Extra: Your feminism in my FMA

Just to set the record straight, I’m not big on feminism, despite the fact that I am, actually, female. And before you start crying foul, I am a supporter of equality. I’m just not in favor of supremacy, which is what modern day feminism has sadly become. That being said, there has been quite an interesting discussion on feminist prospective on anime over the past few years. It’s only logical that Fullmetal Alchemist, one of the largest shows to hit America in the past decade, was put under the magnifying glass too. Especially the main female lead, Winry Rockbell.

The two sides are pretty predictably split: one side says Winry is the typical female lead and thus over-rated and the other side claims Winry is the new “feminist” heroine. Oddly, both these sides are right and wrong.

Tackling the idea that Winry is some attempt from Japan to show a more pro-feminism side: probably not. The first reason being that Japan is a whole other nation and thus sees “feminism” differently than America. So applying American standards of feminism is a tricky thing. Secondly, the more modern idea of feminism often (though not always) involves taking ground from men and dominating them in some form. This is not the case. Winry is, thankfully, far more realistic. She knows alchemy isn’t her thing, so she focuses on what is: automail. She works hard at her job and seeks to improve herself in it (something that is more apparent in the Brotherhood version). Winry never forces Ed and Al into her point of view. Nor does she force herself into their world. Often she sits on the side, ready to help when needed (or ready to force help when it is needed), but never taking over.
I will admit that in the first animated version of FMA, Winry is more forced upon the brothers. However, in the re-booted version, Brotherhood, Winry is far more focused and she realizes early on that her calling is with automail and that is where she is most powerful, not to mention happy. And to the joy of feminists, automail repair and construction isn’t really a “typical” female role. So while Winry isn’t every feminist’s dream, she does hold a lot of power and voice, something not all females leads have.

Ok, on the more negative end, Winry does follow some stereotypical behavior at times. Specifically her violent tendencies that often end in Edward knocked unconscious via a steal wrench. So it’s understandable where some have claimed that Winry is a run-of-the-mill female lead. Some of her outfits can lead to confusion as well. When she’s working she will occasionally have her jumper top down, revealing not much more than a thin tube top and outside her job she commonly reverts to a black miniskirt. On the surface, this looks a bit demeaning. However, it’s worth asking why it’s such a bad thing for Winry to wear feminine clothing. While it may not be as conservative as many would like (including me), it’s not nearly as revealing as it sounds. In fact, fanservice from Winry is pretty rare in the series overall (both versions). So Winry is clearly more than eye candy.

Of course, those who believe Winry to be a stereotypical “female” enjoy citing the many instances in the series where she cries. My question being: Why is crying such a bad thing? Crying is neither feminine nor masculine. It’s human. Humans cry. And having emotions like any normal person would makes Winry that much more realistic. Also, in case you missed it, Ed cries in the show, too. As do Roy Mustang and Armstrong. Well, Armstrong isn’t a surprise really, but you get the idea. In no way is FMA pushing its female characters off as “typical women.” In fact, FMA has some of the more complex females seen in anime. Hawkeye and Lan Fan being other good examples.

In the end, the refreshing thing about Winry that I personally have come to appreciate is that she is very realistically female. She has a job that may be considered male-dominated, but that doesn’t stop her or even slow her down. In fact, she never even thinks about gender roles with her job. She just goes for it. But she never fears the joy of being a happy-go-lucky girl either. She wears skirts when she wants, bakes when she wants and then pulls another automail all nighter afterwards. For Winry, gender never fits into the equation. She knows what she loves and she really doesn’t care if society thinks it’s feminine or not. After all, if the world won’t judge you on your gender, they’ll find something else to nit-pick. True feminine strength is not in recreating some system, but living life to the fullest regardless of whatever system tries to stop you.

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About inrosegalaxy

Raised on everything from Moby Dick to the Star Wars X-Wing books from a young age, it came as no surprise to anyone who knew me that I’d become a literature graduate and avid writer. But my love of a good story wasn’t restricted to the written word in my early years. Star Trek, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and badly dubbed Godzilla flicks helped shape my love of science fiction on screen as well. I wrote my first story while in the second grade. It was a horrifying tale about murdering a fairy-eating dog via a slice of pizza (in my defense, my only exposure to pizza was in the cafeteria and I swear you could legitimately kill someone with those things). I was a special snowflake. Today I write science fiction, fairy tales, Gothic epistolaries, fantasy and anything else that pops into my bizarre and twisted mind. I write new articles for my blog every Tuesday and Thursday. And if you happen to fancy Japanese animation, I also run an anime review blog, RRAR, which updates every Monday.

3 thoughts on “Extra: Your feminism in my FMA

  1. Pingback: Extra: 200 posts, ratings and pressing on | Risembool Ranger Anime Reviews

  2. I think that you have the whole idea of feminism wrong.. It sounds like your idea of modern feminism is just when girls want dominance over men. While there are some crazy women out there who DO want that, that’s still not what modern feminism is. It’s about equality. You seem to think that feminists want girls to wear boy clothing but act girly and such. What they really want is for girls to do whatever they want with their own bodies, because it’s their body. I think Winry is a perfect female lead in terms of feminism. She’s strong, but emotional. She shows that women can be assertive and nice at the same time. Usually when she’s working, she’ll wear her work suit, but that would obviously get hot after a while because then when she’s done she takes the top off to let in some air. Her clothing choices aren’t forced eye candy at all (which yeah, you mentioned, but still). The feminists (equalists) that I know, personally, all love Winry and don’t see her as a demeaning eye candy female role. I seriously don’t know where you’re getting these ideas of modern feminism from, but wherever they are coming from, they’re seriously mislead.

    • First off, I mentioned “often (though not always)” because, frankly, it’s the negative “feminism” I often encounter most in 1) academic settings, 2) media and 3) general discussion online. Thus, sadly, it has become the norm seen in my life. Note the “not always.” Ideally, feminism isn’t about such nonsense. Sadly, this is not an ideal world.

      Secondly, I NEVER mentioned thinking women should wear “boy clothing” anywhere in my article. They certainly can if they want. However, revealing clothing of ANY KIND is often used as an excuse for fanservice in anime. A practice I do not agree with for what should be obvious reasons. I mentioned her clothing choices because they seemed odd to me. Why pull the top of the jumper down when working? I wear those to keep oil off my arms when I work on my car. So it kinda seemed weird for the top only to be down (ventilation while working on a few things can make sense, but it’s almost always down [aside from maybe one time]. Soooo, what’s the point of it??). Her skirt was also odd for her. I’m not sure how to explain it, but it felt forced. Like they felt she had to wear something like that when she wasn’t working to remind everyone she was the female lead. It was just strange to me. A good thing to note, however, is that those were her outfits in the first version. Brotherhood had a far better grasp of her, I felt, and her outfits were better suited to her personality and general tastes.
      And, again, as I wrote, I was pleased they DIDN’T take fanservice routes with her often (aside from one of the enders in the first version…That was uncalled for). I NEVER said she was just eye-candy. I just said I’m glad she wasn’t…

      Thirdly, did you read the entire article? If not, please read my closing paragraph. I never said I hated Winry. Not ever. She is a strong, realistic character and I close with that. It seems like you read only my opening sentences, maybe the middle, and commented right away. I would suggest reading articles in their entirety before jumping to conclusions.

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