Wrap-Up: The Endless Potential of Gender Performance
Cross-dressing can help us see beyond gender binaries, and studying other cultures in a respectful way can help us understand more about how gender expression varies from culture to culture. We endeavored to provide a brief history of ideas about gender and cross-dressing in Japanese culture as well some general gender theory to create a framework for discussing the characters and tropes in manga and anime. We examined how these tropes can vary between narratives involving men performing femininities and women performing masculinities, as well as some of the problematic tropes therein. We also focused on how cross-dressing is used for comedic effect and whether such representations of cross-dressing can avoid transphobia. Finally, we discussed two series with different views on cross-dressing: Wandering Son, which features several trans characters are perceived to be cross-dressing as well as cis characters who cross-dress; and Ôoku, a speculative alternate history of Japan that features cross-dressing in a political matriarchy. By allowing a view of gender, these works are able to dismantle social narratives about gender and cross-dressing.
Thank you again to everyone who attended the original panel as well as all the readers of this series! Kathryn’s blog is here.
Many anime and manga explore the excitement of the endless potential of gender performance, and there are plenty of scholarly resources to draw on for anyone who would like to dig deeper into cross-dressing and nonbinary gender. We’ve listed a few below to help get you started!
Manga and Anime Titles Available in English
Le Chevalier D’Eon
Knights of Sidonia
Ouran High School Host Club
Revolutionary Girl Utena
The Rose of Versailes (manga isn’t translated yet but anime is)
Angles, Jeffrey. Writing the Love of Boys: Origins of Bishōnen Culture in Modernist Japanese Literature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011.
Byrne, Peter. The Many Worlds of Hugh Everett III: Multiple Universes, Mutual Assured Destruction, and the Meltdown of a Nuclear Family. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Devor, Holly. Gender Blending: Confronting the Limits of Duality. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1989.
Garber, Marjorie. Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety. New York: Routledge, 1992.
Gerstle, Andrew C., ed. 18th Century Japan: Culture and Society. New York: Routledge, 2000 .
Greenblatt, Stephen. Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.
Hori, Hikari. “Views from Elsewhere: Female Shoguns in Yoshinaga Fumi’s Ôoku and Their Precursors in Japanese Popular Culture.” Japanese Studies 32:1 (2012), 77-95.
Kano, Ayako. Acting Like a Woman in Modern Japan: Theater, Gender, and Nationalism. New York: Palgrave, 2001.
Kates, Gary. Monsieur d’Eon Is a Woman: A Tale of Political Intrigue and Sexual Masquerade. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.
Lorber, Judith. Paradoxes of Gender. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993.
McKnight, Anne. “Frenchness and Transformation in Japanese Subculture, 1972-2004.” Mechademia 5: Fanthropologies. Ed. Frenchy Lunning Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010. 118-137.
McLelland, Mark. “Salarymen Doing Queer: Gay Men and the Heterosexual Public Sphere.” Genders, Transgenders and Sexualities in Japan. Ed. Mark McLelland and Romit Dasgupta. New York: Routledge, 2005. 96-110.
Miller, Laura. Beauty Up: Exploring Contemporary Japanese Body Aesthetics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.
Morton, Leith. “Translating the Alien: Tsubouchi Shōyō and Shakespeare.” The Alien Within: Representations of the Exotic in Twentieth-century Japanese Literature. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2009. 10-42.
Powell, Brian. “Cross-Dressing on the Japanese Stage.” Changing Sex and Bending Gender. Ed. Alison Shaw and Shirley Ardener. New York: Berghahn Books, 2005. 138-149.
Robertson, Jennifer. Takarazuka: Sexual Politics and Popular Culture in Modern Japan. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.
Serano, Julia. Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. Berkeley: Seal Press, 2007.
Wheelwright, Julie. Amazons and Military Maids: Women Who Cross-Dressed in Pursuit of Life, Liberty, and Happiness. London: Pandora Press, 1989.