Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cute Culture & Women

Cuteness has an extremely strong impact on humans. The "cute factor" increases the appeal of products from Esurance to Hello Kitty merchandise, as well as a ton of other things. Why else would you buy a stuffed animal? How many videos have you watched over and over again on Youtube, just because they are cute?

Interestingly, in some eastern cultures (particularly Japanese), cuteness has transformed from being ever-present in daily life through consumer products/media, into a new trend for female youths' attractiveness and beauty. This usually involves grown women engaging in infantile behaviors, such as giggling, intentionally speaking in a squeaky high-pitched voice, wearing childish clothing, and even throwing temper tantrums. Also, the Japanese word for cute, "Kawaii," is primarily used to describe cute animals and women, while the word "kakkoi" (meaning cool or good-looking) is used most often to describe men. However, both of the words are, linguistically, gender-neutral.

Hiroto Murasawa, an expert on the culture of beauty, describes cuteness as "a mentality that breeds non-assertion... Individuals who choose to stand out get beaten down."

What do you think about cuteness? Do you agree with Murasawa, or disagree? How is this "cute culture" mirrored or different in the United States (today or throughout history) through gender expectations, language (ex. gender epithets), marketing, or anything else? What associations do Americans have with female attractiveness vs. male attractiveness? How do you think this affects men and women?

(Image above of woman holding pear is Japanese model/actress Yuri Ebihara who often appears in commercials, on billboards, or in sports magazines. She's known for saying, "I make it a point never to forget to smile...If someone doesn’t find me cute, I want to know why because then I’ll work on it to get better at being cute.” An adorable marketing machine!)

1 comment:

  1. I don't think an American woman throwing a temper tantrum would be considered cute, but it does seem to me while both gender often try to be attractive (sexy) only females seem to try to be cute. Also, adult females are often called girls while teenaged males are often already refered to as men. This could be part of the American 'cute is associated with female' culture. Children, girls and boys, are cute; adults, men and women, are not. Even the natural order of the two lists "girls and boys" (girls first) and "men and women" (men first) seems to emphasis who is a child and who is an adult.