DISCLAIMER: This is my own response to NaokoElric's rant about sexism in FMA. I've done my best to keep my responses honest, friendly, clear, concise and backed up with evidence. Please know that I do not expect you to conform to my own beliefs (about FMA or anything else) or to agree with everything I say, that I respect your opinions, that I respect you as a real person and not just another faceless web-surfer, and that nothing I say is meant in spite or as an attack against you. Rest assured that if I make a joke or put in some sarcasm, it is all meant in good humor and not to ridicule you; and that I will do my best to be civil and polite in all my comments and replies to you.
In return, all I ask is that you act towards me in the same way. Let's just let loose, be willing to laugh, keep open minds and take time to try and understand each other.
Alright...I'm just going to skip the first few initial paragraphs of the rant and skip to where the real stuff starts.
"I was surprised when I learnt that the author was in fact a woman. The first thing I just cannot understand about Arakawa-sensei is, being a woman, why did she make the main protagonists (Edward and Alphonse Elric) male and the main supporting character (Winry Rockbell) female."
Just because Arakwa is a woman doesn't mean she HAS to make all the main characters women or focus on her own gender. She is the writer - aka the god of her story. She can create it and control it however she wants and follow her imagination wherever it leads, without anyone else's opinions holding her back. She planned and wrote everything just the way she wanted. That's what makes writing so much fun! (And personally, I admire Arakawa for being so good at getting inside a boy's head despite being female. Speaking from experience, it's not easy to accurately, realisticaly write from the POV of a character who's the opposite gender of you. Arakawa's got talent.)
Also, (though FMA's awesomeness transcends all genres in my opinion), technically it IS a shounen series - aka geared towards boys. While there may be exceptions, like you've mentioned before, male protagonists are the norm in this category. It's to be expected. Just like girls usually find it easier to relate to female characters, boys usually find it easier to relate to male characters. I fail to see why that's so wrong or sexist.
"Due to this, we had the typical: "Male(s) go/goes on adventures to reach a goal, while the female best friend/love interest, oblivious as to what is happening, waits at home" trope! I know Winry travelled with the Elrics every now and then and learned some things, but it is still, just annoying that Arakawa-sensei did this! It is such an over-used plot device!"
I'm not familiar with very many animes (bookworms FTW!), so I honestly don't know how overused it is in the genre. However, let's think about Winry's life for a second. I think it's unfair to say that all she does is sit around waiting for the Elrics to come back. Keep in mind that she has a real, paying job and her own life to attend to, whether or not the boys are there, and it would be somewhat unwise of her to drop it just to go adventuring with them. Ed's automail isn't the ONLY stuff she fixes. That's the way I've always seen it, anyway. The adventure's great and all, but there will always be ordinary lives lived by ordinary people behind the scenes, and Winry is part of that. I see no shame in that. I'm also confused as to why you don't give her credit when she DOES travel and learn new things.
"She should have made the made the main protagonists a pair of sisters and Winry a boy and have the rarely seen story where "Female(s) go(es) on adventures to reach a goal, while the male best friend/love interest, oblivious as to what is happening, waits at home. How many series have a pair of sisters as the main protagonists, rather than a pair of brothers?"
Admittedly, that would have been interesting...but for me personally, I think I'd still like FMA better with brothers than sisters. I'm more of a sucker for brotherly love than sisterly stuff, for some reason. I guess I just love it when two guys are able to have a deep, loving relationship without it automatically being labeled "gay" or twisted into something sexual, ya know? (No offense to the yaoi fangirls! This is my personal preference, so please respect it!) I adore bromance. Melts my heart every time...
"This brings me neatly on the next point of my rant: Winry Rockbell herself."
Hoo boy, here we go...
"I am not a Winry-hater. I just have some issues. However, despite these issues, Winry is my second favourite character (the first being Alphonse, and Mei Chan and Ran Fan tied at third, but still
Whew, that's refreshing to hear at least.
"The author was being just down right sexist towards herself because of the way she made Winry Rockbell. Winry could have been a cool character but instead she was made a ditzy, love-struck, cry-baby (who "cries for those who will not cry for themselves, such as Edward and Alphonse" which is just pathetic) and wore far too revealing clothes (tube tops/midriff-bearing tops and mini skirts)."
Whoa, whoa...okay...hold on, my head's spinning...
Alright, lemme tackle this one point at a time: Ditzy? I don't think that's the right word. Besides her giddy obsession with automail and the typical hormones (like Mei and her fangirl crushes on the Elrics), she's always struck me as having a very solid, smart head on her shoulders. And being cheerful and energetic isn't the same as being "ditzy" or scatterbrained. I will admit that she is oblivious to things sometimes, but that's because the Elric brothers always keep her in the dark, not because she's a "dumb blonde" or a ditz.
