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Summary. The first study of state feminism in a non-western nation state, this volume focuses on the activities and roles of the Women's Bureau of the Ministry of.
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Compounding Japanese concerns was the Allied military occupation, which lasted from to Anticipating the arrival of foreign forces, the Japanese government spent the last two weeks of August destroying government records and setting up sex stations for the army of occupation. Many were depressed because they had thought they would find jobs as clerks and typists, but others accepted jobs as sex workers, believing that would be the only way to keep their families and themselves from starvation. The RAA was short lived but historically important.

The sex trades did not end with the closing of the RAA brothels, however. Thousands of women worked in licensed brothels or became pan-pan the occupation-era term for sex workers not affiliated with brothels. Feminists were rightly appalled that average women were routinely pulled from the street or public transportation by American military police and publicly humiliated by being forced to undergo gynecological exams in front of military examiners. Some were jailed, and others were sprayed with toxic disinfectants. At a meeting on September 24, they resolved to demand full civil rights, especially the vote.

Before the government could make that announcement, Gen. Ichikawa and other feminists, as well as male supporters in government who wished to credit the suffragists for their hard work over several decades, were deeply disappointed that the Americans would be credited with granting women rights. Women went to the polls in the first postwar election on April 10, Two-thirds of eligible women voters cast their ballots, an extraordinary percentage when compared to other countries right after women were enfranchised.

It is estimated that 35—45 percent of eligible women voted in the United States in the decade after gaining the vote in Thirty-nine women were elected members of the Diet in The first women representatives were highly educated, and many were professionals. Feminists of varying political persuasions formed organizations to educate new voters about their rights and to formulate demands for social and political reform. Although some of the first women Diet members remained in office for just one year, six of their number played a notable role in Japanese political history.

These six were among the seventy-two Diet members who reviewed the draft of the new Constitution. The Constitution stipulates that women and men are equal under the law Article 14 and that husbands and wives have equal rights in marriage Article Two prewar feminist leaders, planning to stand for election in , were purged by the occupation right before that election and were therefore forbidden from playing any public roles. One was Takeuchi Shigeyo — , a pioneering medical doctor in the early 20th century and later a suffragist who served on a government commission during World War II.

Takeuchi was one of the first thirty-nine women elected to the Diet in , but was prohibited from running in The other was Ichikawa Fusae. Her numerous influential friends in the United States petitioned to have her released from the purge, and the depurging committee agreed. But for reasons that are not clear, Ichikawa was not depurged until the end of the occupation. Some additional women had served the government during the war but escaped the purge. The lives of men and women were radically changed in many ways in the postwar years.

The 19th century Civil Code stipulated that the senior male was the head of the family and that other members of the family had fewer rights, especially in inheritance which under most circumstances was to go to the eldest son , choice of domicile, and divorce wives had fewer grounds for divorce.

The new Civil Code of equalized the grounds for divorce, but in other ways, the Civil Code continued to carry the baggage of the past. It has been a continuing struggle for postwar feminists to amend the code. Prewar socialist feminist Yamakawa Kikue was appointed the first director of this bureau. The family was also changed by the legalization of birth control and abortion.

Japanese women, men, and children had always worked—in shops, in factories, and on farms. When s feminists attacked a society divided into a female-dominated home and a male-dominated workplace, they were challenging institutions of relatively recent history. The vocal feminist movement of the s did not emerge from thin air after a period of complete quiescence. One of the key feminist efforts in the s was the movement to eliminate licensed prostitution.

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Women legislators, many of them members of prewar feminist organizations, pushed the Prostitution Prevention Law a law not supported by many sex workers themselves through the Diet in Some of these reinforced old gender norms. The Housewives Association continues to play a large role in movements against pollution and global climate change. The group grew rapidly: 13, women delegates attended the annual meeting. Members used what was defined at the time as the traditional family to advance their causes.

Her article unleashed a torrent of reactions that reflected the diversity of s attitudes toward housewives.

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The leadership of many of the New Left groups was male and often sexist. Motherhood, which earlier housewife feminists had viewed as a source of strength, came to be seen as leading to inequality. These kinds of revolutionary approaches paralleled those in feminist movements in other countries, and transnational linkages among radical feminist organizations were reestablished. Japanese feminists in the early s viewed their position in more complex ways than many feminists in the West, however. Thus, they were simultaneously oppressed and oppressors.

