Arama They Didn't

2:19 am - 02/02/2013

Cultural Competence

AKB48 1st gen
I don't know how many people actually read my blog, but if you happen to be one of them, please share / retweet this.

I heard about all these posts on tumblr, through my twitter timeline, and the "extended discussions" these posts have generated.  These discussions apparently range from whether Minegishi's head was shaved by herself or by management, to feminist movements and gender equality in Japan.

One user in particular called for youtube users to report Minegishi's apology video as abusive and hopes youtube will take it down eventually.

I haven't read any of these posts myself - this is exactly the kind of inane discussion I avoid when it comes to this fandom (or any topic that requires in-depth knowledge across multiple disciplines, really).  But from my feeds, it feels like this is really getting out of hand, and the information that's being passed around is not entirely correct.

Here are the facts that have been clarified either by management or by Minegishi herself:
- she shaved her own head (calmly, as Togasaki mentioned in a supplementary post on AKB's official blog)
- her punishment for being involved with Shirahama is demotion
- she admitted to wrongdoing ("this was all my fault")

Please see my twitter translations of the Togasaki post from this afternoon for more information.

edit - here is the English version, from Togasaki's English g+ page

Anything else is speculation.  Calling this a "sex scandal" is not quite correct because no one knows the extent of her "wrongdoing" and I don't think we'll ever find out.  If legit Japanese news sources aren't calling this a sex scandal, why are Western tumblr users exaggerating?

As for head-shaving, feminist movement and gender equality - this might be hard to believe, but in Japanese culture, head-shaving is one way for a person to show regret and take responsibility for having done something wrong, or failing to keep a promise.  One may think of head-shaving as a modern version of the archaic practice of ritual suicide.

In recent Japanese history, people have shaved their own heads for much lesser reasons:
- in 1982 and 1999, two newscasters shaved their heads because the baseball team one of them supported did not win (1982); the other shaved his head in 1999 because the team he hated won (the team is Yomiuri Giants in both cases)
- Dervish Yu, a Japanese pitcher who now plays for Texas Rangers, shaved his head in 2008 because the Japanese National Baseball Team lost to Cuba
- Nagashima Shigeo, a hall-of-famer in Japanese Baseball, once shaved his head to apologize for behaving poorly to an umpire

It is relatively rare for women to shave their heads, but this does not mean they don't.

Westerners who are not familiar with this part of the Japanese culture will certainly see Minegishi's shaved head as something else, and that's understandable.  But I do wish the most outspoken tumblr users would do a bit of research before condemning a whole organization with insufficient knowledge.

As for the no-dating clause - I really dislike getting into this topic with non-fans, because this is a touchy / hairy subject even with existing fans.  In fact members don't even like to discuss it other than repeating the rule.  The bottom line is that they all joined AKB knowing that they could get in trouble for dating, and they willingly stayed in the group.

It is one thing to feel sorry for Minegishi, but quite another to call for boycotts or advocate gender equality in Japan when one doesn't know better.  Values that one grew up with aren't necessary the same for everyone, and what one sees on a regular basis in his/her home country is not always the norm in other countries.  If we can all take a little time to understand one another before being so judgmental, the world would be a much better place.

Here is a good place to start reading:


Btw just helping to share, this isn't my own article.
So yeah, the Miichan scandal has really been blown out of proportion...
As usual, when a Japanese scandal goes global, the world makes it a bigger deal than it actually is...

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meoinkie2 1st-Feb-2013 06:47 pm (UTC)
tbh, im tired to even bother myself with this shit storm already..
and it's just freaking day 3 since this happened

Edited at 2013-02-01 06:50 pm (UTC)
umbrellaphone 1st-Feb-2013 08:28 pm (UTC)
fulllove 1st-Feb-2013 06:58 pm (UTC)
So that's what happen when people did not really try to understand, to learn (and perhaps to respect) others' culture..."Knowledge is a weapon, then go out armed."

