Why girlish style is popular in Asia?
15th May 2017
The notion of cute culture began at the end of the twentieth century in Japan. The girlish culture has spread throughout the Asia afterwards. “While Asian countries like Japan still retains fame for its rich cultural history, over the past few years cultural markers such as anime and kawaii have been gaining popularity. It seems the idea of Asia as the purveyor of cuteness has been firmly stamped into our psyche.” (Clarke, A. 2016) Also, it seems like a mature fashion trend to dress, decorate and act in a girlish way in Asian countries. The aim of this essay is to investigate the reasons behind the popularity of girlish culture in Asia. The essay focused on the history of girlish culture, differences of Eastern and Western girlish culture, the physical and Asian social factors that caused the current trend. The main secondary resources I intend to reference are articles, essay and reports from Internet. The research and analyzation from this essay will support my concepts of final outcome as a magazine. The contents, decor and styles of the magazine will be related to the images and ideas inside this essay.
The girlish culture could be seen as a combination of occidental culture and rebellious sprits against current society. The beginning of cute culture relates to the pop culture from Western countries. As the one type of Harajuku style, cute culture and Loli style have a lot connections. A key factor is the culture background. In the 1960s, during the Japanese post-war economic miracle, Japanese having admired the Occidental urban lifestyle and built stylish mansions in Shibuya and Harajuku one after another. This brought a concentrated population, gathering fashionable people together into this area. Theresa Winge, the author of Undressing and Dressing Loli: A Search for the Identity of the Japanese Lolita mentioned that, “The Lolita subculture occupies a complex place within both Japanese culture and international popular culture. Within Japanese culture, Lolitas occupy a subcultural space where young women and men are empowered by the Lolita aesthetic to present themselves anachronistically in order to escape the trappings of adult life and with it the cultures dominant ideologies.” (Winge, T. 2008) It is clear that whether cute culture or Japanese youth culture, there are inspired by the western urban culture. It approves that one reason of the population of girlish fashion in Japan is the sprit against dominance.
Decora. (Courtesy of FRUiTS)
Girls in Harajuku (Courtesy of Michael Black Photography)
KawaiiTrump (Courtesy of Brooke Kelty/kawaiitrump.tumblr.com)
The subcultures of staying and dressing young may start as the result of mind revolution for young people at the end of the twentieth century, but the growing of cute culture seems to be supported by other factors. In my point of view, the reason relates to the pressure female are facing in current Asian societies. Based on my personal experiences about Asian female around me, Asian females have large amount of pressure from societies, careers and families. For example, “single women in China are driven by intense societal pressure to find a mate. In a survey of 32,000 people in 2010 by the All China Women’s Federation, 90 percent of men said that a woman should get married before the age of 27. Those that don’t risk being called sheng nu, or “leftover ladies.” To increase their chances, women are generally taught to be quiet and sweet and look young. Thus, for the post-1980s generation of women, adopting a “cute” and “sweet” style is often perceived as a way to defer the marriage deadline.”(Flaven,G. 2013) As I know, in Japan and Korea, women who do not appear in good make up is regarded as lack of manner, disrespectful to others, badly dresses or less capable of coping with life. Though makeup and dressing are not essential in China, the essential pressure from others’ judgment push female to feel shameful for their bad outlook. In addition, Teri J. Silvio, an associate research fellow at the Institute of Ethnology in Taipei City-based Academia Sinica, said that: “Others argue that the exaggeration of the cute style expresses dissatisfaction with the rigidity of adult gender roles. Many people in the popular culture industries argue that kawaii style is popular because it is comforting. Girlish objects provide a kind of respite and healing from the competition and struggles of daily life in the contemporary world.”(TAIWAN TODAY. 2013) Overall, dressing in girlish styles is a way to escaping from reality and pressure in societies in Asia.
Some people argued that dressing in girlish styles is a way to enjoy the nostalgic girlhood. Same as girlish fashion, Misha Janette,founder of Tokyo Fashion Diaries and panelist on NHK’s Kawaii International show, insists that to the Japanese, kawaii’s essence is less about gender oppression, and more about the fun of childhood. “It’s possible to never grow up in Japan,” she says. “You’ll see old lady lolitas here. Women dress up young because it makes them feel more free and happy. Femininity in Japan is treated very differently to femininity in the West, and here it’s acceptable for men to like kawaii stuff too, so it’s not so much a gender thing.” (Clarke, A. 2016) However, there are people argued that the reason that “girlish products are popular with young girlish that it reflects the sexist structure of Japanese culture, where women are expected to be weak and men to take care of them.”(TAIWAN TODAY. 2013)
There is a physical factor behind girlish fashion in Asian. Based on my personal discussion with a Chinese girl who likes girlish culture, the reason she prefers this style has some connections with her actual body figure. “It is hard for me to dressed up like western girls,” she said, “I look younger than girls from Western because my face and height. Then I realized that I am more suitable to dress in girlish style.” Asians generally have natural features that make them appear younger. (Huiqio, Shao. 2017) Like Shao, many girls in Asia have similar situations. From a professional view, “The resistance to aging in the Asian patient was credited to the thicker dermis of Asian skin that contains greater collagen and the darker pigment that protects against photoaging. Although these statements are true, the authors propose a new paradigm that explains how the illusion of Asian youthfulness may be understood. The “baby model” purports that the Asian face has many attributes similar to an infant, including a wider and rounder face, higher eyebrow, fuller upper lid, lower nasal bridge, flatter midface, apparently more protuberant lips, and more receded chin. These commonalities between the infant and the Asian compel the viewer to perceive the Asian face as more youthful.” (Shirakabe, Y., Suzuki, Y. and Lam, S. (2003))For many Asian girls, the reason for their girlish passion may be influenced by the physical reason. Young and girlish styles are more easy to dress for Asian girls compare to other mature styles.
