Tokyo fetish-fashion: "injured idol"

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29 Responses to “Tokyo fetish-fashion: "injured idol"”

  1. MaoKitten says:

    Holy crap, guys.

    Why do bandages even need to have some deeper meaning of gender weakness or false strength? Why can’t a bandage just be a bandage?

    Personally, I like how it looks. I think it’s pretty on both women AND men. There’s just something about it that I’ve loved long before it even became a fashion trend.

    And as a side note, I don’t look at someone with bandages and think that they’re weak. I just think they look like they’ve had a bad day.

  2. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Darrell (4), an eloquent comment, and I think a valid one. I can easily think of one or two dozen examples of male characters whose heroism is partly expressed by the injuries they endure along the way. Women haven’t tended to be portrayed in the same way. If they were wounded, the wounds were never unsightly, and were usually an occasion for them to be rescued. Heroic women weren’t shown taking significant physical wounds. Their role was to bear up under a sequence of emotional wounds until they died heroically at the end.

    Bandaging a female character, then, can become a way to say that she lives in the same physical universe and operates under the same set of physical laws as male characters, and that her heroism can be judged by a non-gendered standard.

    Apashiol (10), I really can’t accept that as an example. It doesn’t map onto this argument. Muti murders are abhorred by the murderers’ own culture, and are most emphatically abhorred by healers and magicians who are the professional peers of the ones using human body parts.

    Mrfitz (12):

    But demeaning something can also add to its sexual appeal, and that’s what they’re selling. Also, these women in the pictures probably don’t see it that way, but as a golden opportunity to further their careers. And you could say the same thing about prostitution. Go on up to a whore (excuse me, “sex worker”) and tell her that her job demeans her and see what she (or he) says.

    I confidently predict that if you did that you wouldn’t get a consistent answer — they’re human beings, not ambulatory examples — but that few if any will tell you it’s good for your self-confidence. It’s not as if our culture tells them otherwise.

    As for the young ladies of Harajuku and Akihabara, wherever did you get the idea that that’s paid career work? The street scene in Harajuku is cosplay. What I’m seeing there is girl culture.

    Teapunk (8), is it their fetish or somebody else’s fetish? Because if it’s their fetish, I don’t have a problem with it.

    I went and trekked long miles across Google Image Search and Flickr, and I didn’t see many instances of girls in Harajuku interacting with men. Mostly it looked like they were there with each other, in twos and threes and fives and sixes. Very girly scene. I saw a lot of ostensibly glamorous or sexualized clothing combined with makeup and/or accessories that contradicted its immediate sexuality and relocated it as narrative.

    Granted, the young ladies in the interview were talking about attracting male interest, but you know, girls that age do that. Also, the interviewer was male. I expect that could color the interpretation.

    Finally: where does underage pornography come into it? There were some glamour shots accompanying the interview, but they were just sexualized. They weren’t porn.

    Lauren O (14):

    I guess what we disagree on is that I am uncomfortable with the notion of sexualizing, objectifying, and commodifying people by demeaning them.

    You know those are all different things, right? You can demean someone without sexualizing them, or demean them in a sexualized context without objectifying or commodifying them, or objectify and sexualize but not demean or commodify them, or demean and commodify them in a context where nobody gets off at all.

    And back to Teapunk again (22): Children should never be considered as sexual objects? Perhaps. How old were you when you first started thinking of yourself as a sexual being, and trying to figure that out in terms of roles? I don’t mean socially assigned roles; I mean the ones you play out in your head, to see what they feel like and what you can do with them. For most girls, that starts well before sixteen.

    I think Darrell (17) is right to identify this disagreement as a question of agency. I strongly feel the girls should have it. They shouldn’t have to have anyone else’s notions of sexuality or social roles forced on them. But their own sexuality, and the roles they play with into it and out of it, should absolutely belong to them.

    Mr Fitz again (24), there are clearer terms for it than female circumcision, and no woman welcomes it. What they welcome is being marriageable, and not being considered a slut by their own culture. You may rejoice at escaping penalties while grieving and despising what you did to escape them.

    Tomic (25):

    Fetishes, sexual or otherwise, have a very complex relationship to dominant culture, and are quite resistant to trivial analysis.

    Truer words were seldom said.

    Just imagine someone from Japan trying to explain why videos of topless women firing automatic weapons are categorized, not by hair color or size of breasts, but by the type of weapon and ammunition they use.

  3. Registrado says:

    ZOMG TEH REI?

  4. Lauren O says:

    From the Mainichi Daily News article: “In our age of gender equality, the number of strong-willed women has increased. Men still want to protect and look after women, though, so they seek out those who seem to be in need of help.”

    I call bullshit. This is not a way to express desire to protect women. It’s a way to demean them by portraying them as weak, helpless, physically inferior.

