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Loving Sailor Moon, loving myself: The importance of addressing femmephobia on Pink Shirt Day, by Adam Davies - guest post

I remember Sailor Moon used to be on weeknights during the late 1990s and early 2000s and I’d watch the show in secret in my basement. I’d hope that neither of my parents would come downstairs and see me watching the Sailor Scouts transforming into their superhero forms, with all their hues of pink, purple, yellow, and stars and glitter. I somehow knew I was “supposed” to be watching Dragonball Z – a fighting oriented anime with more “masculinized” main characters. I was somehow aware that the societal expectation might be that between Sailor Moon and Goku, the main character of Dragonball Z, I was expected to relate more to Goku – all masculine and muscular, with his ripped red fighting t-shirt – and engage in constant fist fighting, like Goku and his long-time “frenemy” Vegeta.

However, while I certainly enjoyed the muscular images of these fighting Dragonball Z men – even at a young age – I knew that the world of the Sailor Scouts and their pink fantasies when transforming into their superhero forms was of much more interest to me. The pink fantasies and flurries when the Sailor Scouts transformed represented, for me, the power, strength, and beauty of pink and ultimately, of femininity. Seeing the world of pink and femininity that the Sailor Scouts represented meant the world to me as a young queer boy with little queer representation of my own.

Scholars are still debating what exactly femininity is as gender norms still inherently associate pink with femininity and femininity with being a cisgender woman. What is femininity and why is it important this Pink Shirt Day? As noted by Rhea Ashley Hoskin, femininity should not be linked to any identities inherently, despite being often linked only to cisgender heterosexual womanhood. Research has investigated how femininity and feminization mark individuals as targets for violence, meaning that to be feminized or deemed feminine is to considered lesser than in our society. This level of structural violence entitled femmephobia, or the social and cultural devaluation of femininity, is an often missed discussion during anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia rhetoric.

Femmephobia is a prominent phenomenon amongst gay men, particularly known within dating apps. The devaluation of femininity can be seen online on digital media applications, such as Instagram, where many gay men might feel pressure to focus on posting “gym selfies” and showcasing increases in their muscle mass and posing in highly masculinized photos. As such, many gay men come out of one closet and into another metaphorical closet due to the psychological and social pressures to conform to dominant masculinized aesthetics, which can cultivate shame around femininity. Despite the “love is love” rhetoric and all the movement in gay rights and representation within the last twenty-five years, there is still a lingering shame around femininity that haunts gay and queer communities and marks feminine gay men (and queer folk widely).

Of course, there are many queer people who do not feel the need to hide their femininity; however, femmephobia is still an issue to be addressed within and outside of queer communities, with communities of femme individuals cultivating space for femininity. Femme, as an identity marker, emerged from femme lesbian communities in the 1940s as a way to reclaim femininity as an essential component of one’s gender identity. Nowadays, many different identities within the queer and trans communities claim Femme as a part of who they are. Femininity is powerful. Femininity is gentle. Femininity is beautiful. Femininity is strong. Whatever femininity is, it is an important axis to consider when talking about oppression to ensure that queer communities do not reproduce the very forms of oppression and gender policing within their own communities as they experience from heteronormative society.

It might be cliché, but pink has always been a very special colour to me. And on this Pink Shirt Day, I celebrate my young boy self, who loves Sailor Moon and all things beautiful, effervescent, and bold. And isn’t that a reason to celebrate? I’m sure many of us have a version of that boy within ourselves, too.

About the author: Adam Davies, PhD (they/he) is an Assistant Professor in Family Relations and Human Development at the University of Guelph. Adam has their PhD in Education and Gender and Sexuality Studies from the University of Toronto and is a Registered Early Childhood Educator and Ontario Certified Teacher.