Be A Man: Why The Typical Gender Definitions Doesn’t Apply In Ouran High School Host Club

Bisco Hatori’s manga series Ouran High School Host Club is a different type of shojo title in how it appeals to not just a female audience, but to a male audience as well. Most series under the shojo genre tends to put a great emphasis on the romance or love triangle between the main heroine/hero and their chosen love interest(s). As Ouran’s focus isn’t on just the obvious canon couple of Haruhi Fujioka and Tamaki Suoh, the series tends to pay more attention to the friendships between Haruhi and the Host Club, as well as the crazy, slapstick humor this series has an abundance of. It’s the kind of series that has a little bit of everything for everyone. What’s particularly great about reading this series is how the usual gender definitions doesn’t apply.

One instance of the “rules don’t apply” that Ouran demonstrates is the obvious appearance of Haruhi herself. When the manga begins, both the reader and the Host Club members presume she’s a boy. It’s only toward the end of the first chapter of Volume 1 is it revealed that the “he” is really a “she.” This little mix up and Haruhi’s choice to wear her hair in a boyish cut and don clothes that would be identified as strictly for a male is of no concern to Haruhi.

As the main heroine, Haruhi is identified as someone who isn’t concerned with labels. She doesn’t feel the need to always wear gender discerning clothes and she isn’t obsessed with girlie things. Haruhi only cares about attending school and living a normal life. Or at least as normal of a life as she possibly can have when you are dealing with the Host Club.

Sure, she can dress and act more like a girl at school, but she chooses not to.
Sure, she can dress and act more like a girl at school, but she chooses not to.

Haruhi isn’t classified as the typical girl in the series and she’s comfortable with that. She may happen to be a girl posing as a boy due to some crazy circumstances, but she doesn’t really care whether the school views her as a boy or girl. In a lot of ways, it may seem like Haruhi doesn’t want to be placed in a box. Not everything needs to be clearly marked and labeled. What matters is who you are as an individual and if you are comfortable in your own skin. Haruhi represents that idea in the series.

Another character who doesn’t follow the usual idea of what it is to be a certain gender is Mitsukuni “Hunny” Haninozuka. This resident Host Club member, with his happy-go-lucky attitude and deceptively young looking face, just loves everything involving cake and cute.

In Volume 7 of the manga, Hunny’s younger brother Chika isn’t comfortable with his older brother’s way of life. He believes Hunny is destroying the family’s reputation with his obsession for cake and fluffy bunnies. Chika thinks Hunny should be showing more restraint and toughness as the most esteemed of the Haninozuka line, whose martial arts school and technique is top rate in the country.

The volume does delve into Hunny’s past as once being a member of the Karate Club. Through flashback, Hunny is seen as disciplined and focused in martial arts, but not being particularly happy. He tries to give up his beloved sweets and stuffed bunny, but in the end, Hunny can’t do it. He comes to the realization, with a little help from Tamaki, that being who you truly are isn’t something you should stifle or store away in a closet. It’s about embracing  your individuality and disregarding everyone else who can’t accept who you are. The only one who can really make yourself happy is you. Change if you want to. Don’t change because someone believes you need to act or be a certain way.

Maybe Hunny is cursed with the looks of a little boy, but he doesn't mind. He's just happy eating his sweets with his favorite bunny by his side.
Maybe Hunny is cursed with the looks of a little boy, but he doesn’t mind. He’s just happy eating his sweets with his favorite bunny by his side.

Hunny eventually gets Chika to understand he has to accept his older brother as the sweets eating, bunny loving teenager he is. Just because he loves these things so much doesn’t mean he doesn’t take his family reputation and his martial arts skill seriously. The message at the end of this chapter is a positive one. Hunny doesn’t fit the usual gender stereotype of being the tough, macho kid who doesn’t show any emotion and may like stuffed animals a little more than what’s deemed appropriate for a guy his age. In fact, his love of cute things may be perceived as being too much of a “girlie thing” to do.

The Ouran series, at least what I have read of it so far, promotes the idea of acceptance. Whether you dress in boy’s clothes or like having tea parties with your favorite stuffed bunny, you don’t need to push yourself into embodying the typical gender definitions we’re eventually taught to accept as the only truth in life.