Other, more substantial publications, such as the magazines Onna: Erosu Woman: Eros and Feminisuto Feminist , founded by scholars and artists, were also widely read. One sympathetic mainstream journalist was the feminist Matsui Yayori — , who wrote for the Asahi , one of the most respected newspapers in Japan. The Action Group continued long after the Mexico City conference, coordinating the activities of several dozen organizations.

They addressed a wide range of issues, from organizing for the Equal Employment Opportunity Law and other laws to improve the status of women, to protesting sexist television commercials.


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Persistent economic inequality, particularly in the workplace, was a leading feminist issue in the s and s. These discussions highlighted significant ideological differences among employers, workers, the government, and feminist groups. Although some women had attempted to improve workplace conditions through litigation, there were no penalties for employers who failed to hire, pay, or treat women and men equally. During the prosperous decades of the s and s, many women in their late 20s whose husbands made good salaries left full-time jobs to become full-time mothers and housewives.

Returning to the workforce, as many did in their late 30s, they were unable to get good full-time jobs because companies did not hire older workers into promotion-track positions. In addition, the Labor Standards Law had codified the pre—World War II feminist demand to protect women from having to work on midnight shifts. Employers were reluctant to hire women, whom they could not force to work the long hours they pressured men to work. Feminists supported different approaches to changes in labor law. Some wished to abolish the motherhood protection clauses that differentiated male and female employees, while others wanted to retain some of those provisions.

The law passed in , but it was flawed. Despite its flaws, the law temporarily improved labor conditions for women, until a major recession hit Japan in the s. The Child-Care Leave Law of allowed either parent to take a partially paid leave of up to a year after the birth of a child. But few parents, especially fathers, initially took this leave. In , the Long-Term Care Insurance Law shifted responsibility for caring for the elderly from the family to society, thereby lifting some—though not all—of the burden for that care from daughters and daughters-in-law, who had traditionally been responsible for it.

Sanctions against discrimination in hiring were included in a revision of the law in Feminist scholars were featured on talk shows and were appointed to government councils, although most were still teaching at smaller colleges before they began to break into the top tier of elite universities in the s. In addition to the still small but growing number of women in academia, feminists influenced government policy-making in the s. Other laws addressed problems of gendered bodily harm.

These laws all helped women and children, and they did not produce the resistance encountered by the Basic Law for a Gender Equal Society. Prefectures, cities, and towns were also required to create plans to carry out the law. That term was used in several ways: to mean free of gender bias or free of gender itself.

The first meaning called for the removal of inequality in society, economy, and government between two binary genders, male and female; the second suggested redefining gender as a constructed concept that could be changed or eliminated. That stood at about 1. At the same time, Japan ranked highest among large countries in longevity. Women should focus on making babies, conservatives opined in their attack on the Basic Law for a Gender Equal Society. Some feminists retreated strategically from the more inclusive meanings of gender free to defend the policies that called for equal treatment of men and women.

Gender Inequality in Contemporary Japan

Even in that climate, some progress was made in redefining gender. Sexual reassignment surgery was legalized in , and the Japan Association for Queer Studies was founded in it has since disbanded. Some of the socially transformative aspects of the Basic Law may have been postponed, but contemporary feminists continue to work toward building a more equal Japan. These works in Japanese, written in the s, were followed by histories and ethnological and sociological studies of Japanese women written in both Japanese and English in the s.

In the historical field, a few books and articles about women took a similar approach to these early works—that is, they attempted to find notable women and add them, in a compensatory manner, to the male-centered dominant narrative of history. Most of these scholars are trained historians or scholars in diverse fields whose work displays a keen historical sense.

Most, though not all, address feminism and feminist movements. The International Group for the Study of Women hosted an international conference in and published a pioneering work in English and Japanese the following year. Over the years, they expanded their capacity and organized and digitized many of the materials. After the turn of the century, scholarship on femininities, masculinities, gender, and sexualities continued to expand greatly, building on the foundation established in the s. This has become particularly important in historical studies of countries where Japanese people migrated.

