FMA- Allegations of Abuse and Sexism
In this, I will be using direct quotes from the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, as well as from the author, Hiromu Arakawa, and, if applicable, quotes form other forms of books and/or media.
I am writing this piece in response to several things: one, the rising number of people who seem to believe that Winry is abusive, and secondly, the debate still ongoing on deviantart over the issue of sexism in FMA. I will also briefly address the hate toward EdWin fans.
I do not aim to hurt anyone's feelings, or to belittle their ideals or preferences for pairings and so on. I love FMA, and I know a lot of those involved here do too. I hope that those who see this will read it with an open mind, and even if you disagree, know that flames will be ignored. I am open to intelligent responses, and please feel free to comment or note me as you please.
- Allegations of Abuse
Very recently, a number of fanfictions have come about claiming that Winry Rockbell is abusive, mainly toward Edward Elric. The reason is because of her wrench.
"Look at how bitchy she's being! Poor Ed is stuck in an abusive cycle with Winry, who continually hits Ed with the wrench and she'll probably give him brain damage!"
The above is the basic idea behind this. However, I would like to put forth the point that comical violence is a big part of anime in general, and most of the time is written more like a metaphor than anything else.
For example, in FMA, Ed gets in a lot of fights. Arakawa is really good at showing these injuries healing over time, like with the scar on Ed's forehead. It kept reopening because he was getting in constant fights with Scar and the Homunculi. However, with Winry's wrench, Ed's bumps and bruises are gone in the next panel. Poof! Magic! Winry hitting Ed with a wrench is there to represent emotion and comic relief, just like how Al's armor will suddenly become cartoonish and have expressions. We know that Al's armor doesn't really have facial expressions, and we laugh when it happens because we know its not to be taken seriously. All of the characters in anime have times where they look deformed (or chibi, as it were), like when Ed and Mustang are arguing about Ed drawing out Scar and Homunculi's attention. Ed's face suddenly looks like that of a freakish cartoon crocodile, with pointed teeth and a triangular face. Now, is Ed's head actually suddenly changing shape? No, of course not. It is a common theme in anime to use distorted figures or extreme actions to bring comic relief into the story. Another example where they are slightly less distorted is when Ed throws Ling and Ran Fan from the hotel room- literally. Are you actually suggesting that Ed picked up both Ling and Ran Fan and threw them ten feet?
To go off on this further, in anime there is often a woman portrayed as the love interest for the hero, and she has moments of being violent. Typically, she is also a childhood friend, or Girl Next Door (GND). As evil_little_dog stated in her own piece against Winry bashing on livejournal:
"A standard trope, at least in '80's anime/manga, was The Giant Hammer. A female character, usually the GND, would pull a giant hammer out of nowhere and smack the male lead with it. He'd get a monstrous knot, whine, and would ignore the reason he got the whack on the head - usually from eyeballing/flirting with another girl than the GND. Lum in Urusei Yatsura had not only a giant hammer, but also could throw lightning bolts. Kaori Makimura, from City Hunter, whacked Ryo Saeba over the head regularly for falling in love with his latest damsel in distress and losing sight of his job. Kei and Yuri, from The Dirty Pair, not only carried horkin' big guns, they destroyed planets. Usually by mistake, mind. It wasn't really their fault. But violent girls are stock and trade in anime and manga, and to say that Winry is particularly violent is like saying the sky is green. Arakawa's style of art and storytelling evokes what I remember loving from the stuff I read (using that term loosely - untranslated manga meant I looked at pictures and guessed what was going on) and watched. Lum and Kaori could take care of themselves. That hammer/lightning bolt was just a prop, as were the knots the Boy Next Door received from those particular items. Not to mention, showed the whole UST going on between the GND and the BND. And Arakawa grew up with this sort of storytelling. I actually applauded her for not using a giant hammer - the wrench, at least, makes sense considering Winry's profession, even if it does appear out of nowhere."
On top of all of that, what about the other characters in FMA? Riza, Izumi, Ran Fan, Olivia, and so on- all are fairly violent, but this level of dislike is aimed only at Winry. As evil_little_dog further stated:
"And if Winry's violent and that's such a horror, where are the reactions about Riza being violent? Is it different because she's a soldier? Despite her shooting at her puppy for peeing on the floor? And there's that casual underlying threat that she'd shoot Roy if he doesn't finish his paperwork that's worked into so many fan stories. There's not a problem with that, is there? What about Izumi? She threw Ed and Al around like they were rag dolls. She left them on an island to starve. They didn't know how to take care of themselves. Sure, they learned, but before Ed and Al figured out what was edible, they were slowly starving to death. That's not abuse?"
