(American) feminism’s irrelevance in contemporary J-rock/J-music

This blog’s been quiet for a few days, longer than I’d meant. I do apologize—while trying to get things organized for my upcoming vacation, the work’s been piling up.

Audrey Kimura of Benten label and Sister records, a Japanese indie music label that specializes in signing bands fronted by women, got back to me with the questions I sent her. In addition to her label, Audrey also heads the Japan Nite! tour in the U.S., which performed at SXSW this year, featuring bands like Oreskaband and GO!GO!7188. (Oreskaband will perform at Anime Expo in Long Beach, Calif. later this month, and GO!GO!7188 will have an east coast tour in August.) As you might imagine, she’s an extremely busy woman, so her answers were brief but still insightful.

A note to anyone attending AX: I’ll be wandering around booths and movie showings with friends in addition to hopefully scoring a few artist interviews. Drop me a comment or an email if you’ll be there too and want to say hello, I’m always psyched to meet new folks.

One of the take-aways I got from speaking with Audrey was an overall attitude towards the American idea of “feminism” versus women’s attitudes elsewhere. Social academics, especially in the Japanese studies circles, have been discussing women’s roles in Japanese society for years. What some American scholars wonder is why the American interpretation of “feminism” never really caught on in Japan. (I’m citing this anecdotally at the moment, but I can’t tell you how many hours in college I heard students and professors going back and forth on this very topic.)

The gigs Audrey signs have an interesting if not slightly befuddling response to all that. Their music is not political. They are not railing against “the man.” I can’t think of the Japanese equivalent of Ani DiFranco, though perhaps there is one.

Instead, Audrey says the motto for these groups is as simple as Cindy Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” That’s it. Across all genres, from punk to ska to rock to hip-hop, these artists perform because they enjoy entertaining. They’re not vehicles for a Big Message, nor are they putting themselves in some bigger broader sociopolitical context. Either they’re already well beyond issues of gender struggles or such problems never bothered them in the first place.

Depending on your worldview, this is either refreshing or distressing. Interpret it as you like.

I just realized that WordPress has a “nofollow” policy on links left in comments. As I’m somewhat new to WordPress, forgive me for not realizing this earlier. The moment I have access to FTP, I’ll install a “dofollow” plugin for links in my blog to make things equitable for people kind enough to comment here. (And if you have no idea what I just said, my apologies for that as well!)

Tonight the Social Media Club of Boston hosts its June event: Making the business case for social media. I’m fascinated by this topic so I’m hoping I can attend. If you need to prove ROI for investing in social media at work, it sounds like this panel will be a great guide for doing just that.

And finally, a big thank you to the people who emailed me in the past week. Jake Wark sent me two photos in response to my post and photo about Faces, Cambridge’s magnificent eyesore. Unfortunately, I was slow in posting these pictures so Universal Hub beat me to it—but I’m happy to be beat by such a great resource. Jake’s pictures are at that link, do check them out and read the responses. That abandoned building definitely has a … “special place” in the hearts of us locals who, in typical Cambridge-logic fashion, are sick to death of looking at the ugly thing but also worry how new development might impact the surrounding nature reserve.

I also got a few emails from Greek and Greek diaspora who are J-rock fans. I’m tickled! Yes, Japanese rock is somewhat obscure outside of Japan, and in Greece even more so; however, I recall seeing a flyer for a J-rock party at a club in Thessaloniki of all places. So certainly the global Greek diaspora population, by pure statistical probability alone, has a J-rock-adoring fanbase. We just need to find each other! :) Rock on, παιδιά!