  5. Cory Doctorow says:

    I quite agree.

  6. darrell says:

    To #2 and Cory, I respectfully disagree. My personal take on this, as someone who lives in Japan, speaks Japanese, and has study way too much Japanese culture, is that what the quote says is the extact context it’s intended for in Japan. This fetish, as best I can tell, dates back to (as poster #1 so eloquently put it) TEH REI, or Ayanami Rei from Neon Genesis Evangelion.

    In the first episode of that series we are introduced to the character Rei who is wheeled in on a hospital bed covered in bandages and recieving an IV drip. I know when I was 13 and I first saw her I fell in love with the character for her absolute strength as she tried to raise herself from the hospital bed to fight again. I thought she was the coolest girl I’d ever seen. And it seems a lot of nerds (both Japanese and foreign alike) agreed, as she’s become an extremely popular character to this day.

    With your particular bias you may read this book as anti-woman or whatever, but I’d definitely say within the context of Japanese culture it is aimed at men who respect women who are playing through their pain. There’s a whole class of adult videos involving this fetish that involve no sex, just a helpful, nerdy boyfriend doing nice things for his injured girlfriend. It speaks to the Japanese concept of “gaman” or “endurance.”

    Again, I respect your opinions but I couldn’t disagree more. And just to add to this discussion, I own the book (it’s one of my favorite treasures from living in Japan)…and the thing that actually disturbed me the most about it upon opening it (almost all Japanese books are sealed in plastic in bookstores) was the young age of some of the models. This is another cultural thing that I can’t really get over. But the photography is tasteful and it sits on the shelf with all my other “weird” books.

    Thanks for your time.

  7. bour3 says:

    But then how weird can a book be that begins at the back and ends in the front?

  8. j.black says:

    Oh Bah Bah Hospital in Camden — so silly!

  9. Kyle Armbruster says:

    Gotcher back Darrell.

    Allow me, however, to push a little harder, as I am wont to do.

    What you are doing when you express opinions such as “This is not a way to express desire to protect women. It’s a way to demean them by portraying them as weak, helpless, physically inferior,” all you are really doing is imposing your own cultural values and bias on another culture. When a person from one culture tells you what something in their culture means, who are you to tell them that they are factually wrong, and, moreover, that what they are describing is morally wrong? What qualifies you to do that?

    The history of gender relations in the West is not the same as that in Japan, China, Korea… Any of these places that are vilified by, I’m sorry to say, ignorant, arrogant Westerners who think their new philosophical fashions represent a degree of enlightenment that just hasn’t reached poor, benighted Asia, have cultures and histories totally separate from those producing these supposedly grand revelations.

    Westerners do not have all the answers. We are not the smartest, greatest, most enlightened people ever to walk the earth. We are just another culture, and we as a culture have seen it fit to address gender relations in our culture in one way, as a response to our own culture’s conception of it. It is a closed system. Keep your criticisms inside it.

    (NOTE: I would have said the same thing before I began my life in Japan, so I understand where it comes from, but honestly… just leave it there.)

  10. Teapunk says:

    Isn’t that more of an Akihabara thing?
    Harajuku as I know it is usually all about fashion, while Akihabara today sadly is all about fetish, not so much “Electric Town” (though you can still find that, too). I’ve never spotted these girls in Harajuku, but I can remember some “injured maids” handing out leaflets for their maid cafe in Akiba.

    Darrell makes some interesting points, but I have to add: There are some cultural things you can’t “get over”, because some things are just wrong, by any standard. Underage pornography is one of them.

  11. songs says:

    hello

    Kowasareta Ningyo? Broken Dolls?

    …anybody?

  12. Apashiol says:

    @#7 I remember reading a very similar argument levelled against Westerners who were against Muti-murders in Africa where children were tortured and dismembered while still alive in order to use their body parts in rituals. An African anthropologist made the excuse that these practices were traditional to Africa and could not be understood or criticised from within the framework of western morality. If I judge such practices to be morally abhorrent will you ask me what qualifies me to make such a judgement?

  13. Lauren O says:

    With your particular bias you may read this book as anti-woman or whatever, but I’d definitely say within the context of Japanese culture it is aimed at men who respect women who are playing through their pain.

    This is really interesting. Totally something I hadn’t considered before.

    Do you think it is the same when the women who are putting on bandages are actually fine, and are consciously using it as a way to get men to talk to them? Is it demeaning for women to fake being strong-despite-injury to please men? (That is not supposed to sound like a sarcastic rhetorical question, it is totally genuine. I’m trying to learn more about this as I am clearly out of the cultural loop.)

