Next Sunday, I’ll be in Los Angeles to participate in a special session hosted at Anime Expo, the largest North American anime convention. Each year, Anime Expo features an Anime and Manga Studies Symposium, which seeks to facilitate the development of anime and manga studies as defined fields of study. Our special session, “Using Anime and Manga in Education,” on Sunday, July 3, 2:30 PM to 3:30 PM, considers how we use Japanese popular culture in the classroom.
My presentation, “Dudes Need Blush Stickers, Too: Incorporating Anime and Manga into Gender Studies Courses,” builds upon presentations I have given at the Modern Language Association and the Northeast Modern Language Association, regarding potential gender-related double-standards in certain anime and manga, and how these texts provoke important discussions in literature and gender studies courses.
Much of this presentation is based on my own involvement, online and at conventions, in fan communities, and my own practices to identify gendered differences in character portrayals. For example, as shown in the image above, I have used PhotoShop to show differences between how characters, along gendered lines, are portrayed in some anime with or without blush on their cheeks. In one anime, Soul Eater NOT, these so-called “blush stickers” are often featured on female but not on male characters. To identify the difference and how it may alter the portrayal of characters, I applied this blush in PhotoShop to a male character, Death the Kid, and use this example to motivate discussions about
The session description and my presentation’s description are below. Thanks to the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation, as well as Brent Allison and Mikhail Koulikov, for organizing this special session.
Special Session: Using Anime and Manga in Education
Moderator: Prof. Brent Allison (University of North Georgia)
- Creating Confident Readers Through Unconventional Texts
Stevi Grimm (Jefferson Union High School District, Daly City, CA)
- Digital Literacy: Expanding Students’ Literary Toolkits with Manga
Alexandra Dean (Eastern Illinois University)
- Incorporating Anime and Manga into Gender Studies Courses
Derek S. McGrath (Stony Brook University)
In this session, three practicing educators provide responses to the question of how manga, anime, and other Japanese popular culture texts can be incorporated in a formal classroom setting. Old and new challenges to educators color this question – proscribed academic standards that limit teacher autonomy, barriers to students who struggle with traditional forms of literacy, and persistent conceptions of gender that reinforce certain types of readings of these texts. The session will review strategies to overcome these problems as well as engage the audience to consider how using Japanese popular culture texts can redefine gender, literacy, and ultimately what it means to “read.”
“Dudes Need Blush Stickers, Too: Incorporating Anime and Manga into Gender Studies Courses”
While writing my PhD in literature and gender studies, I have participated in online fan communities around anime and manga. In these communities, I draw upon my experiences in teaching to write and collaborate with other fans towards analysis of various texts, whether through liveblogs and re-blogged discussions, or roleplay, wiki development, and PhotoShopping. Content I develop has identified problematic representations in certain texts work, whether silencing of female characters or gendered disparities such as the application of “blush stickers” to female characters but not male characters (as I show visually by PhotoShopping screen captures to add blush stickers to male characters).
Discussions on these topics that I have hosted in the classroom, at fan and academic conventions, and online have influenced the design of my syllabi and lesson plans, which integrate anime and manga into the teaching of works in United States literature. My courses identify bidirectional influences in United States and Japanese popular culture, and my syllabi incorporate traditional and untraditional assignments: in addition to researched analytical essays, lessons provide students with opportunities to contribute to wikis, to create and to analyze fan fiction, and to use roleplay and PhotoShop to draw out alternative interpretations from assigned texts.
Over the course of the semester, students come to understand various works in anime and manga not only through analysis but through creation: they learn to recognize potential cultural, formal, and textual differences between the United States and Japan, and how their own situated perspective can affect interpretation. This has been particularly valuable in teaching gender studies to students who are interested in feminist analysis of manga and anime.