Freezing Zero: Carrying Gender Reversal Too Far?

If any of you remember my post from that series of chain posts in the summer of last year, you’ll remember that I gave Freezing as an example of how ecchi can turn people away or cause them to dislike a solid show under question five.  (At least, I consider Freezing a solid show.  For an accurate review from someone who disagrees, click here.)  I consider myself an avid fan of both the show and the manga.  This is despite the fact that I often find myself skipping pages: for all my fears that I might be missing out on character development, it is possible to see too much of the character!  The characters are unusually likable and complex.  The grim and lethal fighting constantly make me fear lest any of my favorites are lost–even though surprisingly few of the main characters are killed in action.

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One thing which lends particular interest to the series is gender reversal.  Young men are limited to a support role and are less bellicose and concerned about honor than their female counterparts–which, if one remembers the Spartan mother’s pithy command: “This or on this,” might indeed reflect reality in certain societies.  Their female counterparts, Pandoras, serve as warriors against an alien invader and have an iron-bound sense of honor and esprit de corps.  Until now, I held this arrangement to be unique and tragic, but reading Freezing Zero, a spin-off of the main comic, has shocked me with its boot camp chapters.  Here I was, thinking that gym classes, martial arts training, tournaments, and instructional courses sufficed to transform a young woman into a Nova-killing machine.  But, a boot camp of U. S. Marine-level hardship exists for this purpose.  The instructor even strikes her trainees and physically torments them!

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As one who believes that even male trainees ought not to be struck, these chapters proved too cruel for me to read.  After all, the discipline of extra duty, punitive exercises, public shame, peer pressure, and reprimands suffices to punish infractions in the greatest military in the world.  Seeing women beaten–maybe even especially if by another woman–generates a feeling of horror and perversity.  Women are supposed to symbolize gentleness, beauty, civility, and compassion after all.  On the other hand, if this were a male instructor dealing blows upon men, I would find his conduct tyrannical; but, the feelings of horror and perversity would be absent.

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I suppose that this lies in the nature of men to strive after physical courage and hence endure blows, while the nature of women aligns itself with enforcing the norms of decency.  Indeed, the very idea of women being beaten impresses itself on the mind as the violation of the sacred.  One can understand men as fighting barbarity from without, women as fighting it from within, and thus both preserving civilization as a whole.  Some would say that I’m a sexist reactionary holding defunct mores from the past.  I say that exponents of feminism (Or perhaps I should say extreme feminism?  After all, what kind of man thinks that women ought to be relegated to a second class position in society?) sacrifice the nature of both masculinity and femininity to their idol of equality, which constantly sees female repression by their male counterparts.  Reading certain opinions makes one wonder if they think that God made a mistake in creating two sexes.

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The preceding remarks point out that men and women are complimentary not congruent.  There are certain roles which one side is more capable of doing than the other, and only an arrogant ideologue or bigot would despise the other for its incapacity.

Anyway, I shall still read and watch Freezing, because the characters are so lovable and the action so thrilling.  The scenario indulges in fantasy, but if it were necessary to save the human race by using young women as battlefield infantry, the scenario would need to be dire indeed.  One cannot but imagine that it should change the entire face of humanity and even lead to the abolition of mankind as we know it.

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4 comments on “Freezing Zero: Carrying Gender Reversal Too Far?

  1. MIB says:

    Good post! (And thanks for the plug!) 😛

    I suppose this is a moral dilemma as such but if the gentlemanly thing is not to hit a woman then surely it is best to let another woman do it instead? Not that violence should be encouraged of course! 😉

    Another show in which this applies to is “Claymore” in which you have the latent demon warrior woman Claire with the milquetoast companion Rocky. Since this is a fantasy show the opposition are also demons is this more acceptable as the foes – and indeed the protagonists – are supernatural beings?

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    • Thanks for your compliments! The more that I think about my revulsion to the boot camp scenes, a large part of it must have been due to the fact that the trainees could not fight back. The natural reaction to someone attacking one is self-defense. For someone to attack someone who cannot hit back, either because of weakness or because that person would be punished for insubordination if they retaliated, smacks of meanness.

      But, yes, I would say that having the opposition be demons or some kind of fantastic creature does make violence more palatable than if two women were fighting each other. Of course, in Claymore there tended to be some kind of respect between two female combatants, a code of chivalry which in itself lends a fantastic feel to a duel–with the fight between Claire and Priscilla being one large exception. (That was a difficult fight to watch! But, Claymore is filled with those!) When women are shown fighting though, there must be some element of fantasy to the combat: either they’re swinging swords, casting magical incantations at each other, performing ultimate technique martial arts moves, or hacking down monsters. Otherwise, there is something very unsettling, pathetic, or barbaric about a beating which could happen in real life. You know what I mean?

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  2. There’ve been studies done, and a lot of work in fighting hobbyist and martial arts groups, that show that women fighters generally benefit from being encouraged rather than in being treated like crud. Most young women don’t have much self-confidence and are reluctant to hit or be hit. Women who fight in really dangerous sports have to be reassured that it’s okay, and women who fight in wars usually have to feel strongly that they are defending home, family, and their fellow soldiers. Sometimes fighting springs from anger, but when it does, women usually go berzerk very easily; and many women don’t realize or care how much damage they’re doing, going straight for overkill. Which is not to say that girls can’t be aggressive. But it springs from a different place than with men.

    OTOH, there is a bad tendency among some women put in charge of other women to attack and abuse them. This is probably natural territorialism, as female monkeys do it to other female monkeys to scare them so much it keeps them from reproducing. So it’s believable that such a thing could happen in a badly run army, but not that it would produce good results.

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    • I think that you’re right. Men and women do approach stressful situations like this differently. What you wrote make it sound like men can fight on a more abstract level–if you will, which reminds me of Grant’s claim to be able dispassionately to see thousands of the enemy mowed down during battle, but having his heart break with pity for the wounded and dead enemy afterwards.

      I will say, Freezing does have plenty of infighting with certain clicks trying to keep personae non gratae down and many moments where the women go berserk in the heat of battle. So, the boot camp scenario might be counted as the most unrealistic part of Freezing or, to be more precise, Freezing Zero.

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