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Complexity of Gender on the Net : ICT is New Measure of the Gender Liberation? . Ryoko Asai the Centre for Business Information Ethics Meiji University. Introduction1 : Trigger for This Study. Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Gender/Gender Roles .

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complexity of gender on the net ict is new measure of the gender liberation

Complexity of Gender on the Net:ICT is New Measure of the Gender Liberation?

Ryoko Asai

the Centre for Business Information Ethics

Meiji University

introduction1 trigger for this study
Introduction1: Trigger for This Study

Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

Gender/Gender Roles

  • Gender disparities in ICT use
  • ICT’s contribution to the empowerment of women

Many studies has focused on women

How about Men?

introduction2 purpose of this study
Introduction2: Purpose of This Study
  • Purpose of this study is....

To examines the effects of ICT on men in Japan

from the viewpoint of gender / linguistic gender features

  • That’s because ....

Emergenceof “Nekama” in Japan

Japanese men who present themselves as women in cyberspace

  • The point is ....

Introductionof “Nekama” phenomenon

Examination of Cultural influence on Japanese men by using or participating online communications

introduction3 outline of this study
Introduction3: Outline of This Study
  • The general contours of online communication in Japan
  • Japanese language gender system :“Japanese women’s language”

The background of generating Nekama in Japan

  • Characteristics of Nekama by categorizing them into two types
  • Case study of Nekama

How does behavior constructed by gender images affects the communication pattern on the Net?

  • Conclusion

The pluralistic nature of gender identity made possible by the use of ICT


In contemporary Japan ,

A large number of people join in online games or SNSs

  • The total population of Internet users

approximately 85.29 million


  • Social network service (SNS) members



  • Bloggers

8.68 million


  • Online game members

28 million


1.75 million

Of these gamers, members of fee-based game sites

*Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, 2006

**ECR Report, 2006; Online Game Forum, 2006


Two types of online communication

“Transient Communication" and "“Database” Communication"

Online communication can be classified broadly into two types

" Transient communication"

:defined as communication that occurs only once or a few times

e.g. one-time using bulletin board systems (BBSs)

" Continuing communication"

:define as a relatively long-term relationship among certain people

e.g. online games, SNSs (pre-registration required)

These types differ intheir spatial and temporal contexts.


Invisibility and anonymity can bring about two broad types of behavior in online communication

Online Communication



Type B

Type A

The communicator disrespects others by misusing a trait of online communications

The communicator assume comparatively long-term communication in particular online communities.

the possibility of meeting face-to-face in off-line situations

having difficulty facing each other directly in the real world

“Continuing communication"

“Transient communication"


Changing in a trait of communication in Japanese society

Retaining and Reinforcing Closed Relationships

→More Open Relationships

Up to now

Japanese society attaches importance to effective social and economic management through establishing mutual cooperative ties *

  • these ties grant comfort within close relationships of high cohesiveness

At present

Relationships that are more open to the outside world have increasing benefits, versus retaining and reinforcing closed relationships.

Many online communities may help foster a sense of belonging


  • participants in online games and SNSs can easily gain a sense of commonality or belongingness

*Yamagishi [1999]


Emergence of Nekama: Men acting as women

Male player: 91.0%

Online game players

Female player: 9.0%


more than half of the players pose as female characters


presenting themselves as women

  • using feminine forms of expression
  • choosing conversation subjects
  • dressing their characters or "avatars" in women's clothing

*BB Serve, 2005


Nekama = Net + “Okama”

  • Okama: refers to a gay man or male cross -dresser


Okama living on the Net


They does not necessarily correspond to a man's sexuality.

Characteristic of Nekama

  • represent themselves as female on the Net
  • almost all heterosexual
  • go about their normal daily life as person of male gender
japanese women s language cultural context that breeds nekama
Japanese Women’s Language: Cultural context that breeds Nekama

“Japanese women’s language” means

  • the phrase referring to the empirical speech patterns of women
  • an obligatory cultural category and unavoidable part of practical

social knowledge for both women and men

Speech Forms / the Management of Conversation




Pitch of Voice

Social Roles


Speech Act



Female-Specific Attributes

japanese women s language gender markers indexing femininity and masculinity
Japanese Women’s Language: Gender Markers Indexing Femininity and Masculinity

“Japanese women’s language” is understood as

  • a set of linguistic forms and functions of language statistically used by women
  • elements of certain feminine demeanors, roles, and attributes

Ex) soft-spoken, polite, hesitant, empathetic, gentle, nonassertive

“Japanese women’s language”

a self conscious parameter of social change

and civil order

notions of culture, gender images

nekama men handling women s language skillfully on the net
Nekama: Men handling women’s language skillfully on the Net

Online communication

Literal information

important element for many participants

By handling Japanese women’s language skillfully,

Nekama survive on the Net


Why men become Nekama?

