America is no stranger to celebrity misdemeanors — Lindsay Lohan is almost always in court for something or another these days and Kim Kardashian’s breakout role that made her wildly famous and absurdly successful was starring in a sex tape.
But apparently Japan, a country often criticized for its sexist and male-targeted market, pop stars are far tamer, seeing that spending a night with her boyfriend landed 20-year-old Japanese pop star and AKB48 member Minami Minegishi in the middle of a scandal, leading to one very public act of penance – a tearful YouTube video showing her remorse and shaving her head.
"I don't believe just doing this means I can be forgiven for what I did, but the first thing I thought was that I don't want to quit AKB48," she says in the video.
Minami is a member of an all-girl Japanese pop group AKB48, which consists of 99 members ages of 14-20. The young star’s gesture demonstrates the strict code of conduct the girls must follow. The girls in AKB48, according to the Telegraph, must “behave” and are not allowed to have boyfriends – this is known to their fan base as the “Love-Ban-Law.” Apparently, the rules are in place to maintain the girls’ large male fan base.
According to the band’s official blog, the band’s management agency has demoted Minami to “trainee level” effective Friday.
This isn’t the first time a girl from the band has faced demotion due to what the management considers “misbehavior.” Last June, another band member Rino Shashinara was also demoted by the band’s producer after partially nude images of her surfaced in a tabloid, and in 2009 Miki Saotome was demoted although the reason was not made clear. Last month, police launched an investigation after a weekly magazine released a photo of a boy cupping a former AKB48 member’s breasts, forcing the publisher to destroy about 670,000 copies of the magazine.
However, despite their oddly strict rules regarding dating and the band member’s squeaky clean and innocent image, the band’s barely-there outfits, lyrics and music videos are contrastingly provocative, especially an advertisement filmed last year where the girls pass sweets between their mouths.
But this kind of sexist, male-targeted advertising is not new to Japan. When Japanese Manga series Bakuman was released in the U.S. in 2010, there was one thing many American readers took note of: the blatant sexism in the story. Bakuman itself is a story that follows to 14-yeard-old boys as they purse their dreams of becoming comic artists. But as Christopher Butcher points out in his review of Bakuman, the series is unapologetically sexist.
The characters inhabit a world of men; women's concerns are dismissed, their motives reduced to cliché, their very beings judged solely on how attractive — physically and personality-wise — they make themselves to males. The phrase "Men have dreams women will never understand!" is actually uttered aloud … "It's the world according to a 14-year-old boy, and brutally accurate too: simultaneously repugnant and brilliant. Judging by Bakuman's huge sales in Japan it certainly speaks to its reader...” he writes in his review.
Japan, generally a patriarchal country, sees that same sexism outside of its advertisement and entertainment as well. Women are often short-handed when it comes to employment and advancement in society. Despite the fact that many Japanese corporations are attempting to include women, the corporate culture is “decidedly male and chubby.”
I guess this is the downside of cultural relativism.