MA (Communication, Media & Culture) with Distinction
BA (Public Communication/History, Philosophy & Politics)
Masafumi Monden is an emerging fashion and cultural studies scholar specializing in contemporary culture and Japanese studies. He has been invited to speak at national and international symposiums including the Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology Annual Symposium, New York. He regularly publishes in high quality presses such as Yale University Press, in the areas of men's and women's clothing, Japan, art, youth and popular culture. His first book, Japanese Fashion Cultures is released from Bloomsbury Academic in January 2015. The book investigates the complexities of dress and gender and demonstrates the flexible nature of contemporary fashion and style exchange in an increasingly global context.
Masafumi is currently working on two book-length projects: one on cultural imaginations of Japanese girlhood (shoujo) and boyhood (shounen), and another on cultural history of fashion, consumerism, aesthetics and the body in modern Japan.
In addition to the presentation of his work in academic contexts, his expertise and knowledge in gender, culture, fashion and Japanese youth studies have attracted attention in a variety of non-academic settings, including in media interviews such as ABC Radio National (Canberra, July 2017), and the New York Times (January 2017).
Masafumi has also served on the PhD Committee, and serves as a peer-reviewer on academic journals and manuscripts, including Bloomsbury Academic, Fashion Theory, Japanese Studies (Taylor & Francis), Asian Anthropology, the East Asian Journal of Popular Culture (EAJPC), Business History, US-Japan Women's Journal, and Japan Foundation Sydney's New Voices.
Masafumi is a recent recipient of the Japan Foundation Japanese Studies Fellowship (2016-17) and The National Library of Australia Fellowship in Japan Studies (2017).
Research interests include the role of fashion and gender in:
- the Body;
- and Popular Culture.
Masafumi's doctoral project was an interdisciplinary study analyzing the relationship between the aesthetics of fashion, culture and gender identity within contemporary Japan, and its relevance to an increasingly transnational world.
His other research projects include:
- Manga (comics);
- Men and fashion;
- The construction and cultural conception of 'girlhood' and 'boyhood';
- 'Shoujo' fashion;
- Romanticism and contemporary youth culture;
- Aesthetics of masculinity and femininity;
- Classical ballet in popular culture
- Japanese history of classical ballet;
- Fashion and aesthetics in manga culture.
Teaching areas include
- Writing Research in Design and Fashion Studies;
- Fashion in Media;
- Gender and Culture;
- Japanese Youth and Popular Culture;
- Japanese Fashion Cultures;
- History of Japan;
- Asian Poplar Culture;
- Gender and Identity;
- Dress and the Body;
- Cultural Globalization.
Through case studies focussing on fashion image consumption in style tribes such as Kamikaze Girls, Lolita, Edwardian, Ivy Style, Victorian, Romantic and Kawaii, this ground-breaking book investigates the complexities of dress and gender ...
Monden, M 2019, 'Boys at the Barre: Boys, men and the ballet in Japan', Japanese Studies.
Since the introduction of ballet to Japan in the early 1900s, male dancers have figured prominently, with a profile equal to that of female dancers. Despite this, the association between ballet and girls' cultures has been dominant in Japan, as in other cultures. As a consequence, ballet is often considered to be a highly 'feminine' activity, with associations as a 'queer' activity for males in contemporary culture. What does the increase in visibility of ballet in Japanese boys' culture tell us? This paper examines Japanese popular media that target boys and men as its core audience, especially the magazine Dancin', possibly the first ballet magazine in the world that is exclusively for boys and young men. I examine how the magazine operates in contrast to the female version to attempt to create a virtual, imagined community that might offer a sense of belonging and encouragement to otherwise isolated ballet boys.