    @7: I was not at all trying to suggest that this sort of thing only happens in Japan. I don’t feel the need to spread Western culture to “poor, benighted Asia.” I just feel that misogyny needs to be eradicated in all cultures. I think it is every bit as prevalent in Western culture as it is in any other culture. I can see a tiny bit of latitude in terms of what defines women as equal in a given society, but don’t tell me that I have no right to judge misogyny just because it’s in a different culture from mine. The way I see it, that’s like saying we have no right to judge the caste system in India, because it’s not our culture.

  14. mrfitz says:

    “It’s a way to demean them by portraying them as weak, helpless, physically inferior.”

    But demeaning something can also add to its sexual appeal, and that’s what they’re selling. Also, these women in the pictures probably don’t see it that way, but as a golden opportunity to further their careers. And you could say the same thing about prostitution. Go on up to a whore (excuse me, “sex worker”) and tell her that her job demeans her and see what she (or he) says.

  15. Kyle Armbruster says:

    @#10

    Quick answer: Yes.

    Long answer: There’s a big difference between “not in my country” and “not anywhere.” Keep it to your country, and everything is fine. Don’t stick to that rule and you get lunacy like the Iraq war. Just because you disagree with something doesn’t mean your opinion matters to the people there.

    Furthermore, I think there are a few orders of magnitude missing somewhere when we go from girls wearing bandages because they think they’re cute directly to chopping up kids.

    @Teapunk

    No, nothing is wrong “by any standard.” Sorry. That’s what makes different standards different. There are some things that are wrong by your standard, but those judgments are clearly not shared by the models, the publishers, or the consumers of these expensive, glossy, advertised books. You start talking absolutes, you start talking religion. You start talking religion, and Cpt. Tim will come out of the woodwork and take over the thread!

  16. Lauren O says:

    But demeaning something can also add to its sexual appeal, and that’s what they’re selling.

    We are in agreement on this point. I guess what we disagree on is that I am uncomfortable with the notion of sexualizing, objectifying, and commodifying people by demeaning them.

    Also, these women in the pictures probably don’t see it that way, but as a golden opportunity to further their careers.

    I’m sure that’s almost entirely true. But I don’t think a woman can’t endorse something misogynist. I think, for example, that Ann Coulter is pretty misogynistic. The way I see it, just because some women endorse it doesn’t make it any less sexist or any more acceptable.

  17. Lauren O says:

    No, nothing is wrong “by any standard.” Sorry. That’s what makes different standards different. There are some things that are wrong by your standard

    I think this is a semantic trip-up. Saying “by any standard” is a little broad, because there are murderers and rapists who don’t think there’s anything wrong with murdering and raping. But there are some things that I personally feel should be wrong by any standard. Things like murder, rape, racism, oppression of women, etc. And I don’t think it is because I am a Westerner. I think it is because those things are just wrong.

    So I think we are just going to have to agree to disagree. Nothing you can say is going to make me change my mind about feeling misogyny is wrong in any culture, and nothing I can say is going to make you change your mind about complete moral relativism. There’s no point in quibbling.

    One last thing: You can rest assured I am not going to try to actively export my views on this to Japan. I’m not going to go protesting fashion bandages in the streets. I just feel that I need to speak up whenever I see what I perceive as misogyny; otherwise, I feel I’m complicit in it.

  18. Teapunk says:

    @Kyle Armbruster:
    No, nothing is wrong “by any standard.” Sorry. That’s what makes different standards different. There are some things that are wrong by your standard, but those judgments are clearly not shared by the models, the publishers, or the consumers of these expensive, glossy, advertised books.

    Only because underage models are exploited by fotographers, publishers and so on and people acutally buy it doesn’t make underage pornography a good thing. It’s wrong.
    When I lived in Japan I got advertisements in my mailbox for videos featuring eleven year old girls “showing everything!!!”.

    I absolutely agree with Lauren – this is something that should be considered wrong. Because it is.

  19. darrell says:

    Lauren:

    Ah I see your point, you’re speaking more about the fashion (Harajuku) aspect. I am in agreement in Teapunk who said he’s only ever really seen the fetish (Akiba) aspect of this. And I admit would disagree with the article there. You definitely don’t see A TON of girls doing this on the streets for fashion. You see it mostly as a fetish. However, even then I don’t see myself criticizing the way anyone wants to dress. That’s their choice. Is it demeaning for anyone to dress any way? It sounds like you’re taking agency away from them, in the fashion case no one is making them do it. Like I said before, when I see it I’m always reminded of the silent strength of Rei from Evangelion, and maybe they are too. I personally see it as “cool.” People with injuries in general intrigue me…how did they get them? Were they in a fight? Did they fall down stairs? I want to know.

