David Panos

Josoko (Work In Progress)

With Sharon Kinsella

A video collaboration with theorist Sharon Kinsella, a leading theorist of Japanese subcultures and gender politics, exploring the nature of male reaction on the cusp of transformation in contemporary Japan.

A filmic drift through Tokyo, Saitama and Fukushima captures the signs of the heavily ideological and yet ambiguously gendered presence built into the architecture of the contemporary urban environment.

Urban Japan in the mid-2010s is seen under the enthusiastic and benign gazes of enormous teenage girl faces screened and posted throughout the city. Interleaved in this macro-landscape are the micro-gestures and movements of daily life. Interactions with young men involved with specific recent subcultures – josoko (cross dressing as girls) and himote (demanding rights for unwanted men without women) – are fused into the film. In some instances these filmed respondents are seen performing voluntary actions for the cameras gaze, and in other cuts they are seen miming the physical gestures of their employment (typically manual and repetitive), bringing into visible interaction traces of working lives and their sartorial and gendered imagination of themselves.

There are signs that the ‘young girl’ that now dominates the imaginary of the city is the new model commuter and employee: cheap, flexible, neat, cooperative and enthusiastic. Under the implicit instructions of the gendered environment young men are witnessed engaged in complex reactions: cross-dressing, de-masculinizing, resenting and resisting.

The film will be narrated by interviews with a range of feminist intellectuals (Inoue Teruko, Shimizu Akiko, Kaneda Junko), authors (Nagayama Kaworu, Kotani Mari), artists (Aida Makoto), academics (Fujimoto Yukari), and activists (Chairman of the Himote Domei). Their ‘expert’ views are contrasted to the embodied positions of those exploring cross-dressing or participating in political actions.

This is not a film about ‘Japan’ but about a stage of male passage into a new social order that can be seen in different permutations across the post-industrial world.