Fraser, L & Monden, M 2017, 'The Maiden Switch: New Possibilities for Understanding Japanese Shjo Manga (Girls' Comics)', ASIAN STUDIES REVIEW, vol. 41, no. 4, pp. 544-561.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Monden, M 2015, 'Layers of the Ethereal: A Cultural Investigation of Beauty, Girlhood, and Ballet in Japanese Shōjo Manga (Russian Translation)', Russian Fashion Theory, no. March.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Monden, M & Fraser, L 2015, 'Hoshi no hitomi ni utsuru alternative (Alternativeness that is Reflected on Starry Eyes: Focusing on the negotiation between mainstream and alternative qualities in mainstream shōjo manga)', Global Manga Studies, vol. 5, pp. 149-175.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Shōjo manga (girls' comics) is one of the hot topics in the study of manga. Despite this visibility, scholarly scrutiny tends to have focused on limited aspects of the category -e.g. famous works from the 1970s, and/or the 'queer' genres of 'boys love' or fighting girls. As a result, the more 'typical' aspirations of shōjo manga have yet to receive adequate attention. This article focuses on Miyawaki Akiko's Kin to gin no kanon (abbreviated as K&G, 1984) in which one of the heroines -Masumi-attempts to escape from her wretched life and determines to succeed with her musical talent at any cost, leading to betrayal, deception and even murder. Through K & G, this paper argues that one of the problems attached to shōjo manga studies is an unconscious avoidance of what appear to be 'typical' shōjo manga, perhaps due to their 'girlish' aesthetics and 'ultra-feminine' protagonists. For some, these might appear too supportive of normative gender roles. If shōjo manga are, as often argued, reflections of patriarchal oppression endured by Japanese women, what sense can we then make of manga like Miyawaki's, with its significantly ambitious heroine? This manga, moreover, reflects a tradition of shōjo culture where the relationship between girls is a recurrent theme.
We begin with a general overview of shōjo manga studies. In particular, we look at a recent gender studies trend in which shōjo manga studies are focused on two sub-genres; boys love (BL) and fighting girls. This approach prioritizes works that make explicit attempts to disrupt gender role stereotypes by assuming 'masculinity' and hence rejecting (girlish) 'femininity'. We argue that this analysis, while important, has come to overshadow other, more 'mainstream' shōjo manga works with certain 'girly girl' emphases. To begin to address this critical gap, we examine how Miyawaki's K & G, with an adolescent girl protagonist of highly 'feminine' appearance and strong sense of determination and autonomy, gainsays a...
There is a certain curiosity inscribed to the character Alice of Lewis Carroll's famous children's books. Perhaps reflecting the 'enigmatic' sexuality of the author, Alice herself has been perceived and interpreted in a dualistic way, namely as an innocent child and as a self-assertively sexualized 'Lolita'. However, Alice can also be perceived as an emotionally flat yet autonomous character. My article explores this reading of the heroine, which is notable in the context of Japanese culture. In aspects of contemporary Japanese popular culture, for instance, the idea of `Alice' embodies the idealised image of the 'shojo' (girl), who is situated between child and adult and is largely detached from the heterosexual economy. Paying particular attention to a group of music videos in which female Japanese pop singers offer their own versions of Carroll's heroine, I examine significant meanings that lie in Japanese appropriations of the imagery of Alice. The importance of their performances as Alice is highlighted by the tendency in which the aesthetic concept of kawaii (cuteness), particularly when it is mingled with sweet, girlish, and 'infantile' qualities, is deemed as unfavourable and demeaning in Euro-American cultures. Do their performances of Alice demonstrate a compatibility between girlish aesthetics and senses of agency and autonomy? Can their emphasis on sweetness, demureness, and femininity without hinting at sexual allure or seeking the male gaze serve to repudiate the stereotyped representation of femininity as passive, compliant, and powerless and prevent the sexual objectification of women?
Monden, M 2014, 'Layers of the Ethereal: A Cultural Investigation of Beauty, Girlhood, and Ballet in Japanese Shojo Culture', Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 251-296.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
The popularity of classical ballet as a cultural form grows apace in a global context. Even in a country like Japan, which has not been previously identified as a "ballet capital," it is receiving wide public attention. As a conventionally female-dominated arena, ballet and the ideas that circulate around it reveal the complex interrelationship between femininity, beauty, and selfhood. A prime example is the understudied genre of "ballet manga" in Japanese Shojo Manga culture. With the first examples published in the mid-1950s, the history of ballet-themed manga reveals that, particularly in the years following the Second World War, ballet was the epitome of a dream world, connoting luxury, beauty, and glamour. "Ballet manga" used this particular art form, its costumes, and romanticized, almost fairy tale-like settings of Old World Europe as a mix of femininity, rigor, and elegance remade for Japanese audiences. Since the 1970s, some authors have attempted to combine this imagery of ballet with the idea of feminine independence and agency, thus negotiating the paradox of reality and fantasy in lived experience. Ballet, therefore, is not presented simply on the stage but in Japan is frequently interpreted/experienced through Shojo Manga. This distinctive situation deserves closer scholarly investigation.
