To Yoshie, and anyone interested

Catherine Driscoll cdriscol at
Tue Feb 23 05:25:21 PST 1999

Yoshie Furuhashi writes:

>Well, my participation in 'Japanese public culture' is now limited to
>occasional readings of some of the newspapers + periodicals that the OSU
>libraries subscribe to (plus what I hear from my parents and friends), but
>I've never read/heard of 'shoujo' and 'prostitution' being used
>'synonymously' in it.
>That said, 'shoujo [girl]' has been a sexualized figure, probably ever
>since the invention of 'childhood' & 'adolescence,' in that the idea of
>innocence has been invested in it (and also in the figure of 'shonen
>[boy]'), and as you know, pornographic imagination always chaperons the
>debut of 'innocence.'

Two things -- I think boy and girl 'innocence' work quite differently, and I also think it's very important to distinguish between childhood and adolescence as inventions and as contemporary discourses.

However, after reading your post (and thank you) I can see I have not been clear. Yes, shoujo is linked to pornography in the way you suggest (and of course that is not only true of Japan). But I was actually referring to repeated references (in magazines, newspapers, on TV and in 'commentary' on Japan in other countries) to coverage of shoujo prostitutes. A Japanese academic responded to a recent paper by stating that this coverage and this 'public' representation of schoolgirls choosing (as distinct, apparently, from needing) to be prostitutes was so extensive as to have altered the public understanding of shoujo to be as he put it 'almost synonymous' with prostitution. I would have thought this was one of those beatup dominant narratives -- like sleazy selfindulgent single mothers -- but he didn't seem to think so. The fact that you don't seem to have heard of it wouldn't seem to support him, but I'm still very curious.

>The idealization/fetishization of 'shoujo' + 'shonen' may also be a sign of
>misogyny, if it is accompanied by the disgust felt toward 'fat.' (E.g.
>Nabokov's _Lolita_.) The only perfect bodies under late capitalism are
>those of teenagers, male or female. (Does this in part explain the
>popularity of Buffy?)

I'm teaching _Lolita_ this semester and am currently rereading it (also playing one of the Benten groups, Lolita 18 -- definitely a ref. to that schoolgirl fetish you mention). I'd qualify what you say here first by saying that it's not teenagers' bodies but adolescent bodies and, moreover, the girls' adolescent body works rather differently in most social contexts than the boys'.

>On a somewhat positive note, 'shoujo' + 'shonen,' when used by girls
>themselves, may be figures of resistance--resistance toward gender-defined
>roles hemmed in by Work and Home.

And this is fascinating because you're right and yet shoujo is not resistance in the same way as girl is in predominantly Anglophone cultures. There are important continguities, but it's not the same and that is where I am really very interested.

>>titillation as journalism
>That's the only way that 'Westerners' + native informants deal with the
>Orient, or so says Edward Said. Remember, grass is always greener (or
>lusher) 'on the other side.'

Yes and use of Japanese 'girl culture' in the States or Australia is certainly a form of orientalism -- a homogenisation of what it that might be and also an insistence on the translatability of 'Western' conceptions of girlhood. Is that diverse specificity that's hardest to grasp from my position.

>>b) in a recent book on the Takarazuka, Jennifer Robertson claims shoujo is
>>(almost) a separate gender from man and woman, what do you think?
>I only read a review of her book, so I don't have much to go on here. I'm
>sure she does a competent reading of resistance/containment (or
>grammar/excess) drama in the Takarazuka mode of gender/race cross-dressing
>+ fans' 'appropriation' of it all.

This shortchanges her a little. Some of this predictable (now, for me and it seems also for you -- which doesn't make it irrelevant or uninteresting) narrative is there, but there are some intriguing things, such as her discussion of shoujo as a gender.

>Here again is a problem of the banality
>of cultural studies. Once you read Janice Radway, Angela McRobbie, Henry
>Jenkins, Constance Penley, etc., you've read them all.

Ah well I didn't and still don't want to play bag/defend cultural studies, though I will if you want. Your last sentence seems to me both circular (what goes into the etc. after all?) and incorrect -- what of the differences between these people and what, more importantly, of the cultural studies this list does not at all encompass.

Thanks, Catherine

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