you. Like most “ists” who follow “isms” the bulk of feminists use their ideology to prevent themselves from having to actually think for themselves. It’s so much easier to read the slogans from a book.
    I’m totally in favour of equality ( my wife tells me I have to be), of course, as a self identifying “girlie man” I’m happy to be in touch with my feminine side ( and dress accordingly for parties) but have no desire to act more “womanly” just to prove my credentials.

    Be true to yourself ( and your school) and to Hell with the ovine hordes of brain dead , semi-educated flotsam that infest out “educational” institutions worldwide.

    To the barricades but leave plenty of time for putting your make-up on.

    • Hi Mr P ! ! !

      Thanks for commenting ! ! ! I think that “gender studies” is really half baked at the moment and does attract a lot of rather extreme people to it. Maybe it calm down in time to something properly academic.

  2. I think women have always had the right to make themselves look pretty and to be a nurturing homemaker. Persuading male society to allow them to be more than that has been the problem. And still is; particularly in Japan, where only 11% of senior positions in business are occupied by women.
    From a personal (female) perspective, I can understand why you want the right to be ‘feminine’ but I struggle to see how that will change the perspective of sexist males who want their women pretty, cute (and submissive), while they remain strong, rugged (and dominant). Unless feminism can change male minds, it’s just another fashion choice, like deciding to express your femininity by shaking your bare backside.

    I have to add: only a couple of centuries ago, pink was a boy’s colour and blue a girl’s. To a very large extent, the whole ‘cute, pink girl’ thing is an opportunity for male-dominated businesses to make lots of money, imho. I’m not sure there’s any benefit to women in that.

  3. Hi Chris ! ! !

    I agree we need to change men too of course, but it would be nice if more women would identify as feminists too and that is what I wanted to talk about in this post really.

    Of course it is a major problem in Japan and Asian countries that women do not participate more in business but I think it is starting to change a little now for the better.

    Thank you so much for reading and for your thoughtful comments ! ! !

  4. In countries where we are lucky enough to be able to choose, I would say go your own way and be proud, sakura. I’m a feminist but I wear make-up; I don’t hate men but I am very wary and aware of patriarchy. I went to a girl’s school but I have two brothers and I’m not girly, just practical. I try to treat people as people rather than taking account of what’s between their legs. Doesn’t always work!

  5. I think that this was an interesting post, mainly because it showed a non-European way of looking at the issue of feminism.

    For me, the real issue is that being feminine and girly is going too far towards pandering to male ideas about womanhood. I think that many men like their women to look fluffy and girly because it removes them as a threat to their masculinity.

    It is possible to wear makeup and look feminine and not play to the male gaze but it is difficult, mainly because the messages that we think we are sending about empowerment and choice are not necessarily received in that way. I think it is easier to make this work when you are an older woman, mostly because men stop seeing you as a sexual being anyway.

    • Hi Carol ! ! !

      Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment ! ! !

      Of course I would be lying if I said that I do not dress to attract men when I go out or something like that, but most of the time I dress to please myself and doI have a genuine interest in fashion. I understand what you mean, and I have had to work hard to accepted as not an airhead many times, but I think somehow it feels unfair when I am judged by other women.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment ! ! !

    • Yes, I agree with that. I thought about my post afterwards and remembered I’m 30+ years older than sakura, which makes a big difference.

  6. I avoid the whole minefield by calling myself an equallist and not a feminist. Especially when feminism has come to be defined these days by the sort of drooling idiots who write for the Guardian.

    I think people should be be to do whatever they want (so long as they don’t infringe upon the rights of another another). Do whatever you want. Wear what you want, be with who you want, do the work you want. I certainly do. And equally important, take full responsibility for the choices that you do make. As an equalist, the only use i have for feminism is to work to remove the legal impediments to doing what you want. Which entails being able to control and make decisions about your own body without interference, having access and rights to an education and work, choosing your own partners, whatever. Those are the sort of fights worth fighting, the rest is essentially wank.

    • Hi Amylee

      I agree with you so much that it is important to fight for equal rights to education work and who you want to be with and these are things I will never give up on ! ! !

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment ! ! !