Monden, M 2013, 'Contemplating in a dream-like room: The Virgin Suicides and the aesthetic imagination of girlhood', Film, Fashion & Consumption, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 139-158.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Fully researched and fully peer-reviewed article that investigates the link between Sofia Coppola's film The Virgin Suicides, girlhood, and fashion, exploring the issue of gender and representations in popular cinema. Abstract: Sofia Coppolas film The Virgin Suicides (1999) can be viewed as visualizing the (re)negotiation process of the twinned aspects of girlish `autonomy and `restriction. Although the films references to more established images of girlhood are observable, its vague, narrative neutrality, supported by cinematic aesthetics with a dreamy and melancholic effect, leaves their meanings largely unexplained. Connected to our contemporary ideas about adolescence, femininity is generally linked to either pathological fragility or emphasized sexual assertiveness. I question the legitimacy of these binaries and instead read The Virgin Suicides as a depiction of female complexity where the subtle complexity of the heroines contradicts these stereotypes. Instead of situating on either polar of extreme assertiveness and fragility, Coppola presents her conception of adolescent girls as floating between these two. The films ethereal and maidenly aesthetics conveyed through the visual qualities of the Lisbon Sisters, including the dresses they wear, effectively layer the girls sense of autonomy and sexual maturity, signifying the negotiation of idealizing, suppressing and empowering adolescent girls. The tragic fate of the girls, on the other hand, limits the films capacity to offer an alternative to the monolithic idea of adolescent `girlhood and how it is visualized in our contemporary culture.
Monden, M 2013, 'The Importance of Looking Pleasant: Reading Japanese Men's Fashion Magazines (Russian Translation)', Russian Fashion Theory, vol. 28, no. Summer, pp. 35-57.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Monden, M 2012, 'Book Review: Representations of Hair in Victorian Literature and Culture', Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 259-264.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Review of: Representations of Hair in Victorian Literature and Culture by Galia Ofek (Ashgate, 2009)
Monden, M 2012, 'The Importance of Looking Pleasant: Reading Japanese Men's Fashion Magazines', Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 297-316.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Readers unfamiliar with contemporary Japanese media might be puzzled by the appearance of men in fashion magazines. This is particularly the case for images of Japanese young men whose strong concerns over their appearance and slender physicality seem to enhance their (hetero)sexual desirability. These publications suggest to their male readers that crafting fashionable looks through selection of the right clothes, cosmetics, fragrances, and maintaining a balanced diet is necessary to self-assurance and a successful life. Do Japanese men engage with fashion differently from men in Europe, Australia, and North America? The co-presence of Asian and non-Asian models can make these publications seem even more confusing. Readers might wonder if these models are another reification of the "Westernized" nature of Japanese youth. This article shows that a rich study of subjectivity and aesthetics might be found in these Japanese men's publications. Male aesthetic sensitivities at a cultural level and notions of "the self" might be understood in different terms than they are in many Euro-American cultures. Likewise, the male aesthetics favored by some contemporary Japanese youth might imply an attempt to reject the more established, dowdy mode of "salaryman" masculinity. In short, I argue that Japanese young men's almost narcissistic concerns about appearance and fashion might offer a different, more "relaxed," approach to understanding men's relationship with fashion.
The Queen of the Night trills her rage under the chandelier of Teatro alla Scala. Her flowing, dark, gothic robe à la française with the headdress of glistening stars and a moon exudes a mysterious yet majestic air. To the music of Mozart, but this time his somber yet solemn Requiem, a young figure skater commences her Olympic short program routine, gracing the ice in an attitude of prayer, and crossing herself. Her black and red dress carries a large, symbolic cross, outlined with coruscating silvery sequins, sewn into her costume. From literature to opera productions, sports to popular cinema, fragments of gothic fashion aesthetics are flourishing.
