Puella Magi Madoka Magica as a feminist analogy

A few warnings and disclaimers before we begin.  I am going to talk about violence against women and girls in this essay; if such content is something you need to or wish to avoid please do not continue.  I use the pronoun "It" to refer to a particular creature; I know that people who are genderqueer and others object to being referred to with this pronoun and I would not use that pronoun with a fellow human.  It is only due to the creature's inhuman nature that I'm willing to use such dehumanizing language.  This also contains spoilers for Puella Magi Madoka Magica and assumes a familiarity with the show.

Most of the stories in the magical girl genre are about growing up and Madoka is undoubtedly a bildungsroman.  However it is also a feminist dystopia of the same vain as Margaret Atwood's "The handmaid's tale" or Christine Love's "Analogue: A hate story".  Acting as an allegorical mirror to our own society, drawing our attention to the issues of gender that we might otherwise accept  as normal.

In abstinence only classes across america there are cups of water are being passed around where everyone spits into it.  The teacher then tells that girls are like this cup and the spitting into it is like premarital sex.  I will leave explaining why this is objectifying and slut shaming as an exercise to the reader.  However it illustrates that to some people sexual behaviour is like a taint on a persons soul.  The most extreme example of this distorted thinking is the Madonna-whore complex where women are divided into a false dichotomy of pure virgin Madonna and debased whores (to ensure there is no confusion this is neither my view of women or sex workers).

In Madoka we have a very similar situation the girl’s soul gems become tainted, not just by using magic but also from the experience of fighting.  The mental strain of risking your life and the strain of living.  The misogynists binary of Madonna and whore is transformed into the magical girl and the witch.

There is within the patriarchal aspects of society an effort to permanently infantilizes women.  To treat them as perpetual girls.  Never allowing them to mature into a true adult that one must respect as a peer.   She must never be allowed to become a threat.  The magical girls in Madoka are trapped physically in the form of a girl, womanhood forever synonymous with being a threat to mankind.

This idea of women being threatening is amplified by Sayaka when she confronts the misogynists on the train.  She stops being the girl that society expects her to be and becomes a woman.

Indeed Sayaka’s and Kyoko’s arcs we have an exploration of and challenge to another misogynistic idea.  There are considerable social forces that suggest women and girls should subjugate their own desires to males in their lives.  However the girls are repeatedly told that making a selfless wish will not lead to anything good.  Then we are shown how these selfless efforts to help the men in their life leads to nothing but tragedy.

Then we have Kyubey.  While it is an alien driven by a psychology that is fundamentally unlike our own.  It’s actions are disturbingly similar to anyone who seeks to manipulate girls into doing their bidding.  It tells half truths, exploits naivety and like many misogynist and every colonialist attempts to claim that exploiting his victims is in their best interest, that strip mining their childhoods for entropy is all well and good because it has given the native human population civilization and advancement.

Some say that Madoka is anti-feminist because it presents historical female accomplishment as a result of Kyubey’s actions therefore erasing them.  However I don’t read the show in that way at all.  Kyubey is sexist because it erases female accomplishment and like the patriarchy itself uses this to neg and negate the girls that it targets.  Breaking their spirits, reducing them to livestock, objects in its plans.

Then we have the ending.  The structures of the old world torn down but despite Magoka’s efforts the new world isn't a utopia.  A constant reminder that every victory is just a progressive step one that has to be protected and effort has to be constantly applied to prevent backsliding and push us further to a truly equitable world.
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