ijustlurkhere asked: I think the thing that bothers me most about that argument regarding Riza is that the other person was right about one thing. Female characters being competent and having agency IS a really low bar for feminist representation! But the fact is that it is somewhere between very infrequent and RARE that any work meets it. Which is why in spite of being a distressingly low bar to judge things by, it's actually really important to note when something does or does not meet it!
Honestly what bothers me most was how rude they were to me. Going back and reading, it actually makes my blood boil, that they could be so condescending on the basis that what…I was enthusiastic and hyperbolic in post on my personal blog not particularly directed at anyone? That I was…gasp…enthusiastic about what I found well done and inspiring about a female character? How dare I, I am misapplying feminism doing that and that makes them soooo angry! And who the fuck made them arbiter of feminism. I think there are probably more important things to be concerned re: feminism than whether someone uses it as a perspective through which to discuss subversive aspects of female characters and defend them from things they wouldn’t get hated on for if they were male.
If you get so fucking angry at someone celebrating a female character, you need to check your priorities. And I hate how people think because they’ve decided I qualify as a “BNF” or whatever the fuck, that I somehow “owe” them, that they can treat me like I don’t have feelings and reblog stuff I post and be an ass to me over it just because I like something they don’t.
okay, that rant over, yes that is a low bar, and it was met, but that also wasn’t even my point- it was just a way for me to illustrate what “agency in fictional characters” means since they refused to freaking get it. I’m not saying it’s a feminist victory just if a woman is competent and isn’t reduced to a motivation/obstacle/prop ever, even if that’s sadly infrequent. I’m saying that it says something if a woman is written as directly refusing to be reduced to that or if the author purposefully confronts these tropes and makes a point of subverting them.
FMA is flawed, but what I was trying to show in my analysis was Arakawa deliberately went out of her way to confront, address and subvert several sexist tropes commonly found in her genre and fiction in general through her female characters- and considering she is woman working in a male-dominated genre, who is so underestimated within that genre she even felt the need to use a masculine pen name so as not to put people off (her real name is Hiromi)- it is incredibly significant that she purposefully confronts and defies these tropes.
She has bad guys hold Riza hostage and consider her an extension of Roy, tricks the reader into even going along with that, and then has Riza assert her opinion, power and influence and make it heard, using her autonomy to save herself and Roy. There is a deliberate statement made here and it is incredibly condescending to the intelligence Arakawa shows as a storyteller to say she wasn’t trying to get her readers (young boys) to rethink their assumptions and showing how women shouldn’t be reduced to motivations for men, or make them realize that women can be treated like this in real life but they are also powerful people with their own feelings and motivations.So much of Riza’s story is about struggling against people trying to underestimate and use her.
Arakawa is deliberately challenging the idea that non-action girl ladies don’t get to contribute, have character arcs or are automatically helpless in a action genre with Winry. She deliberately makes it look like Winry has been made a helpless damsel, playing into expectations, but then reveals that Winry was in control of the situation and cleverly used the military’s disregard for her autonomy against them- do you seriously think Arakawa is not deliberately trying to be subversive with that? What about the narrative that pushed that shutting women out and not discussing things that are important for them to know with them has consequences, and you need to respect their right to know and not “protect them”? Also that boys just make things harder on everyone when they refuse to openly discuss their feelings and are “burdening” women more by refusing to ask for help? How is that not a deliberately subversive statement to make in this day and age?
But you decide this is all worthless because what, these women have significant men in their lives? And the fact they influence and impact and mentor these men who actively look up to them and need them to survive is somehow not a good thing because it’s still “supporting men”? And ultimately what you’re saying is their agency is only used to support men, so it’s being said that’s all a woman can be?
Except, if you’re viewing it like that, it’s a very deliberate point of view to take?
It’s more that women have goals and like, three of them have men that are part of these goals? Because they tend to share the same goal for individual reasons?