The process of cultural globalisation does not always imply cultural homogenisation. Rather, it can be seen as a process of cultural `glocalisation and hybridisation where cultures continuously interact with and interpret each other to engender a hybrid cultural form. As Arjun Appadurai (1993) contends, neither centrality nor peripherality of culture exists in the context of cultural globalisation. Rather, transnational cultural forms are likely to circulate in multiple directions.
Monden, M 2020, 'Magical Bird Maidens: Reconsidering Romantic Fairy Tales in Japanese Popular Culture' in Murai, M & Cardi, L (eds), Re-Orienting the Fairy Tale, the Wayne State University Press.
The image of shōjo is largely conveyed through visual cues of dress, gesture and appearance. With the exception of the now well-documented Japanese Lolita fashion, however, theoretical analysis of the association between shōjo and dress is still a rarity.
Paying particular attention to fashion brand Milk, and romantic ballerinas and Victorian girls as underlying inspirations, this chapter aims to uncover significant meanings behind shōjo fashion. It contends that fashion aesthetic is crucially intertwined with the process of crafting and sustaining the image of shōjo, and further that this aesthetic subverts the stereotypical equation of girlish (shōjo) femininity with derogatory sexualization, values denounced as passive and unfavorable in many Euro-American societies. The shōjo fashion aesthetic, this chapter argues, inverts these negative associations into positive and empowering ones.
Monden, M 2019, 'Rei Kawakubo and Romantic Transgression' in Butler, R (ed), Rei Kawakubo: For and Against Fashion, Bloomsbury.
Monden, M 2019, 'The Continuum of Male Beauty in Japan' in Coats, J, Pendleton, M & Fraser, L (eds), The Routledge Companion to Gender and Japanese Culture, Routledge.
Monden, M 2019, 'Yurukawaii and Kiritani Mirei' in Karlin, JG, Galbraith, PW & Nozawa, S (eds), Japanese Media and Popular Culture: The Key Concepts, Bloomsbury, New York and London.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Monden, M 2018, 'Clean-Cut: Men's Fashion Magazines, Male Aesthetic Ideals, and Social Affinity in Japan' in Freedman, A & Slade, T (eds), Introducing Japanese Popular Culture, Taylor & Francis (Routledge), Oxon and New York, pp. 424-431.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
What makes Japanese men's fashion magazines striking is their almost full focus on men's bodies and appearance. Such magazines are largely absent in Euro-American heterosexual men's culture. With the exception of certain European titles, Anglophone men's magazines such as GQ and Esquire, even with their inclusion of fashion contents, could not really be considered 'fashion' magazines. Anglophone men's magazines are indeed rarely referred to as fashion magazines due to the importance of appearance and dress in definitions of femininity and the feminine gendering of fashion. Therefore, magazines with fashion contents that are primarily targeted at men (and/or at unisex readership) are instead called 'lifestyle magazines.'
What significance can we then derive from looking at these Japanese men's fashion magazines? In this chapter, I argue that the significance of analyzing magazines primarily targeting male readership lies in the possibility that representations of 'masculinity' found in magazines might both reflect and shape certain ideals and ideas of gender, which are consumed by their readers. Fashion discourse, as produced through media texts like fashion magazines are themselves shaped by, and dependent on, wider social forces and their relations with other fields. We can then deduce that a collection of Japanese men's fashion magazines at least allow calibration of the ways in which Japanese conceptions of masculinity are manifested.
This chapter begins with a brief history of men's fashion magazines in contemporary Japan and explain how magazines correspond with various, subtly nuanced styles. Then it examines how magazines deploy male models to help create a social affinity between readers, magazines, and models. These models can represent a slender, boyish, and kawaii (cute that implies vulnerability) male aesthetic, which, along with more muscular male ideals found in other sectors of Japanese culture, may be indicative of Japanese popular culture's e...