A girl doesn’t have to do what is always considered appropriate for a girl, like wearing dresses or putting on makeup. And a boy doesn’t have to do what’s considered manly, like acting tough or liking sports and nothing else. When you put a label on it, it restricts rather than allows openness. The fact that the world of Ouran is a place where everyone is accepted, quirks and all, is a great place to be in and an idea we should put into practice in our every day lives.

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8 thoughts on “Be A Man: Why The Typical Gender Definitions Doesn’t Apply In Ouran High School Host Club

  1. Initially, I was going to skip reading this once I figured out the subject matter. BUT, given that you wrote it, I decided that I owe it to myself to at least skim it. And, as usual, it was a well-written piece and kept me interested.

    The conclusion I particularly enjoyed. My dad was a very athletic person when he was in school (he played every sport and did fairly well). I, as his only son, dropped baseball when I was 11 and never looked back. Though I do enjoy sports fairly casually, I was never the son that he quite expected.

    So I relate and wholeheartedly agree.

    1. Thanks for reading it! 🙂 I turned out to be the typical girlie girl and was never a tomboy. My older sister, on the other hand, was very much the tomboy when she was a kid. She hated dresses and was always into playing the toys that were considered more for boys than girls. Either way, it doesn’t matter what you’re into. As long as it makes you happy and comfortable is what counts the most.

  2. I have not read the manga, but am in the middle of watching the anime and I have loved all the ways that they play with gender. In the end it does not matter and there is a place for everyone. The anime is just so happy. I am not really a girlie girl or a tomboy. I would play D&D and video games and then get dressed up for other things. I have to say it is not until I was older I really found my sense of style. I do not know that I quite fit anywhere in high school. It was not til college that I found some true friends.

    1. I loved the anime, but I did find it a tad short. It did end way before the manga series finally concluded not too long ago. I do highly recommend you picking up the manga if you have the chance. It’s just as funny and it leaves you with a good feeling after you finish each volume. 🙂

      I never quite fit in during my grade school days, but I was grateful for the few friends I had to make the experience bearable. By high school, I had more friends. We weren’t the popular or reject kids, but we did all right somewhere in the middle. I consider high school to be one of the best times of my life. It’s always great when you find people who you click with and accept you fully.

  3. Ouran is one of my favorite series’ because of the focus on friendship and as you mentioned, it doesn’t place people in boxes. That being said, the manga breaks the 2D wall with many of the characters and proves that you can’t go by assumptions or lump someone in a box.

    While Tamaki can be seen as the typical popular playboy, he isn’t. Haruhi isn’t like any other manga character I’ve encountered. Hunny is cutesy, like Momichi in Fruits Basket (hmm they’re both good at martial arts too) and the twins are like Fred and George, only much sillier. It’s refreshing to see characters who don’t go by labels, especially since many of these personalities are rarely seen in real life. Labels would be quickly slapped onto many of the males in OHSHC in the real world. In manga-verse, its nothing odd.

    I really enjoyed reading this, its well thought out and reminded me once again of why I love Ouran so much.

    1. Thank you so much! Ouran is one series I’m looking forward to collecting and reading all the volumes. The message of acceptance and not being put into boxes so easily is such a positive and uplifting message. It makes you wish our world view were as simple as the one in Ouran. Everyone is so different from each other, but they’re all accepted without judgement or ridicule. Even creepy Nekozawa-san!

  4. I love the conclusion to this post. I have always liked “boy” things, video games, space, physics (which is still an area where men get more recognition than women). I have brought up my daughter to like whatever she likes, she loves art, and gaming and “boy” lego (I don’t know why Lego have done that now as well, they’ve created girl lego, and boy lego). She had no idea until she went to school that some stuff was for “boys” and some stuff was for “girls”. I hope she continues to like what she likes because she likes it, and not driven by society saying she should be dressed in frilly pink dresses and playing with dolls.

    Anyway, for some reason your posts haven’t been appearing in the reader for me, so sorry I’ve missed a lot of your posts. I’ll unfollow then refollow you, that should solve the problem, also I just liked your FB page if the reader fails again 🙂

    1. Thank you and I noticed I’ve been missing some posts for other peoples’ blogs on my reader as well. Strange. Thank you for liking my FB page though! 🙂

      This is why I really like the manga series of Ouran. While it’s really funny and entertaining, it also gives out some really positive messages about being your own person and disregarding anyone who may judge you. It also promotes the idea of not conforming to any one idea about who you are and should be. Everyone is so different in the series and it’s a beautiful thing to embrace. The world would be boring if everyone was the same.

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