Shojo and Adult Women: a Linguistic Analysis of Gender Identity in Manga (Japanese Comics)

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Shojo and Adult Women: A Linguistic Analysis of Gender Identity in Manga (Japanese Comics) Junko Ueno Abstract: This study analyzes the linguistic behavior of female characters in shoJo (girls) and ladies (women) manga (Japanese comics) and discusses the portrayal of female gender identities in the context of popular print media. Considering the great impact that Japanese print media has had over Japanese women's speech patterns throughout history, a linguistic analysis of female characters' speech patterns in shojo and ladies manga may reveal the kinds of representations of language and gender in manga and how these representations may affect Japanese women's gender identity today. Based on data collected through quantitative and qualitative approaches, the discussion focuses on the gender identities of shojo and adult women in shojo and ladies manga. These findings are based on the actual speech of Japanese women and/or their self-report on their language use. No systematic studies, however, have previously investigated how Japanese women are linguistically depicted in contemporary print media. Print media has greatly influenced Japanese women's speech in the past. Sentence final expressions, which are typical of Japanese women's language were originally constructed in popular print media, specifically the genre of domestic novels in late Meiji period (late nineteenth century) (Inoue, 2002). In that period, women began to use feminine linguistic forms from domestic novels, and they became prominent in women's speech. At the same time, the ideological meanings behind these forms, ryosai kenbo (good wife, wise mother), also became widespread. Therefore, popular print media can infiuence one's speech choice and the social identity associated with it. Manga are an extremely popular pastime among Japanese people regardless of sex, age, education, occupation, and social classes (lto, 2000). It is most cotnmonly published in a magazine form that normally contains about twenty serialized and concluding stories (Schodt, 1996). These manga magazines sell approximately 1.7 billion copies per year, or 4650000 copies per day (lto, 2000). Even though manga is read by all sorts of Japanese people, different manga magazines target specific genders and age groups, and the range of a particular manga's topics largely depend on the intended audience. This study focuses on shojo manga (comics written for girls) and ladies manga (comics written for adult women) magazines. Shojo manga is targeted primarily at girls from elementary school through high school (Tsurumi, 1997). The majority of themes in shojo manga is romantic love, though other themes, such as fantasies, mysteries, and science fiction are also included. Ladies manga, in contrast, aims predominantly at adult women. Ladies manga deal with the typical reality adult Japanese women often encounter, such as love, career, motherchild relations, social problems, divorce, relationships with the in-laws, and others (lto, 2002). Shojo and ladies manga magazines are selected for analysis because their readers and writers are almost entirely female. They are written "of women, by women, and for women (p 54)" (Fujimoto, 1991). As Talbot (1992) discusses, even though the characters in print media such as books and magazines are imaginary, a writer can use a variety of strategies to establish a rapport with the readership. Some techniques include claiming a common background, showing that one knows what the reader is like, and 'speaking the same language' as the targeted readership (Talbot, 1992). The projected gender identities of female characters in manga magazines, therefore, are likely to reflect the characteristics of the desired readership.

Introduction Language symbolizes social identity. Through language, certain social identities, including gender identity, are crafted that may either correspond to or oppose mainstream norms and values (Holmes, 1997). This study explores how gender...