Saturday, June 18, 2005

Love Body Beauty Queen

I have long been smitten with prose. I’m a sucker for books, the clever turn of a phrase. I suppose it is not surprising that I’m intrigued by the different uses and invocations of English that we encounter in Japan.

Given this interest, Carly and I were amused by a recent discovery: Love Body Beauty Queen. Yes, we can now love our bodies by drinking marketed Japanese tea. Thanks, Coca-Cola.

Admittedly, the advertising slogan worked. Carly and I both purchased and drank Love Body Beauty Queen, so perhaps we shouldn’t launch into critique. But we can’t help but notice conceptions of gender and gender roles in Japan. As two women who consider ourselves feminists, we consistently wonder how our sex influences our interactions. At this point, our curiosity has produced more questions than answers (which I think is a good thing). What follows is a series of initial observations and fodder for more reflection.

- In five debates thus far, only one out of the ten debaters we’ve faced was a woman.

- In a discussion about women debating in Japan, a female Ph.D. student studying debate as a method of English education suggested that she thought more women than men were getting involved in debate because speaking English is, generally speaking, of more interest to women than men. Plus she observed women enjoying the opportunity to debate because they don’t always have the opportunity to debate or vocally dissent in their daily lives.

- The majority of the judges and coaches that we have met have been men.

- At dinner one evening, everyone was drinking out of small glasses (think half of a half-pint). In pouring the first drink, Carly was given about a 1/3 of a glass of beer. When someone mentioned she could have more, about 4 drops were added.

- In our first night of karaoke, Carly and I sang “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” with two Japanese women. The rest of the party (nine guys) danced along in the back of the room. It rocked—even when we sang a bit off-key.

- Next to dishes in (presumably family-friendly) gift store we found “pudding breasts” for sale, complete with accompanying cartoon.

- Over dinner and drinks one evening, a female student asked about my plans for the future. Specifically, she wanted to know if I want to continue to enjoy dating people and studying. As I tried to figure out what she was really asking, the discussion turned into a conversation on pressures to be married (and subsequently turn to raising a family rather than working outside of the home). Both Japanese women in the conversation said they wanted to work, and their families supported that decision. But both also stated that they thought women had more options in the United States than Japan. (I asked if Japanese guys their age were supportive of women working outside of the home, the answer was not yes).

- When we debate on the Negative side on the migrant worker topic, Carly and I have been running a disadvantage about sex trafficking and a disadvantage about migrant workers displacing Japanese women moving up the corporate ladder. We rarely have substantive clash on either point.

- We (Carly, Kevin, and I) frequently invoke gender as a relevant issue. We ask about the reaction to two women debaters. We ask about female representation in debate. We ask about treatment of women in Japan. Admittedly, we frequently prompt gender as the topic of conversation or as a relevant issue. But we’re not the only ones. People, unprompted by us, have suggested that women are under-represented in debate in Japan. That two “older” American women are intimidating to male Japanese students.

- Don’t get me started on the abundant Japanese porn in the train stations or the explicit pamphlets advertising various “movie channels” in the hotels….

- Leah

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