Penguins are always popular at zoos and aquariums, and now the aquatic birds are serving as metaphors for some of Japan’s most eligible bachelorettes.
Recently, many Japanese men have been expressing a fondness for what’re being called penguin girls (pengin joshi in Japanese). It’s not the animals’ swimming prowess or cute little walk that the term is referring to, but rather their perceived personalities.
The logic behind the name holds that, as flightless birds, penguins have to pay attention to their surroundings in order to stay safe, and so penguin girls are women who, by extension, are observant and rational. Instead of reacting emotionally, they take a logical approach to things, yet are also able to show empathy. In describing his admiration for a penguin girl he knows, one Japanese man in his 20s said “When I was feeling down about screwing up at work, she told me ‘I’ve made that same mistake.’ Having a woman say those words to me left a deeper impression than hearing them from another guy.”
Penguin girls’ penchant for objective thinking translates into an independent personality, their proponents say. That desire for independence can manifest in a strong work ethic, which takes a lot of pressure off men in Japan, where society has long expected males to be the breadwinners for their households. “A woman who works hard and lives within her economic means isn’t going to be greedy or push a guy to provide her with a lavish lifestyle,” opined one thirty-something penguin girl fan. “That’s a really attractive personality trait.”
Finally, just as penguins can stand calm and still for long periods of time, penguin girls don’t react to emotionally stressful situations with panic attacks or verbal outbursts. Instead, they keep their cool while carefully thinking of what the most appropriate course of action to take is. “My girlfriend is always cool and collected,” shared one penguin girl’s boyfriend. “I was really busy at work, so I told her ‘I need some time apart from you,’ and after that, she didn’t try to contact me at all. I actually got sort of worried after a month went by, so I got in touch with her, and she acted just like she always has, even though we hadn’t spoken for a month.”
While the above example is an extreme case, men who prefer penguin girls say that women who fall into the category tend to be in control of, as opposed to controlled by, their feelings. Having fewer extreme emotional peaks and valleys means they’re less likely to become clingy or controlling, and so while a cool-headed approach to love may not be what every guy is looking for, for those who are, a penguin girl feels just right.