Monden, M 2018, 'Ice Princess: Asada Mao the Demure Diva' in Miller, L & Copeland, R (eds), Diva Nation: Female Icons from Japanese Cultural History, University of California Press, USA, pp. 185-202.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Monden, M 2018, 'The Color of the Day: Many Shades of Pink in Japan' in Steele, V (ed), Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color, Thames and Hudson, USA, pp. 177-190.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Pink is a color with a long history in Japan. As in many Western cuÌtures,
to contemporary Japanese eyes pink is first and foremost symbolic of a
girly aesthetic, often associated with glittering princesses, romantic ballerinas,
and fashion dolls. However, this part of the rosy color spectrum has a long and
varied history in Japanese culture. As recently as the late r960s, pink did not necessarily have girlish or feminine connotations. when worn by males, it conveyed an unusual and perhaps laissez-faire image in Japan. one of the top male fashion models in the i970s and l9g0s told me in an interview thar, as a nineteen-year-old in the late 1960s, he had no intention of becoming a fashion model. He was set on a career as a chef and enrolled in a culinary school. Early in his training his teacher objected to the pink shirt he chose to wear to class. He quit the school because of the incident and, as fate would have it, embarked on a modeling career that would last for more than forty years. This chapter focuses on the many faces of pink in Japan, from the ancient to the early modern period, in women's and men's fashion.
Classical ballet has been an icon of romantic imagination in Japanese culture since the end of Second World War. This is particularly owing to the popularity of shōjo manga (girls' comics). Its unofficial (sub)genre 'ballet manga,' both shaped and reflected social and historical reality – from sparkling as a symbol of glamour and romantic dream in the precarious times of the after-war period to mediating the challenges of addressing feminine independence and psychological complexity in the 1970s onwards. This notably 'feminine' emphasis of the art form, which corresponds with the female dominance in ballet learning in the country, poses a number of questions relating to ballet, fashion, and gender. What aspects of ballet have made it so admired in Japanese girls' and women's cultures? Does the art form infiltrate Japanese men's and boys' culture, too? If so, how? This chapter will attempt to answer these questions. I argue that not only fairy tale-like romantic narratives of ballet, but also conventional ballet costumes for females, which can be described as 'the long white, bell-shaped dress made of layers of muslin, or a variety of muslin called tarlatan,' appeal to girls and women in contemporary Japan. The increasing attention paid to male learning of ballet, which coincides with emerging young ballet boys who achieve international fame, both corresponds with and problematizes a recent tendency in Anglophone culture to 'masculinize' ballet in order to lure boys into learning the art form. Japanese stars of competitive figure skating, a close and sporty cousin of ballet with its combination of decorative outfits, artistry, and high level of athleticism, in turn, challenges the accusation that elegance 'feminizes' and by implication devalues the seriousness and athleticism of the sport.
Monden, M 2013, 'The "Nationality" of Lolita Fashion' in Nakamura, F, Perkins, M & Krischer, O (eds), Asia through Art and Anthropology: Cultural Translation Across Borders, Bloomsbury, London and New York, pp. 165-178.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Fully researched book chapter about scholarly investigations of Japanese Lolita fashion within the contexts of fashion, gender and cultural globalization. It includes historical and stylistic analysis of dresses, combined with ethnographic observation of an online community dedicated to the fashion style. This chapter is part of an anthology with the contributions from international scholars of anthropology, art history, Asian studies, visual and cultural studies.
Monden, M 2012, 'Blood and Japanese Girl Culture' in Boccalatte, S & Jones, M (eds), Trunk Volume Two: Blood, Boccalatte Pty Ltd, Surry Hills, pp. 353-354.
This is a chapter of 1,500 words. This is based on my solid research on Japanese girls' culture, including some of the texts that were not examined previously.
