Cosmo Girls and Playboys: Japanese Femininity and Masculinity in Gendered Magazines
Committee ChairJones, Kimberly
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis study investigates a well-explored topic, the relationship between gender and language, with a unique set of data--Japanese translations of highly gendered discourse contexts in Cosmopolitan and Playboy magazines. In both magazines, being attractive, heterosexual (wo)men is one of the ultimate goals. Therefore, choosing the 'right' words and expressions to display their gender identities is expected to be important for the writers. For this reason, language use in both magazines is expected to correspond to hegemonic masculinities and femininities in today's Japan.Comparative analysis of the two languages is limited to an examination of the use of passive voice. The results suggest one gender-specific constraint--Japanese women avoid maintaining the inanimate subject of English passive sentences--and one language-specific constraint--Japanese passive sentences are preferred when the speakers discuss their personal relationships.In addition to the comparative analysis of passives in English and Japanese, gender differences for the Japanese data are also examined in other linguistic aspects. Over 14,000 Japanese sentences from Cosmopolitan Japan and Playboy Japan were divided into three groups of senders (authors)--male, female, and editorial--and compared in relation to the following three aspects: person referential forms, sentence endings, and directive expressions. The results suggest that male senders of both magazines are moderately masculine, while female senders of both magazines are extremely feminine. This may suggest that sociocultural pressure on Japanese women to preserve their 'women's language' is strong, while such pressure is not obvious with men's language use.This study further argues that male-centered and female-centered discourse communities in the two magazines provide their readers not only sociocultural conventions of language use, but also gender-specific socialization experiences and different senses of preferred social structures. More specifically, the readers of Cosmopolitan Japan learn the importance of peer approval, and the importance of gender difference, hierarchy, and politeness as a part of femininity. However, they may not learn how to make femininity and power coexist. In contrast, the readers of Playboy Japan learn the value of independence and may learn that gender and hierarchy/power are not rigid and that one can be simultaneously feminine and powerful, and masculine and polite.
Degree ProgramEast Asian Studies