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Japanese Women are “Supposed” to be This Way? – Debate with Japanese Women’s Representation in Advertisements

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Japanese Women are “Supposed” to be This Way? – Debate with Japanese Women’s Representation in Advertisements

The image is a screenshot from the video "Shanai Keshou"

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Women in the advertisements are all beautiful; represented to nudge the women in the real world to look and be as beautiful as the models and actresses on screen. But in 2016, there were some controversial issues regarding advertisements and their portrayal of Japanese women. Because of the online environment, the flames of criticism towards these advertisements led to not only to the shut-down of the advertisements in public, but also spread the online discussions regarding the issue.

Ugly women put on make-up on trains?

One was about the train manner and etiquette poster and video advertisements made by one of the railway companies. The female protagonist in the video, a young Japanese woman who moved to Tokyo to start her new campus life, mentions, “Urban women are beautiful, but they are ugly sometimes.”

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This video was first released as a series (along with the “smartphone zombie” walking at platforms) for campaign to endorse manners and etiquettes on the train, which spurred to backlash by many of the female viewers. One of the main reasons was how the women putting make-up on the train is regarded to be “ugly” or “mittomonai” in Japanese, told by the subjective opinion rather than objective reasoning. The online debate has flamed as there are more train manners that need to be discussed and the very first topic was about how women are seen from men. Yes, doing make-up on train may be causing trouble as eye-liner might spill on someone next to you or the smell of nail polish, but there are other unresolved troubles on trains like the gropers, or giving seats to the elderly.

You’re not a “girl” from 25?

Another portrayal of Japanese woman in advertisement that flamed up in to debate was the one of the biggest cosmetic brand releasing an advertisement for new line of cosmetics, and mentioning how 25 year-old female are not a “girl” anymore.

The image is a screenshot of the official video "25 years old is not a "girl" anymore"

The image is a screenshot of the official video “25 years old is not a “girl” anymore”

The three 20-something women are celebrating the birthday for one of the girlfriend turning 25 years old, who seems to be unhappy about turning 25. But the other friend strongly mentions to her, “You are NOT a girl (onna no ko) anymore” and the other friend mentions sadly, “Welcome to the real world.” You won’t be pampered by others because there will be younger female, your friends will upload pictures of the wedding and you start to feel impatient, and the weapon to be “kawaii” isn’t no worth it anymore…The listings of the turning point for women to be 25 is unfortunate. But the birthday-girl mentions, “But isn’t there ‘kawaii’ adult too?” and the friend strongly agrees with that.

The image is a screenshot of the official video "25 years old is not a "girl" anymore"

The image is a screenshot of the official video “25 years old is not a “girl” anymore”

The advertisement wraps up “To update the ‘kawaii’” as the three girls are pumped for not to look ‘kawaii’ as the teenagers, but rather to update the “kawaii.” The video was to advertise the new cosmetic line for the young women who are becoming an adult. The advertisement’s original intension might be to sell to those young women who are growing to be adult and independent to buy and use the new cosmetic line for their new look, but apparently, it only added more fuel to the fire that women are judged by their age.

The image is a screenshot of the official video "25 years old is not a "girl" anymore"

The image is a screenshot of the official video “25 years old is not a “girl” anymore”

Unfortunately, the official video is not available anymore as it was deleted by the brand after the issue.

Women in Japan “supposed” to do/be?

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Author
Satsuki
Satsuki

Grad student in Tokyo. Born in Tokyo, raised in New York, studied in London. My interests lies in Tokyo's urban street cultures and girls cultures,rock music, fashion and manga. Just livin' it up :)

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