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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Real and Imagined Women's Voices in Russian and Japanese Societies: Media, Self-Perceptions, and Everyday Language Practices

  • Author(s): Konstantinovskaia, Natalia
  • Advisor(s): Iwasaki, Shoichi
  • et al.

The complex relationship between gender and language has been studied from a diversity of perspectives, which have explored both the historical control of women’s language by men and the evolving interactions between genders that shape contemporary language use. To date, however, there is little cross-cultural work exploring the crucial role of the media in shaping the social norms that regulate the use of gendered language. Furthermore, few studies analyzed women’s discourses on their perceptions of normative and ideal femininities along with women’s real linguistic practices. This dissertation aims to fill this gap by conducting a cross-linguistic and cross-cultural study of women’s language in contemporary Japanese and Russian societies.

The dissertation is three-fold: it investigates current gender ideologies in televised advertising, their manifestations in women’s narratives on their ideal selves, and women’s actual speech in spontaneous conversations in Japan and Russia. By juxtaposing women’s scripted speech in televised commercials, women’s beliefs in interviews and their actual language behavior, I examine how various social expectations suggested in media are evoked, asserted, and rejected in women’s perceptions of femininity and in their everyday life. Thus, this dissertation compares and contrasts women's self-articulated femininities with the normative portrayals dominant in media, exploring the ways in which women challenge and subvert social expectations.

The results of this dissertation suggest that Japanese and Russian media frequently depicts women highlighting their femininity, which reflects a synthesis of current gender ideologies, traditional models and postfeminist ideas of ‘power femininity.’ Japanese and Russian women have rigid perceptions about the ideal femininity that in some ways echo the media representations. The corpus analysis of women’s conversations and blogs, however, demonstrates the large gap between these perceptions and women’s real practices. The dissertation findings add to our understanding of the constructed nature of femininity, its components, and its significance in both Japanese and Russian societies. The findings also highlight the culture-sensitive, nuanced creation of gender, and reveal the cultural inhomogeneity of its manifestations.

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