Wednesday, April 8, 2009
gender in japan
Coming from the United States, my images of male and female ideals don't extend far beyond the twiggy, full-chested, bouncing blond curls of Barbie and her muscly, strapping, strong-jawed counterpart Ken, but here in Japan these ideals are quite different, especially for men. While the average American man goes to great lengths in the gym to craft the body of a professional athlete, the average Japanese man seems content in his small frame. Even the trendiest American men don't venture far beyond the graphic tee and a little gel for a doctored messy hair do, but Japanese men will sport everything from leopard print jackets like the one in the first photo, to fur hats like that in the second photo, and anything else that might make a splash. Both of these photos were taken in Namba, a popular spot for fashionable night-goers in Osaka, and to be honest, it took some scrutinizing to make sure that the individual in the first photo was actually a man. With the exception of the Kansai Gaidai baseball team that I see everyday on my way to class, most Japanese men look closer to the men photoed than the burlier, more built males found in gyms and office buildings across America. The way men act can also be contrasted. "Men don't cry," is pushed into little boys heads from their first skinned knee in the States. Showing your emotions is a sure way to be labelled a "sissyboy" or even a "little girl," but in a recent film I watched about Japanese baseball, players and coaches alike were often in tears. Whether moved by a moment of great honor such as being labelled captain, or mourning the loss of an important game, Japanese men and boys did not hesitate to cry, hug, and share emotional moments with and in front of their peers. Seeing the tendencies of the Japanese culture has surely widened the spectrum of masculinity for me to include much more than macho Ken's bulging biceps, flat front khakis, and never-changing emotions held in a plastic grin.