Not that I’m complaining. I like cute maids, too — although, probably not for the same reason. And after wandering for an hour through sweaty street markets full of frogs and scorpions, I was pretty psyched to walk into this air-conditioned animé wonderland, where the waitresses look like they floated out of a Japanese teenage wet dream. Also: as someone interested in culture and consumerism, I think it’s my duty to take advantage of an opportunity to immerse myself in the “cute culture” that prevails in most of Asia. It’s called field research, y’all.
Cute Maid storefront. We spotted this café from across the street, and we all rushed towards it, pulled in by some sort of adorable magnetic force. A cute maid greeted us at the door, purring and licking her paws (ok, not really, but that’s what I imagined in my state of dehydration and disorientation).
Inside the café. Lots of stuffed animals everywhere. There was just one other customer — a young man who looked to be in his late teens — who sat there for a very long time petting a kitten and checking his smartphone. I’m sure he’s there for the food. Yeah… totally…. for the food, just like us.
The food wasn’t good. I didn’t take any pictures of our desserts/drinks because they sucked. But there’s plenty to see. Like this shelf of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. This is our friend D.
Our friend A, with an oversized stuffed chick. He wanted to sit next to it.
Overall, I would say the café’s decor was… cute, yes, but lacking cohesion. Just random piles of cute things, like the bedroom of an eight-year-old girl.
They even had a little kitten rolling around the café! Which doesn’t seem entirely sanitary, but whatever. This is Cute Maid Café, and there’s only one rule here: Be Cute.
A and D with our cute maids. The ladies wore kitten ears, teddybear pocketbooks and what appeared to be blue/brown manga contact lenses.
Later, A found this article about maid cafés in Japan and Guangzhou. The writer holds a pretty cynical view of the whole maid theme: “Welcoming the ‘Master’ in the most respectful manner and investing him with a unique sense of power is probably an excellent way to attract male customers but undoubtedly leaves us with the strange impression that the emancipation of women is far from complete even amongst the younger generations.”
I agree, sort of. Part of me thinks this is just fun and there’s no reason to think too seriously about it. But then again, I find the extreme cute culture in Asia to be a bit nauseating, and I think infantilization of women is, in most cases, insulting and can be even harmful.
While writing this post, I became so obsessed with this subject that I started searching for authorities and found a pretty interesting article called, “The Power of Cuteness.” Discussing Taiwan’s cute culture and female infantilization, the author writes: “As objectively women are becoming the social equivalents of men and consequently pose a threat to the hierarchical social order, an effective way to deflect confrontations is for women to take the symbolic gesture of acting like children.” And then: “The cuteness trend and avid consumption among Taiwanese women are thus not so much a compensation for the lack of power as an affirmation of power.”
Whoa, deep. Who knew these cute maids were so empowered? (I jest, I jest)
We could talk about this for hours, but right now, I have to go lie down because my head hurts from thinking too hard about cuteness. Yeah. I’m pretty cute like that.