Monden, M 2012, 'Ivy in Japan: A Regalia of Non-Conformity and Privilege' in Mears, P (ed), Ivy Style: Radical Conformists, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, pp. 175-185.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
The history of Japanese 'Ivy style' is said to have begun with Kensuke Ishizu who was the 'architect' of Take Ivy, and a kind of Japanese version of Ralph Lauren. He founded the Ivy League-inspired clothing brand company VAN JACKET in 1951. Until the 1990s, the styles that resemble the 'Ivy-league style' made an almost continual appearance in Japan. The 'Ivy style', and similar styles with names such as 'school', 'preppy' and 'trad', are popular today, particularly for those who appreciate the neat and conservative styles (kireime) and high-casual styles. This modern day revival of the 'Ivy style' was particularly marked since 2007 where the aesthetics of the 'Ivy style' were blended with other styles and engendered a number of similar styles with a subtle nuance. The Japanese version of the 'Ivy-league' style is a good example of a global crossing. A cultural form is accepted in a different cultural context, blended with 'local' characteristics, and then flows out again in multiple directions. Indeed, what is striking about the Japanese embracing of the 'Ivy style' is not only its 'preservation' of the style when such styles were perceived as dÃ©modÃ© in the United States, but also its demonstration of subtly nuanced changes and transformations. Japanese adaption and appropriation of the 'Ivy-league' style, I argue, tells a cultural process where an 'American' clothing styles are blended with 'Japanese' aesthetic ideals and preferences. This cultural mÃ©lange has in turn been re-imported to the United States, making new meanings and new markets for this now perennial style.
This paper discusses the use of male models in 1960s advertising campaigns in Japan, which were vital to the success of men's cosmetics. Up until that point, Japanese masculinity in the 1960s had been most strongly associated with mature and rather subdued images of the salaryman. Strikingly different, these male models emphasized youth and reflected a developing recognition of the commercial value of the commodified male beauty. These campaigns contributed to the creation and dissemination of a
new, slender, sophisticated and highly desirable male aesthetic ideal, which was the precursor to today's youthful paragons.
The appreciation (and utilization) of the beauty of the clothed male body in these campaigns also offers an alternative to the focus on the muscularity of the undraped male body in socio-cultural studies of the body and masculinity.
Shōjo, the girl positioned between child and adult, is an iconic representation of femininity and girlhood in Japanese culture. A pretty and stereotypically feminine aesthetic that sometimes disguises dark and disturbing themes, shōjo has fascinated artists working in many fields from literature to manga, film to fashion, and not just in Japan. Researching the National Library's significant contemporary shōjo collection, Masafumi Monden explores the multifaceted importance of shōjo as a cultural imagination, a complex and sometimes shocking ideal of girlish identity in Japanese popular culture that encompasses both objectification and agency, desire and identification.
Monden, M 2017, 'Ballet, Boys' Culture and an Imagined Community', Arts & Media Courses: Fan Cultures Symposium, Ryukoku University, Kyoto.
Monden, M 2017, 'Dolls in Shōjo Manga: Passivity, Agency and Fantasy', Japanese Studies Association of Australia (JSAA) biennial conference, University of Wollongong.
Fairy-tales and romantic ballet have a prominent relationship with the material culture concerning girls' lives. Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake (1877), with its alleged influences from fairy-tales and folklores such as Russian The White Duck, is an epitome of such an association. With the cascades of white gauzy ballet dresses and lithe movements symbolizing the binary of swan/maidens, the fairy-tale-inspired ballet embodies an ideal mode of feminine beauty that still holds a currency today. Because of their association with 'princess culture', often accused of imposing the ideology of heteroromantic love, an unhealthy body image, and asymmetrical gender roles onto their main, female consumers, both ballet and fairy-tale-inspired fictions have been subjected to criticism. As a consequence, many such texts and their cultural significances in our contemporary culture are yet to receive adequate scholarly attention.
By focusing on the nexus of fairy-tales and ballet in Japanese culture, this paper proposes another reading. Princess Tutu (2002-3) is an anime series that employs aspects of fairy-tale texts, including Ugly Duckling, The Nutcracker, and Swan Lake. Particular attention is paid to two parallel narratives of transformation upon which the anime draws; from an animal to a human-its heroine as a duck transformed into a girl, and her beautiful friend/enemy as a 'daughter of crows', rather than victimized maidens cursed into being beautiful creatures as in conventional fairy-tales; and from a human to a magical ballerina heroine. Rather than simply thrusting on the (hetero)romantic ideology and capitalizing on the audiences' desire for makeover, Princess Tutu, I argue, attempts to draw a serious analysis of the romantic fairy-tale genre. Does it exemplify the idea that depictions of female characters are much more diverse in Japanese popular culture than in its Euro-American counterparts? Will it gainsay the common criticism of fairy-tales as primarily endors...
