Thursday, May 8, 2008

La Tour Eiffel en rouge et blanc.

For my cultural presentation in my Japanese class, I made a video on the construction of homosexuality in Japan from past to present. I was largely inspired by one of the discussions we had in class of what it means to be gay (during our section on Querelle de Brest). One of my primary sources was a great article called "Is there a Japanese 'gay identity'?" by Mark McLelland, which is short and concise (yet full of great information) and basically elaborates on everything I was trying to say about how there is really no such thing as gay or straight in Vietnamese culture (the philosophies and religions of ancient China having a profound effect on most of the east Asian countries, including Japan and Vietnam). I seem to remember reading somewhere that in all of recorded Japanese history, gay sex acts were only illegal for something like 11 years, and this was during the period that immediately followed Japan's opening up to (and rapid assimilation of) western values and technology after centuries of isolation. Anyway, I'd upload the video I made, but its terrible, weird, and in Japanese.

Instead, here's a link to the article:

My other primary source was a book called Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan by Gary Leupp. It's a great read too. Even though both deal specifically with Japan, I think they really help illustrate how sexuality is a social construct.

And if you wanna read a really fun book that picks up with French culture and history where we left off, I recommend Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the Reordering of French Culture by Kristin Ross.

That's all! H.A.G.S. everybody!


DJ Kessler said...

Thanks for that information. The effects of the "western mind" against homosexuality is something that I really want to look into, so thanks for the link.
I also must say that I appreciate that you signed off with "H.A.G.S." I haven't seen that in years!

Carl Kitchen said...

I hope you find it useful. I really like that it challenges the notion commonly held by the "West" that countries like Japan are "behind the times" because they haven't accepted the categories of gay and straight as, how should I say, defining what a person IS. Men who have sex with other men in Japan typically do not see themselves as an oppressed group of people. They may not like the representation of "gay" on the television, where it is usually presented as something bizarre to laugh at or caters to the fantasies of teenage girls (who, in Japan, seem to love the idea of pretty boys falling in love with each other), but they usually don't have to face the same kind of hatred that gays in western-european societies do. It also challenges the idea that gay men in Japan (who often marry women and have children) are "living in the closet" by explaining Japanese society's differing view of marriage.

That isn't to say that Asians are totally right and Westerners are totally wrong, there are obviously pros and cons on both sides. It is also terribly difficult to find information on lesbianism in Asian countries as well. I know in my family, the men can pretty much love and sleep with whoever they like, even (sometimes as long as) they're married, but the same privilege certainly does not extend to the women... but that's a whole other issue.

DJ Kessler said...

I used part of that article for a paper in another class, specifically the part concerning the loaned words Japan has for gay terms. i.e gei boi: gay boy, homo: homosexual, toransujendaa: transgender, kamu auto: come out, etc. Do you think that our need to classify all types of sexual deviation from the hetero-norm means that our culture accepts it less? It seems like the mindset might be that the more that is learned about homosexuality, the better chance people can be cured of it. I saw something the other day that added and "I" into the GLBTQ acronym, the "I" standing for intersexual (not sure what these folks are into yet). It seems like we're getting out of control with the desire to label everyone. You would never do this for heterosexuals. You could though. Straight couples with effeminant males and masculine females are quite common, but we don't go around giving them a name (as far as I know). It's almost saying that because basically, they are living the way they are "supposed to be" so no one is going to bother them about it.