Speaker: Xiaoyun Gong, Yuxi Lin, Ye Ding and Lauren Klein
Affiliation: Emory University, 201 Dowman Dr, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA
Title: Gender and Power in Japanese Light Novels
Abstract: In Japanese culture, the light novel – a combination of text and anime-style illustrations–is a relatively new literary form. It derives from the broader otaku culture, which is also associated with video games, manga, cosplay, anime, and other forms of Japanese popular culture. Though the light novel lacks the global reach of some of these other genres, such as manga and anime, it nonetheless attracts millions of readers across a range of gender and age groups. While distinct subgenres of the light novel have emerged, such as romance, adventure, horror, and harem, issues of gender stereotyping, power imbalances and other forms of inequality remain strongly entrenched. These issues can be attributed to how otaku culture is rooted in heterosexual male desire. This paper offers a quantitative assessment of these issues of gender inequality. We analyze 290 light novels, scraped from the Baka-Tsuki Translation Community Wiki, in terms of the power relationships between female and male characters as they evolve over the course of each novel. We find patterns consistent with issues of gender stereotyping and power differentials. More specifically, we find that female characters consistently wield less power than male characters, especially toward the end of each novel. We find some variation in specific subgenres. We conclude with close readings of two light novels, demonstrating how a power frames approach to analyzing gender stereotypes in otaku culture augments existing work on the subject.