Winry’s goal is to be the best possible mechanic to her several customers and she doesn’t want to lose her family. Ed is her family and one of those customers. But she has others and her own business! And they need her and she needs them too! She needs Ed to be happy for her goal to be completely achieved and will do anything to protect him. She also needs help sometimes. Oh, but hey, vice versa, . Ed makes it clear his entire fucking goal is to keep his family intact, save peeps and get Al’s body back. He absolutely needs Winry’s help to do that and she is a significant part of his goal and without her the whole thing is dead. Does Winry support Ed? Yeah. Is that the only thing she ever does? No, she also attends to her other customers, start a career, delivers a baby, etc. Does Ed act as support to her and her goals (whether the baby thing, her career, her confrontation with Scar) several times? Hell yes.
Riza’s goal is to use Flame Alchemy for good and save the country. She’s decided she needs to protect Roy to do that. Roy has the same goal. He needs Riza to do that and will protect her. Does he pretty much get the spotlight and take the lead. Yes. Is that problematic? I did say so. But it doesn’t change the fact they’re a partnership with a larger goal and both need each other.
Lan Fan has the goal of protecting her clan and getting the philosopher’s stone. Ling has that exact same goal. Everything they do is towards that, including their devotion to protecting and supporting each other. Lan Fan is actually simply more successful at it, since she actually manages to get a stone and doesn’t fail to protect Ling as Ling kinda fails to completely protect her and save Fu (sorry Ling, u tried honey).Lan Fan supports Ling, but also her clan, and Ling does the same towards her and his clan. Also Lan Fan goes out of her way to get May help. Is it problematic Ling gets the spotlight? Yeah, but it doesn’t make her character not subversive and valuable.
Then we have May, who’s goals actually has jack-all to do with Al or any dude except Al and Scar end up being part of the country she decides she needed to help (but what motivated her to put saving Amestris over getting the philosopher’s stone was NEVER on Al or Scar’s behalf- they encouraged her the OPPOSITE. First it was the people she saved in her very first appearance that made her stay in Amestris, then it was the distress of Riza, a person she didn’t even know, that kept her from grabbing the stone). And she saved the country by saving several different people who needed her. She supported a country.
Izumi and Olivier, nuff said. They did their own thing.
It just upsets me female characters deliberately tend to be viewed in the lens that’s most diminishing to their goals and accomplishments, while male characters are not viewed in the same way. I was trying to combat that and point out what is deliberately subversive, inspiring, complex, valuable, empowering about these ladies, to really explore their character arcs. I wanted to call attention to what Arakawa was doing here and what other writers need to take note of. Arakawa inspires me. She is a woman who writes some incredible female characters that have a lot of complexity and agency and are deliberately subversive. I wanted to call attention to that and say, yeah, that’s very positive and feminist friendly. And it does deliberately seem to push a pro-woman message at times. As I’ve said, I laid off of calling manga “feminist”, but I wouldn’t hestiate to call it not only feminist friendly, but inspiring and subversive from a feminist perspective.
Is Fullmetal Alchemist playing some tropes straight though? Yes. It’s not entirely subversive. There is an extremely heavy male presence and drive to the narrative. There could and should have been more female characters as well as more screentime and plot importance given to female relationships. I would have appreciated more screen time and development for all the ladies of course- and it’s not like the narrative wouldn’t be vastly improved if Ed or Roy or both or every dude was a girl (or nonbinary). Fullmetal Alchemist isn’t perfect at all, no. Nothing is. But does it have great female characters and deliberately challenge some thing re: gender in a way that can inspire feminists? Yes. And I want credit to be given to that, because it’s one of the reasons the story resonates with me so deeply.
And if you have a problem with me deciding these lady characters are good or enthusiastically defending them, celebrating them, analyzing their arcs- you don’t have to follow my blogs. You can block me. I don’t give a shit. But look at yourself in the mirror when you decide it’s an affront to feminism to celebrate and positively analyze the female characters authored by a lady who fought her way into a male-dominated genre and decided to challenge things.