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Wenjia Zhou, Ma student, University of Oslo

Grassroots Sex Education for Young People via Social Media in China

Wenjia Zhou is a second-year master student in Gender Studies at the University of Oslo, Norway. Before studying in Oslo, she studied Broadcasting and TV Journalism at Fudan University, China, and Gender Studies at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. With a background in communication and gender studies, Wenjia is particularly interested in how media shapes the discourse of gender and sexuality in contemporary China, as well as how gender and sexual identities are constructed in online communities with the development of social media. 


Sari Manninen, MA Student, East-Asian Studies at Helsinki University

The representation of gendered nerd identities in Japanese Women’s Comics

Sari writes:
Japan is undergoing a multifaceted societal changes with aging population, declining birthrate, struggling economy and a shift in gendered roles. In my thesis I am examining how those struggles reflect into the world of comics and what kind of realities and possibilities the stories represent their readership with. I’ve decided to focus on nerds and geeks (otaku, fujoshi and fudanshi in Japanese) because they are often perceived as people who have failed to live up to the expectations of their respective genders in the eyes of the Japanese “mainstream society”. On the other hand, being an otaku can in itself be a form of resistance towards the high expectations placed on Japanese youth and adults alike.

Japanese categories of nerds have a tendency to be gendered, and different names refer to different types of people, with many subtypes under one type. In short, otaku mainly refers to male geeks, but is a standard umbrella term for the whole world of geekdom in Japan. Fujoshi on the other hand can be an umbrella term for all female nerds, but usually refers to a woman who reads/creates Boys’ Love (BL for short) manga etc., which is homoerotic in nature but aimed for a female readership. Fudanshi is a rather recent term that refers to biologically male readers of BL material.

All three types of nerds emerge in several contemporary manga. I am examining six comic series in my thesis: Kuragehime (Princess Jellyfish) by Higashimura Akiko, Watashi ga Motete Dōsunda (Kiss Him not Me) by Junko, Wotaku ni wa koi ga muzukashii (Love is difficult for otaku) by Fujita, Sasaki to Miyano  (Sasaki and Miyano) by Harusono Shō, Fudanshi kōkō seikatsu (High School Life of a Fudanshi) by Michinoku Atami and Mashita no Fudanshi-kun (Fudanshi-kun living downstairs) by Kuroiwa Chihaya. I’ve chosen these manga as they are all relatively new and all popular, which means their stories have resonated with a wide audience in Japan.

The aim of my study is to see how these outsider identities are represented and how they perform their gendered roles: are they able to resist mainstream (hetero)normativity,  even subvert it or are they normalised, or “cured”, of their nerd identities as the stories progress.