Lately, I’ve become obsessed with the 1998 anime, Berserk. I often tend to relate whatever is going on in my real life to my latest obsession, whether it be a book, movie or TV show. This section on feminism seemed to coincide with the most recent episode I just watched of Berserk.
Long story short, the anime follows a group of mercenaries called “The Band of the Hawk”. One of the main characters is a woman named Casca who also happens to be their second-in-command. She is the only female member of the Hawks and she is one of the most skilled warriors in their ranks. Her male comrades often praise her for her military prowess and recognize the fact that her swordplay far surpasses theirs. Although she has the respect of her own men, whenever she encounters enemies on the battlefield, they always see her as their idea of what a woman is “supposed to be” and mock her solely because she is a woman. Her enemies often underestimate her and become shocked when they realize she is a more-than-formidable-foe. And this realization brings them to hate her. The idea that a woman could possibly match or surpass their skills humiliates them, and in turn they reflect these feelings on to her by often threatening to rape her once they defeat her in battle (seriously, every time she’s in a fighting scene they threaten this, proving that they cannot recognize her as an equal, but only a sexual object). The thing is she never gets defeated by them, she either kills them herself or gets assisted by one of her loyal comrades.
The phrase that resonated with me while reading Gilbert and Gubar’s “The Madwoman in the Attic,” was, “assertiveness, aggressiveness- all characteristics of a male life of ‘significant action’- are ‘monstrous’ in women precisely because [they are] ‘unfeminine’ and therefore unsuited to a gentle life of ‘contemplative purity’ (819). Because Casca cannot be defined by the docility normally attributed to women, her enemies loathe her even more than they would if she were a male opponent. She commands her men with an effective hand, and they follow her without hesitation. Her position of power on the battlefield is usually something garnered by men; her enemies seem to be unable to grasp the notion that a woman can be just as powerful as a man– if not more so and are made uncomfortable by this. They see her a vile and monstrous being and become enraged, often taking their duels to a personal level because they feel that their manhood is threatened by a woman of power.
Even her own commander, Griffith insults her status when he tells her that a woman’s duty is to keep a man warm at night. He orders her to lay by the side of wounded solider in order to keep him warm through his recovery time. To me, this feels like he is trying to force her into an “angelic role.” In order for female characters to be received positively, it feels like they have to be “neither great nor extraordinary” and serve as a foil to male characters (816). Despite the fact that she proves herself to be a valued member of the Hawks time and time again, despite the fact that she is second-in-command, her own leader is blinded by society’s hegemony of they idea that women must be subservient to men.
For me, Casca serves as a motivational character, a strong female who is not afraid to fight back and prove her worth. A character like her is refreshing to find, especially in anime where female characters are often over-sexualized with disproportional breasts and butts. Yawn.