Izumi and Riza are well liked characters, and they are far more violent than Winry. They are violent in a way that is real- two seconds later, bruises are still there, bullet holes are still in the wall. However, no one would say that those two women are abusive.
"Just because Winry is cute/pretty doesn't mean you should ignore her abuse toward Ed!"
Winry being cute or pretty has nothing to do with that. If she were actually abusing Ed, her looks would not excuse it in any way. Are you seriously under the belief that everyone around Ed and Al just wink and go 'oh you' as Winry giggles and perpetuates a cycle of abuse? That makes no sense whatsoever.
To also quote my friend Rosie (aka zeowynda): "What really makes my blood boil is this: double standards.
Suppose I write a fanfic where Roy is stressed and abusing his position as Ed's superior officer. He takes advantage of him somehow and Ed feels shocked and confused. He goes home to Resembool where he talks things out with Winry and she makes it all better because she loves him and cares for him.
You can bet that I'd get tons of flamers over that because Roy is out of character and has been turned into the "bad guy".
But for some reason, grossly exaggerating a characteristic of Winry's thus making her out of character and turning HER into the villain is fine.
You can argue all you want that "it's an AU fic, so it's okay". But that doesn't change the fact that abusing the woman's character is considered acceptable moreso than the male's."
Furthermore, there are two big facts that stand in the way of the idea of Winry being abusive, and they are:
One, Ed and Al love Winry. They love her. You can argue for hours on end if the love her romantically or not, but the fact remains that they do. She is their closest friend; she has been there with them through their most difficult days, and in the end she is there to (in Ed's case literally) build them back up again. They know her better than anyone else does, and if she was honestly abusing Ed, (and Al for that matter) do you really think they would love her the way they do? When she is taken as a hostage they are terrified for her. When she is hurting because of Scar they hate that she is crying while they cannot help. When she comes up with the plan to get out of the military's clutches they cannot bear the idea of her putting herself in such danger. They love her, and both boys are self aware enough to get away from people that treat them badly. They are not, as fanfictions often portray them, completely broken little boys desperate for any affection. A part of them is still hurting, sure, but wounds like what they have suffered don't ever fully heal. As they go on their journey, they learn the value of their own lives. As Al screams at Ed after Ed was willing to let Scar kill him:
"How could you do something so stupid as choosing to die when you could keep living!? You might find a way to restore our bodies if you survive and learn more about alchemy! And you might even find a way to save poor girls like Nina! How could you toss all those possibilities away and pick death?!"
These words do not show boys trapped in endless misery, unable to even get out of an abusive situation. Ed and Al are strong, and are very set in their morals, and know themselves and their worth. As such, they would not take abuse of any kind.
Secondly, does it really make sense that if Winry was abusing Ed in any way that Al or Pinako would stand for it? Pinako loves the boys like they were her own, and the whole series focuses on how much Ed and Al care for each other. Is it that Al is being blinded by Winry's cuteness? Because a pretty face will stop Alphonse Elric, who loves his brother so much, from protecting said brother. Right. Pinako and Al would not stand by and watch if Ed was being hurt by anyone. They would step in immediately. And that's the truth.
-Sexism in FullMetal Alchemist
Note: I will be responding specifically to NaokoElric's rant, as well as another person she quoted in her comments. Once again, my words are not meant to offend in the least.
"The first thing I just cannot understand about Arakawa-sensei is, being a woman, why did she make the main protagonists (Edward and Alphonse Elric) male and the main supporting character (Winry Rockbell) female. Due to this, we had the typical: "Male(s) go/goes on adventures to reach a goal, while the female best friend/love interest, oblivious as to what is happening, waits at home" trope! I know Winry travelled with the Elrics every now and then and learned some things, but it is still just annoying that Arakawa-sensei used such an over-used plot device!
She should have made the made the main protagonists a pair of sisters and Winry a boy and have the rarely seen story where "Female(s) go(es) on adventures to reach a goal, while the male best friend/love interest, oblivious as to what is happening, waits at home."
