Sex myths without substance: Mislabelling Japan

I wrote a piece for the Independent after the ‘No sex please, we’re Japanese’ BBC documentary and a number of articles that have cropped up recently on Japan’s declining population:

Every few months, as if to remind us what a disturbingly odd place Japan is, an alarming Japanese news story explodes online. Western media outlets clamber over each other in their haste to cover the story, with every report of bagel headssnail facials or ritual head shaving being used as further evidence of a unique Japanese weirdness. A lack of understanding (and, sometimes, basic fact-checking) means that entire stories are lifted, often without critique, and churned into dubious clickbait. Earlier this year, widespread coverage of a supposed eyeball-licking epidemic among Japanese teens that turned out to be a hoax left more than a few editors red-faced.

This round was kicked off with an article in the Guardian looking at reasons behind Japan’s rapidly declining population. Since then, sound-bites have been repeated and distorted, and the spiralling birth rate figures have become a hook for a spate of ill-informed, voyeuristic articles that fail to note that the ‘weirdness’ they see before them is far from representative.

Read more here.

Naked Amanda Palmer 1, Daily Mail 0

Last Friday at the Roundhouse in London, Amanda Palmer (otherwise known as Amanda Fucking Palmer) delivered an open letter to the Daily Mail in the form of a song. ‘Dear Daily Mail’ was a response to an article (and I use that term loosely) about her performance at Glastonbury festival, during which her breast “escaped” from her bra. It goes like this:

I think it’s brilliant. It’s scathing and gleeful and brilliantly witty, and denies the Daily Mail any power over Palmer or her sense of self worth.
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Steubenville, CNN and the language of rape

Steubenville rape case rally - Anonymous

Last week I wrote a piece about Steubenville, victim blaming and rape culture for Indy Voices. I thought I’d cross-post since it’s likely to appeal to this blog’s audience:

‘Who is to blame for sexual assault?’ The language of rape

It’s a seemingly very simple question – and yet it generates heated debate any time rape hits the news.

When a guru claimed that an Indian student was partially responsible for being raped and murdered, his comments were reviled as backward and repulsive; no doubt there will be a similar reaction to police telling a Swiss tourist who was gang raped in India that she must bear some responsibilityfor the attack. Yet however strong the backlash, these opinions are pervasive – not just in India, but also in the West. In every high-profile rape case, there seem to be a crowd of people rushing to find anyone to blame but the perpetrator, be it the victim or society at large.

Who suffers as the result of sexual assault? A slightly less simple question, whose answer is even more widely contested than that of the first. The victim? The community? The attackers?

Over the last few months, the name of a small town in Ohio has become synonymous with a rape case which gained infamy after video footage of the incident was distributed online. Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, two teenage football players from Steubenville, were convicted on Sunday of raping a 16-year-old girl at a series of parties in August. The case has been steeped in controversy since it began, and the trial and its outcome have been the subject of international scrutiny…

Read the whole thing here.

Image: marsmet523 on Flickr.

Reeva Steenkamp: The Oscar Pistorius story

In just over a week since the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp, a change.org petition demanding an apology from the Sun for their coverage has gathered well over 5,000 signatures.

The tabloid’s now-infamous front page was adorned with a full-length photo of Steenkamp, the victim of a fatal shooting, clad in a bikini and posing seductively for the camera. Emblazoned on the cover next to her were the words “3 shots. Screams. Silence.”; underneath, a cut-out of her famous boyfriend, who was later arrested on suspicion of killing her.
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Japanese pop star sleeps with boyfriend, shaves head

I wrote a piece for Indy Voices on the AKB48 singer who shaved her head as self-inflicted punishment for sleeping with another pop star. Turns out doing a Japanese degree does sometimes come in useful!

Shocked at the Japanese pop star who shaved her head for having a boyfriend and betraying band rules? Look around you

Minami Minegishi’s band AKB48 embody the disturbing schoolgirl fantasy: naïve and submissive, yet unattainable – and the hypocrisy isn’t unique to Japanese culture

When a video emerged last week of a Japanese popstar’s heart-wrenching apology for betraying the rules of her band, the British reaction was predictably dramatic.

It was difficult to fathom why a 20-year-old would go to the lengths of shaving her head in order to communicate the depth of her shame for having spent the night with a boyfriend. The offence was barely newsworthy. Although a traditional form of repentance in Japan, the self-inflicted punishment hardly seemed to fit the crime.

Yet Minami Minegishi’s response is perhaps less shocking in the context of idol culture in Japan. Minegishi, who was photographed leaving boyband dancer Alan Shirahama’s apartment, is part of the phenomenally successful girl band AKB48. Tickets to the band’s nightly shows are so sought-after they are allocated through a lottery. The band is divided into three teams, allowing them to perform in different locations, or even different countries, at any one time, and they are a powerful export. In 2011, AKB48 opened a café in Singapore: a replica of their own venue in Akihabara, the electronics district of Tokyo after which they are named…

 

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