Three colleagues in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Mississippi sat down and had a “sociological jam session” after reading the recent NYT article on “genderless danshi” (genderless Japanese men).
Who can “play” with gender?
Judith Butler’s concept of “masquerade” has always thrown me for a loop. When I first read her work, I was excited by the possibility of “gender play” and wanted to believe in the idea that it could bring down the gender structure, one bodily subversion at a time. But I was always asking, “Where do these people go to work every day? Can they really do masquerade and still get paid?” I was stuck on how the organizational structure keeps us all in line and I still find myself focused on the conditions under which people are “at risk of gender assessment.” Toman, a model and pop band member in Japan, and other young musicians and talent agents wear make up and play with fashion that is seen as traditionally feminine, but continue to define themselves as men. Their work in an artistic field may allow for the embrace of a more fluid gender presentation. And it actually may be required because that “look” makes money! The article mentions that “genderless danshi” was a term “coined by a talent agent” interested in “capitalizing on their social media followings to market fans.” What about fast food workers? Construction workers? Teachers? Bankers? Can they engage in gender play and still get paid? What “aesthetic labor” is required in their workplaces? Even if Toman and other danshi turn out to be cultural trendsetters who open up the rigid binary bodily performance of gender across more societal work contexts in Japan and beyond, it’s going to take more than men wearing foundation and eye shadow to take down a system of masculine power.
– Kirsten Dellinger, Professor of Sociology Continue reading