How many series have a pair of sisters as the main protagonists, rather than a pair of brothers? Fem!Edward (Edwina) would have been a short, tomboy with a flat-chest but was also loving towards her younger sister, and Fem!Alphonse (Alphonsa/Alice), your sweet, cute, feminine girl, with a rarely seen tough, badass side (which would make her femininity acceptable)."
Okay, to start off as my friend Dearheart said in her own response, this is a shonen manga, most of the main characters in that particular genre are male. And while a story about a pair of sisters would also have been interesting, just because the main characters aren't female doesn't mean the work is sexist. Look at Harry Potter- the main character is male, but there are a ton of powerful female characters, and in the end it is only thanks to a female (Harry's mom Lily) that Harry lives in the first place. Speaking as a writer, often you don't' sit down and think 'hmm, is this character going to be a boy or a girl?' The character simply is. Because we think of them as a boy or as a girl immediately, not because we think stories with boys will be more popular, or because we are sexist. I've seen books with female main characters that are full of sexist ideals, like Twilight. The gender of the main characters does not determine if a book is sexist, it is down to how the characters are portrayed. You may argue that because Winry is not constantly with Ed and Al that this does portray sexism, but it simply isn't so.
As defined in the dictionary, sexist means: discrimination on the basis of sex (usually said of men's attitude toward women).
Winry staying at home does not mean the author is portraying sexist ideas. Merely because she serves as something for the boys to come home to does not mean that she is thought to be less then men. You can compare it to real world examples of wives or families waiting for people to come home from war- are those families being weak too? Are they portraying bad ideals? No, of course not. They are doing two things: going on with their daily lives as best as they can when those they love are in danger, and two, giving said love one hope in the knowledge that his/her family is there waiting for him/her. Winry waits for them, yes, but she does not spend every waking second looking out the window and sighing, far from it. She builds automail, and not just for Ed. She works hard doing what she honestly loves, and on top of that she's one of the best automail engineers there is. So how is her staying at her house, doing what she loves, and being there for Ed and Al when they come home sexist?
To quote Sarah Dessen's book 'Along For the Ride':
"Maybe it was true, and being a girl could be about interest rates and skinny jeans, riding bikes and wearing pink. Not any one thing, but everything."
Also, the last line of that paragraph honestly made me mad. Why in the world is it that only in that particular situation would femininity be acceptable? Why is femininity in itself bad, exactly?
You said yourself that Winry traveled with them and learned, so clearly she didn't spend all her time waiting for them; in fact, after she starts living in Rush Valley, she is quite busy herself, and she lives her own life.
"Winry could have been a cool character, but instead she was made a ditzy cry-baby, who 'cries for those who will not cry for themselves, such as Edward and Alphonse', which is just pathetic. She wore far too revealing clothes (tube tops/midriff-bearing tops and mini skirts) as well.
She was also reduced to a hostage to keep Edward doing as the military says. I know she came up that plan to get herself out of that hostage situation, but does little to counteract what a sexist character she is."
Firstly, another definition, just so we are all on the same page. 'Ditzy' is flighty or easily confused; mildly or harmlessly eccentric.
However, people tend to use the word ditzy as synonymous with stupid or air headed, so I will also counter that definition.
Also, you are free to not like such situations, as everyone has different preferences. All I aim to do here is show how such a situation isn't inherently sexist.
Winry isn't flighty. She gets excited, she gets angry, but she isn't flighty. And she isn't easily confused either. In fact, despite all of the crazy things going on around her, she copes well with the idea of homunculi and so on. She doesn't simply say 'huh?' or freak out. Instead, she basically said "okay" and tried to help however she could.
Winry clearly isn't stupid; her profession would not allow that. She also isn't air-headed: she gets excited about what she loves, but she also focuses on important issues and is often serious.
