anninhell Oct 06, 2009
After reading several blogs about the SDCC Twilight events and gender debates, I was forced to consider my own experiences with gender bias and comics. My two copies of Shonen Jump I’ve received in place of my Shojo Beat subscription are still sitting untouched on my dresser. Maybe I’ll eventually read them if I find time and interest. It frustrates me that the newly highlighted enterprises in the graphic novel industry have been for shonen and seinen manga. I know from a business perspective, that it’s a wiser investment. But I still feel like I’m being punished. It’s like when you take a piece of candy from one child, and then you give it and another handful to another child just because he’s a boy. I realize it’s not as simple as that, that’s just how I FEEL about it. No matter how much I could advocate for the shojo/josei/romance genre of comics, it all comes down to the numbers. As for the critics of the genre, everyone’s allowed their opinion, and I get to decide whose I find valid. So criticize it all you want, there are others who appreciate it for what it is.
Being a long time fan of romance literature, I guess I have become conditioned to gender bias in the sense that I have been looked down upon for my reading material for most of my life. Sadly as a teen, I still put book covers on all my romance novels I took to school so no one would know what I was reading. I was embarrassed. But now I am used to it, try not to let it get to me, and tell myself that everyone is allowed their own opinions. I know what is enjoyable for ME to read, and if I get something out of it, that’s all that matters. I don’t have as big of a problem when I am personally confronted with gender bias, such as when I’m in a book store. I’ve had a tween boy stare at me open mouthed and ask, “You read that?!” when I’ve picked up a copy of Naruto. Or when a college guy snickers as I pick up the most recent Fruits Basket. I either respond with, “Is that a problem?” or I ignore it. But it’s not so much a gender issue for me as it is an AGE issue. I know the stereotypical image of a comics reader is a tween to young adult male. And slowly that is evolving to include females of that same age group too.
In my comics experience, I’ve had more issues with age bias than anything. (It doesn’t help that I’m female too.) For example, I get perturbed with my local library when I go to check out manga. The manga, with the exception of adult or hentai titles, are all kept in a glass encased room declared “Teens”. On the doors and throughout the room there are large posters (maybe 6-8 posters) that say: “12-18 only…no trespassing”. I get that it’s suppose to be a haven for teenagers at the library, and also a warning to parents that the books within are for a specific age appropriate audience. I think it’s great that they’re giving teens their own space. What bothers me is that the propaganda is discouraging me from getting to the material that I, in my 30s, would like to read. I just ignore the posters and walk in the doors to the manga shelves. But I’ll be darned if a librarian doesn’t ask me if she can help me find something. That doesn’t happen in the children’s section of the library, which I frequent to find books for my son. Now, I’m not bashing librarians for doing their job, I’m just making an observation that because of my appearance, I look like I need assistance in that section of the library.
The other day I went into a local bookstore chain and headed towards the comics section, which is in the back close to the children’s lit section. On my way an employee stopped me and said, “Ma’am, I can direct you to some recent fiction releases that you may enjoy.” – which happened to be in the opposite direction. I told her thanks, maybe later, and maybe she was just trying to sell me merchandise, but geez! – I just wanted to see the most recent manga releases. And it never fails that I get some odd looks from other adults who drop in that area with their tweens and teens. Almost as if they’re taken aback that I’m standing there reading a manga.
*sigh* I guess like with my romance preferences when I was younger, I’ll eventually get used to being looked at strangely when I pick up the most recent comics. I just wish people would be more open minded, and quit stereotyping me. Although, that’s a long shot, seeing as it’s human nature to classify and stereotype. Maybe by some miracle shojo and josei comics will explode in popularity. But until then, I’ll just remain a small minority of proud female comic readers over 30.