Kawaii has several meanings. One has an effect of healing one’s feelings from strict society. Moreover, it empowers women from giving them outlet for self-expression basis for strong identity. On the other hand, it weakens women. From feminist perspective, it is being said that Kawaii cultures keep girls and women weak and powerless. Bordo (1998), mentioned that “The degree to which slenderness carries connotations of fragility, defenseless, and the lack of power against a decisive male occupation of social space is dramatically represented.
” This isn’t just because of Kawaii culture but when looking through magazines or social trend, it is obvious that women are depicted as fragile and weak which is considered as an ideal or standards of beauty. Through media, models with skinny body create a standard to every person which becomes “normal” while others may be judged as an “abnormal.”
Thus, the color of using pink and white on magazines can give an image that women should prefer these colors and being obedient and calm.
Promoting Kawaii equals to reinforcing hegemonic masculinity. Hegemonic masculinity is “the culturally dominant ideal of masculinity centered around authority, physical toughness and strength, heterosexuality and paid work.” By showing how women is weak and powerless, it emphasizes that women are put into inferior status. The ideology beneath Kawaii can lead to negative connotations and project the reality of Japanese society. From the example of Hello Kitty, their face is always the same with no emotion, not offensive, and blunt. The ideology of harmony reflects Kawaii culture where it is ideal to not offend someone and avoid conflict as much as possible.
Besides Kawaii objects Kawaii has another meaning which is an “infantilized.” It refers to a being an adolescent. Indeed, holding Kawaii objects can tell Especially women are targeted as being objectified by men or society. When looking through besides Kawaii, there are several ways that women are being objectified from the society. One of the examples that emphasize gender femininity is the usage of skin care products. Depending on one’s skin type or seasonal change, women are expected to apply different types of products and be able to use it properly. I often see a product with advertisements that says “This product will make you look like baby” or just the term “Baby-ish.” Not just companies but society is forcing people to have skin or hairless body like a baby. It is one of the normalizations of femininity and also, it is important to act cute and pretty from one’s inner personality.
Manga and anime often create stereotypical image towards anything. Anime “Sailor Moon” where girls dresses up as hero and fight against the evils. When characters change into their “hero” fashion, it is called “make-up”. When this make-up is going on, women are portrayed by exposing their naked body and gradually changing into suitable fashion. Sailor Moon is famous around the world that relates to Kawaii but it can tell how it is being objectified by both men and society. The image of being immature, delicate, and imperfect reflects women that can’t sustain by themselves. The term “Sengyo-shugu (housewife)” is still being used until now to create boundary between men and women. Strict imaginary rules exist everywhere from social to personal and I personally feel that Kawaii is used as surviving tools for women. Not just showing rebellion reaction towards strict tradition but to forget the real world. Most of the characters doesn’t exist in real world but they can easily project one’s feelings onto the object. Kawaii can save people personally but can control and run business. Therefore, Kawaii has a certain meaning that can be both positive and negative.