During my time in practice teaching, I did a research project where I wanted my class to do a gender swap of characters taken from the very popular Japanese based anime called Naruto. They were given four different characters that they could choose from swap the gender.

The results were a huge variation. There were so many different takes on the challenge. Most of the class was very familiar with the anime and were engaged in making these characters. Even those who didn’t enjoy drawing as an activity, really pushed their limits to make it through. I think that was exiting and also inspiring to see.

A more challenging aspect of this research was when some of the students didn’t have any idea of how a character could look like if another gender. I, myself, find doing a gender bend on a character to be a pretty simple concept, but it was not too obvious for the students.

Through this encounter between students and art, I discovered the complexity of gender roles and how nothing is taken for granted. I was not prepared for the complexity and multiplicity that followed the other children’s own implicit understanding of the world.

I felt the most inspired about the gender as a theme and how artistic practices can challenge our own gender stereotypes and thus accept the diversity in people. Therefore, I hope to further explore that aspect of art and how to create more art in that direction. Maybe not by gender bending Naruto characters, but in other ways through art and different encounters.

1 Comment

  1. Jennie Gubner

    Thank you Leslie, this is so interesting. It is fascinating when our students surprise us with what they find challenging. These kinds of seemingly simple exercises can open such a rich world to explore about gender identity and representation. It would be great to see a whole gallery of your student’s work as well as their comments on the process. This would be an example of where ethnography could enter into the art making process to promote dialogue around important social issues. Thanks for your work!

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