Beate Sirota Gordon, one architect of the Postwar Japanese Constitution, dies at 89, her goals uncompleted if not currently being undone


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Hello Blog.  Let me devote this blog entry (one of two, next one in three days) to the passing of a historical figure whose importance within Japanese history cannot be overstated.  Beate Sirota Gordon, a woman in a committee of men drafting the Japanese Postwar Constitution, wrote articles that remain fundamental to the rights has devoted decades to upholding:  Article 14, which guarantees that “All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.”  The other, Article 24, states (excerpt), “Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis. With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes;” this guarantees fundamental human and civil rights to women that weren’t present under the horrible Prewar Ie Seido (which among other things made people into property).  A hearty salute to Gordon for a life well lived and opportunities to improve Japanese society well taken.  NYT obituary enclosed below.

A few comments:  One is that the NYT’s claim below of “Ms. Gordon was the last living member of the American team that wrote Japan’s postwar Constitution” is probably erroneous.  That honor probably belongs to an old teacher of mine when I was at Cornell, Milton J. Esman, who was born in 1918 and is apparently still alive (see his resume page two here).  (Wikipedia also notes that Gordon was not the only woman assigned to the group either, as economist Eleanor Hadley was also present.)

Second, reflecting upon Gordon’s life when eulogizing, it is important to note a number of fundamental rights enshrined in the Japanese Constitution that have remained unenforced.  One is of course the lack of a law against racial discrimination (which is unconstitutional under Article 14 but not illegal in the Civil or Criminal Code), meaning racial discrimination can be (and is) “practiced undisturbed”, as the UN has noted in the past, in a “deep and profound” manner (despite Japan effecting the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination in 1996; we’re now approaching seventeen years of unkept promises).  The other I will just mention is the clause of “essential equality of the sexes” mentioned above in Article 24.  Despite the Equal Employment Opportunities Law of 1986, Japan still maintains an immense gender-wage gap:

Screen capture courtesy ILO, “Work, Income, and Gender Equality in East Asia“, page 34.

Japan ranks at the very bottom (basically on par with ROK and Malaysia), and although the research notes that comprehensive comparisons cannot be made, the point still remains that women in Japan earn less than half of what men in Japan make for comparative work.  Wage differentials may be true in all societies (I know of no society where gender-pay equality is systemwide), but this egregious a gap is unbecoming of a developed country, and shows the lack of good-faith drafting or enforcement of constitutionally-grounded laws in Japanese society.

Finally, we have seen how much trouble the Japanese elite has gone to circumvent and undermine the Postwar “Peace Constitution”.  We can start with the translation into Japanese (that Gordon’s group missed despite their fluency) that limited Article 14’s interpretation of constitutional protections for “all of the people” to Japanese citizens only.  We can go on to talk about the unconstitutional standing military that is the JSDF and the right of education limited to citizens only in the Fundamental Law of Education.  Plenty more, if people wish to point that out in Comments.  And now, with the new PM Abe government, we can look forward to proposals for constitutional revisions to restore Japan’s military in name and allow for a remilitarization of Japan.

I wonder what Gordon would say now about Japan’s December 2012 rightward swing.  My guess is that she would lament her work remaining unaddressed if not being undone.  Arudou Debito


Beate Gordon, Long-Unsung Heroine of Japanese Women’s Rights, Dies at 89
Published: January 1, 2013
Courtesy of lots of people, particularly DY and CRF

Beate Sirota Gordon, the daughter of Russian Jewish parents who at 22 almost single-handedly wrote women’s rights into the Constitution of modern Japan, and then kept silent about it for decades, only to become a feminist heroine there in recent years, died on Sunday at her home in Manhattan. She was 89.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, her daughter, Nicole Gordon, said.

A civilian attached to Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s army of occupation after World War II, Ms. Gordon was the last living member of the American team that wrote Japan’s postwar Constitution.

Her work — drafting language that gave women a set of legal rights pertaining to marriage, divorce, property and inheritance that they had long been without in Japan’s feudal society — had an effect on their status that endures to this day.

“It set a basis for a better, a more equal society,” Carol Gluck, a professor of Japanese history at Columbia University, said Monday in a telephone interview. “By just writing those things into the Constitution — our Constitution doesn’t have any of those things — Beate Gordon intervened at a critical moment. And what kind of 22-year-old gets to write a constitution?”

If Ms. Gordon, neither lawyer nor constitutional scholar, was indeed an unlikely candidate for the task, then it is vital to understand the singular confluence of forces that brought her to it:

Had her father not been a concert pianist of considerable renown; had she not been so skilled at foreign languages; and had she not been desperate to find her parents, from whom she was separated during the war and whose fate she did not know for years, she never would have been thrust into her quiet, improbable role in world history.

