When I say I'm a feminist, I get a lot of reactions. Disgust, incredulity, surprise, an eye-roll...(the eye-roll is the most common). The surprise I think comes from feminism clashing with my other interests. Interests like trashy romance novels, rom coms, and most especially, shojo manga.
First let me begin by saying that feminist shojo IS out there. It does exist. It's harder to find and it might not even be that good, but I promise it's real. Also let me say that not all shojo is inherently anti-feminist. There are many manga-ka out there that try and present well-rounded heroines that don't necessarily NEED their hot bishonen counterpart to complete them.
But trust me, it's not the norm. Like this manga for example...
Stepping on Roses Barefoot, which is about a girl who literally sells herself into marriage to a guy who bullies her and emotionally abuses her. She falls in love with another guy, almost runs away with that guy, then realizes that guy is psycho (ties her up and sets their room on fire so they can die together) so she goes back to her husband who continues to treat her horribly. But don't worry. She 'changes' him.
Or some of Arina Tanemura's early works, almost all of which feature an extremely dumb heroine who basically need to be physically, emotionally, or sometimes even spiritually saved by the hot guy.
Here is the basic rundown of any shojo manga plot.
Girl: I am a happy high school student, who is cheerful but a little thick, and I want to fall in love! La la la la!
Boy: I am the confident, suave, devilishly good-looking boy (who might be just a little dangerous) who is going to sweep you off your feet! *sweeps*
Girl: Oh! *swoons* How DARE you sweep me off my feet! I am filled with righteous anger!
Boy: Oh, you'll be in love with me soon enough.
Boy's Ex: I am here to be a monkey wrench!
Girl: How dare you be a monkey wrench!
Girl's Close Guy Friend: I've always loved you!
Girl: I don't know what to do!
Boy: I love you!
Girl: I love you too!
And everyone lives happily ever after. Give or take a few variations.
So why do I keep buying these things? Why am I on volume four of Stepping on Roses Barefoot with every intention of buying the next one?
I think it's probably along the same line of thinking as to why I read trashy 'historical' smut, Johanna Lindsey and the like. I don't read those things for the plot. I read them for the sex.
I don't read shojo manga seriously. I read it for the pretty artwork and the cheesy romance.
This also brings forth a theory I've had for a while that I might actually be a Twilight fan if it had debuted as shojo manga rather than a book...or hell, even a trashy romance novel. (That would require it to have legitimate sex though, not a freaking fade to black...damn cop-outs.) I probably would have read it. I probably would have still hated Edward and been a Jacob fan. But I wouldn't loathe it with the ever burning passion I do now. That's because I expect more out of books. Not to say that I haven't been surprised by the depth of certain manga series--but when I start reading Marmalade Boy or something by Rie Takada I'm honestly letting my brain take a break.
I am not expecting a shojo romance (and would be horrified if someone attempted it with me.) Nor do I read Marmalade Boy and think, 'Boy, I sure wish life were more like a shojo manga!'
Because frankly, my life doesn't need any more complications.