  7. Agree with you, Amy! Do what you want, dress how you want, do the work you want and don’t let yourself be deterred by other people’s opinions. ‘To thine own self be true’ – not always easy, but have the confidence to do it.

    Agree with Alimunday too. I have always thought, people are human beings first of all, and their gender, although obviously very important, is secondary to that.

    Don’t agree quite so much with you, Carole! I think that women should dress to please themselves – but then I’m one of those, erm, more mature ladies, and anyway, I dress very casually most of the time, and only wear minimal makeup except for my eyes (which would tend to disappear otherwise!)

    Sakura, your experience on the Gender Studies course sounds awful. Women should not be trying to copy men. The only thing I would disagree with a little is that I think that all toys should be ‘gender neutral.’ It really does annoy me to go into a store and see shelves labelled ‘girls’ toys’ and ‘boys’ toys.’ I don’t mean that girls shouldn’t play with dolls, but they should not feel inhibited from playing with other types of toy. I thought we’d got over all that gender stereotyping of toys back in the 70s/80s, but it’s come creeping back.

    Anyway, Sailor Moon looks impossibly cute, as most manga characters do to me. But if she’s also inspirational, that’s great! I’m trying to think of who I found inspirational as a child and it was always the strong characters that I admired the most.

    • Hi Suzi ! ! !

      Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment ! ! ! For me when Sailor Moon was first released as an anime ( I read the manga later ) I was really inspired as I never associated heroes with feminine girls and I did associate with the character so much.

      Of course girls should be free to play with any toys they like, I just do not agree with trying to discourage them from being feminine forcing them in one direction.

      I grew up on my grandmothers sugar plantation and so I could drive a tractor, ride a motorcycle and kill a snake with a machete before I was 13 years old, but I was never a tomboy and would help in the sugar cane harvest as a kid, and after have a bath and go to bed with my dolls ! ! !

      So I never really saw liking playing with dolls as being somehow weaker than the boys ! ! !

    • Perhaps we do agree, Suzi. I only ever really dress to please myself. I’ve got to the point in my life where I am comfortable being me and no one tells me how I should behave.

      I’d never advocate dressing just to please men. It is a game you will never win.

  8. Interesting post Sakura.

    I pretty much agree, but only wish that more people were more like you!

    I don’t think it’s a case of what you wear, but is about the roles and expectations that people have of themselves and others.

    At the moment I”m working at a middle rank university and it’s so depressing to see the vast majority of the girls have no ambition for themselves at all beyond getting married or becoming a cabin attendant – and these are people who are studying International Business at university!!

    Of course there is nothing wrong with either of these, it just seems that the expectations they have of their role in the world is so limited and unambitious….not sure what the solution or even the cause of this is though…..

    • HI Panthersan ! ! !

      I think that actually it is like chicken and the egg. If we had more role models then girls would have something to aspire to. I think that slowly we are getting more role models with women achieving great things like Sawa Homare san in soccer and so many of the girl bands and musicians we talk about here. I think Miwa is a great role model actually for young women ! ! !

  9. Sakura, I have 2 grown-up daughters, the elder one is very curvy and feminine and dresses in a feminine (though not ‘girly’) way. She defines herself as a feminist, holds down a good job and is also married. The other daughter is a complete scruff and very much her own person.

    Panthersan, from your description it sounds as if things haven’t moved on much for the last 40 years! But I think that perhaps they have really. The big problem as always seems to be having a career and also having kids.

  10. Feminine is beautiful. I wish it was not used as a way to control/put down a gender. But to girlify, to reduce, to condescend is obviously no good. The patriarchal society will stop at nothing to hold onto its supposed power. Recent example was the patronising Better Together advert – a concept thought up by men to stop women thinking for themselves, to maintain the status quo. You can be glam and not reductive to your gender, there’s nothing wrong with putting on some clothes/makeup you like & feeling better for it – be judged by actions I hope.

    No one likes looking at you
    Your lack of ego offends male mentality
    They need your innocence
    To steal vacant love and to destroy
    Your beauty and virginity used like toys

    My mind is dead, everybody loves me
    Wants a slice of me
    Hopelessly passive and compatible
    Need to belong, oh the roads are scarey
    So hold me in your arms
    I wanna be your only possession

    Used, used, used by men
    Used, used, used by men

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