You may have already heard about “Crying Girl” DVD, released in Japan last month. It features 11 young Japanese actresses, crying over real-life dramas they’ve had. And…that’s about it. The DVD is being marketed toward Japanese men, either for sexual or ego enjoyment purposes.
While I’m not really surprised that this DVD exists, given the wide rage of fetishes out there especially when it comes to viewing women as victims or vulnerable (just because I’m not surprised doesn’t mean I don’t find that problematic), I’m really bothered by the lack of criticism it’s receiving from bloggers and news outlets, where it’s gotten any coverage at all.
It’s been highlighted (in English-language blogs) as just one more “WTF, Japan” idiosyncrasy, that also provides a fleeting glimpse into a gender status quo that most Westerners are taking for granted.
Steve Levenstein over at the blog Inventor Spot posted a somewhat cynical take of the DVD but nonetheless concluded, “it seems that men in Japan need to have their “conquering instinct” stoked up, and the way to do this is by watching beautiful women cry. Yep, in a nutshell: men feel stronger after experiencing the weakness of women. But hey – Japan is a different culture and Crying Girl just underlines that fact.”
Notes Marie Claire, “the film pitches itself as a self-help tool to empower men and stir up their ‘macho instincts’ by showing the ‘vulnerability’ of women.”
Levenstein notes, smartly or perhaps cheekily, that if a self-help tool for empowering men…which utilized women as props to do so…were marketed in the US, “you’ll earn yourself a swift kick in the, er, nutshells.” Yet it’s OK to condone that dynamic in Japan. Maybe he didn’t feel empowered to take a feminist critique?
Posts didn’t ask questions about the deeper why that this DVD existed or whether they were doing something helpful by advertising it. Instead of being “culturally sensitive,” or culturally insensitive in a tongue in cheek way which is what I think most of the blogs that posted about it sought to be (“hey – Japan is a different culture…”), such coverage is participating in the perpetuation of Western stereotypes about Japanese women as meek and submissive.
Most irksome to me was the surprising coverage this stupid DVD got in the May issue of Marie Claire, in the “Bulletin” section, which usually highlights relevant and progressive, pro-woman new items. Along side informative and helpful bits about DC’s wack anti-prostitution initiative — which could get you arrested for carrying more than three condoms – and the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill (happy birthday old friend!), was a toothless review-slash-apology for “Crying Girls.”
I think the author wanted to highlight it more as an oddity than anything else, but by not putting any kind of critique on the DVD, it came off as condoning, or presuming a status quo in Japan: “the 63-minute sobfest promises that men won’t be able to resist the ‘pure tears and running noses’ and ‘sad sexy voices’ of the women reliving their misery. Whatever turns you on, right?”
It’s also a convenient way to “otherize” a taboo and make yourself feel more normal – pointing and saying, hey look how weird Japanese men are, they’re into crying women. Meanwhile child pornography and other disturbing fetishes are alive and well in the US and all over the world.
Marie Claire interviews a Japanese psychologist who confirms: “Japanese women are getting more powerful by the day, and men are experiencing a deep malaise of inadequacy.’ Anyone need a tissue?” And that’s where the article ends. Instead of making the newsy bit about how women in Japan are “getting more powerful by the day,” the story is the misogynistic prop that men need to make themselves feel better.
This was the exact same mis-reading of a potentially feminist storyline that I posted about in January. The New York Times spun potentially good news – women are earning more – into an androcentric tale of female victimhood: mean are marrying women for their money. Why does androcentrism seems to be more newsworthy than feminism… is feminism a trope or something nowadays?
Anyway, I don’t want to make a mountain out of a mole hill, but I wish that either this DVD wasn’t mentioned at all, or if it was – it was critiqued in a more thoughtful way. Instead of wasting ink describing how eleven women are crying to make business men feel macho, let’s use our ink to talk about the under-sung work of Japanese feminists, and important regional groups like the Asia-Japan Women’s Resource Center.
And if you’re thinking of ordering this ridiculous DVD, instead buy Broken Silence: Voices of Japanese Feminism. Then you’ll really learn something about the Japanese woman…as she speaks for herself.