Kawaii is a harsh mistress

Cute is a harsh mistress who demands a heavy price from her followers. The word cute is amusingly close in sound to the word for scary, I wander around Japan Town snorting with laughter as legions of devotees pick up a small gudetama egg charm and shout KO-WHY! KOwai…one less i, an ‘o’ not a short ‘a’ means scary. This is so scary. I sigh. That is plain cute in itself. Foiled again, Batman. It was good old Gudetama, the lazy egg that led my thinking about cute. It is not a natural topic to me. I am distinctly not kawaii, nor ever will be. I was in Kinokuniya, in Japan Town, they are the Japanese version of Barnes and Noble (I know…I know…they had a textbook the Boy needed and at least they are not Amazon), when I saw a young woman of about 16 years old or so pick up a tiny little cuddly Gudetama egg from the display and look at her mother with big eyes, in that way children do when they really really really want something. She didn’t say anything. Her mother rolled her eyes in irritation, “You and that damn egg, Janet!” she growled, half laughing half serious. Yes, Janet! You and that damn egg! Look at his cute little butt cheeks, so baby-like, his soft round egg yolk features on his pristine albumin blankie! Eggs and babies aside, Gudetama is horrifying. An egg yolk, the source of life and many a lazy supper, who has been anthropormorphized and turned into a baby itself, a baby who sits in a eggshell diaper, begs you not to eat him and wishes you “seasoned greetings’ whilst salty snow falls onto him, no doubt curing his tender eggy flesh!

Greer once wrote that “nothing beautiful was ever pink” and I have to agree with her (great Guardian article of 2007, link below), and certainly the Kult of Kawaii doesn’t demand pinkness, plenty of things that are deemed kosher are not pink, but a bit of pink certainly doesn’t go amiss. It signals in fluffy waves of cherry blossom extravagance that you have entered the Kingdom of Cute. I say Kingdom, because let’s face it, this is a tool of the patriarchy, a hook to keep women soft, neotenic, the red tooth and bloody claw firmly gripped around a fuwafuwa soft pillowy cuddly concept, that they have to earn money to buy, paying their tribute to the Twin Gods of Sanrio and the Anime/Manga industry. It keeps females buying, for themselves, their babies of both sexes and their daughters into adulthood, keeps them worshipping at the altar of consumerism, and infantilized. Who can think about equality, serious issues that face women and girls, when their heads are full of fluff!

Cute is a full time occupation. From make up, to clothes, to body type and hair, cute doesn’t come naturally. Heavily affected mannerisms, the performance of femininity is demanded at the Kawaii Kowai-scary Madam’s whip of compliance. Hide your mouth when you laugh! Giggle at men’s jokes! Pretend you don’t understand, intelligence is not becoming! Thwack! Non compliance is rewarded by undesirability. The ultimate exile. Being not cute. Cute is artificial, cute is man pleasing bullshit. Cute is chopping the adult female ovaries out of life and calling it sweet.

You know what would be truly edgy, truly sweet, truly beautiful, to drop this performance of toxic femininity and say …nah…we aren’t doing that any more. I would say “fuck cute” but that is the whole nasty issue isn’t it? It is what attracted Gwen Stefani to the Harajuku Girl debacle of a concept – childlike compliance. A non threatening artifice that screams “Protect us! Dont hurt us! We are vulnerable! See, even our eggs are lazy!” I wonder if it was on some level an unconscious reaction to the world war two nuclear atrocity perpetuated on Japan? A declaration of toothlessness. Safety. Childlike vulnerability, an innocuous flag waved at the outside world saying “We are not dangerous!” Reading William Burrough’s brave assertations regarding Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that these bombs were “soul death” merchants, I look to the soul of Japan, and the fallout of cute, and wonder how did the word migrate from the root kawaiso, meaning pitious, to the modern adorably desirable.

I offer a small amount of hope. The kunoichi. She was not cute. She was an assassin, a warrior a female ninja. A killer, a spy…an undercover messenger service. She was the powerhouse of espionage in the days of the Samurai and clans. She was not cute. Alluring when she had to be, Mata Hari, before Mata Hari was conceived of, but not cute. I hope the spirit of the Kunoichi drip poison in the ears of girls everywhere and feed the spirit of rebellion with female strength, independence and power.


  1. Ron Pavellas

    Perhaps I’m on point with some of your observations and assertions in that I have never been able to get behind what appears to be need for male Japanese to have little girls (or big girls acting like little girls) as sex or lust objects. The cuteness is completely off-putting to me: the dolls, the playacting, the ‘girly’ colors. It makes me think that the males who pay for this playacting are infantile,

      1. Ron Pavellas

        There’s bad stuff brewing everywhere. I no longer worry about my daughters and my older granddaughters, but there are two younger ones who might be vulnerable. But their dad is watching closely. What is the source of this perversion of the mating instinct?

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