Yes, Winry cries. She cries a lot, Arakawa says so herself. However, there is again a difference between crying a lot, and being a crybaby. Crying is like shouting or ranting- its just a release of emotion. It doesn't make you weak, it just means that that is how you express emotion. Being a crybaby means you cry over everything, that when you cry you just sit down, sob, don't move forward. The kind of person who would cry over spilled milk as it were. (In this case, as Ed would have most likely spilled said milk, Winry would most likely scold him or laugh) Yes, Winry cries. She cries when a friend dies, when she is suddenly confronted with the man that murdered her parents, when she is a child, when she remembers the horror surrounding Trisha Elric's death, and Ed and Al's failed human transmutation. She cries in happiness when the boys she loves return home, safe and sound. Yes, she cries, but it does not stop her from functioning. It does not stop her from trying. She does not cry when she breaks a dish, or when her bed isn't made. She cries when she is dealing with serious emotional upheaval, and how exactly is that wrong? I cry, and I know that I am not weak. I cry when those I love are in pain, even if they do not cry, because I love them and it is what comes naturally to me. Crying for those you love isn't pathetic, it is an action rooted in the fact that you love them. Crying, or not crying, doesn't make you either weak or strong. Rather, it just means that you deal with emotion differently.
And yes, she wears skirts. Oh, the horror! She wears skirts, she wears tube tops, but what makes it too revealing? Her underwear is not flashing for everyone to see. Her tube top is usually kept covered by her work suit (and later the tube top gets scrapped for the zippered top) and everything private is covered. She wasn't walking around in a bikini all the time. She didn't go flashing her boobs to everyone. She wore what was comfortable, and what was easy to work in. I happen to find skirts (long and short) very comfortable; sometimes pants or even shorts can be really constricting as far as movement goes.
"She was also reduced to a hostage to keep Edward doing as the military says. I know she came up that plan to get herself out of that hostage situation, but does little to counteract what a sexist character she is."
She was used as a hostage because Ed and Al care about her so much- as a trump card, the thing played to ensure victory. Had Maes Hughes still been alive at this point, I'm sure he would have been a hostage for Roy along with Riza, Havoc, Falman, Breda, and Fuery. It has nothing to do with her being a girl, just that she is very important to Ed and Al. And
why does the fact that she puts herself in danger and comes up with the idea that gets her free not counteract the so called sexism? It is a clear stance of power. Sure, she's not beating anyone up, but she came up with an idea that no one else there (including the many men) did. It was highly important to the events that followed; as a result, Ed was able to move freely.
"She also gets her soul stolen due to the activation of the National Transmutation Circle and had to be saved. I know she was not the only one, but still Winry had to a part of that did she not? She had be one of those who needed saving, even all the other important characters were not? She had be one of those who needed saving, even all the other important characters were not? She had be one of those who needed saving, even all the other important characters were not?"
Well, of course she had to be a part of it. The entire country was! And actually, she wasn't the only important character that was involved in it: Olivia Armstrong and her brother, two very important characters, were also. Along with, of course, Gracia and Elysia Hughes, who, though not main characters, are still important. And also Mustang's subordinates were caught up in it too- Winry was not the only important character. She was emphasized so because, once again, of her importance as a character. Ed and Al love her, and so do many readers. Seeing her like that would really cut a lot of people to the core, and would have immense shock value. If she had some weird ability to avoid the effects of the mass transmutation, it would have made no sense to the plot, and would have vaulted Winry into Mary-Su-dom.
"She does very feminine, stereotypical things such as the laundry and baking. I mean in chapter 84, Edward tells her to bake him as apple pie and keep it warm for him and she agrees! I mean, in reality, Edward was saying, as AveriaAlexandros puts, "Get back in the kitchen and make an apple pie for me" and Winry was responding, "Of course, I'll do something stereotypical for a girl as you're my man and must tell me what to do"."
If you bake you are putting feminism back years! Guess I better stop making cookies even though they are so delicious
*gazes off into the distance, imagining cookies* And laundry is sorta essential if you want clean clothes. Would it have been better somehow if Pinako, another woman, had done the laundry? Or perhaps they could have trained Den to do it. As Dearheart said:
"To me, Winry is proof that you don't have to be a gun-toting, karate-fighting, power-flaunting tough girl to be awesome in your own way."
"Let's not forget about that scene where Winry first met Scar, learns he killed her parents. Instead of being strong and confronting him in a brave manner, she started bloody crying, sunk to her knees, looking pathetic and weak, despite the fact that she picked up a gun and contemplated shooting him!
To make this is even worse, it was the boy (Edward) that had to jump in front of the girl (Winry) and protect her. The boy had to get the girl to put the gun down. The boy who had to comfort the girl while she cried her little heart out like a baby! The girl had to be left in the protection of the Military, as if she could not protect herself!
