translated conversation i had with a japanese friend about fujoshi
🍞 Hey, I saw you having what looked to be an interesting conversation on Twitter, but my English & translation tools weren't good enough to figure out exactly what you were talking about. Something about fujoshi (or the words fujoshi use)?
🍊 Uhhh, it's kind of hard to explain but I'll message you on Discord!
🍊 So re: your Twitter DM, there are a bunch of English-speakers who have a really bad image of the word "fujoshi." Rather than just "any women who like BL" they think it specifically refers only to "cishet women who think of gay men as toys without supporting their real rights, or who ask them invasive questions like who's top/bottom, etc." Of course those types of fujoshi do exist, but the original meaning is just any woman who likes BL―not to mention there are a lot of fujoshi who aren't cishet (honestly probably more than in the average population). Plus it's not even an English word in the first place; it's a Japanese word, so it comes across as looking down on Asian queer media, as in "all Japanese/Asian people are like this, but we Americans are enjoying BL the 'correct' way." I think it's inappropriate to push their own definition onto a word even though they don't even know Japanese. Anyway, that's just a small piece of it, but it might be easier to talk more over VC. 😅 But English fandom is pretty upset about this right now.
🍞 I finished reading! That does sound upsetting, yeah. I'd love to hear more if you want to talk about it in call! Thanks for sharing. I do agree that there are fujoshi who are not cishet.
🍊 Yeah, even though the topic is centered around a Japanese word, most of the people involved don't even speak Japanese, so it's amazing how confident people feel in making such strong assertions... To be fair, Japanese isn't my native language either, so if a Japanese person were to say I have it all wrong then I'd definitely listen to them, but at least I can speak Japanese and have Japanese friends who are fujoshi, so I feel like I have a little more right to speak than people who can't speak Japanese at all and have no contact with actual Japanese fujoshi. Oh, I also think there's some misunderstanding behind the origin of the word "fujoshi"? To be honest, there's so much I don't know where to start lol
🍞 Well fujoshi is something of a self-deprecating term used by women who fall outside of the norm because they enjoy m/m romance. That's really all it meant, at least from the 90s to the early 00s. Men also sometimes used it as a derogatory term.
🍊 Yeah, that's the origin of the word, but instead of "we're 'rotten' because we've failed as women for not fitting into the norm" some English-speakers interpret it as "we're 'rotten' because m/m romance is dirty."
🍞 I can promise that's not it.
🍊 I know, but even if you tell them, they don't listen.
🍞 I was in the literature club since middle school, and my advisor was someone who had been around since the dawn of fujoshi and Comiket. They taught me all about their lived history so I know all this for sure. Why won't people listen...? The enjoyment of m/m romance (at least when the term fujoshi was first coined) created a new type of woman who didn't belong to the cishet female romantic ideal and who actively enjoyed sexual love without concern for others' affairs. They destroyed the concept of passive women who fall in love and are pursued by men, and that's why fujoshi are amazing.
🍊 Yeah, that's why it feels like people are looking down on Japanese/Asian queer culture and history. Or not even looking down on it, but completely ignoring it.
🍞 That's terrible, I get why people feel resentful at not only the cultural discrimination, but also the misuse of vocabulary.
🍊 Yeah, that's why there's been some drama lately lol
🍞 I can get why that would cause some drama. Fujoshi have been around since the Edo period (we know from the art they left). Even without the word "fujoshi," the concept existed back then. To be honest, I think there's still a lot of sexism among otaku (especially around Western nerd culture that cishet men tend to like, such as fantasy & TTRPGs).
🍊 That's true, there's a lot of sexism in otaku culture... But actually, this time most of the fighting is among fellow queer people, so it's even messier.
🍞 It's sad to fight about regional/cultural differences.
🍊 What would you call this, fighting amongst ourselves?
🍞 It's amazing that we even have a place like Twitter where women can openly discuss m/m erotica, but then people fight over such silly things... It's really sad. Hmm, I guess you would call it infighting? Back in the day, you'd be insulted and humiliated if anyone found out you were a fujoshi...
🍊 Well there's also a difference between American queer culture and Asian queer culture, so the stories we tell in BL are different.
