How Feminism and Diversity are Making a Difference
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: The Feminist Press
Table of Contents
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Almost twenty years ago, I approached Florence Howe, the director of the Feminist Press, with the idea of producing an anthology written by Japanese scholars about Japanese women’s lives. The volume took five years to complete. Japanese Women: New Feminist Perspectives on the Past, Present, and Future (1995), which I co-edited with Atsuko Kameda, served a worldwide audience interested in the views of...
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The early 1990s were often described as onna no jidai or “the era of women.” The implication was that women in Japan had not only attained a large measure of equality in a highly affluent society and could exercise freedom in choosing from a variety of options in their pursuit of a fulfilling life, but also that as a result they enjoyed happier, fuller, and more balanced lives than their male counterparts who were tied...
I. Cultural and Historical Perspectives
1. The Struggle for Legal Rights and Reforms: A Historical View
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Japanese women had few individual or political rights before World War II. Under the prevailing ie, or family, system, which was the foundation of prewar Japanese society, the proper place for women was considered to be within the home, under the authority of the male family head. Any type of involvement by women in political activities was thought to be contradictory to natural physiological and psychological...
2. Women in Japanese Buddhism
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In Japan today, there are still certain designated places that by tradition are barred to women. For example, women are not permitted to climb certain so-called reizan (holy mountains) such as Omine Mountain in Nara. Similarly, there is a taboo against women setting foot at the site of a tunnel under construction based on the superstition that, if she does so, the mountain goddess will become angry or...
3. Who's Afriad of Kiku Amino? Gender Conflict and the Literary Canon
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Kiku Amino (1900-1978) seems to have disappeared from the scene of Japanese literature today. A writer born in turn-of-the century Japan, she was a contemporary of Yuriko Miyamoto (1899-1951), and, like other women writers of her day, wrote semi-autobiographical fiction (“I-fiction,” or shishosetsu). During her long and prolific writing career, which spanned nearly sixty years, Amino received wide...
4. Unions and Disunions: Three Early Twentieth-Century Females Couples
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The period between 1910 and the early 1930s was a comparatively peaceful one of economic stability following Japan’s victory in World War I. During this time of the Taisho democracy, cities were filled with so-called mobo (modern boys), and moga (modern girls), young adults who had adopted Western dress and behavior. Fancy operas and musicals were popular, as well as the new Takarazuka Girls’ Theater...
5. Educational Challenges Past and Present
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“Education frees the human spirit.” How often have I, Kimi Hara, been struck by and reminded of the significance of this inscription inside the entrance of Judd Hall at the University of Chicago. Education, in the true sense of the term, helps develop human potential, emancipating us from all bindings and restrictions. Education regenerates one’s heart and mind and thereby influences the social and cultural...
6. The Advancement of Women in Science and Technology
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In 2006, female high school students— called “Rocket Girls”—earned headlines in Japanese newspapers reporting that during the summer break the Akita University Innovation Center for Engineering Design and Manufacturing created a project designed to slow the loss of female students from science fields. Thirteen young women from Akita Prefecture and Tokyo participated. One student said, “The joy you...
III. Marriage and Families
7. The Changing Patterns of Marriage and Motherhood
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Recent policy discussions surrounding changes in marriage and family in contemporary Japan evoke a sense of crisis. Japan’s fertility rate, with an average of 1.37 children per woman in 2008 (Koseirodosho 2008), is well below the replacement rate, raising fears of a gradual decline in Japan’s population. In addition, Japanese women are increasingly delaying marriage and a growing number are remaining...
8. Single Mothers
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As an unmarried mother, I have been actively involved in a single mothers’ group since the 1980s. Initially called No Cutbacks on Dependent Children’s Allowance Networking Group (Jido fuyo teate no kirisute o yurusanai renrakukai), we organized to maintain the Dependent Children’s Allowance that sustains single mothers. In the 1990s as our goals broadened, we renamed our group the Single Mother’s Forum...
9. The Formation and Growth of the Men's Movement
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In 1991, the so-called “men’s lib” movement in Japan made its formal debut, when I and four other men living in Osaka and its surrounding area, called Kansai, organized what we called the “Men’s Lib Research Group (Tentative Title).” As the last part of our group’s name suggests, we were at first completely unsure about how to make our claim. Of course, our work was preceded by earlier examples of men working...
10. My Life as a Househusband
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I first decided to seek child care hours because I had made an agreement with my pharmacist wife, that, once we married, we would both work outside our home—whether full time or part time—while also dividing responsibilities for housework and child care. When our son was born in July 1992, I was working at a small chemical firm with about forty employees. This was the same year that the Child Care...
IV. Changing Sexualities
11. Defining Lesbian Partnerships
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To fully appreciate how lesbians in Japan define and live their lives as couples, it is important to understand the current social and legal environment in which lesbians find themselves. Public opinion surveys show that more people express negative attitudes than neutral or positive ones when explicitly asked about same-sex sexual relationships. As in other countries, more men hold negative attitudes toward such...
