Urban Middle-Class Japanese Women and Their White Faces: Gender, Ideology, and Representation



There are multiple gender discourses and gender representations in contemporary Japan, but a "traditional" gender ideology—men working soto (outside the home) and women managing uchi (home)—keeps its dominant position among them. Japanese women care about their compleochon and put foundation on their faces when they go outside (soto). This article illustrates how the women's white faces serve as a symbolic language, which communicates gender relations. Women present the white face in public, performing the subjectivity of ideal women based on the gender ideology. The practice of face whitening enacts the gender ideology of the tradition and the past, and this bodily practice itself is a mode of knowledge about the gender ideology. In other words, the gender ideology is authorized through the public representation of "ideal" gender relations.