🍞 Oh yeah, I do feel like they're different, especially when I see a lot of the stuff you retweet.
🍊 Yeah, some people think that fujoshi are all part of the oppressive cishet majority, when it's really the opposite.
🍞 No way―they have no idea of the discrimination and contempt AFAB people face in this country for daring to actively enjoy sexuality.
🍊 I feel like in Japan, the people who hate fujoshi are mostly the people upholding cishet society, while in America the people who hate fujoshi are fellow queer people who should be allies but who misunderstand things.
🍞 Oh, it kind of feels like in the 90s or so when the Japanese gay community first became aware of fujoshi. At the time they hated them because they felt like they didn't understand what it was like to be a minority so there was a lot of miscommunication. Fujoshi were called "fumanko" [lit. rotten cunts] and discriminated against. But later on most fujoshi realized it was just an issue of miscommunication, leading to the creation of various works (around then is when a lot of BL started to have more character diversity such as muscular characters or older characters) and eventually bringing us to where we are today. It sounds like the same history is repeating itself.
🍊 Yeah, it's not like I think everything fujoshi make is perfect, and I think it's good to have more dialogue with the gay community, but it's not like nothing has changed since the 90s. But now not only is history repeating itself, to make things worse there's also a language barrier this time lol
🍞 Yeah, I feel like the gay community has changed a lot too, like the obsession with body hair. I think the gay community and fujoshi both had a role in this.
🍊 I think in the West if you say "fujoshi" most people think of pre-90s fujoshi, but fujoshi have changed a lot since then.
🍞 Exactly. The idea of fujoshi who are only into frail bishounen who look like women isn't very realistic (though of course they exist). I also think it's good that there are more scenes where they use condoms.
🍊 Besides, even if they do like frail, feminine bishounen, I don't think there's any problem as long as they respect real-life gay people.
🍞 I agree. That's just a fantasy, after all. On the other hand, I think the gay community in Japan has a big misogyny problem too, so it really goes both ways.
🍊 Personally if it's just a fantasy I don't think we need condoms either lmao
🍞 I just thought it was very considerate of them. If you're just fantasizing then go ahead & shoot your load inside ↑↑↑
🍊 Besides don't a lot of geicomi also not use condoms? lol
🍞 Oh yeah, a whole lot. Some people say it's bad but it's very common.
🍊 So why does BL have to be more conscientious?
🍞 I guess the reasoning is since they don't get pregnant? I think it's because women's fantasies are held to a higher standard. At the time (90s), a lot of gay people complained that fujoshi's works weren't realistic, and that they were just a bunch of women's silly games and fantasies. So people have worked hard since then to make more realistic stories.
🍊 Oh, but something that's specific to the English discourse around this... Most of the people saying this actually like BL.
🍞 ?? Huh??
🍊 But since they can't read Japanese they don't realize that all of the Japanese artists they follow have "fu" in their profiles.
🍞 (holding my head)
🍊 There were some people who got blocked after pointing it out the other day. But it's because to them, the definition of "fujoshi" isn't "any woman who likes BL" but rather "the bad women who like bad BL."
🍞 Oh no, I can't deal with this.
🍊 So obviously the people who make the BL that they enjoy can't possible be fujoshi, right?
🍞 It feels like they're contradicting themselves. I also feel like they're also not considering how many gay trans fudanshi (former fujoshi) there are...
🍊 Yeah, so it started as a misunderstanding about a loan word, but people won't listen when we try to clear up the misunderstanding...
🍞 There are also a whole lot of lesbian fujoshi. That sounds super appropriative and racist to me...
🍊 Exactly, so not only is this a similar situation to Japan in the 90s, but there's also a racial aspect on top of it.
🍞 Oh yeah, the internet age makes things worse. I think I finally understand. If you add culture and race into the mess of the 90s then of course it would be even messier.
[I later asked if it was okay to translate and post our conversation. We started talking about gender presentation and first-person pronouns, which circled back to talking more about fujoshi.]
🍞 By the way, "ore-onna" [i.e. a woman who uses the masculine first-person pronoun "ore"] conjures up an image of an ugly woman with a vulgar and coarse attitude who celebrates her sexuality like a man. Both men and women look down on them.
