Seventh Asian Studies Conference Japan
    Saturday, June 21-Sunday 22, 2003
    Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University



ASCJ Executive Committee
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Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181


Session 3
Talk Like a Man? Women's Strategies of Self-Expression in Male-Dominated Space
Organizer/Chair: Julia Bullock, Stanford University

In the preface to her book Gendered Spaces, Daphne Spain writes: "The reality is that nonindustrial and industrial societies attribute greater value to the public forms of status defined as masculine. This system is not likely to change until women occupy the same space as men, and occupy it in ways that redress the existing distribution of knowledge and balance of power" (xv). In particular, the institutions of higher education, the literary establishment, religion, politics, and the family have either been slow to admit women, or else have assigned women a subordinate space within the prevailing hierarchy of power, thus restricting women's access to knowledge or outlets of expression. Yet when women try to occupy space that is gendered as masculine, they inevitably meet with various forms of resistance. The purpose of this panel is to explore the various types of resistance that Japanese women in the modern period have encountered, and the strategies they have employed to overcome or cope with such resistance. How have Japanese women negotiated the delicate balance between societal and familial demands to be feminine and maternal, and personal desires for status, power, and/or privileged forms of knowledge or expression? What personal risks do women face when they attempt to invade male territory and "talk like a man?" Our panel will examine these issues from a variety of academic fields, time periods, and perspectives.

1) Mitsuko Tanaka, Josai Kokusai Daigaku. "Fact and Fiction in the Image of the Poet Yamakawa Tomiko, and its Distortion by the Male Critical Establishment"

Under the Meiji Civil Code, the rights of householders, parents, and husbands were strengthened and codified, creating a male-dominated society that persists to this day. This male-centrism was imported into the literary establishment, so that the value of literary works came to be judged by male critics. In this paper I will take as my object of study the poet Yamakawa Tomiko, who contributed to the journal Myôjô along with Yosano Akiko. I will examine how the course of Tomiko's life was influenced by a male-dominated, homosocial society (primary genderization), and how after her death, her tanka were used to create a distorted image of her life (secondary genderization), particularly in novels by male writers.

Satô Haruo, the first to novelize Tomiko's life, was one of the elder statesmen of the literary establishment. Therefore, the image of Tomiko that he created in Akiko mandala (1955) became difficult to dislodge, even though it is full of distortions and inaccuracies. A more recent example is Kimi mo kokuriko ware mo kokuriko (1999) by Watanabe Jun'ichi, another distorted account that attempts to titillate the audience by eroticizing Tomiko's life story. Both depict Tomiko in a negative light in order to cast Akiko as the heroine. Through analysis of Tomiko's tanka in Koigoromo, a collaborative poetry collection published during her lifetime, as well as her posthumous manuscripts and correspondence, I plan to discuss the above points as evidence of the effects of the process of genderization on female self-expression.

2) Marnie Anderson, University of Michigan. "A Public Space of Her Own? Women and Political Culture in Meiji Japan"

The Meiji Constitution of 1889 and the Associations and Meetings Law of 1890 barred Japanese women from associating with politics, which had become an emphatically masculine space. While this denial of access to the political realm has usually been interpreted as the inevitable result of "Japanese tradition," the late 1870s and early 1880s saw the emergence of a number of female activists who maintained that they deserved a degree of participation within the polity. This paper focuses on a particular moment in 1890, when a group of women calling themselves "The Concerned Women's Association" drafted an official protest to the Constitutional Party (Rikken Kaishinto) regarding proposed diet legislation which sought to bar women from sitting in on diet sessions. Previous scholarship has tended to downplay the significance of this document, for its authors did not call for suffrage, nor had they for the most part protested the series of laws passed in the late 1880s that placed increasingly stringent restrictions on women's political activities. What does this petition tell us about how elite women conceived of their role within the nation? How did they insert themselves in political discourse and on what grounds?

3) Kimiko Horiuchi, Josai Kokusai Daigaku. "The Literature of Meiô Masako: Family Dynamics of the Intelligentsia in the Novel Tenba kuu o yuku"

Meiô Masako began writing Tenba kuu o yuku around 1984, but the events depicted in the novel can be dated to the summer of 1976. Why did this scholar of English literature start trying to write this record of her European travels eight years after the fact? In 1975 her husband, Karatani Kôjin, was invited to serve as Visiting Professor at Yale University, and so his family of four spent a year living in New Haven. He says that her experiences during this time were a major factor in Meiô Masako's becoming a novelist. He has also confessed that this period greatly influenced his own development as an academic. Until now there have been no scholars in Japan who have studied Meiô Masako, and so her real reasons remain a mystery. I hope to announce my findings on the subject. At present Karatani Kôjin is serving as visiting professor at Columbia University. Meiô Masako passed away in 1995 in Sacramento, California. They both received the best education in Japan, graduating from the Graduate School of Tokyo University, and went on to earn fame as literary critics and scholars of English literature. How might the dynamics of their relationship, and the male-dominated institutions of marriage and academia, have influenced Meiô Masako's literary career and the novels she produced? I plan to analyze the novel Tenba kuu o yuku as written from the perspective of a woman who lived passionately as a wife, a mother, an independent woman, and a novelist.

4) Julia Bullock, Stanford University. "Female Bodies and Male Spaces: Takahashi Takako's "Hone no Shiro" and the Geography of Male Power"

Western philosophy has been indicted by feminist critics for its tendency to create binary oppositions between body and soul (a.k.a. feminine and masculine), and to abject the body (i.e. the feminine) in favor of the soul (the masculine). The literature of Takahashi Takako has been criticized for espousing the same sort of binary distinction, in effect assuming an anti-woman stance. In this paper I argue that such a view of her works is too simplistic, because it implies a lack of critical distance between protagonist and author, even though there is ample indication of such a distance in her works. I analyze the short story "Hone no shiro" as a complex articulation of the difficulties women experience in attempting to occupy male space and take up a masculine subject position. On the one hand, Takahashi portrays an environment that is strictly demarcated into male space, from which women are excluded as unworthy, and female space, in which women's bodies are abjected and controlled by men. On the other hand, her portrayal of character undermines this structure, as men are found to be less "pure" than they pretend to be and women are more "worthy" than they are purported to be. Although from a certain perspective her protagonist's longing for a place within the patriarchy may be seen as problematic, Takahashi's complex rhetorical strategy makes it possible to interpret her stance as simultaneously identifying with and critical of prevailing power structures.

Discussant: Noriko Mizuta, Josai Kokusai Daigaku


list of panels