Department or Program

Asian Studies


The OL (office lady) is the cultural prototype of the Japanese clerical worker who accounts for the vast majority of women working in white-collar companies after graduating from college until their mid thirties. The OL identity, as a behavior, image, and body is actively shaped and disciplined by Japanese popular culture and corporate culture, yet it is an identity surrounded by cultural tension. This thesis investigates the ways in which the Japanese OL body and identity are shaped and disciplined by Japanese advice literature, namely Mariko Bandō’s book, The Dignity of a Woman and AnAn magazine. Mariko Bandō’s highly popular book informs Japanese women how to live with grace and dignity befitting ambitious, modern women in the workforce. AnAn is a popular young women’s magazine, and I use the text and images to show how these describe the female body and promulgate feminine beauty. Despite their clear differences as advice literature, I show how the OL is both the common reader and the targeted audience of Bandō’s book and AnAn. I explore how OL manners and beauty are presented in these two types of advice literature and how they construct OL femininity by urging the cultivation of a desired OL body and identity. This interdisciplinary project involves theorists and studies from visual culture, women’s studies, and sociology to explain how AnAn and Bandō’s book discipline the OL as a physical body and gendered identity, products of Japanese society’s “biopower.” I analyze topics such as linguistic silence in Japanese corporate lives, the dichotomy of the OL body as a social and individual concern, and how the OL identity is a “body” capable of empowerment and dissent. I work to ultimately compare which advice literature is the more successful and why it appeals to the sensibilities of the “real” Japanese OL woman.

Level of Access

Open Access

Date of Graduation

Summer 5-2012

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file, 17 jpg images

Open Access

Available to all.