Monden, M 2017, 'Sharp and Boyish: Male Aesthetics and Self-hood in Contemporary Japanese Culture', Tokyo FRUiTS – 20 years of Street Fashion Talk Series, The Japan Foundation Sydney.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
One of the dominant modes of ideal male beauty in contemporary Japan differs from the generalized Western ideal of muscularity in being slender, shōnen-like (boyish), and predominantly kawaii (cute). This kawaii masculinity is omnipresent in contemporary Japanese culture, from advertising to TV programs, from magazines to fashion media, articulating its potential influence upon contemporary Japanese men.
In this talk, Masafumi Monden examines a particular sector of the significance of this boyish male beauty in contemporary Japanese culture – namely the intersections between masculinity, body, fashion and self-hood. It argues that the significance of such a male beauty lies in the possibility that representations of 'masculinity' embodied by these men might both reflect and shape certain ideals and ideas of gender, which are consumed by men in Japan.
This was an invited talk at The Japan Foundation Sydney.
Monden, M 2015, 'An Enchanted Garden of Liminality: Locating a Shōjo-scape in Flowers in the Attic', Japanese Studies Association of Australia Bi-Annual Conference, La Trobe University.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
V. C. Andrews' Flowers in the Attic (1979) has been capturing the hearts of adolescent girls for nearly 40 years. The enduring popularity of the novel is reinforced by the success of its recent adaptation on the small screen (2014). Despite its popularity, the work has received little, if any, scholarly scrutiny. While this may be due to its controversial storyline, which includes incest, murder and the confinement of children by their own mother, another reason may be the highly 'girlish' ambience of the story, which is often treated in a derogatory and unfavourable manner in Anglophone culture. In such a culture, the period of 'adolescent girlhood', which the story's heroine Cathy embodies both somatically and metaphorically, tends to be perceived as merely an unstable and perilous stage that women pass through as they mature.
By focusing on its recent TV film adaptation, this paper proposes another reading. The perspectives developed within Japanese shōjo studies assign a degree of independence to such a state of 'girlhood', which they term as a 'shōjo-scape'. Flowers in the Attic might be representative of a 'shōjo-scape', where the concept of adolescent girlhood and aesthetic qualities associated with it are ascribed greater significance and focus, and by implication a considerable degree of principality. By re-evaluating the potential of cross-cultural applicability of Japanese shōjo criticism, this analysis of Flowers in the Attic might serve to provide an alternative to the monolithic, often Eurocentric idea of intellectual 'exchange' that flows only in one direction.
Monden, M 2014, 'Valiant and Beautiful: Rethinking gender and aesthetics in shōjo manga', Manga Futures: Institutional & Fan Approaches in Japan and Beyond, University of Wollongong.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Shōjo manga is one of the hot topics in the study of manga. Despite this visibility, scholarly scrutiny in the English-speaking world tends to have focused on limited aspects of the category –e.g. famous works from the 1970s, and/or the 'queer' genres of 'boys love' or fighting girls. As a result, the more 'typical' aspirations of shōjo manga have yet to receive adequate attention. This paper focuses on Miyawaki Akiko's Kin to gin no kanon (abbreviated as K&G, 1984) in which one of the heroines – Masumi – attempts to escape from her wretched life and determines to succeed with her musical talent at any cost, leading to betrayal, deception and even murder. Through K&G, this paper argues that one of the problems attached to shōjo manga studies is an unconscious avoidance of what appear to be 'typical' shōjo manga, perhaps due to their 'girlish' aesthetics and 'ultra-feminine' protagonists. For some, these might appear too supportive of normative gender roles. If shōjo manga are, as often argued, reflections of patriarchal oppression endured by Japanese women, what sense can we then make of manga like Miyawaki's, with its significantly ambitious heroine? This manga, moreover, reflects a tradition of shōjo culture where the relationship between girls is a recurrent theme. This might spare the female characters from being portrayed mainly via their relationship to male characters. Does K&G then point to the necessity in re-evaluating shōjo manga from new, more interdisciplinary perspectives? What does this tell us about contemporary Japanese culture and society? Might shōjo manga be re-evaluated by pursuing more 'mundane' or less 'exceptional' examples?