Thank you for the clarification and sorry for my English.
taylorniw 1st-Feb-2013 06:59 pm (UTC)
Regardless, it's not okay for anyone (male or female) to be looked down upon and shamed for being in a relationship. I think that is far the bigger issue with all these dating scandals.
a_cheshire_grin 1st-Feb-2013 07:09 pm (UTC)
I also think that shaving her head wouldn't have been necessary, but as long as she did it on her own decision, I respect it.

I just wish that this STUPID "idols are not allowed to date"-rule would finally go away. Idols are human like we all. They've feelings and fall in love too. If fans want to live in their "idols are all virgins and just wait for the right fan to come along and marry them"-world, it's their problem and not the idols!!!
a_cheshire_grin 1st-Feb-2013 07:05 pm (UTC)
Very true. I myself have studied Japanese/Japanese culture at the university for four years, so I happen to know that what she did actually has a long tradition.

I had to correct several people already, who talked about this in all the wrong way. I wish people would really read up on stuff, before they start posting their opinion about it.
lovecallinearth 1st-Feb-2013 07:16 pm (UTC)
There is some serious cognitive dissonance going on in this blog. Especially when all but one of the cited examples of a bet and baseball players (who are notoriously superstitious when playing ex.refusing to shave or cut your hair until you win...when you it goes).

I understand it's a fan and is trying to help the poor girl out probably, but cultural competence this is not. I understand that it's hard for outsiders to understand a "no dating law" and the management companies of Japan. But this is way more than that in the long run. Invoking cultural competence to mask some serious gender relation issues going on in Japan is foolish. It doesn't help anyone.

You can still love Japan and chastise some things. If you like something you want it to be the best it can be. Japan and women's gender relations are at an all time low (yay 101st...down from 98th...down from 57th!).

It's just all very sad.
turtle_yurippe 1st-Feb-2013 08:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Honestly, that article made me a little mad, and I'm glad that many comments here disagree with it.
baboona 1st-Feb-2013 07:18 pm (UTC)
so sick of people excusing misogyny on the basis of culture.
love_etcetera 1st-Feb-2013 07:32 pm (UTC)
this one hundred times
blackdevil2722 1st-Feb-2013 07:20 pm (UTC)
IA. I've been seeing it all over Twitter and Tumblr myself, and not just overseas fans but media have been blowing this scandal up. (My local news channel even threw in Kasai's thing as an extra tidbit, goodness.)

What people need, is to get this article more out there rn tbh.
love_etcetera 1st-Feb-2013 07:31 pm (UTC)
Note that all the examples quoted in this article are of men - and it does not take a genius to observe that shaving your hair off is a much bigger deal for a woman (let alone an idol whose entire existence in the entertainment business is dependent on her looks) than for a man. Therefore in the case of this girl, the whole thing is obviously gender-charged.

I am of the opinion that in the modern world traditional cultural norms should be challenged when they are hurtful to the people involved. Not buying this article tbh.
liime_arix 1st-Feb-2013 07:49 pm (UTC)
I have to disagree with the "it's cultural differences excuse". There's only males in that example, all related to sports. When I was going through twitter yesterday many people were condemning the act and thinking it was really overboard that they made her go on video like that. It can be seen as them agreeing or promoting the act, even as a public shaming. Even when you realise that other girls have done just as much or what is considered as 'worse' and have only given a written apology and then apologized again during a handshake event.

I don't think cultural differences is an excuse for something that can be considered against human rights. A lot of the media has picked up on it so I'm wondering how it'll turn out. Especially since the government uses the group to promote 'Cool Japan'.
myharu 1st-Feb-2013 08:49 pm (UTC)
lip_glossy 1st-Feb-2013 08:21 pm (UTC)

Please don't use the "cultural differences" as an excuse in this case. Even if she shaved her head on her own will, her management should not put her on camera crying and pleading for forgiveness. It doesn't matter what culture you're in. The sight of a young woman with a shaved head all broken up, crying and begging for forgiveness for a sin that is considered a basic human right in modern society is already a testimony of a fucked up way of thinking. Her management already demoted her. Why do they need to publicly humiliate her. And this is Japan in 2013. A modern country, a country that people around the world expect a lot more from them than this uncivilized act against women.
scarlet_erza 1st-Feb-2013 08:49 pm (UTC)
eureeka OP, I know you didn't write this so don't take this personally1st-Feb-2013 08:49 pm (UTC)
Cultural competence my ass.

