“Girls are dancin’” by Emily Jane Wakeling

“Girls are dancin’”: shōjo culture and feminism in contemporary Japanese Art

by Emily Jane Wakeling
University of Queensland

Read the full text here http://pdf.jpf-sydney.org/newvoices/5/foreword.pdf#page=134

Word definition( Collins English Dictionary)
Personal Note
Page Number
Other peoples References & theories


It is relevant to read and discuss all of the abstract as it defines the project well and gives clear indication to the purpose of the text. It is broken up with my notes.

“This article explores the gender-transgressive (transgressive= offend/ violate boundaries) expressions found in shōjo culture in order to highlight the potential for feminist analysis in the prevalence of the shōjo motif in contemporary Japanese art. Shōjo culture is a fascinating cultural space, within contemporary Japanese culture, which fosters creative expressions of gender that negate or make complex hegemonic (hegemonic = dominant) categories. (In my mind this sentence translates more simply to challaging the expectations related to the depiction of women.) Departing from stereotypes of Japanese girls, this article will pay particular interest to an emerging wave of figurative contemporary art practices in which the figure of the shōjo is utilised for a new generation of feminist critique. Aoshima Chiho, Kunikata Mahomi, Takano Aya, Sawada Tomoko and Yanagi Miwa are among the current artists who feature the shōjo motif in contexts that foreground female subjectivities found paralleled in shōjo culture. These works will then be contextualised in the greater picture of current trends and themes in global contemporary feminist art.”

Although the majority of artists mentioned are painters I will read all of this text as I feel it is the most relevant text I have found to my topic, especially now it has been narrowed down to the representation of women.


“The cultural construct of girlhood in Japan typifies the country’s typical absorption of foreign cultural influences and embracing it as uniquely “Japanese”.”

“The Japanese term “shōjo” is particularly useful to gender discussions of the Japanese girl. It is a way of referring to someone as feminine, but with a distinct suggestion of youth.” I have encountered the term Shojo before, but as a genre of manga rather than a feminist view.

“The shōjo is ‘free and arrogant, unlike meek and dutiful musume [daughter] or pure and innocent otome [maiden]’. “Daughter” and “maiden” both suggest the presence of a male authority in determining the girl’s identity, while the concept of shōjo has neither of these connections” – A woman who is considered independent.

Shōjo motif in contemporary art

“What differentiates them from others is their use of the shōjo motif in reference to the gender-transgressive expressions found in shōjo culture.”

“Aida identifies the sexualisation of shōjo in contemporary Japanese culture and makes comment through an exaggeration of his powerful position as a man and “pervert”.” – To my surprise this text does talk about Aida Makoto. Mainly discussing his artwork the text talks about how he uses his position as a man to make a social commentary on the representation of women. Almost ironically via adopting the iconic schoolgirl uniform and imagery we see so much in anime.

“Specifically, these artists use the shōjo motif to reference elements of shōjo culture that focus on her subjectivity over the male gaze.”

“They go beyond the sexual objectification of shōjo, as seen in the work of Araki, or ironically presented by Aida, to make reference to the creative uses of the fantastic, girlish aesthetics or gender-transgressive concepts found in shōjo culture.”

“Yanagi presents young women—specifically, the shōjo—as a status far removed from social conventions such as marriage and child-rearing”

“Minami (2000) imagines her older self as the eccentric owner of a Disney-style theme park being tended to by carers.” see photo left.
 “Yuka (2000) enjoys a ride on a sidecar speeding across the Golden Gate Bridge.” see photo left
“Feminist critic Ueno Chizuko notes that most of the shōjo subjects just imagine an extension of themselves ‘as they are now’ because ‘several of the grandmothers appear as cheerfully active and carefree as they are today’.38 ‘As products of Japan’s affluent society, these women refuse to relinquish the privileges afforded them as children, even as they approach their thirties. So children they will remain, into old age’.” – This analysis needs to be followed up!

38 Ibid., p. 61.

Feminism and Contemporary Art

“Yanagi considers her art practice to be different to artists who come from a Western background because ‘my knowledge of the origins and history of what is referred to as Western fine art, and of modernism, was grafted later on to a base of novel, movie and manga subculture’.41” Again this quote need following up. What else has Yanagi written about her interaction with manga and how it influenced her.

41 Yanagi in ARTiT, ‘Interview with Yanagi Miwa’, p. 56.

Gender in Shōjo Culture

“Kawaii style, mentioned briefly above, has been analysed as a female-centred rejection of adulthood. 51 Laura Miller presented cases of girls using photographic technologies, specifically the print-club sticker booths, to resist stereotypes. 52 Both refernces worth following up on as well. Laura Miller’s view on print-club could be helpful within my context section, heling me define this culture in a way that can be understood within minutes.

51 Kinsella, ‘Cuties in Japan’.
52 Miller, ‘Bad Girl Photography

“Shōjo manga is an especially rich subject to draw out girls’ expressions of gender transgression. To illustrate with an example, The Rose of Versailles—possibly the most iconic shōjo manga—was called a “revolutionary romance” by Deborah Shamoon. This manga would be worth a read, just to gain a better understanding of Shojo and see if I can find any similarities between the photographers I am looking at and this iconic manga.

This article has been really helpful. Towards the end it turned out to be looking at the photographers as practioners rather than what their work is trying to say. That it a key area to explore but I don’t want to end up creating a similar exploration into the artists  cultural background and reasons for creating work. I am more concerned with what they are trying to say with their work, are they trying to provoke change? but I have a long list of texts to look at. What I think this text is trying to say is the artists discussed within it are Shojo themselves they are part of this new breed of women, ans whilst that is vital to the understanding of their work it’s not what my topic aims to conclude on.

To read now:

51 Kinsella, ‘Cuties in Japan’.
52 Miller, ‘Bad Girl Photography
41 Yanagi in ARTiT, ‘Interview with Yanagi Miwa’, p. 56.
38 Ibid., p. 61.

One thought on ““Girls are dancin’” by Emily Jane Wakeling

  1. Pingback: Cuties in Japan by Sharon Kinsella |

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