So first of all the Theory part: What is gender studies?
Basically it means that as difference between the biological sex and the cultural gender is given and actually even something that constantly changes. There are certain aspects of masculinity and femininity and these can extracted by analysing a culture as well as media like books, films and you might have guessed it: Anime and Mange.
Gender studies is closely related to feminist reading or analysis of homosexual reading or cross-dressing.
So Gender roles in Japan, this is based on personal experience! I saw parts of Japanese society plus have some knowledge through reading, still this is but an attempt to grasp aspects and will over generalise some aspects that might not be true for everyone in Japan, please keep that in mind.
So since in this article I want to concentrate on male gender, this is what I will focus on in this gender description.
Actually what is believed to be a „male“ attribute is in Japan slightly different then it is in Western countries. This starts by our definition of „good looking“
Westerners usually prefer a masculine, sporty man, a little 3 days beard might even add to the charm, a clearly visible chin, thicker eyebrows, short hair, broad shoulders and a bit of muscles (but not too much, looking at male models they usually do not look like body builders 😉
Now comes something MANY keep telling me about any manga/anime they see: The boys look exactly like girls!
Well that’s not true for ALL manga, and ALL characters, but, yeah I see the point very often. But that is because many Japanese guys actually look very much like girls, actually I did mistook boys occasionally for girls or wasn’t sure when passing by. This is easily explained: 1. the Japanese face, also the one of men, is rounder and softer, reminding rather of women in our culture 2. they rarly grow, and if only a little, beard, generally they have way less body hair then what we know from western men.
Also what is regarded as „handsome“ in Japan? Just look for prominent Japanese bands or actors or models, you will find that most have feminine faces, at least in our perception. The rather square-cut faces of westerners with the bigger noses are not really seen as desirable in Japanese culture, so what we mock as feminine is actually good-looking in Japan. Just look at this japanese boygroup „News“
So much for the looks, but what about other gender attributes?
Although female appearance (not in the way they dress though!) is regarded as desirable, still some of our typical male attributes are also considered male in Japan: Do not be too emotional, a man is the bread winner, men should be strong and stuff like that.
Men and women are very clearly distinguished from each other by social norms and expectations on how they should behave.
So let us take a look at Kuranosuke from „Kuragehime“ which I introduced in the last post.
Kuranosuke is the son of a politician, that means he especially is burdened with societies expectations on him, since anything he does will fall back to his father, or even uncle who is prime minister of Japan.
But he does not really care about that.
Kuranosuke is very good looking, because his mother comes from abroad (probably France) he has a lighter hair colour and blue eyes
He loves fashion, especially dresses, since he always visited the theatre plays of his mother where the most beautiful dresses were worn.
Kuranosuke decides to dress up like a women, although his family naturally strongly objects to this, cross dresser, just like homosexuals and the like, are not really tolerated in Japan (which is funny enough considering the yaoi scene, but never mind).
Thing is in contrast to normal „okama“ (cross dressers) from animes, like Nuriko from „Fushigi yuugi“ or the okama in „one piece“ etc., Kuranosuke does not identify as a woman. He does not dress like a woman because he wants to be one, but because it is his taste. He wears skirts, and dresses which does not damage his gender identity as a man, at least not from his perspective (his family and society might see it differently though). Even being treated as a woman by the Amars, he does not loose his self recognition of being a man.
This is actually quiet amazing, if I may say so, especially when recognizing this comes from a very patriarchal society, here gender identity is challenged. Doing things a „proper man shouldn’t do“ does not make the character less a male.
Actually he incorporates many male as well as female attributes. besides his love for fashion and women clothes and make up he is shown as very emotional and caring. He cares for the amars, although he only knows them very little, he acts rash and not rational as can be seen with his spontaneous ideas like creating a brand. He has no idea how to do it but starts dreaming about fashion shows in NY and major shops in Tokyo, LA and Paris.
On the other hand he is protective towards Tsukimi and the others, he stands his ground and is a good leader. He is interested in women (he seems to have had rather a lot of girls friends actually) and, though emotional, also smart. He knows how to make good advertisement or how to manipulate people, a trade that is not really feminine. Just look at him, dressed all „female“ carying like the classic prince sharming the sleeping Tsukimi:
I think this shows very well that just like women could challenge gender roles like „women do not wear trousers“ men (at least in this manga) can challenge the concept of „men may not wear dresses“ because this man is neither gay nor an okama.
Ok that was it so far, I am no expert on Gender studies and I admit I did not do thorough research on it (yet) my information is basically what I gathered from various courses where we discussed gender reading time and again 😉
So if one of you know more about it and wants to add their knowledge, please leave a comment ^^