Archive for November 2009
In light of Kate Moss’s recent comment that “nothing tastes as good as being thin feels,” I decided to put together a list of foods that I find more delicious than the feeling of being skinny (and I’ve always been fairly small, so I’ve had – ahem – heapings of thin privilege).
- milk tea
- mini Twizzlers
- peanut butter
- orange-and-tangerine juice
- Rice Krispies
- 2% milk
- fried ice cream
- yukimi daifuku
- my mom’s waffles with real maple syrup
- shrimp fried rice
Feel free to add your own!
I’ll admit; this wasn’t a connection I made, but one of the girls in my class mentioned it and I liked her theory so much that I wanted to write about it.
Our reading for this week’s class was about the culture of kawaii, and L was talking about how the goals of kawaii were, in a way, the same basic goals of Western feminism/girl power: to escape defined gender roles of subservience and submissiveness.
L’s point was that in the West, feminism went in the direction of wanting what men have: equal access to traditionally male areas of employment, for example. Women were “masculinized,” if you will: pants, high powered careers, etc. (None of this is a bad thing.) The idea was to escape the defined role of “woman” if “woman” means “wife” or “helpmeet.*”
In Japan, the general cultural trend was not to demand access to the same spaces and opportunities as men, but to abandon “adulthood” all together. According to my professor, there is a certain amount of freedom of identity of children in Japan. The outlandish fashions of young women and men alike are excused on the basis that, when the time comes, people will grow out of that phase and move on to being responsible adults. L’s point was that women attempt to escape their defined role as “women” in a society where “woman” means “mother” by simply not growing up. (Women who are not married mothers are not regarded as fully grown-up, regardless of age or experience.) Instead, she argued, women make themselves (appear) cute and helpless so that they will not be expected to participate in the grown-up world of Japanese society. (In Japanese, most adjectives can be modified with sou to mean “it seems…” For example, oishiisou means “it seems delicious.” Kawaii, or cute, does not work the same way; kawaiisou means sad or pathetic. A story where young lovers sicken and die? Kawaiisou.)
These seem like very different aims, inclusion in society or exclusion from it, but L’s point was that at the bottom of it, the goal is the same: to escape rigidly defined “womanhood.”
Kawaii as a topic fascinates me. As a lover of cute stuff and a young woman and a wannabe sociologist, I find that kawaii pulls in a lot of ideology about urban life, alienation, consumerism, gender, sexuality, psychological safety and so on. Expect more posts on this vein in the near(ish) future.
*Someday I’ll do a post about how much I hate this word/concept.
I don’t understand how people like Mary Conroy exist. Why are people so worried about their kids knowing about, oh noes, gay marriages? ‘Cause that’s what people keep bitching about: that the poor, innocent little chilluns will learn that sometimes, two women love each other very much and get married, or two men.
Let me tell you a little story. My uncle on my mother’s side is gay. When I was little, he lived with a man that I saw on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter … the same times I saw my uncle, aunts and their husbands. Though nobody told me, I was aware that this man was to my uncle as my dad was to my mom, or my mom was to my dad. Being six, I didn’t think much of it.
Now, I’ll tell you something else: nothing bad happened to me because of this. Of course, I was never a good, God-fearing little girl, because both of my parents were bitter ex-Catholics, so I believed in dinosaurs and thought that The Beatles were bigger than Jesus. But knowing that my uncle had a husband? (I wasn’t aware that they weren’t allowed to get married.) Did not really mess me up.
Nor, for that matter, did the vast quantities of LGBTQIA YA literature I read – or the slashfic. (Okay, so slash is like the most unrealistic thing ever, but on a surface level, it is about two men having a sexual/romantic relationship* and would undoubtedly freak out the homophobic crowd.)
In fact, I can’t think of a single thing that’s happened to me or that I’ve done because I knew that gay people exist, except maybe grow up to be less of a self-centered, misinformed, cold-hearted douche who thinks that my personal politics are a legitimate reason to deny citizens their rights as, well, citizens (and, you know, human beings).
Yes, I am angry about what happened in Maine. I’m even more angry that it was put on the ballot at all. These are human rights, people, which are defined as rights – for humans! Even if you don’t agree with them. Mary Conroy has the right to be a horrible person, but she doesn’t have the right to take that out on other people.
I don’t have a single useful thing to say about this, but I’m angry. I’m angry and I’m hurt.
*for a really interesting time, check out Henry Jenkins’ article Normal Female Interest in Men Bonking for some of the politics of representation of homosexuality in slash fiction, and what slash authors do/do not have the responsibility to write in a realistic way
So we had to read this article,* and the author talked about “domestication” of foreign products: of taking a thing, stripping it of it’s original meaning, and repackaging it in a way that fits the local (in this case, Japanese) culture. (Unlike “appropriation,” which I will get to in a minute, “domestication” was given a positive spin.) Take engagement rings, for example: they’re a Western idea that’s been adopted into Japanese culture, but with some of the original† meaning (e.g., romanticism) lost and the engagement rings placed in the specifically Japanese context of yuinouhin, which is basically a dowry given to the bride’s family. The diamond ring was added to the list of “things that a dowry is supposed to include.”
But, uh, isn’t that appropriation? If I were to, say, start selling kimono as this “neat thing foreigners do (and I can make money off of) so you should do if you want to seem really classy,” people would be pretty pissed off. I’d be appropriating someone else’s culture; taking the material object, stripping it of meaning and context, and replacing my own cultural values onto that thing.
So when is it “domestication” and when is it “appropriation”? Is it “domestication” because Japan has historically been subject to the West’s power, so adopting Western things for their own use, without the original Western meanings, is somehow a radical subversion of cultural appropriation of their own culture by the West? (Can there be anything radical or subversive about buying into Western culture? Can it be said that Japan actively imports the West, rather than the West actively exporting to Japan?) Is it still “domestication” (and not “appropriation”) if one Western country takes an object from another Western country? from Japan? from China? from India? from Brazil? from Rwanda? When does it become one and not the other? How do we tell the difference between domestication/appropriation and cultural imperialism? (That is, when is one culture actively importing another, and when is one culture actively (or even forcibly) exporting its own?)
I’d like to hear all of your thoughts, because I’m really not sure about any of this.
*”Introduction: Domesticating the West,” by Joseph J. Tobin (book unknown, we weren’t given that information, but I can find it out if anyone wants to know)
†okay, without getting into the history of engagement rings, let’s go with “the meaning engagement rings had around the time that the idea was introduced to Japan”