Girls und Feminism

Last year, on Altair & Vega, there was an interesting feminist critique of Girls und Panzer. In that essay, author the_patches takes the show to task for false feminism.

Gendering the sport of tankery in this manner takes something from the province of men and boys and places it in the hands of girls and women–at least when compared to our social norms. The show plays on a subtle inversion of how we normally align gender roles. Since waging war is currently considered mainly the province of men, the idea of high school girls doing it implies an upending of the social order and therefore seems progressive. But it really isn’t.

While that certainly is one way to look at the feminist structure of GaruPan, I’m not sure it’s the best way. I agree with the_patches that the recruiting film, and remarks made in the anime make it clear that the social order has not been upended. Because of that, and despite the fact there is a certain amount of gender-symbolism-poaching going on, GaruPan isn’t really carrying that kind of a femininist message.

Hard to get more phallic than this

Hard to get more phallic than this

Instead, I’d like to think of the feminism of GaruPan as the basis of a gedanken experiment in an alternate approach to sports and team building and leadership.

GaruPan asks what a competitive team sport would be like as practiced by a gender with a more balanced testosterone/serotonin ratio. The use of tank combat as the target sport is brilliant, because anime about the more traditional sports brings a lot of baggage along. Those sports already have female teams, and most of the anime about them (not that there’s a lot) deal with the issues associated with women playing known sports in a man’s world. Since GaruPan is about Sensha-Dō as a sport, nobody in the audience has any preconceived ideas about what the rules, tactics, and ethos might be.

So what we get is a particularly womanly way of doing things. Onna-Dō, if you like. Tank teams are more supportive of each other from the start, for example, without the need for any chest-bumping male bonding rituals. There’s none of the samurai swagger of “I’ll go out and sacrifice myself for the team“. In fact the arc that has the Napoleonic arrogance of Kachusha clashing with the overconfident arrogance of the Ōarai team (yahoo!) is the one they come closest to losing.

In the end, Girls und Panzer doesn’t have a strong feminist message. But a core theme of the anime is an idea a boy’s team is most likely to overlook: “Sensha-Dō isn’t war, it’s a sport, and the tanks would be sad if we forgot that”.

My full set of commentaries on GaruPan can be found in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Girls und Panzer: A Study in Command, and the DVD.

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4 Responses to “Girls und Feminism”

  1. SEALDs「ネトウヨとアニメは「性暴力」というキーワードで現代まで全部繋がってる」 [無断転載禁止]©2ch.net | 萌え尽きたNEWS Says:

    […] 120: なまえないよぉ~ 2016/06/16(木) 14:38:43.10 ID:U968uJrV 英語圏の記事はこれね https://foundonweb.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/girls-und-feminism/ […]

    Note from FoW:This is a pingback from a discussion about rape in Japan on moetach.com, comment 120 of at least 200. It appears to have been triggered (my Japanese is poor, even with Google’s help) by the rape of an Okinawan woman by US troops, then expanded to the ‘comfort women’ of WWII, and then spun off (the way these things do) into diatribes against foreigners in Japan (mostly Korean), the yakuza, and so forth. Unfortunately, the current comment list jumps from 89 to 139, so I can’t see the original context.

  2. PRJ Says:

    Leave it to a “feminist” to imply there’s something there when there isn’t. Girls und Panzer is more than likely written by a dude who just likes the idea of girls in tanks. There’s nothing more going on there.

  3. Joe Schmoe Says:

    To me the biggest reason the author chose to put young lady’s in tanks was to thumb his nose at Japanese norms about what women can’t do.

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