Wednesday, August 27, 2008

We are geisha no more

Did anyone catch the Last Word article in the current issue of Metropolis? I read through it saying yes! no! yes! to an array of things I both agreed and then disagreed with. Yes! Many Japanese women have jumped on the Sex & the City train and want to act out their own version of the show. Example: friend of mine started watching the show religiously and then wanted us to start "power-lunching" among other things she had picked up from the fabulous four. No! to the characterization of working women in Japan who are all apparently "struggling to forge a modern and progressive identity in a culture that often has a traditional and dismissive view of them". Where can I find these working women I'd like to know? I know plenty of women who work, that is, until they get married and there's no longer a need. That's not quite fair of me, as I don't disrespect women who stay at home nor do I think all Japanese women are like that. But the author of above article seems to imply there is a real push by women here to move forward and cause change. I just don't buy it. I would however, like to meet some high-powered Japanese ladies although I sense from fleeting encounters with a few that it's not like a day in the life of Carrie Bradshaw.

Another line that elicited a No!: "the women of Japan, who are still burdened with the pressure of having to act like meek and fragile dolls, willing to bow politely (and give up seats graciously) to men who will one day 'honor' them with marriage". Do I even need to say it? Why did he have to go and pull out the meek and fragile doll line? Better yet, why didn't he just commit to the stereotype in full by saying "China doll" or "oriental doll"? I've mentioned the ladies first thing before and let me just add that from conversations with some of the women I know, it seems more and more are expecting that here. They expect men to give up their seats and open the door for them, but they also expect to be taken care of financially in the future while they tend to the children. I don't want to get into a "women I know" versus "women the author knows" thing here. Knowing some Japanese friends who do or do not do something, does not automatically make us cultural experts, qualified to share our wisdom with Metropolis readers. Although Metropolis seems to think it does.

One more No! was the author's toe-dipping in the domestic violence waters, which he quickly cleared up by saying that the woman who was getting beaten sure hadn't learned much from Charlotte. Couldn't he have used a more light-hearted example? If he's going to talk about domestic violence here I would much rather him dedicate an article to it, instead of using it as a simplistic example of how Japanese women really aren't learning anything from the Sex & the City girls.

Lastly another Yes! to the fact that yes, many of the fans here are emulating the superficial aspects of the show and not what it "stands for". For me though, aside from seeing women here emulate the show's messages of girl power rah rah rah, I'd like to see them equipped with the critical thinking skills to watch the show (they can enjoy it too) and be able to distinguish what is fantasy and reality, what is worth taking away and what is not.

Let me quickly describe one personal ad in this week's issue: This woman wants to forge a group of SATC-like ladies. She wants to go out for dinner and to movies after work and on the weekends, dress up and go hang at international spots. Once she gets close to these new fab friends of hers, she wants to go travelling internationally with them!

One, actually two more No!s and then I will stop. 1) What is with the untactful cartoon accompanying this article? Couldn't they have done a little better than a rendition of the four SATC ladies with black hair? And 2) "We are geisha no more"?! Hasn't a law been passed prohibiting foreigners from using the term "geisha" in any article about Japan or in a descriptive capacity when talking about Japanese women? Does the author know what a geisha is or did he hear it in that old John Wayne movie where they talk about geisha gals?! Sure "we are geisha no more" sounds more catchy than "we are servile no more" but the vast majority of Japanese women are not geisha, nor have they ever been in the past. Get it right! Or at least come up with a new buzz word.

At the author's suggestion I am going to get into Mixi and see what the real-live Japanese women are actually saying about sex and expensive shoes. I will be sure to report back. If any one wants to invite me to Mixi I'd be much obliged and it will save me from having to ask my power-lunching friend, who incidentally enough, quit working as soon as she got married last year and power-lunches no more.

2 comments:

xf said...

Oh I can invite you to Mixi if you like.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Please do (my email is in the sidebar)! I was worried I would have to contact that friend after all...crisis averted.