Hello Kitty … for the guys

Hello Kitty is a trademark of the Sanrio company in Tokyo. Created in 1974, she’s become internationally popular. She is also deeply associated with a girlish culture of a very traditional sort.

Hello Kitty is pretty cute; she shows up on laptops

And on bags

And watches

Sanrio Character Wrist Watch Vol. 2 - Hello Kitty

Her face is a part of some pretty expensive jewelry:

Today the head of Sanrio, who developed the line, has announced that it is seeking larger markets.

“Young men these days grew up with character goods. That generation feels no embarrassment about wearing Hello Kitty.”
Sanrio Co spokesman Kazuo Tohmatsu, announcing that Hello Kitty products for men, such as T-shirts and watches, will go on sale in Japan, other Asian countries and the U.S. next year.

In addition to the fascinating idea of marketing a product, one deeply embedded in a traditionally understood ultra-feminine context, to young men, there is the discussion of it in Japan Today. One thread in the discussion concerns questions about Western views of Asia, and who speaks for whom, but another addresses the question of whether joung Japanese men are becoming more feminine.

Though it is so easy to miss the cultural subtleties in a discussion like this, it looks as though the association with young men becoming more feminine is their being childish. Another factor that complicates understanding the discussion is that it looks as at least some Japanese are very sensitive about a Western stereotype of the Japanese as childish.

Since it is hard to tell from a  short newspaper article what is really going  on culturally in another country, let me just suggest readers have a look for themselves.  It may be a case where market forces actually work to make girls’ things more acceptable to boys.   Or  not.

Abortion rights and sex selection

Sex selective abortions have been touched on a few times here already.  But we’ve never really focused on the philosophical issues they raise.  John Turri sent us an excellent article, and the suggestion that we take up these issues.  (That was a while ago, and I’m only now getting around to it– sorry!)  Here’s the thing… most feminists support abortion on demand.  But if we take that really seriously we also need to support abortion for reasons of sex selection, where that is genuinely what a woman wants.  Now, we can raise lots of worries about whether this is really an uncoerced choice (thanks for the link, Jender-Parents); and we can strongly criticise the social forces that bring about this preference if it’s a genuine one.  But when we get done with that, what do we say about the cases where it really is uncoerced?  (I would suspect that there really are such cases, by the way.  And in some circumstances I can even imagine it being a morally motivated decision.  If girls and women are treated badly enough in one’s society, mightn’t it seem deeply immoral to bring another girl into existence to be brutally mistreated?) I’m sure there must have been good things written on this topic by feminist philosophers. Does anyone know of some?  This is clearly one of those cases that shows the weakness of framing abortion just in terms of ‘choice’, but I’d like to know more about ways to approach it.  (It may also show the weaknesses of thinking just in terms of coerced/uncoerced.)