bITS 'N CHUNKS
Hi everyone, before I get into this post I just want to stress it's pretty much me speculating based off lived experience and things I've noticed and I'm in no way attempting to extrapolate information about society based on a Japanese street style lol. As a continuation of my first menhera post, this is basically just why I'm attracted to the fashion and why I think people that look like me might be drawn to it as well. If you have any insight yourself or even counterpoints you're always free to comment. No one is forcing me to make a disclaimer about this I'm just choosing to out of respect. That being said...
So, while I was stocking up for my convention trip and browsing through the menhera and gurokawa hashtags on Instagram and Tumblr and I noticed there's an awful lot of black and brown girls participating in this movement outside of Japan. And that's awesome.
Before I start wildly speculating, let me say in this case I'm using black and brown over POC because POC becomes a bit loaded when you just mean "people that are not white". And obviously I'm speaking from my lived experience as a black person. That being said, there's this…school of thought that black people in particular can't participate in "kawaii" subcultures because we don't meet the standard definitions of kawaii. Broad noses, bulky bodies, unchildlike frames, rough hair, etc.
There's a lot wrong with that perception including the very fact that not every black person looks the same, but let's say that black folks are very capable of putting the kawaii on if and when we choose and we'll leave it at that.
Back to my original thought, though. When you see street snaps of Japanese teenagers decked out in colorful, bright, fun, but otherwise inoffensive (sometimes) clothing it's easy to forget that these are rebellious styles. Japanese school kids aren't going to school with colorful hair and wearing harem pants because it's likely against regulations and thus frowned upon. This is weekend or after school fashion for the youth to express themselves. And it's often so far away from what Western cultures might consider "rebellious" that we usually just think oh cute and keep it moving. Hell, people love lolita fashion but it started out as a feminist statement against patriarchal standards. Can you believe it?
Of course, Japan has its dark fashions too. Menhera for all its pastels and cutesy front is still pretty damn morbid and dark. It's a little more outwardly rebellious as it's rebelling against something that STARTED as a rebellion but kinda got mainstream (kawaii or fairy-kei fashion). And menhera makes a statement about fighting against stigma and embracing everything you are. So, to that end it makes a lot of sense to see a lot of black and brown folks in the tag.
It's just an interesting phenomenon to me specifically because I definitely grew up as part of the generation where black families just acted like mental illness didn't exist for us. It was a White thing. There was no real pushback against it, you just bottled your feelings up or went to pray or basically went mad. You were deemed "different" and eccentric. As you can probably guess, this is not a trend limited to black families -- I've spoken to people of other backgrounds (Asian is probably the next biggest example) and it just seems to be a thing. I had a hard time explaining this thing for the longest. How do you? It implies that white families have an easier time dealing with mental illness but the thing is, they don't. It just seems like it's easier for white folks to be taken seriously and POC are demonized. I saw a statistic that I won't quote here, but it stated that white people are diagnosed with depression at twice the rate of other racial groups and I just thought to myself, "THAT WE KNOW OF."
I wasn't really able to explain this until I read the novel Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga in college. In it, Nyasha (cousin of main character and narrator Tambu), already suffering from an eating disorder, has a complete mental breakdown near the end of the book because she cannot reconcile her desire for a free and independent life ("Englishness) with the harsh reality of patriarchy and postcolonial African politics. Check it out for yourself, it's fantastic. But to my point, when Nyasha has her breakdown she warns her cousin Tambu of the insidiousness of "Englishness". The family actually attempts to get her and Tambu outside help at one point but the white therapist tells the family that "their kind" is unable to experience sadness and suffering because black people are incapable of feeling those things.
Wait a second. Back that up. An affluent Rhodesian family just got told their daughter is faking it because black people don't feel these things? Whoa. For someone going through therapy at the time, that was heavy as fuck to hear. Nervous Conditions deals with all manner of race and colonialism and gender, but that little tidbit right there reached across the aisle.
We are incapable of feeling. Think on that for a second. That is not something limited to postcolonial Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, people actually think that about certain races of people (non-white). Coming away from that a little bit (and acknowledging that Asian countries generally have a different perception of suicide), let me get back to my point about being happy to see black people in particular participating in this. What better way to push back against unfair standards than claiming them for your own and flagrantly wearing them? Band-Aids, little hearts and syringes, even the bondage gear. All of it to make a statement to say "I am ill and you cannot make me feel like a burden". It's kawaii fashion, so it feels to me like a way to say I am capable of existing in this movement and everything is not all good over here. I think it'll be even better when there's more representation from people who are not able-bodied if there is anything about this movement that attracts them.
I could talk about menhera and its implications all damn day but I'm not gonna do it. I'm just gonna ask you to think for yourselves & hit up the Fyeah Menhera tumblr.
Ia! If you've come this far, you're either looking for weird or you know you've found it...