I can't stand how every time something happens in Japan that non-Japanese find objectionable, people are ready to jump up and defend it with "that's Japan, you don't understand." I especially like the distinction between fans and non-fans here - as if being outside the fandom somehow disqualifies a person from having a valid opinion on the subject of a society criminalizing female sexuality.

Here are some "facts" for you:
She knew and accepted the rules, therefore no one can complain - bullshit.
She admitted wrongdoing, therefore she was wrong - bullshit.
She shaved her own head, therefore no one can condemn her decision - bullshit.

No culture is above criticism, and no one completely willingly accepts their own culture's values. Societal pressures influence our feelings and decisions from birth. I recognize that my disgust is shaped by my country's society in some measure, and I recognize that Minegishi's decision is shaped by hers in some measure. Doesn't mean I can't object.

In certain cultures, a father will murder his daughter if she shames the family through "wrongdoing". That's their ancient tradition, based on their country's values, and the daughters "willingly" accept the "rules". Is that an extreme example? Yes. Am I barred from expressing outrage because I am an outsider? No.
manriikyo Re: OP, I know you didn't write this so don't take this personally1st-Feb-2013 11:48 pm (UTC)
THIS this this yes all of this
myharu 1st-Feb-2013 09:01 pm (UTC)
I'm really done with all of this. I follow bilingual48 on twitter and I was kinda pissed when he mentioned a fan asking why minegishi was "having a good time" and not looking regretful in the pics she took with 1st gen and he said "good to know that there are others who thought the photo of 1st gen members was not quite appropriate"

like so this girl needs to be looking like she's suffering 24/7? She can't smile when she sees her friends are supporting her? I thought the photos sent a powerful message, but apparently it wasn't prudent enough and is inappropriate

liime_arix 1st-Feb-2013 09:22 pm (UTC)
Someone even asked management that and I'm like wtf, god forbid her friends try to cheer up after being publicly humiliated.
angelica28 1st-Feb-2013 09:07 pm (UTC)
so what if this is in their culture or something...
she shaved her hair because she felt ashamed that she date someone is that reason to do that..tell me its weird to find it crazy not the action but the reason behind that..
what brainwash is that...
mighty_orange 1st-Feb-2013 09:08 pm (UTC)
Ok, first of all: "It is one thing to feel sorry for Minegishi, but quite another to call for boycotts or advocate gender equality in Japan when one doesn't know better."

That's a very problematic phrase because it basically states that it's a misguided act to call for gender equality. Um wtf. Whether in japan or anywhere elsein the world, calling for gender equality is never a misguided act.

Other than that, my issues with this go beyond the stupid rule. It's the fact that she felt that to 'atone' for her mistake, she needed to shave her hair. And I do understand what shaving one's head means in japan/korean tyvm. And then they filmed it and put it out for the world to see. That's too much.

I wanna see a translation of the nhk video where they interview japanese people on the street, since idol groups and wota are part of a sub-culture in japan, which can very well be completely ignored or criticized by the japanese themselves and I've seen since fans intent on fending off criticism from western coverages due to lack of cultural knowledge. I wanna see what the regular (japanese)folk have to say then.
turtle_yurippe 2nd-Feb-2013 11:51 am (UTC)
Thank you! I agree that it's not always good to call for gender equality or other things we call "natural" (as if the Western world had achieve total gender equality already -.-) from the outside, but I found the whole article really patronizing and offensive.
umbrellaphone 1st-Feb-2013 09:11 pm (UTC)
There's no harm in learning the cultural/traditional meaning of the action, but even with the context, her video tells a lot more. There's no cultural boundary in the raw emotions that were on there. If she looked proud of her decision, that'd be a different story, but she felt ashamed and the public has to see that shame.
sekainostar 1st-Feb-2013 09:33 pm (UTC)
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