Love-struck? Completely disagree...and this is also one of the main reasons why I personally love the EdWin pairing. Look at the scene where she finally admits to herself that she loves Ed. Do you see any shojo-esque sparkles? Bubbles? Roses? Is Winry even blushing? No. It's a very quiet, thoughtful moment for her...and unlike other love-interest characters I've seen, she doesn't swoon over him or think about how attractive he is. Rather, she thinks about the journey, all the ups and downs they've gone through together and how much he's grown. Also, does she ever try to flirt with Ed? Does she drop any real, conscious "hints" to him? No, she keeps it to herself...because she knows he has more important things to focus on. To me, that shows maturity and genuine care for him - not "love-sickness". And it proves to me that she's worthy of him.
Crybaby? Well then, you might as well call me a pathetic crybaby too, 'cause I cry way more often than she does. xD In the words of Arakawa, "Winry laughs a lot, cries a lot and gets mad a lot"...just like any other average, hormonal, teenage girl. She's a character that I and many others relate to.
But just for kicks, let's count how many times we actually see her cry.
1: The first time is when things are falling apart between two of the people she loves most. (note: She doesn't go mope in a corner about it, she takes action and challenges Al to fix things. "You have no idea how Ed feels!! Go after him!")
2: The second time is when she is reminded of an extremely painful event for both her AND Ed, and it is also regret for breaching his trust. (think: You just went behind your best friends back and found out something horrible. At least she's strong enough to fess up to what she did. I know some people who would never tell and just pretend it never happened.)
3: The third time is after a dear friend DIES. Who wouldn't cry in a situation like that?
4: The fourth is when - right in the middle of a dangerous battle - she is facing the man that she just found out brutally murdered her parents. Again, who wouldn't cry?
5: The fifth and final time she cries is when Ed and Al finally come home to her - safe, sound and restored. Tears of joy, just like Ed promised.
So, in my humble opinion, Winry is perfectly justified whenever she cries in the manga...which is five times out of all the 100+ chapters there are (as far as I can remember). That's not so horrible, is it? And personally, I see nothing pathetic about Winry crying for the people who refuse to. To me, crying for someone is a gift. A sign that you deeply care for them and want to help them carry the pain. You may see it as "pathetic" if you want, but I think it's beautiful. I believe God created tears for a reason.
As for her clothes...she only wears her tube top and "midriff" tops at home and around people she knows well, when it's hot, and she wears it because it's comfortable, not to be "slutty". I see nothing wrong with that. Lots of other girls do the same. As for the miniskirt...it's not like we ever see her panties or anything. For all we know, it could be a "skort". And again, I see nothing wrong with that. I've seen characters wear far more revealing outfits. And anyway, why can't girls wear what they want? If they're comfortable showing off their legs or midriff, then let them. It's not personally something I'd do, but I'm not gonna go around calling others sluts for doing it. (And the girls in Bleach had WAY more fanservice/cleavage/"slutty" pictures than Winry ever did, in my opinion.)
"She was also reduced to a hostage to keep Edward doing as the military says."
Because she was his best and closest friend, not because she was a girl. Also, give her some credit! All on her own, without any help from anyone, she figured out a very smart, strategical way to get out of the hostage situation and escape from Kimblee. (And when the boys protested, she put her foot down and properly told them off!) Not only was it a smart move...it was extremely brave. Putting herself in the hands of her parents' killer took serious guts; you can't deny that!
"Finally, she also gets her soul stolen due to the activation of the National Transmutation Circle and had to be saved. I know she was not the only one, but still Winry had to a part of that did she not? She had be one of those who needed saving, even all the other important characters were not?"
This argument makes no sense whatsoever to me. The Big Transmutation Circle of Doom sucks EVERYONE'S soul out, regardless of gender. Making an exception for Winry in the situation she was in would be a painfully big plot hole and would just make her another Super Speshul Magic "Look-at-Me-I'm-Immune-to-It!" Mary Sue to me. Also, the other important characters DID need saving. Riza did when her throat was slit. Roy did when he lost his sight. Ed did when his automail got obliterated and his flesh arm got skewered and Father was all "IMMA GONNA EAT UR SOUL NOM NOM".
"She is does very feminine, stereotypical things such as the laundry and baking."
I never once saw Winry do any laundry in the manga, and I'd love it if you could point out which chapter you saw that in. (And even so...well, Truth forbid she takes care of herself and does her own laundry. Really.) And so what if she bakes? My mom and little sister bake and cook all the time and enjoy it; does that mean they're oppressed, stereotyped women who need to drop the mixing bowls and become lawyers or something? Just because one main female character in the story happens to bake doesn't mean she's a victim of sexism. It's just something she likes doing, and there's nothing wrong with that.
And I'd also like to add that that's one of the things I like about Winry. She has a job she loves and that she's talented and successful in, but she's also not above doing so-called "feminine" things sometimes. It's the best of both worlds. Frankly, I find it a breath of fresh air amidst all the endless badassery from the other FMA women. To me, Winry is proof that you don't have to be a gun-toting, karate-fighting, power-flaunting tough girl to be awesome in your own way.