Monden, M 2012, 'Floating in a Dreamlike Room: The Virgin Suicides and Sofia Coppola's Visuality', The Art Association of Australia and New Zealand Annual Conference, University of Sydney.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Monden, M 2012, 'Ivy in Japan: A Regalia of Non-Conformity and Privilege', Ivy Style Symposium, The Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology, New York.
The history of Japanese 'Ivy style' is said to have begun with Kensuke Ishizu who was the 'architect' of Take Ivy, and a kind of Japanese version of Ralph Lauren. He founded the Ivy League-inspired clothing brand company VAN JACKET in 1951. Until the 1990s, the styles that resemble the 'Ivy-league style' made an almost continual appearance in Japan. The 'Ivy style', and similar styles with names such as 'school', 'preppy' and 'trad', are popular today, particularly for those who appreciate the neat and conservative styles (kireime) and high-casual styles. This modern day revival of the 'Ivy style' was particularly marked since 2007 where the aesthetics of the 'Ivy style' were blended with other styles and engendered
a number of similar styles with a subtle nuance.
The Japanese version of the 'Ivy-league' style is a good example of a global crossing. A cultural form is accepted in a different cultural context, blended with 'local' characteristics, and then flows out again in multiple directions. Indeed, what is striking about the Japanese embracing of the 'Ivy style' is not only its 'preservation' of the style when such styles were perceived as démodé in the United States, but also its demonstration of subtly nuanced changes and transformations. Japanese adaption and appropriation of the 'Ivy-league' style, I argue, tells a cultural process where an 'American' clothing styles are blended with 'Japanese' aesthetic ideals and preferences. This cultural mélange has in turn been reimported to the United States, making new meanings and new markets for this now perennial style.
Monden, M 2011, 'A Gentle Kind of Revolt: Cute (Kawaii) Fashion and Japanese Music-videoAppropriations of Alice', Joint Conference of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) & International Convention of Asian Scholars (ICAS), Honolulu.
The application of the Japanese word kawaii (cute) is contested, contentious and culturally contingent. In simple definitional terms, kawaii refers to an aesthetic that connotes something childish, girlish or sweet; it is neither restricted to children nor women in Japan. The concept of a 'cute' aesthetic, particularly when associated with feminine appearances, is most often viewed in the generally unfavourable terms of infantilisation, objectification and passivity in many Western cultures. Yet the Japanese concept of kawaii can also be interpreted as a 'delicate revolt' that softly and implicitly subverts established stereotypes and cultural preconceptions.
My paper explores this issue by focussing on a group of music-video clips in which female Japanese pop-singers adapt and appropriate the imagery of Lewis Carroll's famous heroine 'Alice'. The emphasis in these videos is on the singers' girlish and cute, almost 'infantile' appearance, mostly constructed through the repertoire of clothing that they wear. I argue that these performers offer an innovative representation of youthful femininity in terms of a negotiation between 'infantile' cuteness and forceful independence. Furthermore, I explore how the 'cute' fashion displayed in these music videos possibly serves as an alternative to the established binaries of sexualisation and subservience in which young women tend to be represented, particularly in but not exclusive to the West. This Japanese aesthetic concept of kawaii, I argue, might illuminate the possibility of detachment of eroticism from the representation of femininity, as well as from 'sweet' and 'girlish' sartorial style.
Monden, M 2010, 'The Importance of Looking Pleasant: Reading Japanese Men's Fashion Magazines', Japan Fashion Now Symposium, The Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology, New York.
A fully referenced, original research paper on shōjo manga studies and criticism.
A chapter based on original scholarly research with references, which has not been published previously. It is available exclusively online. Word length: 1,000.
National Library of Australia.
Start Year: 2017.
Project: The Changing Scape of Sh?jo: Examining Girlhood, Aesthetics and Self-hood in Japanese Popular Culture.