Boyish style raises questions about gender roles
With their ultra-feminine looks, pretty boys dressed up as their favorite female anime characters have been getting a lot of media attention in recent years. Now it looks like the trend for playing with gender roles is filtering through to women’s fashion. “Boy’s style” has even got so big that major fashion magazine Kera launched a sister magazine called Kera Boku in October last year aimed at the market.
The cover star of Kera Boku, according to an online article in Cafe Goo Girl, is Akira, front woman of the band DISACODE (see video above), whose androgynous features make her the perfect model for this new look. Though it is not a monthly publication, the spin-off has proved popular enough for a second issue to be published this month. Mini, another fashion magazine for women in their 20s, has devoted its June issue to “boyish” style defined by cropped haircuts and mannish jeans.
The terms “boyish” or “boy’s style” rendered phonetically into Japanese are roughly equivalent to the word tomboyish, though their meaning is restricted to describing how a girl dresses. But some girls are taking this further by completely transforming their gender identities and dressing up as men. This form of cross-dressing is called dansou in Japanese (as opposed to josou, which is applied to men dressing as women). Dansou is not a new thing. The Takarazuka Revue is an all-female troupe, some members of whom dress in drag to play male roles to an audience of adoring women. However, its huge popularity with hardcore female fans is on the wane with younger generations, so it’s interesting to see a resurgence in popularity for dansou.
Akihabara, which has been at the center of the josou boom, is now the location of With The Garçon dansou escort agency. The patrons of the agency are women who pay to go out on a date with another woman dressed in drag. They can chose between walking round Akihabara or drinking in a bar to “relieve stress.” One client said, “This shop can provide me with an experience that men these days can’t. They’re better than men, you know.” The writer of the Cafe Goo Girl article believes that these cross-dressing women, rather than being confused about their gender identities, are merely playacting the role of the “ideal man.” Disappointed with modern men, they are temporarily dressing up and showing guys how women ought to be wooed.
So with more men dressing up as women and women dressing up as men, where is this all going to lead? A light-hearted answer will be given to movie goers this August when the live-action movie of the manga “Ai Ore: Love Me!” is released in theatres. A romance between the tomboyish lead singer of a band and a girlish boy, the romantic comedy is bound to strike a chord with Japan’s youth.