Burikko* vs. ‘Career Woman’
How Japan’s Culture of Cute is Getting in the Way
Sakari Mesimäki, a 4th-year student reading Japanese in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, participated as a finalist in the 10th Japanese Speech Contest for University Students, co-organised by the Japan Foundation and the British Association for Teaching Japanese as a Foreign Language (BATJ). Mesimäki and five other finalists (students from Leeds University, Newcastle University, SOAS, and University of Sheffield) were shortlisted after submitting written applications and taking telephone interviews. The final contest was held on Saturday, 28th February 2015 at Regent's University, London.
In his 10-minute speech, "Burikko* vs. ‘Career Woman’ - How Japan’s Culture of Cute is Getting in the Way" (ぶりっこ vs. キャリア・ウーマンー
女性の社会進出を妨げる「かわいい」文化), Mesimäki argued that the element of ’cute culture’ in Japan that values deliberately childlike and ignorant behaviour is detrimental to the urgent task of involving greater numbers of women in the workforce, particularly in positions of leadership. This speech won him second prize overall and the list of prizes included a laptop computer and a cash prize.
Regarding the experience of speaking Japanese at length in front of an audience and judges, he says, “It’s definitely scary, but at the end of the day I think it’s just about thorough preparation and practice, anybody can do it.” Ryū, a writer for the Eikoku News Digest who was in attendance, was most impressed by Mesimäki’s speech and noted, “Mr. Mesimäki’s proposals [that we should be vocal in appreciating confident women and give encouragement to those who are shy rather than praising them for being cute] were terrific. … I took up my pen to write about [his message] because I thought it should be shared with a wider audience than just those attending the contest.” The editorial blog article has gone mildly viral. While the site’s articles usually average around 20 likes on Facebook, this one has received more than 600.
All of us at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies are very proud of Mesimäki’s accomplishment. He is a fine example of what our hardworking students can accomplish.
Sakari-san, omedetō gozaimasu (congratulations)!
*A critical term referring to women who adopt deliberately childlike mannerisms to appear cute.