Deb Aoki responded to ‘How to Not Man Up‘ with actual tips on how men should act. As it was representative of how female bloggers responded, this was really interesting. The objections I had raised were: first and foremost, that the advice was assuming too much when it assumed that the “failure at life” of John was directly caused by his failure to woo Sarah (such that fixing the latter would fix the former), and second, that they weren’t even going about correcting it in a coherent way.
We shouldn’t suggest that doing a ton of things you don’t like to try to satisfy a woman who ultimately doesn’t want you is “manning up.”
It is, at best, merely a different brand of failure.
So, seeing as she never questioned the basic assumption – that if you are male, you automatically need a girl to be happy, above and beyond other pursuits in life* – I wondered if this acceptance of the basic premise was gender linked. If so, it would hardly be surprising – women are bombarded with images of domesticity, coupledom, and romance from an early age, and even a worldly and sophisticated professional critic might be affected. Nevertheless, it would be an interesting find, because to reveal such a bias opens up the possibility of addressing it.
What did I find?
For those who discussed whether or not the relationship advice was valid, there was no real difference in the proportion of those who firmly accepted the premise versus those who firmly rejected it. However, a greater proportion of male respondents managed to ignore the issue entirely, and focus on some other aspect of the comic. Put in other terms, for roughly half the men, there were other arguments that might have primacy. For a majority of women, the romantic issue was one they couldn’t avoid, even if they didn’t agree with it.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that drawing a conclusion is risky: the sample size is too small, and participation is voluntary. However, as the anime blogosphere is itself a place where participation is voluntary, the skew for voluntary participation doesn’t really matter, because that same skew keeps people out of this community entirely.
Of course we have to be especially careful not to draw sweeping conclusions. There were still 1/3 of the women that did not think the romantic angle was the main issue. That said, it is interesting that there might be a significant difference in terms of how male and female members of the aniblog community react when romance is discussed.
Further research (with actual scientific rigor) is probably warranted.