Twenty-first Century Feminism

pp 140-163

Flexible Femininities? Queering Kawaii in Japanese Girls’ Culture

  • Makiko Iseri


While Japanese subculture — especially what is called ‘kawai? (cute) culture’ — currently receives global attention, it has been studied most frequently in the context of Japanese anime/mang? or its appropriation by Japanese contemporary artists (Ngai, 2005), and very few readings of kawai? highlight another ‘root’ of this phenomenon: Japanese girls’ culture. This paper will investigate the complicated relationship between the particular modes of feminine gender performance in Japanese girls’ culture and its politics of bodily flexibility. What this paper aims, however, is no? to define what the concept of kawai? is; rather, this paper intends to shed light on the way in which the media images of kawai? have been visualized as ‘the flexible’ in today’s socioeconomic context, and to explore what is at stake when such ‘non-normative’ or ‘unusual’ femininity comes to gain the desirable status of ‘flexible body’.