The SAGE Handbook of Modern Japanese Studies includes outstanding contributions from a diverse group of leading academics from across the globe. This volume is designed to serve as a major interdisciplinary reference work and a seminal text, both rigorous and accessible, to assist students and scholars in understanding one of the major nations of the world.
Chapter 9: Feminism
Histories of Feminism
Feminism as a social movement develops in modern societies at the point where gender becomes a salient social category.1 Once women – and sympathetic men – feel dissatisfaction with the different treatment of women and men in laws, social policies, social customs and cultural representations, they respond with political movements to seek improvement in women's situation. In the case of Japan, the machinery of a modern nation-state was created in the mid to late nineteenth century. A feudal society based on status distinctions and regional variations was transformed into a modern capitalist nation state stratified by class distinctions and a gendered division of labour. These structures were overlaid with discourses of nationalism which attempted to unify the nation. From the 1870s on there were discussions about the roles of women and ...