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Claire Maree

Mobility and Movement-Alternative Spaces and Promotional Flyers

In the 1990s, a “boom” of interest in gay culture and entertainment exploded within popular Japanese culture. A range of new clubs and bars began to spring up in Shinjuku ni-chome (an area of central Tokyo known as a gay entertainment area since the 1950s) and beyond. One of the women-only clubs that emerged during that time has become the longest-running women-only club event operating in the Tokyo area: Monalisa/Gold Finger1 (1991-). The women-only space of Monalisa/Gold Finger offered an alternative to clubs catering for gay male and/or mixed gay and straight clientele. It can be understood as queer space, or, as Halberstam (2005) notes, “space enabled by the production of queer counterpublics” (6).

Scholarship on counterpublics focuses on the public “circulation of nondominant communicative strategies” (Loehwing & Motter 2012: 35). Warner (2002) suggests that counterpublics rely on the circulation of texts which call into being audiences in a way “that is constitutive of membership and its affects” (122). Newsletters and mini-komi (short for mini komyuinikeshon [‘mini communication’]) produced by feminist and/or lesbian editorial collectives in Japan are examples of such counterpublic texts. As Vera Mackie (1992) notes in her overview of Japanese feminist media in the 1980s and 1990s, “newsletters provide an alternative sense of community for many of the producers and readers” (25). The Monalisa/Goldfinger flyers invoke a sense of belonging to an alternative queer spatiality which privileges women only. As such, they can also be understood as examples of counterpublic texts.

The flyers are also multimodal texts that traverse LGBT2 networks and market the advertised club space as desirable to women only. These are sexed texts (Baker 2008) which “(re)produce and/or contest particular ideas and beliefs about gender and sexuality” (Milani 2013a: 208). Milani (2013a) argues that queer linguistics must engage in multimodal analysis in order to seriously engage with the “complexity of sexed meanings in public texts” (211). A multimodal analysis of the image, text, layout and design used to brand and sell women-only space in club flyers will uncover the “semiotic complexity and richness” (Iedema 2003: 39) of the medium, and how this complexity is utilized to invoke potential club-goers as belonging to women-only space. This chapter argues that the use of image, graphics, and text constitute stances that style the event and position women-only space as a desirable alternative to normative spatiality. Stance-taking refers to positionality (Jaffe 2009) and includes the evaluation, positioning, and alignment with others (du Bois 2007) performed in language encounters. The highly sexualized imagery used to promote the space as women only, not lesbian only, troubles heteronormative representations of female desire. The flyers also provide an outline of how imaginings of women-only space in 1990s Tokyo has shifted to respond to trends and fashions within mainstream and alternative culture.

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