Normative Values

“Female masculinity” and “soft masculinity” do reinforce the normative values. Female masculinity, or women dressing and acting in more classic “male” ways, is not widely accepted. These women are thought of as being immature because they have not reached the femininity that they are supposed to grow in to by adulthood, as Kam explains in “Recognition Through Misrecognition: Masculine Women in Hong Kong.” A woman acting in traditionally male ways makes her immature and wrong, rather than being celebrated for having traits that are considered desirable when men possess them.

On the other hand, “soft masculinity,” or men caring about their appearance and having more feminine traits, is celebrated. Many celebrities, such as the characters and actors of the popular Korean drama, Boys over Flowers, which was discussed in Jung’s piece, embrace this “soft masculinity.” Women often find them attractive, and they are widely celebrated for how they look. They can have very successful careers and are not ridiculed for embracing a more feminine look, because they are not actually females.

The contrast between the societal reaction to each gender expressing nontraditional masculinity or femininity exemplifies the normative values. It is normal for a man to have freedom and power, and a woman to be subordinate and stick to rigid standards. Therefore, men may act or dress in ways that are not traditional, but traditional values give them the freedom to do so. Women may dress and act in ways that men are traditionally expected to, but they do not have the freedom to express themselves in any way except for the traditional, feminine ways.

Female Masculinity

I agree with the statement that female masculinity and chogukjeok pan-East Asian soft masculinity strengthens heteronormative masculine ideals. In my own words, female masculinity is the counterpart of male masculinity. There is a hierarchy within masculinity that separates male masculinity from female masculinity. Drawing from Karen Nakamura and Hisako Matsuo’s “Female Masculinity and Fantasy Spaces” and Sun Jung’s “Chogukjeok pan-East Asian Soft Masculinity” will help me strengthen my argument.

 

In Karen Nakamura and Hisako Matsuo’s “Female Masculinity and Fantasy Spaces” there is a understanding the Takarazuka Revue will generate revenue from the various fan clubs. All of the Takarazuka performers are women, but the best performers will be given roles as men. When the Takarazuka characters are outside of their performances, they continue to portray male characters. This demonstrates that men characters are being promoted while female characters are given little to no praise. To me, I recognize a hierarchy where a female playing a male is superior to a female playing a female. This is a parallel with the heteronormative system that is supported through multiple social institutions. “Our division of the world into only two (male and female) sexes does not reflect the reality of human variation” (Nakamura, 60). This supports my claim that female masculinity reinforces masculine ideals.

 

Next, I would like to briefly discuss a point from “Chogukjeok pan-East Asian Soft Masculinity” by Sun Jung. Jung uses chogukjeok to describe the mixing of various elements to produce a culturally mixed pop culture. In her article, Sun Jung argues that anime and media consumption also supports the normative masculine ideals to the young generations. The pretty boys syndrome is a phenomenon that states that young women are attracted to younger males. This goes against the gender norms that are socially constructed. This example supports my original claim.

Enhancement of cultural supremacy of masculinity

I agree that female masculinity and chogukjeok pan-East Asian soft masculinity ultimately reinforce normative masculine ideals. To define these two key terms , I would like to say, female masculinity means that some important forms of masculinities are displayed on female bodies for challenging cultural interpretations of female and female (Lucetta). And chogukjeok pan-East Asian soft masculinity means that some male stars have certain aesthetics, which are highly associated to female (Jung). The relationship between them is that they are involved with the same kind of imitation. Personally, I believe that this form of mimicry ultimately enhances cultural supremacy of masculinity.

In Lucetta’s article, she quotes Gin, who was a tomboy when she was in all-girl secondary school. As Gin recalled, she decided to be a tomboy to achieve “higher social rank”. She became an “honorary” man in a girl’s school, talk loudly or sitting in any position she likes. By mimicking a man, she did gain more freedom, because girls have more social standards to meet and more strict requirements than boys do. However, her imitation of a man shows her agreement to the cultural interpretation of masculinity. And finally, her doing just enhances normative masculine ideals.

 

Masculinity Can be Separate from Gender

Masculinity is a set of traits often related to the gender of maleness. However, “female masculinity” and “chogukjeok pan-East Asian soft masculinity” are both ideas that define masculinity not in terms of gender but in terms of the performance of masculinity. Female masculinity can be defined as women who perform masculine traits. Chogukjeok pan-East Asian soft masculinity is described by Sun Jung as the use of soft power, such as an attractive personality and looks, in male identifying stars that is attractive to an international audience. The culture that these stars embody can “easily ‘cross’ national borders,” because it’s a mix of elements that is non-specific to any country (Jung).  These two different definitions of masculinity do not reinforce normative masculine ideals because they focus of masculinity not in conjunction with the male gender but as a set of traits that can be performed differently by individuals.

