A Dive Into the Harmful Japanese Schoolgirl Stereotype
By Melissa del Carmen Gomez
Image via Thomas Peter/Reuters
A YouTube video uploaded by Mina Le titled Let’s Talk About the Japanese Schoolgirl, inspired me to delve into the stereotype and how harmful it is to the Asian community. I’m an anime fan; my first anime being Sailor Moon, which is the story about a schoolgirl who has magical powers. As I grew older, I had noticed how women particularly the school uniforms were drawn. And Mina Le’s video really highlighted pretty much everything I had been thinking for years.
Historically, the kogal is a Japanese fashion that consists of a short skirt, loose socks, scarves, and blazers, inspired by the Japanese uniform. This style was made popular by pop singer Namie Amuro. However, Japanese influence and Western interest began in the 19th century when Japan opened to the West. Europe became absorbed with Japanese culture and displayed their interest through art, books, prints, etc. The term Japonisme was used to describe this influence. As time progressed, the 1960s through 1990s became a time where there were Japanese economic development and Japanese culture such as anime, manga, video games, toys, and fashion rose in popularity with Western audiences.
The Japanese schoolgirl stereotype became popular in the West with films such as Kill Bill Vol. 1 with the character Gogo Yubari. However, the Japanese schoolgirls have been dubbed the ‘Oriental Lolita’ for their oversexualized nature and tendency to portray young women in an eroticized manner. Japanese media such as anime normally has fanservice for men and reduces their female characters as sexual beings.
Image via Miramax
In 1994, the Japanese newspaper titled Asahi Shinbun reported on enjo kosai, which means compensated dating. This involved older middle-aged salarymen to take out underaged girls and pay for their time. It was discovered that girls who wore school uniforms earned more money than girls who did not wear a school uniform. Western media discovered this and immediately wrote stories on the scandal, and the representation of the Japanese schoolgirl was changed with Western media writing about underaged sex and a ‘lolita complex virus.’
The hypersexualization of the Japanese schoolgirl is harmful especially for young girls in Japan just living out their daily lives. A 17-year-old student from Ikebukuro says in an interview with Seattle Weekly, “Every week I am propositioned for sex for money. I ride the Saikyo line, which is one of the most crowded, into Tokyo every day. Very often I run into chikan (train perverts), who press their bodies against me, often palming my body and becoming noticeably excited in their pants.” Another 16-year-old Japanese schoolgirl states, “I want to escape the stereotypes people have of me from my uniform, and from how they see it on TV. I don’t want to be a kogal, I want to be me.”
Western media has also latched onto this stereotype and the American Asian community has grown tired of being seen as a fetish. A study led by Shruti Mukkamala at the University of California, Irvine researched Asian American women and their dating experiences. It was discovered that their romantic partners had inaccurate expectations towards these women, with words such as ‘submissive,’ ‘sexually erotic,’ and ‘petite.’
Image via Wikipedia/2.0
By understanding and dissecting the issues with the Japanese media and portrayal of women, the history of Western and Japanese interaction with media, as well as the issues that continue to harm Japanese schoolgirls and Asian American women today, we must question the media we consume. More media needs to be created by women staff members and be targeted for women. Asian girls are not here for pleasure or the schoolgirl anime fantasy. If you want more information regarding this article topic, watch Mina Le’s informational video on the Japanese schoolgirl here.
Written by writer Melissa del Carmen Gomez