How you could have wrote and drawn this, Arakawa-sensei? How could you make our own gender look so pathetic?"
I still don't understand why crying is so bad exactly. She was filled with despair and fury, and the emotions overflowed. Now, in one moment, she learns the truth as her friends stand fighting for their lives. She picks up a gun, even though shooting someone goes against what she believes in. So she cries, and she desperately wants to shoot him, while at the same time she can't make herself do it.
I would also like to point out that Ed, the male protagonist, also does not shoot anyone in the series. In fact, he has a 'resolve to not kill'.
Why is crying pathetic and weak? How is it any different from shouting or screaming or storming off?
And of course Ed jumps in front of her- he loves her. You can argue if its romantic or not all you like, but he does love her. And because she is in danger he jumped in front of her. It is just like Al saving Ed and vice versa a million times over in the series. If you want examples of women saving men in the series, here are a few:
Riza saving Roy from Scar.
Izumi moving Roy aside when he'd been blinded, and could not see what was coming.
Riza saving Havoc's life when they are fighting Barry the Chopper's body.
Ran Fan saving Ed and Ling by arriving with her awesomeness during the fight with Pride in the outskirts of Central City.
Mei saving Scar from Ed and Al's attack.
And I know that there are more.
Lastly, well, duh, Ed left her with the military. What else could he do? She was upset, but he could not afford to stay with her because Al needed him. He wasn't exactly going to take her with him (he would not ever want her in danger like that) so he did what he could to ensure that she wouldn't be left alone, so that she could be taken somewhere with water and comfortable chairs. It's the military's job to protect people, and so that is what Ed has them do.
"I would have liked Winry more if the above things were different, I think Winry should have been male, yet still have been in the same situation, and go though same things in the manga I had issues with, as, with Winry being male, it would no longer be sexist to us women. Male!Winry (Winter) would have been your typical manly mechanic, who has a soft, emotional side to him."
Why, exactly, would changing the gender fix everything? If Winry were a male, 'Winter' would still be crying, still be waiting at home. So everything is magically okay when the gender is changed? He would also probably do laundry, and bake. These traits alone do not make someone a stereotype. I would also like to point out that you called 'Winter' a "typical manly mechanic"- isn't that stereotyping? Not all men are particularly manly- some love Disney movies and cry often.
Now to move on to her part on Roy and Riza.
"Firstly, why did Arakawa-sensei make the woman the subordinate, and the man the powerful State Alchemist (well expect that he is useless in the rain) and Superior Officer/Boss? Furthermore, even though she is a tough gunslinger, Riza was turned into a bit of a Damsel in Distress as The Führer made her, like Winry to Edward, a hostage to keep Roy in check. She was also twice made into a complete Damsel in Distress when she was attacked by Gluttony, and later, when her throat was slit. She was saved on both occasions, despite her skills, the first time (the Gluttony one) by men!"
They are both very powerful, just in different ways. Riza is not his only subordinate, most of them are in fact men. And, Olivia Armstrong, a Maj. General, outranks Mustang. The ranking has little to do with it. In fact, if you want to get symbolic, remember the chess pieces Mustang refers to his group as? Riza is the Queen. The most powerful piece on the board, while Roy himself is the King, who in comparison is much weaker.
Riza, along with all of Mustang's other subordinates, was used as a hostage because Roy cares about her, and them. As I said before, if Hughes had been alive he would probably have ended up as a hostage too. And yes she was saved; so what? Her life was in danger, and it was more than any one person could handle. Even when Roy interfered with Gluttony, he didn't kill the homunculus. When Roy was blinded he was way vulnerable as well. And who made sure that he stayed alive? Who helped him to fight again? Riza.
"Then there is Riza crying when she thought Roy was dead. I mean do we ever get a scene where the man is crying and screaming because he thinks the woman he loves is dead? Even if there is a scene like that, the man does not cry most of the tine. Another example of Arakawa-sensei's self-sexism."
Ahem. Roy freaks out when Riza's throat is cut. Ling freaks out when Ran Fan is hurt by Bradley. Hohenheim openly cries many times when remembering Trisha. Ed and Al cry when their mom dies. And, as Dearheart said, generally men cry less than women. It's a biological thing. Our hormones make us more likely to cry (and go batshit a few days every month at that).
As this is getting long, I think I will split the rest. Please comment, and enjoy.