Examples of these different types of masculinities in pop culture are popular because of how different these embodiments are from the usual definition. For instance, Takarazuka Theater, an all-female theater group, is popular with its mostly female fans because of the female masculinity displayed by the female actresses. Fans can “suture” themselves to these females playing male leads, allowing them to experience the power that comes with masculinity. Despite of the masculine traits they embody, these women are more relatable than males in the male role (Nakamura et al). Popular male celebrities that perform soft masculinity exhibit traits that are often defined as feminine in conjunction with traditional masculine traits. The mix of feminine and masculine traits makes the popular kkonminam a more attractive alternative to the traditional hard power of the Japanese salary-man (Jung). These types of masculinities are attractive to women because they are not necessarily related to the male gender.

MASCULINITIES

“Female masculinity” is refers to female actress playing male masculine role: for example in takarazuka theatre female actresses playing male characters.  “chogukjeok pan-East Asian soft masculinity.” this refers to men who have feminine features. This trend seems to be popular in East Asian countries. Boy bands (F4) have men who have soft masculinity and they are idealized for it. A lot of the members of these boy bands have feminine jaw line, soft hair, more slim body. I think female masculinity and soft masculinity is only accepted because of the popularity of the people who embrace it.  I think that these trends counter each other because for female masculinity -female actress pretend to be more masculine and for soft masculinity men are more idolized if they are more emotional and feminine. Kam Louie’s “Popular Culture and Masculinity Ideals in East Asia, with Special Reference to China”-  I believe not every man can be more soft masculine, only the rich (money man) can do it and celebrities. People with money make themselves look more beautiful. For examples someone in lower class in a society can’t be feminine because he will be even more looked down on because of it.  I don’t agree with these trends either, because it causes sort of bigger separation and creates bigger hierarchy.

Handsome Women and Beautiful Boys

I agree with the statement that “female masculinity” and “chogukjeok pan-East Asian soft masculinity” ultimately reinforce normative masculine ideals. As I will discuss below, performance and dramas reflecting female masculinity and chogukjeok pan-East Asian soft masculinity are popular because these are ideal form of masculinity which are different from stereotypically constructed notions of normative gender representations.

Female masculinity can be defined as the way of transcending reality. In the article “Female Masculinity and Fantasy Spaces”, the authors argued that Takarazuka theatre fans can escape from the reality by seeing otoko-yaku stars as their alter-ego. Talarazuka Theatre succeeds in making unrealistic spaces by having female actors play male roles, and their fans can experience these fantasy spaces during the performance.

As Jung described in the article “Chogukjeok pan-East Asian soft masculinity”, chogukjeok pan-East Asian soft masculinity can be defined as “the ways in which Korean popular culture travels freely across national and cultural boundaries due to its transformability or fluidity and its feminine appeal to consumers”. (Jung, 2) In this article, the author introduced Kim Yong-hee’s argument that “the kkonminam syndrome has developed not because males have become feminized but as a consequence of the deconstruction and the hybridization of female/male sexual identities”. Gender roles are becoming less specific, merging together, allowing for the development and rise of the Boys over Flowers phenomenon.

Both female masculinity and chogukjeok pan-East Asian soft masculinity reflect people’s ideal masculinity. However, these ideas about masculinity are different from “normative gender representations”. (Jung, 4) For example, men go to work outside of the house and women stay in the house and do housework. From this perspective, I could see that people are interested in these types of masculinity because they provide a space for the female/male hybrid, and an unrealistic world.

Woah Man

Female masculinity is when a woman represents “male traits” whether those be physical or based on actions along with other gendered stereotypes. It is when the woman takes on the “role” of the man. Sun Jung’s term chogukjeok pan-East Asian soft masculinity is a fair inverse of female masculinity. It is when a man possesses traits either physical or through actions that are socially delegated to be “womanly”. The relationship between the two kinds of masculinities is one of give and take. It is almost a leveling between the two genders on the gender spectrum where both men and women meet somewhere in the middle. They both don’t reinforce normative masculinities but instead allow for masculinity to stray away from the norm and find other options of expression outside of the hegemonic. Although different from the hegemonic they both still reinforce heteronormative ideals as women, more than men, tend to favor both highly, reinforcing the woman’s yearn for masculinity. For example in Jung’s text, we see that the kkonminam,handsome/pretty boys are described as having a “ pretty look, a toned and sexy – but hairless – body, and a vulnerable heart combined with an inconsiderate and immature attitude”, thus encompassing attributes of a man with their biological maleness but “womanly” additions such as having a hairless body and vulnerable heart. The kkonminam are all the craze in Korea and are what the women pine over. The same goes for female masculinity as the Takarazuka, an elite group of musically talented women who put on musical productions where the lead male characters are played by women in cross dressing attire, have a huge fan base as shown in Nakamura and Matsuo text. The women watching the Takarazuka and the kkonminam connect with the stars as either someone the can be or someone who possess desired traits, breaking notions of what desirability means within the hegemonic.