Priestess

Posted by on July 26, 2013 in authority | 8 comments

A shrine priestess and her little sister

When I was a kid I took cello lessons. These lessons were offered in the local RLDS (now Community of Christ) chapel. I remember seeing pictures on the wall of women participating in blessings and feeling uncomfortable. There was also a smug sense of superiority– I knew better than to think that women could offer blessings.

Sometimes I wish I could have a nice long conversation with 12 year old me. I would tell her all sorts of things. One of the things I would tell her is that feeling superior to others is very rarely a good thing. Another thing I would tell her is to watch Inuyasha. No really.

Watching Japanese cartoons, and reading manga are some of my more embarrassing habits (a friend of mine once said he’d be less embarrassed to admit to watching porn). I blame Avatar the Last Airbender. It is the gateway drug to anime addiction.

Right. Back to Inuyasha. Inuyasha is a cartoon about a middle-school age girl who time travels back to Japan’s feudal era and encounters a dog half-demon (or hanyo) named Inuyasha. They travel around battling evil demons (yokai) and getting up to all sorts of crazy hijinks.

So why would I encourage smug, self-righteous, 12 year old me to watch this cartoon? For the Miko characters. Miko, commonly translated as Priestess, are women who have spiritual power and duties. They wear ceremonial clothes, perform religious rites, and are seen as authority figures.

Now, I’m not saying that watching anime will cure sexism. Ha! Hahahahaha. I wish. What I am saying is that seeing situations, even wildly foreign, occasionally silly, cartoon scenarios in which women exercise religious authority will help young women see that they, too, have spiritual power and gifts. Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

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8 Comments

  1. Oh! This is such an excellent point I hadn’t thought of. It reminds me of how so many people from the United States can see the problems of modesty rhetoric in fundamentalist Islamic culture but don’t think twice about the damage that our modesty rhetoric can cause our children.

  2. “What I am saying is that seeing situations, even wildly foreign, occasionally silly, cartoon scenarios in which women exercise religious authority will help young women see that they, too, have spiritual power and gifts.”

    Excellent point. I think our girls will watch shows and read books that feature professional women, but finding women exercising spiritual authority is harder to come across. You are right on — we need to make sure our girls see this.

    I remember being about 14 and driving to church with my mom. We passed by a congregational church with a billboard that said something about Pastor Marsha Graham. I was taken aback and said, “Mom, did you know women could be pastors?” (Apparently I had never seen a woman religious leader before.) Mom, good for her, responded that a lot of women are ministers and that women are often drawn to that sort of work because they love to care for people. Ok, there’s a bit of gender essentializing there — but I loved the fact that she affirmed women as spiritual authorities. Hopefully my own daughter will realize much much earlier that the world holds all sorts of possibilities for women, possibilities not yet available to her in her tradition.

  3. I love this. We covered Elaine Dalton’s conference talk today in RS, and the teacher asked, “What are some of the things that stand in the way of understanding what God wants from us?” My immediate thought was that we don’t have a lot of good role models.

  4. Great idea, Starfoxy! Your experience reminds me of one time when I was a missionary and my companion and I ran into an RLDS couple. We talked to them for a while and they told us they weren’t in favor of the move to ordain women. I didn’t say this out loud, but I thought, “Right! Doesn’t this heresy your church is doing suggest that you all were on the wrong side of the split?” Now I totally disagree with my previous self.

  5. Makes me want to give Inyuyasha another chance. We (my wife and I) hit a problem in the first episode with the 6-breasted monster. We took it as an indicator that the fanservice/nudity level would be too high to bother watching more. (Certainly not in the level of Ranma, but an indicator). We love anime, but there’s always the trouble of finding titles that we’d be comfortable watching with our kids and parents. I tried to point out to my sons the sexism in anime they enjoyed where the male avatars were always fully clothed and the female ones were always naked, and the female characters tended to have skimpy outfits that monsters kept wanting to try and squeeze them out of, but it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. There’s some really good stuff out there, but it’s hard to find and can be really hard to get through people’s preconceptions about anime and manga.

  6. I remember watching Inuyasha as a teenager, and I really enjoyed the female characters. The show is filled with tropes especially after 100+ episodes, but I remember the female characters being able to hold their own in fights against the demons. Even Kaede, the old woman, was a well respected sage and leader of the village. I’m not saying this is the perfect feminist anime though. I don’t think I could watch it now and enjoy it the same way I did 10-15 years ago. The teenager romance stuff would make me gag now. lol.

    Frank, I’m not sure what age your children are, but I too have a huge problem with fanservice in anime. In recent years the new anime that’s been coming out has only gotten worse, imho. I could recommend some titles that I’ve really enjoyed. My all time favorite is Rurouni Kenshin. Fullmetal Alchemist, Samurai 7, Escaflowne, Romeo X Juliet, Last Exile, Mushi-Shi, Moribito, and Trigun make the top of my recommendation list. These may be older titles, but they have little to no fanservice(because I can’t stand it!). I’d be happy to tell you more about any of them.

    • They’d all be on my recommend list as well. Moribito I’d specially recommend as the main character is a female bodyguard. Last Exile also has some good, strong female characters. Both are working in some heavy patriarichal societies, but still worth the time. Just finished Vandread, which is low (but still on) the fan-service scale, dealing with two societies, one that is all men, one all women, and the problems that come when a crew of female pirates are forced to take three men onto their crew.

  7. Starfoxy:
    If these CofC women are operating without authority, what benefit is it to look at them as an example? The RLDS gave women the priesthood in 1984. How do you give what you do not have?

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