Why Fullmetal Alchemist is a feminist narrative to me pt 1: Winry friggin’ Rockbell won’t accept “boys will be boys”

I did a intersectional feminist overview of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga and 2009 anime adaption once, and was challenged (by a dude) on FMA being feminist. My review wasn’t really an in depth look at the series, because the reviews are meant to be basic overviews saying “hey this series does cool stuff with ladies/other stuff and there’s excellent characters watch it” for beginners. They’re meant to be spoiler free.

But if you folks want a REAL in depth analysis of what I find feminist about FMA beyond “a awesome lady wrote a narrative where female characters are actually important and do shit and kick ass on physical and mental planes”, well hold on to your hats because shit’s about to get real.

Let’s talk about Winry Rockbell.

I have been challenged on Winry Rockbell being a feminist character. The fact that this is challenged proves the fandom still has a long way to go in my opinion. Winry Rockbell is feminist by every legit definition of the word.

Winry starts out being forced into the position a lot of women are put in with male centered narratives- she’s kept out of the action, she’s not confided in because the male characters fear getting her involved. And she’s actively not okay with that. 

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Hughes, who is a great guy otherwise, excuses this to Winry by explicitly saying “well that’s just how men are”

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(he’s obviously projecting himself in this situation, btw, since he’s someone who keeps quiet about his pain because he doesn’t want to burden his wife)

The thing is, Winry doesn’t accept this. She’s not going to let “boys be boys”. When she see Ed and Al get into a fight over lack of communication, she asserts herself and tells Al “hey this is what Ed is trying to tell you. Now, you two get your shit together and talk to each other or so help me.”

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And because Winry forcefully communicated and promoted “talking about feelings”, the fight is resolved. And she turns around and tells Mr. Hughes that there are things you need to say to get across, that communication is neccesarry and keeping everything in is harmful. She baisically tells him he’s wrong, that she can help it, that she’s not going to sit and wait and let boys be boys.

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And Hughes responds “you’re right.”

This is a situation where the “feminine” method of handling things with honesty and communication is explicitly shown to be better than the “masculine” method of acting tough and shutting out the women in your life. Where a teenage girl shows a grown man that her way gets shit done.

Winry is the strongest one in this situation because she’s emotionally strong where the other two (and even Hughes, to an extent!) are weak, because she embraces being open with her tears and fears. She’s seen Ed and Al at their most vulnerable, and knows things about them neither of them know about each other- she knows about Ed’s shameful feelings because she’s the one he had to rely on, she’s the shoulder he cried on. Winry is the one who forcibly pushed these two boys back on their feet. As such, she won’t put up with their machismo. She will assert herself and she will MAKE them properly express their feelings. She’s not going to let them shut her out because she knows what she’s doing, dammit.

So this is a narrative that explicitly subverts against the typical male narrative of “tough male heroes shutting women out and making choices for them” and asserts feminine methods of handling things and the female narrative as important. 

And Winry is going to continue subverting the hell out of that narrative in the most fabulous way possible. I will cover that in my next post, and my post after that will cover Riza.

Part 2: Winry Rockbell Saves Lives Where Alchemy Can’t

Part 3: Winry Rockbell is the Hero of her own Story