Why Not Both? Femininity and Masculinity in Tenou Haruka

Only 90s kids remember this cute commercial from a couple years ago because only 90s kids remember anything.

90s kids especially remember Sailor Moon and all of the awkward things DiC did to hide the gays, but no amount of “cousinly affection” can hide the fact that Tenou Haruka, AKA Sailor Uranus embraces both masculinity and femininity without experiencing any conflict between the two.

 As I discussed in my previous post about Sailor Moon and feminism, the sailor senshi gain the power to defend the universe exclusively through femininity. Most of the senshi are already pretty feminine in their regular lives, so there’s not a stark change when they don femininity to rid the world of destructive evil.

No really, why not both?

Then, there’s Haruka. She’s androgynous, uses “boku,” and is the smoothest smooth talker in the solar system. She hits on Usagi a little bit in the anime and a lot more in manga. At the same time, she distrusts Sailor Moon for a good portion of the S season and it almost seems like she never fully trusts her for the rest of the series. She and Michiru have a very difficult time accepting that Sailor Moon is a competent heroine.

The complexities of accepting Sailor Moon as her leader and the major issues with the monster-of-the-season trying to take over Earth are what Haruka deals with more than any conflict of her gender expression. There may be a few instances scattered here and there, but they’re not major parts of her story.

What’s interesting about Haruka’s gender expression is that she embraces both the comfort of her masculine/androgynous presentation as a civilian and the power of her feminine presentation as a sailor senshi. The power that comes with becoming more feminine is more apparent in Haruka because of her more masculine presentation when things are peaceful.

Breaching Barriers

This harmony between masculinity and femininity in one character speaks to a dichotomy among gay women that is gradually being broken down: the butch/femme dichotomy.* In one sense, Haruka is clearly the butch in her relationship with Michiru if they’re both walking around as civilians, but as sailor senshi, they’re both feminine (and it’s when they’re sailor senshi that their love really shines. Just remember their death in Stars). This shows that trying to define relationships between women in terms of butch and femme is both subjective and outdated. Butch and femme exist in harmony in Haruka, so which is she? Haruka’s character helps to break down this unspoken sense that a person has to choose whether or not they will always present masculine or always present feminine, especially if they’re a gay woman. Haruka’s civilian masculine presentation establishes her relationship with Michiru as butch/femme, but her feminine sailor senshi form subverts it because, for lack of better terms, the femme exists in harmony within the butch as opposed to only beside it. More generally, Haruka’s character is another way in which Sailor Moon supports different ways of being a girl. Once the plot tension eases between the outer and inner senshi, no one takes issue with Haruka’s gender expression. No one suggests that she should be more feminine to really fit the bill of “bishoujo senshi.” This isn’t even remotely implied.

It may be tempting to view Haruka’s femininity in sailor senshi form as a rejection of her masculinity, especially since it’s with femininity that she gains the power to save the universe. However, this would only be true if Haruka herself viewed her two identities as conflicting, which she does not. It doesn’t occur to her to strip away the power of one part of her identity with another.

Haruka is an example of a character who embraces two seemingly opposite expressions as part of herself. This is important because it shows that people can create their own identities instead of falling into society’s prepackaged expectations. Many people may fit those expectations and even fully embrace them–you could argue that most of the other sailor senshi do–but many do not. Haruka, I think, invites audiences to consider this. In the end, her existence in the series helps to solidify Sailor Moon as a series that really does celebrate women.

*The butch/femme dichotomy was once important for the sake of visibility, especially in the 1950s. For many, it’s part of how they identify today. Problems only arise when people are expected to choose one exclusively over the other when they may not want to.

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