Elevate Difference

Nakigao (Crying Girl)

You may have already heard about Nakigao (Crying Girl), a DVD released in Japan last month. It features eleven 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.

Given the wide rage of fetishes out there, especially when it comes to viewing women as victims or vulnerable, I’m not really surprised this DVD exists. But 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 most Westerners take for granted.

Steve Levenstein over at 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.” Levenstein notes, smartly or perhaps cheekily, that if a self-help tool for empowering men, which utilizes women as props to do so, were marketed in the U.S., “you’ll earn yourself a swift kick in the, er, nutshells.” Yet it’s okay 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 of this DVD's existence, or whether they were doing something helpful or harmful 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 the DVD sought to be), such coverage is participating in the perpetuation of Western stereotypes about Japanese women as meek and submissive.

Most irksome to me is the surprising coverage this stupid DVD got into the May issue of Marie Claire. It was featured in the “Bulletin” section, which usually highlights items that are new, relevant, progressive, and pro-woman. 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.” Alongside informative and helpful bits about DC’s wack anti-prostitution initiative—which could get you arrested for carrying more than three condoms—and the fiftieth 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 offering any kind of critique of the DVD, it came off as condoning, or presuming normative gender roles in Japan: “the sixty-three-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 convenient to Otherize a taboo to make yourself feel more normal, but meanwhile child pornography and other disturbing fetishes are alive and well in the U.S. 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 is the exact same misreading of a potentially feminist storyline that I wrote about in January. The New York Times spun potentially good news—women are earning more—into an androcentric tale of female victimhood: men are marrying women for their money. Why does androcentrism seem to be more newsworthy than feminism? Is feminism a trope or something nowadays?

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 that, if it was, it was critiqued in a more thoughtful way. Instead of wasting ink describing how eleven women are crying to make businessmen 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.

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.

Cross-posted with Gender Across Borders

Written by: Jessica Mack, April 28th 2010

I'd never heard of the DVD before reading this review. I find it so incredibly disturbing that something like this exists, especially if the men purchasing it are using it for sexual purposes. I really, really think there's something wrong with men as a whole. There's something lacking or missing or fucked up in their brain. Is that wrong to say? Not all men, I guess, but most.