Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Girl Power in Sailor Moon

I'm sure many of you are familiar with the old anime show, Sailor Moon. I know I for one watched it religiously as a kid. I hadn't really thought about Sailor Moon at all in relation to this class until I came across an essay online called "Young Females as Super Heroes: Superheroines in the Animated Sailor Moon," which explored the feminist ideas of Sailor Moon as it related to the third-wave concept of girl power. I didn't read the entire essay as it was rather lengthy, but what I did read of it presented some interesting ideas.

The idea of girl power in general is actually pretty odd when you think about it. As the essay's author, Victoria Newsom, describes it: "The paradox of girl power is that girl power focuses on empowering femininity, but restricts itself to patriarchal constructs of what it means to be feminine. The primary restrictions of girl power in patriarchy are the body type favored within the girl power construct, the style of representation, including clothing styles that are appropriate for girl power practitioners, and the constant stereotyping of hyperfeminity and youth. " Instead of expressing feminism by breaking away from feminine stereotypes, girl power embraces them.

Sailor Moon certainly exhibits this concept. She is a very unique superhero in that she is extremely stereotypical. She is the epitome of "girly" - a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl who "is almost completely preoccupied with boys, dating, avoiding homework, playing video games, and food." She is also notorious for being a crybaby. Yet, she remains a strong hero and role model, as do all the rest of the "Sailor Scouts." As Newsom puts it: "These characters strongly exhibit and remain tied to traditional concepts of femininity. These girls are each, expressively, female. They are able to fight in a capacity associated with male heroes without necessarily 'becoming'male. These young women illustrate that it is 'okay' to be a girl and to 'fight back.' The characters are perceived in the press and marketed as role models for young women."

Sailor Moon's character is very different from any other superheroine I've come across. Even in the newer comics we've been reading where the superheroines have been much more progressive, I have yet to see another who manages to be both extremely girly and a tough hero. She is quite a paradox: she takes the dichotomy of girly-girls vs. bad-ass superheroines and falls somewhere in between. According to the essay, "The characters all act as 'heroes' in a way similar to other female chara
cters; however, they are not masculinized and desexualized, as are the other female action and horror heroes. Instead, the characters are a combination of conflicting character types, such as victim and hero, established in the studies of action and horror."

Sailor Moon tells us, as well as the young girls she inspires (like the 8-year-old Rachel), that women don't have to be masculine in order to be strong. If they want to embrace their femininity, that's not a bad thing - even superheroes can be girly-girls.


  1. I think that you bring up an interesting point - not all superheroines have to be buff, like Buffy isn't. And they are quite girly - they wear really short skirts to fight villains. And weren't most of their villains male? I don't remember the show too much, but I do remember a distinctive dark male character that could have been evil. I also like how they are subtly sexualized compared to some other superheroines (aside from the really short skirts). Their breasts are completely covered, and they look normal sized. The subtle sexiness that I am talking about is their abnormally long legs. Long legs are supposed to be very attractive, and pairing the long legs with boots makes it even sexier, but there's still a slight subtleness to it.

  2. Sailor Moon definitely has good intentions when it comes to girl power, but you bring up a valid point when it comes to the paradoxes in the ideas involving girl power. It would be different if Sailor Moon embraced the power of being feminine and strong, but as you said, the "hyperfeminity" does stifle the character's overall strength. Especially their choice of dress is very appalling and sexually alluring- especially since the Sailor Scouts are barely teenagers...

  3. I remember that when I was a kid I totally loved this show because it was really big on girl power even though thinking about it now it falls into many stereotypes where the super heroine is portrayed with the alluring costumes once they are kicking ass.


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