Fangirl Saves the World

just who the hell do you think you are, anyway?


with 2 comments

Once upon a time, I had an epiphany. It started during ENGL221: Introduction to Film & Media Studies, around the end of the period, and continued until shortly before I got back to my dorm. I most vividly remember standing on the academic campus quad, and let me tell you something, I saw new colors. I could see the way things worked together; systems overlapping systems, like graph tracing paper laid over a photograph. (Sorry to be using a metaphor that relies on sightedness, but at the time, it really was like a veil had been pulled back and I honestly saw the world differently. I do also visualize the wa information is connected; in my mind, ideas are connected by glowing, colored threads.)

It was not as though the world had been crooked and it suddenly clicked into place. It was more as though the world was off-kilter, always had been and always would be, but for about twenty minutes, I was standing at the same angle – tipping my head to view a picture that was hanging off-center.

It was about Marxism. I understood, I think, the way Marx understood. Or at least, I understood Marx’s understanding. The actual content of the epiphany is irrelevant, however: what matters is the feeling during that twenty or so minutes of complete understanding.

Of course, I’m being a little uppity: I’m just a lowly undergrad. My exposure to Marxism was limited to a couple of photocopied articles, a Charlie Chaplain film, a paper on those two things, and an hour-and-a-half discussion on them. I probably didn’t actually know anything more than any other undergrad studying  Marxism for a couple weeks in a theory class; I probably understood less. What matters, as I said, was the feeling of understanding.

It occurred to me, not long ago, that I will probably never experience anything like that ever again. That’s okay. Sometimes I come close.

It happened last night, while I was reading Broken Silence, a book of translated articles, interviews and art by Japanese feminists, which I checked out on the fabulously simple advice of Anemone: to see what Japanese feminists said about, well, Japanese feminism. (Face, meet palm. Why did I not think of that?)

The article I was reading focused on masculine and feminine forms of speech in the Japanese language, and it got me thinking about some things. First, I made connections to the way a number of characters from various anime speak and what that’s supposed to say about them. (The title of this blog isn’t Fangirl Saves the World for no reason, you know.) Second, and more importantly,  I was thinking about Japanese as I have bee taught to speak it, and I realized all of the causal forms we’ve been taught are the “masculine” casual forms.

Now, since “feminine” casual forms tend to be softer and less direct, maybe learning the “masculine” forms is easier for an English speaker, who exists in a more high content/low context environment anyway; feminine speech patterns in Japanese are even less direct than masculine ones. Or, you know, “masculine” is “default,” and therefore the one that we’re taught as people learning Japanese as a second language.

More important than that is the difference in the use of kango, words of Chinese origin typically associated with academia and intelligence. “The more important the topic … the higher the frequency of kango.” Relating back up to the relative lack of directness in feminine speech and the “heavy” or “still” feeling kango conveys, women tend not to use it nearly so often as men, even in academic papers, because they are not as familiar with its use. Women, therefore, are seen as less inclined to academia than men.

Considering the relatively low rates of women at prestigious universities like Todai and the fact that education at a prestigious university or beyond undergraduate studies is often seen as harming women’s prospects more than helping, this information about kango is just another log in the fire.

So what does it all mean and what do I intend to do with that knowledge? Honestly, I don’t know. For now, gather more knowledge; seek to understand more ways in which oppression works. From there, I have no idea.


Written by Fangirl

October 26, 2009 at 11:18 am

2 Responses

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  1. Reflecting on this moment of understanding. Wow.

    And the world was off kilter and you saw it at the same angle …

    I had little idea about kango. I do know that Chinese words are used in Japanese (and Korean for that matter).

    Will keep an eye on you.

    Is this some of the reason people use -chan to their friends?


    October 27, 2009 at 12:47 am

    • I’m not entirely sure why people use -chan to address their friends. I’ve read it adds an element of “cuteness,” since -chan is generally used to address girls and very young children. It’s also used to address women younger than oneself. (At my field placement, I’m always Fangirl-chan; at first, I was Fangirl-san, but once they learned my age (20), suddenly everyone called me -chan.)


      November 4, 2009 at 11:33 am

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