ICC Collaborative Research Unit on Multiculturalism in Asian Societies presents a workshop on

Boundary Crossing - Sex & Gender in Context

a follow-up to the workshop entitled "Sexual Boundary Crossings and Sexual Contact Zones in East Asia"

Dec 10, 2011 (Saturday) at Room 301, 3F, Building 10, Sophia University

Abstracts for the afternoon session presentation

Romancing the border – Implications of changing masculinity in post-handover Hong Kong
HO Sik Ying, Petula:
The University of Hong Kong

What does it mean to be a virile/potent man in Hong Kong and how doesone struggle to become one? This paper explores the different strategies contemporary Chinese men in Hong Kong use to re-definetheir masculinity, particularly through establishing cross-border intimacies, as Hong Kong restructures its position withMainland China and the world. The aims of the studyare (1) To identify Hong Kong men’s material, affective and sexual desires in light of social changes and how they fulfill them when their personal and social resources are increasingly limited; (2) To explore how these men’s cross-border relationships and sexual choices are related to normative ideals, cultural logics (of doubt, duty and destiny), broader cultural trends as well as wider economic and political forces. By analyzing a group of Hong Kong middle aged married men’s relationships and sexual choices, we will see how their behaviors and lifestyles challenge current social scientific understanding of masculinity, identity, desire and the erotic. Most studies on Chinese masculinity look at men as desexualized, therefore this study develops a framework of understanding Hong Kong Chinese masculinity that will extend classical understandings of Chinese masculinity as a balance of wen (cultural attainment) and wu (martial valour) qualities (Louie, 2002) to take into account the importance of the erotic (sexual rigour). I argue that sexual choice is not just about sexual desires but also about fulfillment of material needs and affective yearnings as well as social recognition especially when facing rapid social changes. The relevance of broader economic political forces as well as contemporary cultural discourses (e.g the Kong Naam Gong Nu debate) should be included in a new framework to understand Chinese masculinity. 

Empowered and Challenged Bodies: Japanese Women Professional Wrestlers’ Embodied Experiences
Keiko AIBA:
The Meiji Gakuin University

Women professional wrestlers in Japan develop specific bodies for doing professional wrestling. The author conducted in-depth interviews with 25 women wrestlers between 2004 and 2005. Through interpreting women wrestlers’ narratives, bodies of women wrestlers provide them with physical and/or mental strength. Especially, their bodies empower women wrestlers because they acquire physical strength which many Japanese women do not yet have. On the other hand, women wrestlers face several conflicts because their bodies disturb the normative sex-gender boundary. For example, some cannot fit into cute clothes sold in Japan and some are mistaken for men in daily lives. Most women wrestlers, however, do not take those conflicts seriously. Although they want others to perceive them as women regardless of their physical appearance, they do not attempt to change their bodies. Rather they unintentionally challenge the normative sex-gender boundary that if one is a biological female, one has to adopt “feminine” clothes, hair style and physique which let others perceive that one is a female. 

M/F/X – Exploring the meanings of gender categories through the accounts of individuals who identify as 'x-jendaa"
Sophia University

This presentation aims to look at the meanings afforded to the socially recognized gender categories ‘female’ and ‘male’ by making use of the accounts given by individuals who identify as neither, that is to say, as x-jendaa. X-jendaa (x-gender) is a term that has emerged within the past decade or so in Japan, and refers to a gender identity or way of being that, depending on the definition, is neither male nor female, has aspects of both genders, or that seeks to refute gender itself. Making use of data gained from interviews as well as discussion groups with individuals who self-identify as x-gender, this presentation seeks to examine how the socially recognized gender categories of ‘male’ and ‘female’ have been used as well as understood by such individuals. What does it mean to be neither male nor female? What does it mean to possess both male and female aspects? Through examining the discourse of individuals who identify as x-gender, I seek to explore the meanings of ‘female’ and ‘male’, as well as what it means to remove oneself from these categories and identify as ‘x’. 

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