But I’ll give it till the end of the arc. Until then, however, I probably won’t be posting much OP stuff. If anything, it will probably only be things pre-Enies Lobby, because I really can’t deal with the gender politics issues in the latter half of the manga any more. Oda’s taken things in a bad direction, and I can’t stand by and swallow it any more. This isn’t the same manga that I started reading.
15 years have passed since OP began, and many things have changed, but the first flags went up years ago during the Nami vs. Kalifa fight, and flew up again during the Thriller Bark bath scene. Now Nami has gone from being a complex, multi-faceted, intelligent and valuable crew member to a pair of strategically positioned breasts. Her scenes are designed to show off her body, rather than her skills, and she is repeatedly put into situations in which she is physically assaulted with the intention being to titillate the audience, at the expense of her integrity as a character. Nami is repeatedly referred to as weak, and the emphasis is on what she can’t do, rather than what she can do. Her last serious one-on-one match was in Enies Lobby, around chapter 411. At time of writing we are at chapter 677, and when we account for the 84 chapter gap during the separation of the Strawhats [514-598], that’s still 182 chapters.
Sanji has gone from a badass, fool-for-love, chivalrous pervert into a self-absorbed, pathetic molester, whose only role is to push personal boundaries, make women uncomfortable and highlight their role as sexual objects for men. He’s changed from being a misguided man whose attempts to show women how special he thought they were made them uncomfortable, to straight out drooling and harassing them. His main role is now to provide fanservice, either through his own fantasies, or by physically assaulting women so that they are forced into having their bodies sexualized. His behaviour is normalised, and played for laughs, with no concern for the women he is harassing. Every week when OP updates my first thought is ‘I hope Sanji doesn’t harass Nami’. What has this manga become that this is a genuine concern I have every week, with good reason?
Sexual harassment is played for laughs, protagonists are shown to disregard a woman’s right to her own body even after she has clearly given non-consent, and none of the in-universe characters [other than the women being harassed] are shown to care, or even consider it an issue.
These certainly aren’t the only problems, but I’m sure you get the idea.
Luffy’s still on his epic journey to becoming the pirate king, but when each step along the way if filled with increasingly serious gender politics issues I can’t feel comfortable telling people that this is a manga I enjoy reading. I’m giving it until the conclusion of Punk Hazard. Maybe Oda will pull something out of his hat- maybe Sanji will stop being a sexual harasser and realise the error of his ways, the rest of the Strawhat crew will apologise to Nami for not supporting her when she tried to stop Sanji attacking her body, Nami and/or Robin will get an awesome fight scene, and Nami will return to making maps rather than bathing in her spare time.
I can hope anyway.
To the Oda fanatics out there, feel free to rage at me. Doing so won’t change anything. The issues will still be there- just because you refuse to see them doesn’t mean they’re not real.
To those who say that I’m taking this too seriously and that ‘it’s just a manga’- media doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and we all internalise ideas and accepted behaviours for our societies by the media we surround ourselves with. Media that promotes rape culture needs to be stopped. It’s not harmless, it’s a part of the problem. Only one part of the problem, but each part contributes to the whole, and we need to stop the problem at the roots.
To the people who think that I should just ignore the problems in favour of exploring the greater ideas of One Piece- I’ve tried. I’ve tried for so long. But I can’t even think about the Absalom bath scene without it horrifying me. I can’t read about Caribou without feeling deeply uncomfortable. I can’t read Punk Hazard without the feeling of dread when Sanji harasses Nami’s body to the accolades of his crewmates. I can’t read the manga without noticing the way all of the women are postured to appeal to my supposed ‘male gaze’ at the expense of their characters. It is not wrong to criticize a work that you enjoy- without speaking out about the problems, how can we expect change?
If anybody can direct me to a manga or anime without issues like these, please do. I’m going to need something to do with my time. Until then, I’ll be rewatching Storm Hawks and the 2k3 TMNT series and enjoying the absence of issues that shouldn’t even exist.