Though the start of girlish culture is a way to escape from the traditional society, but social concepts shape the images of girls at the same time. The way of being girlish are led by the concepts of the society. Includes to the report Girlish Images across Cultures: Analyzing Japanese versus U.S. Seventeen Magazine Ads from Michael L. Maynard and Charles R. Taylor, compare to western countries,“Japanese results is the general emphasis on youthful, non challenging innocence for Japanese girls in Japanese culture. Because Japanese culture revers age, young Japanese are implicitly permitted to act in ways that are distinct from those of older people. Hence, in view of the traditional gender- and age-based role expectations of Japanese society, messages that build girlish rapport are likely to appeal to Japanese girls.”(Maynard, M& Taylor, C. 1999) In conclusion, the report suggested that the Japanese and American publishers tend to portray teenage girls to the public in different ways and that the differences are related to each country’s central concepts of self and society.
Seventeen Japan 2016 & Seventeen America 2016
While the ways to act for girls seem to be changeless. For example, many girls in Asian seems to have a sprit of dressing like others. Girls seems to prefer dressing in similar girlish styles with similar makeup and clothes like they are being a member from the majority. At the same time, there is a high rate of school bulling in Japan. The main reason cause this situation may be the result of education from school or authorities. Japanese education focus on group profits rather than standing out for oneself.“A characteristic of Japan is that you should not stand out.”(The economist.com. 2017) “In Japanese culture, schools are driven by a high standard of collective thinking and conformity. Students with qualities like “individuality” and “uniqueness” will be easier to be the target for bulling.In contrast, those who conformed were generally safe from bullying attacks.”(No bulling.com. 2017) As such, it is a group phenomenon for girls in Asia to dress in the same styles. Similar in China, there is a strict uniform standard for both men and women before China embraced capitalism in the early 1990s. While before that, “an austere Communist simplicity reigned supreme.”(Flaven,G. 2013)
The gaining population of girlish culture may have connections with a deeper reason about sexual attraction. The book Lolita seems to give people a good detailed description of the obsessions for young and innocent female figure, but the Lolita fashion in Japan has different identity to its original meaning after being spread to Japan. But girlish styles still have some characters that attract people from a sexual way. For example, Hello Kitty is the image and symbol of cuteness and childhood for majority, but Amy Lai has said in the article Consuming “Hello Kitty”: Tween Icon, Sexy Cute, and the Changing Meaning of ‘Girlhood’, “The ‘cuteness’ of Kitty is not merely for cuteness’ sake but has turned into a weapon to increase the sex appeal of its owner. The cuteness of a giggling girl clad in a Hello Kitty jumper may not be all that innocent; in fact, this is sexually alluring to those with Lolicom.”(Lai, A. 2005) It seems girls with girlish features like cute, innocence and young still have a strong affect in Asian country especially in Japan. Based on the BBC documentary Young Sex For Sale, “some high school girls in Tokyo sell their time to passers-by, while their minders hover in the background.Men pay to hold hands, go for a walk or have a cup of coffee with the girls. Some even pay to sleep on a girl’s lap.This is all legitimate, above board and legal. Japan is also home to 300 “JK cafes”, where adult men pay to hang out with underage girls”, Based on the documentary. (Varley, C. 2017) It is obvious that certain group in Japan has a strong nostalgia for childhood and cuteness from a sexual aspect.
Young Sex for Sell in Japan. (2017). [film] Directed by S. Dooley. Tokyo: BBC.
In conclusion,the obsession with cute is a huge East Asian phenomenon. The rise of girlish style is caused by many different aspects. The history of girlish style could be traced back to the begin of cute subculture at the late twentieth century in Japan. The original idea of girlish style are influenced by occidental countries’ urban life styles. Dressing in girlish and cute styles is a way to escaping from the trappings of adult life and dominant ideologies in Asian cultures.
While the gaining of girlish styles in current Asian society owes to more factors now by developing for decades, such as mental needs for being oneself and enjoying fun of childhood, sprits for escaping from dominated society and pressure. Also, there are physical reasons and sexual attractions relate to the style. The facial features and bone structures of most Asian girls are more suitable for dressing in young styles. Though girlish style is an result of releasing pressure from society, the way to act for girls are permitted by cultural concepts at the same time. The behaviors and images of girlish styles in Asia are different from occidental countries. In Asian culture, people prefer to see youth and non challenging innocence from girls compare to occidental countries. The images and key elements of girlish styles seems to be changeless because of the concepts of Asian societies, such as being a member of a group, same with others and obeying rules from authorities. It could be seen on the school bulling characters from Japan, students with strong personalities or unique characters are easier to be bullied.
As a type of subculture, girlish culture have seen through decades. Girlish style is not only the stereotype to describe female, it is more about a popular phenomenon, a fashion trent and a powerful strength now. I did investigations by researching articles, report, documentary and news from online academic and news website to investigate factors that influenced the girlish style. The primary and secondary resources I researched will help in the out come for final major project from decor designing and contains writing. This is now 2640 words.
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