Female Subjectivity and Shoujo (Girls) Manga

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Female Subjectivity and Shoujo (Girls) Manga (Japanese Comics): Shoujo in Ladies’ Comics and Young Ladies’ Comics Fusami Ogi
I. Sexist Reality and Ladies’ Comics: Women’s Lives and Experiences Shoujo manga experienced a turning point in the 1970s when more women began to choose different lives from those the traditional gender role system expected them to take. Although the Japanese social system supports women as housewives, the number of women who work outside the house has been increasing. In this article, I am going to survey the situation of women in Japan when ladies’ comics was born in the 1980s and consider how ladies’ comics could convey those women’s voices. The first publication of the genre ladies’ comics is Be Love published by Kodansha in 1980. Its target reader is an adult female approximately 25 to 30 years old. Generally, the target readers of ladies comics are adult women or shoujo who are almost adult. Ladies comics seem to have performed two roles as a new kind of writing for women: the first is to present women’s desires when they are no longer girls; and the second is to offer alternate role models to adult women. In these respects, ladies’ comics is a genre which first requires identification with the category ‘‘woman,’’ rather than a genre which gives readers an objective point of view defined by the category ‘‘woman.’’ The number of ladies’ comics magazines increased as if reflecting women’s increased concern with their own lives. There were only two ladies’ comics in 1980, but the number went up to 8 in 1984, 19 in 1985, and 48 in 1991 (Shuppan 1996: 201; 1999: 226). The 1980s, when ladies’ comics became quite popular, was a time in which working women disrupted sexist myths which presented working women as unattractive and sexually frustrated (Buckley 1989: 107). It is significant that after 1985 the number of ladies’ comics increased dramatically, because in 780

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1985 Kikai kintou hou [The Equal Employment Opportunity Law] was passed in the Diet, which guarantees equal employment opportunities to both men and women. However, the law was not strict and there was no punishment stipulated if companies did not follow the law. Since the law just encouraged companies to arrange equal opportunities for both men and women, most women had to continue their fight against the discrimination triggered by being women (Shiota 2000; Ueno 1995; Ueno 1990: 303; Sougou 1993: 268; Bornoff 1991: 452). Although the law barred sexual discrimination in the workplace, jobs and career expectations were still gender coded. The law was passed on May 17 in 1985, and by April 1 in 1986 when the law became effective, companies managed to invent two new categories to classify full-time jobs: sougou shoku [managerial career track] and ippan shoku [regular service]. According to Ueno Chizuko,1 in 1986, 99 % of male employees of new graduates were employed as sougou shoku, which includes business trips and transfers to other sections or branches in the future, and 99% of female employees recruited from among new graduates were employed as ippan shoku, which does not include the possibility of such transfer (Ueno 1990: 303). A woman in an ippan shoku position is generally called an ‘‘O.L.,’’ or ‘‘office lady.’’ This position never allows the possibility of promotion. It is a position that reflects the traditional feminine role as a housewife in a household. To cite Yuko Ogasawara: Most office ladies are not entrusted with work that fully exercises their abilities, but are instead assigned simple, routine clerical jobs. They have little prospect of promotion, and their individuality is seldom respected, as evidenced by the fact that they are often referred to as ‘‘gifts.’’ (1998: 155)

Office work that included preparing and serving tea to male workers was mostly reserved for the office ladies (Allison 1994: 93). Ogasawara claims that ‘‘[I]ndeed, men in Japanese companies are dependent on...
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