Finally, the explosion of history and historiography about feminism in Japan has paralleled a more than century-long dialogue between feminists around the Pacific Rim. The documents of these organizations are excellent primary sources on feminism. Primary sources on Japanese feminism are available mainly in Japanese. The American occupation required that all documents and publications be translated into English to be accessible to the American censors, and thus these archives are unrivaled for the years to They are both extensive and, fortunately for researchers without Japanese fluency, in English.

Many interwar feminists wrote memoirs, but almost all are in Japanese.

Anderson, Marnie S. Find this resource:. Bardsley, Jan. Women and Democracy in Cold War Japan. London: Bloomsbury, Bernstein, Gail Lee, ed. Recreating Japanese Women , — Berkeley: University of California Press, Rethinking Japanese Feminisms. Faison, Elyssa. Frederick, Sarah. Gender, Nation and State in Modern Japan.

London: Routledge, Gerteis, Christopher. Hastings, Sally A. Edited by Anne E. Translated by Teruko Craig. New York: Columbia University Press, Hunter, Janet, ed. Japanese Women Working. Kano, Ayako. Kovner, Sarah. Lowy, Dina. Lublin, Elizabeth Dorn. Mackie, Vera. Cambridge, U. Mihalopoulos, Bill. London: Pickering and Chatto, Molony, Barbara. Edited by Mina Roces and Louise Edwards. Molony, Barbara, and Kathleen Uno, eds.

Gendering Modern Japanese History.

Shibahara Taeko. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, Shigematsu, Setsu. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, Sievers, Sharon L. Suzuki, Michiko.


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  • Tsurumi, E. Mary R. Anne E. Janet Hunter London: Routledge, Gail Lee Bernstein, ed. Marriage is especially repressive for women. The U. World Conference on Women was a major turning point for feminism throughout the world, including Japan. It led to the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in that requires all member states to ensure equal rights for women and take measures in all fields, including enacting legislation for the advancement of women. Japan ratified the convention in and a couple of legal frameworks were codified around the same time.

    These developments ultimately led to the adoption of the gender equality law in Ueno remembers those days when sexual harassment was frequently used as a tool to reduce tension in the workplace and groping on trains went unchecked. Toward the end of the 20th century, perspectives appeared to be — slowly but surely — changing.

    Gender Inequality in Contemporary Japan

    As Japan entered the 21st century, however, feminism experienced a powerful backlash. At the same time, he and the ruling LDP-Komeito bloc steamrolled a bill through the Diet that enables employers to use temp workers — of which about 70 percent are women — for as long as they wish. Perhaps that is why so many people ask her why she became one. I watched women such as Chizuko Ueno show their anger in public and grew up realizing that it is OK to speak up.

    Society and the media have played a role in painting feminists in an unflattering light, depicting them as unattractive, hysterical women or women who possess radical thoughts. I think the negative image people generally have toward feminists reflects the prejudice society harbors toward such women. Kitahara has definitely pushed the boundaries further by becoming the first female owner of an adult-goods shop for women in Japan called Love Piece Club. The products are available online. In recent research, Kitahara found that the first female politician to give birth was Tenkoko Sonoda in Shockingly, she says, the next woman to have a child as a politician was Seiko Hashimoto in — half a century later.

    When Hashimoto became pregnant, she was criticized for taking time off to give birth. As a result of her situation, however, both chambers of the Diet revised their rules to allow women to be absent from public proceedings to have a baby. Still, very few women have had children during their time in office. Since Hashimoto, only nine women have given birth while in office, including Seiko Noda at the age of That said, I think people are finally beginning to recognize the merits of having diversity in the workplace. Even on a more basic level, sexist comments made by fellow lawmakers appear to continue unabated.

    LDP member Akihiro Suzuki later admitted making the remark on marriage but Shiomura says that others were involved. No further investigation was conducted by the local government to identify any other hecklers. And in August, Kagoshima Gov. Yuichiro Ito also made a sexist gaffe, asking prefectural government education board members if there was any point teaching women the sine, cosine and tangent trigonometric functions in high school.

    While deploring a clear reluctance on the part of men to change, Kitahara says women are now beginning to stand up for themselves.

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    Women, whether they call themselves feminists or not, are no longer letting men off the hook with sexist remarks, sexual harassment, derogatory statements and groping on trains. Men have now been handed their homework — it is up to them to do it. For instance, Matsui talked to Tomoko Yonezu, who became physically disabled at the age of 2 because of polio.