From Top going Clockwise: Japanese Kimono for Cultural Obi Tying Dance (2003), Strawberry Shortcake Halloween Costume playing Guitar Hero (2007), Sakura Haruno from Naruto Plush
This past weekend, I was watching a What Not To Wear episode on a 26 year old girl named Victoria. She had a normal 9-5 job, but otherwise spent her hours gaming and watching Japanese anime. Several times throughout the show, she would quote the Sailormoon catch phrase "Tsukini kawatte, oshioki yo!" (In the name of the moon, I'll punish you).
Now, let me just say, despite the naysayers that think What Not To Wear is a ridiculous exercise in building fashion clone robots and bashing people's personal style, I truly believe that the show has a real purpose. There's a lot of merit to the argument that looking good leads to feeling good which leads to confidence. At the end of the day, that's what that show does -- show its participants a way to feel good about themselves through their outward appearance. And confidence is more than half the battle of living life to its fullest! Nonetheless, I spent the better part of that episode feeling extremely uncomfortable.
I've mulled it over and I'm not sure I've completely figured it out. You may or may not know this about me, but I am, in many respects, a super geek. When a new Final Fantasy game comes out, I fulfill any responsibilities I have as quickly as possible and spend all other time playing until I ultimately come to the end of the game. And for those that know RPGs, that can take anywhere from 80-200 hours of play time. Playing Left 4 Dead 2 for hours with friends is one of my ideas of a good time. I've been watching anime and reading manga since I was 13 -- back when it wasn't even REMOTELY cool to do so. I go to anime conventions I do, indeed, cosplay -- one year I dressed up as a homosexual lead man from a yaoi anime (Gravitation, for those who are interested)! And yes, I was one of those people who learned Japanese for the sole purpose of understanding/reading Japanese anime and manga. Granted, that open my world up to a whole slew of awesome international interests, but at the end of the day, my motives didn't start out so worldly.
So what was it about this particular episode that bothered me? The show actually portrayed Victoria as this super cute, quirky girl that needed some fashion guidance, but ultimately kept her personality. So I wasn't super mad about how she was represented. I do think, however, that the episode reminded me of the shame I used to feel about having geeky interests. (Yes, I too, can quote the Japanese Sailormoon entrance speech from memory. "Ai to seigi no, seira no bishoujo senshi -- Seira Muun!"). Why is that? To date, no one has ever belittled me for my interests. In fact, I never hid my geekiness from my friends and family -- they just accepted me for who I was. If anything, it helped define my character and led me to my love of traveling. Maybe I just thought that being who I was would never lead me to become the stereotypical popular cheerleader. And when I was growing up, that image was still who the media told little girls to strive to be like. So sometimes it was just easier to just fall into the geek stereo type whole hog. Wear the jeans, the anime t-shirts, the sneakers and carry character plushies around. And there's nothing wrong with that if that's what you want to do. But then I looked at pictures and media of accomplished women with their high heels and tailored suits, and I wanted that too. I just didn't think that my personality complemented that kind of style. And funnily enough, I thought my geeky friends would judge me! (Even though they didn't and still don't).
I've come a long way from that pre-teen self. I'm proud of my accomplishments and I do still play games and read manga. And you know what? That knowledge has served me well in more social situations than I can count! (Seriously, there's no better way to break the ice than talking about Gears of War strategy in Horde mode). I guess all I wanted to say is that if you identify yourself as a geek, there's no reason to feel insecure or be ashamed of yourself. I run a fashion blog and play at LAN parties with the best of them. And in high heeled shoes to boot! We're all multi-faceted and that geekiness is only once side of yourself -- one that you should be proud of. And just because you're a self-proclaimed geek, doesn't bar you from looking or doing things that don't fit the stereotype!
Be who you are and don't be ashamed. And if someone judges you for it, then that's their own damn problem. Maybe that's someone you don't need in your life or that you need to make understand your point of view. Because if they really cared about you, they would never intentionally hurt you. And if someone you know feels insecure about loving anime, Korean pop, goth, or whatever the "weird" interest of the times is, make sure they know you think they're awesome and deserve to be whoever they want to be. Because if I didn't have supportive people in my life, who knows how much more insecure I might have been growing up -- and everyone deserves to have a solid support system.
If you're still with me, thanks for sticking with it. This topic has been on my mind all weekend, and I had to get it out.
Thanks for stopping by!