Sexism takes many forms in a society that wants to claim we are free of it. Some sexism remains in-your-face (like Hardee’s commercials) while others have shifted to what seems a more subtle form. But what about what I like to call the “power boob” phenomenon; female characters that have some form or position of power within their story, but are overshadowed by those gravity-defying watermelons protruding from their chests? Obviously, these inflatables need no more pointing out than I would have to point out the Eiffel Tower, but how many of us see these characters and realize this as a form of sexism?
In my last “Power Boobs” post, I discussed Tsunade from Naruto. Today, I want to turn the attention on another popular manga of the same genre: Bleach by Tite Kubo. When it is even questioned whether Tite Kubo is sexist in his portrayal of women, many fans jump to defend him. He can’t be sexist, they say, his female characters can kick butt! One fan went further in his/her thoughts on a Naruto forum, explaining,
“Kubo has women in his manga who are strong in both body and mind, and who are able to fight without becoming overly emotional. Some users accuse him of making all of his women to be large-breasted and existing for the purposes of fan-service. I do not agree with this, for not all of the women in this series are large-breasted and not all of them act in a manner that could be viewed as fan-service.”
This fan goes on to say that he/she believes that Tite Kubo is equal in his treatment of both his female and male characters and that, compared to other shonen manga, the women bask in a positive light. But what about that neon glow of sex radiating from the following characters?
All three are presented as strong, resilient women and, at points, even aid or train the male hero of the story to great avail. But with each of these, the women are upstaged by bursting bosoms, lack of clothing in all the wrong places, and blatant fan service. Even if the character is not used as a fan service character per say, anyone would be upstaged if they had shiny breasts the size (or bigger) than their head. And these three are certainly not the only female characters like this either. A very noticeable number of them sport outrageous chests. (Must be something in the water.)
Think of it in terms of reality. Whether it is correct or not, do people take women who dress in a provocative or racy manner seriously? No, many people label them as easy and view them not as a person with intelligence or strength, but as nothing more than a cheap object. So, if this is what people do in real life, why would we view fictional characters any differently? With these characters, what do you think of first: strength or big boobs?
Is Tite Kubo sexist? I would like to think not. His female characters do show instances of strength (whether it’s physical or mental) when he could have made them completely useless, heaping them into the ever-growing pile of damsels. Does he fall into the traps of sexist thought process? Yes. If that wasn’t the case, a majority of his female characters wouldn’t be dominated by their physical appearance, i.e. their enormous chests.
In my next post, I’ll discuss why I still believe this, even disregarding the big bosoms of Bleach.
(I will give him credit for this: Tite Kubo is also the first person I’ve seen depicting the voluptuous, highly neglected lower half of the boob. It’s different, balances the effect of the massive cleavage of other characters, and definitely defies the laws of nature for those to stay in that shirt(?).)