Two main reasons

  • to turn on a man who wants girlfriend on the Net and humiliate him in front of other users
  • the enjoyment or sense of release obtained from acting as a female


Although many nekama are known to exist, little is known about them.

What is the reality of Nekama?


“Nekama”: Case of a Nekama Participating in an Online Game

In the real world

At the online game

By being Nekama...

He likes his job.

He has pride in his job.

He enjoys his daily life.

He can relieve the weight of gender.

He reveals a “feminine” side or a different disposition to an online game buddy.

But sometimes...

He feels uncomfortable.

He wants others to recognize that he has something of “feminine” in his character .

He can just be himself


“Nekama”: Case of a Nekama Participating in a SNS

In the real world

Being Nekama

He loves to see Kabuki.

He likes to talk about Kabuki.

He enjoys his daily life.

He can relieve the weight of gender.

He reveals a “feminine” side or a different disposition to an online game buddy.

In a Kabuki fan community

He is minority of Kabuki fans community.

He wants to talk with others about Kabuki, without any uncomfortable feeling and regardless of gender/sex differences.

Being nekama serves to facilitate his communication on the Net.

Kabuki: The traditional Japanese theater form


Being Nekama = an effective measure

for ameliorating gender problems

The first case of Nekama

gender problem in the real world.

To extend possibilities for expressing his pluralistic gender identity.

Being Nekama

The Second case of Nekama

gender problem in cyberspace.

To be an important factor in building human relationships and communicating with others

Being Nekama


Nekama consists of personal options in cyberspace

Whether or not to belong to a community.

Whether or not to follow traditional roles, etc...

inc.gender role

Nekama = as a consequence of personal choices

  • need to communicate with others
  • need to exist in cyberspace as “me who others know”
  • lack of strong solidarity than conventional community in the real world

much possibility to change oneself depending on contexts

fluid situation




trying to resolve their own gender difficulties by using the invisibility and anonymity of the Internet


  • Our communication on the Net is influenced by gender/sex as well as communication in the real world.
  • ICT provides people with effective alternatives to the gender roles required in the real world.
  • Gender situations on the Net has much possibility to change in response to ones in the real world, and vice versa.
  • Nekama phenomenon could raise debates about individualization

UN positions

"ICT as an instrument for the empowerment of women and girls"

nekama living with another gender on the net

NEKAMA: Living with Another Gender on the Net

Ryoko Asai

Doctoral Program of Political Science and Economics

Meiji University

  • ネットの世界においてジェンダーがどのように作用しているのか?
  • 男性にとってとりわけどのような影響をもつのか
  • 事例⇒ネカマ
  • 現実世界におけるジェンダーに対する意識がネットにおけるコミュニケーションの前提として大きな役割を果たしている。
  • ICTは男性のもつ現実世界で制限される女性らしい側面を自由に表現し解放するツールとして機能する
  • 話の概略から開始する
  • 主たるメッセージは何ですか?
  • 聞き手に理解し、覚えておいてもらいたいことは何ですか?
  • 聞き手に対しては情報を理解し使ってもらいたい
  • キーポイントをサポートするサブポイントの準備→キーポイントとの重要性を具体例を提示して補足説明→最低2つ以上のサポートデータを盛り込む

共同性志向型コミュニケーション ←データベース的対人関係







characteristics of online users in japan
Characteristics of Online Users in Japan
  • Users of on-line communityは大半が男性
reflection of release from gender role in the real world
Reflection of / Release from gender role in the real world
  • 現実世界におけるgender roleの反映とそれからの逸脱
  • 情報社会におけるジェンダー格差やジェンダー不平等への指摘