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Japan, Food, and Gender, Part 6: Final Thoughts

Posted by Shaun

I've explored food and gender in Japan from just about every possible angle in the last 5 blog posts. 

In Part 1, I looked at some examples of gender-divided food marketing in Japan and posed some questions for the rest of the blog series. Why did the Whopper Junior become womanly when it came to Japan? The transformation tells us about the extent to which Japanese people find it natural to market food based on gender. In Part 2, I summarized research that showed Japanese college students perceived meat as masculine and women's diets as dainty. Burger King already had a kid's meal, so who else could the Whopper Junior be for?

In Part 2, I also looked at the social origins of food stereotypes, and how presenting, serving, and eating food is one of the many ways we perform gender.

In Part 3, I explored how changes in the consumption of sweet food by Japanese men reflect changes in masculinities, as well as how sexuality is described with food terms in the case of "herbivore men." I also looked at how, due to the globalization of Japanese popular culture, anime fans outside of Japan are picking up on the ways food cues are used to express gender in Japan.

In Part 4, I examined the relatively gender-neutral marketing of beer in Japan and considered how these advertisements, when compared to American beer ads, might be viewed as feminine by American consumers.

Finally, in Part 5 I looked at the commodification of women through food advertising, with AKB48 as a case study.

"So," you say, "Shaun, this has all been very interesting, but what does all this stuff going on in Japan have to do with America? And you said your class was about the globalization of Japanese popular culture. What does this have to do with globalization?"

The answer to "What does this have to do with globalization?" is that all of the things I've written about are already being globalized. Japanese food, particularly sushi, is popular throughout America, and so are Japanese pop culture forms like anime and manga. Anime and manga bring with them Japanese ideas of both gender and food, because characters also perform gender while they're eating. AKB48, too, is finding an American audience - apparently they performed at California's Anime Expo in 2010. It might not be long before we start seeing AKB48 food in the US, in which case we'll have to really dig deep and examine what it is about this uniformed all-girl pop band that whets our appetites.

And when it comes to marketing methods and economic issues, America finds itself in a position to look to Japan as a model, as The New York Times' Eamonn Fingleton suggests in The Myth of Japan's Failure. Our modern histories are intertwined, and our economic situations are similar. Using Japan as a model, or a mirror, we can begin to understand America. Looking at the ways gender is constructed differently in Japan and the US when it comes to food and eating, we can better understand how arbitrary and how diverse gender can be.

One Response so far.

  1. Was John Harrobin previously the chief marketing officer of Verizon

    Was John Harrobin previously the chief marketing officer of Verizon

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