“Fujoshi” is a term for women who enjoy any media or works depicting romantic relationships between men and “fudanshi” is the male-gendered version of it. The word used to have negative connotations meant to degrade people who enjoy consuming media with male/male romance. However, fans have since reclaimed it, and fujoshi/fudanshi are terms currently popularly used among fans.
Both fujoshi (腐女子) and fudanshi (腐男子) are written using the kanji 腐 (decay, spoilage), and then followed with 女子 (woman) and 男子 (man). The 腐 kanji was popularly translated as “rotten,” which leads to a lot of people thinking that fujoshi/fudanshi means “rotten woman/man.” However, this was actually because the term fujoshi itself began as a means to degenerate women who enjoy works depicting romantic and sexual relationships between men. Fans later took back the word and turned it into a food-related pun. The 腐 kanji in fujoshi/fudanshi context has a nuance of “fermentation” instead of “rotten” and is also commonly used to indicate that a fanwork features male/male relationships.
The term fujoshi first was used as a misogynistic insult in Japan’s popular online message board 2ch around the early 2000s, mostly in anime and gaming fan communities. Fujoshi referred to women who read romantic subtexts between men in works where male/male romantic relationships where is not originally intended. (In popular fandom words of today, they would be called male/male shippers). Because these women “shipped” characters in non-BL works, these women were deemed unsuitable for marriage. At the time, it was common knowledge to both male and female otaku that female fans tend to enjoy male/male relationships in media. This was the reason even female fans began using the term itself as a self-deprecating label, and also the reason no such term existed for the male fans who enjoy the same content.
Fujoshi first appeared in mass media when Japanese magazine Aera used fujoshi to refer to the female equivalent of male otaku in 2005. Media’s interest in fujoshi rose in 2006 when popular media started primarily using the word. Publications and manga such as Tonari no 801chan by Ajiko Kojima, as well as Eureka’s Fujoshi Manga Compendium and BL Studies compiled critiques and essays on Boys’ Love works and fujoshi as fans of this genre. These works also made references to male fans of the genre, and the term fudanshi was coined as an indication that the enjoyment of male/male relationship contents is not strictly a gendered interest.
Fujoshi/Fudanshi: Modern Usage
Nowadays, in Japan, the term fujoshi/fudanshi is widely and commonly used even outside of internet slang and otaku language to refer to fans of the Boys’ Love genre as well as any work depicting male/male relationships. However, as it often does with a reclaimed term, the fujoshi status still has many implications and meanings to each woman who calls themselves as such. It is not uncommon to find fans still hiding their interest and self-deprecatingly using fujoshi as a term to define themselves. At the same time, it is also not uncommon to see the term being placed proudly on someone’s Twitter profile.
On the other hand, in the English-speaking international fan community, the term fujoshi/fudanshi has been a topic of debate for several years now. While most fans simply accept the term and use it to refer to themselves, a lot of fans also disagree or have mixed feelings due to its misogynistic origin as well as the connotations and meanings that it holds. The rough translation of “rotten woman/man,” in particular, had already gotten popular before most fans became aware of the history behind the word.
If you are interested to read more on this, futekiya has also done a community survey on how our readers use the terms “fujoshi”, “fudanshi”, and “fujin”, which you can see here!
View Of The Possibilities Of Research on “fujoshi” in Japan: Transformative Works and Cultures: https://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/462/386
Fujoshi: Fantasy Play and Transgressive Intimacy among ‘Rotten Girls’ in Contemporary Japan: https://www.academia.edu/3665371/Fujoshi_Fantasy_Play_and_Transgressive_Intimacy_among_Rotten_Girls_in_Contemporary_Japan
Fudanshi (“Rotten Boys”) in Asia: A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Male Readings of BL and Concepts of Masculinity: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/331766908_Fudanshi_Rotten_Boys_in_Asia_A_Cross-Cultural_Analysis_of_Male_Readings_of_BL_and_Concepts_of_Masculinity
Featured image from Pakutaso
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