Reinforcing and Breaking Gender Roles in Gakuen Babysitters

Gakuen Babysitters may be part drama, part comedy and part “aww” factor, but it still manages to point out social issues along the way.

In episode 10 of Gakuen Babysitters, Kumatsuka-sensei asks Ryuichi, Hayato and Usaida to dress in drag (i.e. wear wigs and pretend they’re girls) for her husband, who’s protective of his little girl. It’s played off as comedy, but if you look at it from another perspective, it does point something out…

Gakuen Babysitters implicitly gives the message that it’s alright to be male and do “feminine things” by making its main conceit “boys in a babysitting club”, which is not helped by the fact Ryuichi does a lot more stereotypically feminine things than his supporting cast do (he’s occasionally beaten out by Saikawa, but Saikawa isn’t around too much). In fact, most of the male cast doesn’t conform to the standards of being “manly” – even Hayato, arguably the manliest with his interest in baseball, doesn’t seem too embarrassed by having to take care of his brother in his spare time, although this could also be explained by the fact his mother’s a science teacher and so he’s used to it. Additionally, regarding the incident in episode 10, Kumatsuka-sensei is implied to be a bit of a tease (and by proxy, it’s implied that she may have deliberately misinformed her husband about the genders of the babysitting club members to rile him up). Even with this, there seems to be the idea of the show going back on its word when Ryuichi is told to “be a girl” for the sake of holding up the reputation of a babysitting club as a place for girls.

Furthermore, the fact the fathers are absent most of the time seems to imply a reinforcement of gender roles in the family (by implying the father is the main source of income and the mother takes care of the children), but then again, the mothers aren’t that great either – remember, they’re teachers. Notably, the fathers have glamorous jobs like “pro photographer” and “famous actor” which allow them to be out of the equation for story purposes (aside from one mysterious father whose main gimmick is that he looks like a “mountain man”) but either way, the show takes the opportunity to not shun parents for whatever job they do – whether that be their duty of care with their kids or work matters.

Interestingly, the argument of gender roles influencing Gakuen Babysitters works on a meta level, too. Gakuen Babysitters’ source material is a shoujo manga, which does seem to enforce the idea of girls having to take care of the children (but on the other hand, it wouldn’t sell if it were in a magazine for another demographic). However, if you’re to take the Anime News Network preview guide for this show as any indication, it appeals in roughly the same manner to people of all genders due to the comedy, drama and “aww” factor I mentioned before the Read More. Gender roles shouldn’t have to restrict a work that is so obviously bent towards one gender’s stereotype, and I think because anime and manga work on the basis of appealing to multiple demographics more than other forms of media, that’s one of the perks they have.

This was a bit disjointed because I’m not sure I could make each of these paragraphs work as a post by themselves, but I liked writing it all the same. So, if you’ve seen Gakuen Babysitters, what sort of statement do you think it makes about gender, if any? If you haven’t seen it, do you think any of the points I make here are invalid, based on what I’ve told you?



6 thoughts on “Reinforcing and Breaking Gender Roles in Gakuen Babysitters

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  1. I haven’t seen much of this show, but Sanrio Boys seemed to have some of the same themes about gender stereotypes going on, too. It’s kind of interesting how these two shows, while looking like pretty one-dimensional comedies on the surface, could inspire such discussions/takes on gender. Great post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had really liked that the show hadn’t made a big deal about boys looking after their brothers and just allowed it to be a part of the world without anyone really making a fuss. So episode 10 really kind of kicked a lot of my goodwill toward the show into the ground when it presented a character with a fairly narrow view of gender norms and not one character called them on it but they actually went out of their way to accommodate him. That said, the show has had some interesting moments that could be discussed in more depth with the parents and various characters and their responses to child raising.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t think about that accomodation thing until I got to your take on episode 10. My take on that is /because/ it’s played for comedy, it’s not a big deal, but there is an element of cultural relativism that makes me hesitant to say anything more than what I’ve already said on the matter. (It’s been noted in some academic circles that Japan is “behind” on some ideas of gender norms in comparison to the Western world…that’s all.)

      I don’t have any experience with child-raising myself, so I’m leaving that kind of post for the experts.

      Liked by 1 person

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