12. Increasing Lesbian Visibility
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So-called rezu baa (lez bars) were present in Tokyo as early as the 1960s. When a show by a reputable theater company portrayed rezu-style motifs that featured women dressed in men’s clothing, it was supported by twenty-three lesbian bars in Tokyo (Shiba 1993). If one considers that Tokyo’s famous gay district of Shinjuku nichome has only ten rediisu baa today (lesbian bars, known also as ladies’...
13. Dialogue: Three Activists on Gender and Sexuality
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Moderator: We would like to begin this panel discussion by asking each
of you to introduce yourself, and tell us about your community involvement,
starting with Chizuka Oe.
Oe: I am the main representative of Lesbians of Undeniable Desire (LOUD), a center for lesbian and bisexual women since 1999. As an activist, I have lectured at a number of universities throughout Japan, and I have also...
V. Activism for the Rights of Minorities
14. The Story of Kalakasan and Migrant Filipinas
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In 2007, roughly 2.15 million foreigners —or about 1.7 percent of the country’s total population, coming from 190 different countries—lived in Japan. Not surprisingly, over nearly four decades, marriages per annum between Japanese and foreign nationals have steadily increased from around 5,500 in 1970 to more than 40,000 in 2007. In 2007, such bicultural marriages accounted for 5.6 percent of all...
15. Revisiting the "Comfort Women": Moving Beyond Nationalism
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Between 1931 and 1945, women from Japan, Korea, and China, as well as from other areas under Japanese occupation, were forced into sexual servitude at “comfort stations,” set up for the sexual release of Japanese soldiers. Ironically, the women were called “comfort women.”The cruelty with which the women were treated was not mentioned at postwar trials, and the issue was hushed up, and did not surface...
16. Buraku Solidarity
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The word “Buraku,” which literally means “hamlet,” refers to the people from particular communities in Japan, as well as the communities themselves. Their history goes back to seventeenth- century Japan, when several legally determined social castes were designated senmin, or “humble people,” and charged to do specific jobs considered “impure,” such as processing dead cattle and leatherwork. They were...
17. Ainu, Buraku, and Zainichi Korean Activists Rise Up
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“We exist.” This is what one Zainichi Korean1 woman asserted in a nongovernmental organization report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which oversees the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).2 She was also directing her words toward the Japanese government, and Japanese society in general...
VI. Doors to Employment Open and Close
18. Employment and Poverty
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In 1985, the Japanese government ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and introduced legislation to abolish discrimination against women in all fields. The Equal Employment Opportunity Law (EEOL), passed in the area of labor the same year, marked a significant turning point for the Japanese employment system. Since its enactment...
19. Japanese Women Professional Wrestlers and Body Image
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Since the 1990s, scholars interested in gender have been attending to issues of the body. Martha McCaughey, for example, argues that gender is not only a matter of the mind but of “embodied social values” (1997, 7). Similarly, Moira Gatens (1996) holds that people construct and confirm their masculinity and femininity not only in their minds, but also through their physical activities and through experiences...
20. Migrants and the Sex Industry
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From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s
trans-border trade in the sex industry emerged as a social issue, and at
the same time globalization, the feminization of labor, and migration also
expanded. Yayori Matsui described the problem succinctly in 1995:
Many of the women who come to Japan as migrant workers are not in the position of being able to raise their own travel expenses to Japan
21. The Nonprofit Sector
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The nonprofit sector in Japan has expanded in recent years, as has the importance of people working in nonprofit organizations. A major force behind this expansion was the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji (Kobe) earthquake in which over six thousand people lost their lives. Following the earthquake, more than a million people from across the country converged on the city of Kobe to work in relief projects...
VII. Feminism and Political Power
22. Japan's First Phase of Feminism
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In 1868 the new Meiji government was established in Japan, replacing the Tokugawa shogunate, whose rule had lasted for two hundred and sixty years. A new Japan, with the emperor as head of state, abolished feudalism,1 introduced a capitalist system, and pursued a path toward modernization, following the models of Western countries. Japan’s start as a capitalist country lagged behind the Western...
23. Backlash Against Gender Equality After 2000
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In Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, Susan Faludi warned feminists that the antifeminist movement headed by leaders of the New Right began as early as the late 1980s. Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the conservative US group The Heritage Foundation, for example, described the feminist threat in the journal Conservative Digest: “[T] here are people who want a different political order...
24. The Politicization of Housewives
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Women did not gain the right to vote in Japan until just after the country’s 1945 defeat in World War II. As a result, women’s suffrage in Japan is often remarked to be a “gift from MacArthur,” a reference to the American General Douglas MacArthur, who oversaw the Occupation of Japan by the Allied Powers following the end of World War II, and under whose supervision the liberation of women was pursued as...
25. Profiles of Two Politicians
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In 2007, the elections in the Upper House of Japan’s National Diet, or legislature (House of Councillors), resulted in serious losses for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), accompanied by impressive gains for the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). Thus, the election shifted the balance of power significantly, since actions taken by the LDP-dominated Lower House (House of Representatives) could be voted down in the Upper...
Notes on Contributors
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About the Feminist Press
Page Count: 440
Publication Year: 2011