    Teapunk:
    Yeah, the underage porn thing is totally crazy. And like I said, some girls in this book are at the 16 mark…thats a borderline for me…but since everyone in the book is covered up and doing nothing stranger than a Sports Illustrated or fashion magazine model would do. I think the girls know what’s up, and I’m not deeply bothered by it. Plus, like I said, it’s just so uniquely weird, to me it qualifies as art. However I am deeply bothered by the U15 and “Junior Idol” crap. There is no reason for a DVD of a 10 year old prancing around in a two piece swimsuit. There’s only one type of person who buys that, and we know what they’re gonna use it for. And believe me, I bring it up in conversation with Japanese people all the time. They’ll say something Americans do is bad/odd and I’m like, “At least we don’t have child porn in almost every bookstore!”

  20. Shrdlu says:

    This has nothing to do with cultural awareness. We apply the same stupid paternalistic, hypocritical attitudes towards our own society. The people who protest this sort of “exploitation” and “objectification” are the most demeaning towards women as they imply they are too stupid to understand they are being exploited and sorely need the protection of the more enlightened.

    And what of “objectification?” Why does it only apply to female sexuality? Where is the indignation over the warehousing of the elderly or, say, employing data entry clerks who are only valued for their keyboarding abilities? Why not extend your sense of moral outrage toward the plight of professional athletes who are bought and sold like mere slaves? I am an organ donor. Is that not the ultimate objectification?

    It’s really all about the deep-rooted fear of sexuality in our society, in particular women’s sexuality. Both sides of the political spectrum got to such ridiculous extremes in attempting to control it, but speaking towards the left, shouldn’t a woman’s control over her own body extend beyond the right to fast, safe abortions and, if she so chooses, exploit her own body for the gratification of other men and women, be it in demeaning photos, table dancing, prostitution, breastfeeding in public, or even eating poop from a cup on video?

    I say let women make their own decisions about their own bodies and how to use them, whether it is an affront to your morals or not. They don’t need your enlightened bullshit, which is just another form of exploitation.

  21. Ian Holmes says:

    Songs @#9, you beat me to it. But, yeah.

  22. Chanticleer says:

    @#18:

    Sorry to pick at a tiny part of your argument, but… when a woman breastfeeds in public, she’s exploiting her own body for the gratification of other men and women? No, I think what she’s doing is feeding her kid. Unless the “other men and women” you’re talking about are the babies.

  23. carlovely says:

    reminds me of ex-suicide girl nana…

  24. Teapunk says:

    Hm. Teapunk is a She-punk, actually.
    Let me make this clear: I don’t mind people wearing bandages or bananas and feathers and funky chocolate wrappers.
    All I said was: Child porn is wrong. Children should have nothing to do whatsoever with fetishes.
    If the girls in the books mentioned were women – and not 16 or under, and you get a lot of “Junior Idol Books” as good as naked in Akiba – it wouldn’t bother me much.
    If they were women.
    But they are girls.
    Children should not be considered as sexual objects, I guess we can all agree on this point.
    I quite certainly don’t want to enlighten anyone, I just want to state my opinion.

  25. fnc says:

    One thing you eventually realize about sexual behaviors is that the exact same behavior can be brought about by completely different motivating factors in different people.

    So while I can see some guys enjoying the aspect of having a woman in a ‘weakened’ injured state making them easier to control, it’s also easy to believe that some men would relish the thought of having a woman that depends on their help just because it feels good to help people. And I don’t see much wrong with the fantasy of garnering a beautiful woman’s affections by assisting her in a time of need. Having such a fantasy doesn’t necessarily preclude valuing her as a human being, it’s just another way to prove your worth to her. Thus, I have a hard time considering this fetish as all that icky. As cynical and jaded as I am, it still seems to be the case that the sight of people in need will draw out more good in people than bad, and in a weird way this fetish plays on that.

  26. mrfitz says:

    It’s interesting to see where people draw the line at cultural relativism and hedonism. For example, in some cultures female circumcision is expected, welcomed, and not rejected by females. They are not being forced against their will. Yet, in the west, the usual response is “that’s wrong”. Other than that and a few other examples, we tend to be rather hedonistic and want no one to tell us what is right and wrong.

  27. darrell says:

    @ Teapunk:

    LOL, foot-in-mouth disease. Sorry. I see all anonymous people as male because I have a penis…forgive me. Won’t happen again

  28. Shrdlu says:

    Some people here had the courage to say what they really, honestly felt. Bravo!

  29. tomic says:

    It’s not THAT new a fashion, nor exclusively on girls, there’s a boy in FRESH FRUITS (2005) with bandages and reinterpreted Dogpile post-punk. Very cute. Unless of course the boy is as girl, but from a fashion POV, who cares?

    Fetishes, sexual or otherwise, have a very complex relationship to dominant culture, and are quite resistant to trivial analysis. It’s a lesson carefully learned in queer cultures here in the U.S.

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