🍊 I see... That's rough. 😭 English only has one first-person pronoun so we don't really have a concept of that at all... But honestly it just seems like another gender double-standard to me.
🍞 I think it is. It's tied up in the idea that "women should be feminine" "if you want to be a man then prove you're a man." Up until the early 2000s there were a lot of fujoshi who didn't really care about makeup or fashion. Then, after being recognized by the gay community as I mentioned, and then being covered more by the media, people developed a stereotype of fujoshi as ugly and gross, and so a lot of them started paying more attention to makeup and fashion (almost like camouflage). Personally I think the history of fujoshi overlaps a bit with the history of feminism.
🍊 True... Personally I have an image of modern fujoshi as super fashionable. Of course it's fine if they genuinely enjoy that kind of stuff, but it sucks to feel like it's necessary as camouflage.
🍞 Yeah, I think that image is thanks to all the work people have put in over the past twenty years. Well, there are a lot of women who don't really want to wear makeup but are forced to do so by societal pressure, and I think you could say that that pressure is even stronger for fujoshi. Like "if you want to express your sexuality freely, at least have your appearance be feminine in exchange." I think it's ridiculous to have to choose between freedom of either body or mind. In other words, as long as they exist in this world as women, fujoshi can't physically escape from cishet male society. Actually, I think BL was born out of the desire to at least be free in mind, if not in body. You can see that from the use of the word "joshi" implying they're not even thought of as adult women.
🍊 I see... I do think that it's difficult for Americans to understand the discrimination and pressure women face in Japan.
🍞 Yeah, I think so too. Maybe the American otaku community doesn't understand how hard it is for women in Japan to freely express their sexuality, or what it's like to not even be able to get angry at or sue for discrimination or harassment. Maybe they don't understand the fear of existing not as a man, nor even as a woman ruled by male society, but as an even lower class than that. I've been watching foreign gay media since I was a teenager, and I was always envious of how freely they seemed to be able to express their sexuality. This is a bit weird, but I feel like there's a different sort of attitude about dicks.
🍊 Oh? There's definitely a difference, but what do you mean by that?
🍞 Yeah, BL content―especially up until about the mid-2000s―mostly depicted the penis from the perspective of women who didn't have much accurate reference or knowledge about it. In other words, it was thought of as ugly, ridiculous, embarrassing, disgusting, threatening... So rather than drawing it in the form of an adult male's, they would hide it with an unretracted foreskin or make it smaller. In overseas media I saw penises depicted just... as they are. That made me surprised and happy. In Japan, even straight porn is censored, so until recently men and women had no way of knowing about each other's genitalia until actually having sex. The reason why Japanese fujoshi can more freely draw and enjoy dicks today is because the internet has made it possible for them to easily and privately look at uncensored dicks.
🍊 True, it's always censored... For most of history you couldn't really know what something looked like without seeing it for yourself, but I can't imagine that anymore in today's internet age.
🍞 Exactly. I don't think you can imagine how difficult it was for Japanese women (and fujoshi even more so). I was lucky since I had the internet since I was a teenager. Also, I feel like gay porn―not just fujoshi content―is really different overseas compared to Japan.
🍊 Yeah, it's totally different. 😂 Not just gay porn but straight porn, too.
🍞 Yeah! I feel like Japanese porn is based on and values "shame."
🍊 I feel like the type of moaning is different.
🍞 Personally I've found Japanese porn since the mid-2000s really disappointing and I don't care for it. I think the difference in the moaning has to do with shame, too. Japanese moaning is like, "I'm so embarrassed" "It feels good" "I'm so embarrassed but it feels good (conflicted)," while Western moaning is like, "It feels soooo goood!!! Getting fucked by cock is the best!!!!"
🍊 adsjkflhasd TRUE
🍞 Do you know what I mean?
🍊 It's too accurate lmaoo
🍞 You can go ahead and translate this too ;) I guess in Japan, sex is still very much perceived as taboo.
🍊 Yeah. Obviously that's not a good thing, but I do think there's a lot of value in the subcultures that emerge from that kind of society.
🍞 I agree. This situation made me think that you really can't talk about a subculture without learning about the culture and climate behind that subculture.