Nor would she have been apt to embark on her later career as a prominent cultural impresario, one of the first people to bring traditional Asian performing arts to audiences throughout North America — a job, pursued vigorously until she was nearly 70, that entailed travel to some of Asia’s most remote, inaccessible reaches.

The daughter of Leo Sirota and the former Augustine Horenstein, Beate (pronounced bay-AH-tay) Sirota was born on Oct. 25, 1923, in Vienna, where her parents had settled.

When she was 5, her father was invited to teach at the Imperial Academy of Music in Tokyo, and the family moved there for a planned six-month stay. Mr. Sirota soon became revered in Japan as a performer and teacher, and they wound up living in Tokyo for more than a decade.

Beate was educated at a German school in Tokyo and, from the mid-1930s on, after the school became far too Nazified for her parents’ liking, at the American School in Japan. In 1939, shortly before her 16th birthday, she left for Mills College in Oakland, Calif. Her parents remained in Japan.

In December 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, it became impossible to contact Japan. Beate had no word from her parents, and no money.

She put her foreign language prowess to work: by this time, she was fluent in English, Japanese, German, French, Spanish and Russian.

Obtaining permission from Mills to take examinations without having to attend classes, she took a job at a United States government listening post in San Francisco, monitoring radio broadcasts from Tokyo. She later worked in San Francisco for the United States Office of War Information, writing radio scripts urging Japan to surrender.

Beate Sirota received her bachelor’s degree in modern languages from Mills in 1943 and became a United States citizen in January 1945. At war’s end, she still did not know whether her parents were alive or dead.

For American civilians, travel to Japan was all but impossible. She went to Washington, where she secured a job as an interpreter on General MacArthur’s staff. Arriving in a devastated Tokyo on Christmas Eve 1945, she went immediately to her family’s house. Where it had stood was only a single charred pillar.

She eventually found her parents, who had been interned in the countryside and were malnourished. She took them to Tokyo, where she nursed them while continuing her work for General MacArthur.

One of MacArthur’s first priorities was drafting a constitution for postwar Japan, a top-secret assignment, begun in February 1946, that had to be finished in just seven days. As the only woman assigned to his constitutional committee, along with two dozen men, young Beate Sirota was deputized to compose the section on women’s rights.

She had seen women’s lives firsthand during the 10 years she lived in Japan, and urgently wanted to improve their status.

“Japanese women were historically treated like chattel; they were property to be bought and sold on a whim,” Ms. Gordon told The Dallas Morning News in 1999. “Women had no rights whatsoever.”

Commandeering a jeep at the start of that week in February, she visited the libraries in Tokyo that were still standing, borrowing copies of as many different countries’ constitutions as she could. She steeped herself in them and, after seven days of little sleep, wound up drafting two articles of the proposed Japanese Constitution.

One, Article 14, said in part, “All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.”

The other, Article 24, gave women protections in areas including “choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters.”

The new Constitution took effect in 1947; the next year, Beate Sirota married Joseph Gordon, who had been the chief interpreter for American military intelligence in postwar Japan.

In the 1950s, Ms. Gordon joined the staff of the Japan Society in New York, becoming its director of performing arts. In that capacity, she introduced many Japanese artists to the West, including masters of traditional music, dance, woodblock printing and the tea ceremony.

In 1970, she became director of performing arts at the Asia Society in New York. She scoured Asia for talent, bringing Balinese gamelan ensembles, Vietnamese puppeteers, Mongolian dancers and many others to stages throughout the United States and Canada. She retired in 1991 as the society’s director of performances, films and lectures.

Ms. Gordon’s husband, who became a real estate developer, died last August. Besides her daughter, she is survived by a son, Geoffrey, and three grandchildren.

For decades, Ms. Gordon said nothing about her role in postwar Japan, at first because the work was secret and later because she did not want her youth — and the fact that she was an American — to become ammunition for the Japanese conservatives who have long clamored for constitutional revision.

But in the mid-1980s, she began to speak of it publicly. The release of her memoir, “The Only Woman in the Room,” published in Japanese in 1995 and in English two years later, made her a celebrity in Japan, where she lectured widely, appeared on television and was the subject of a stage play and a documentary film, “The Gift From Beate.”

In recent years, amid renewed attacks on the Constitution by Japanese conservatives, Ms. Gordon spoke out ardently in its defense.

Ms. Gordon was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, a high honor bestowed by the Japanese government, in 1998. But perhaps the greatest accolade she received came from Japanese women themselves.

“They always want their picture taken with me,” Ms. Gordon told ABC News in 1999. “They always want to shake my hand. They always tell me how grateful they are.”

12 comments on “Beate Sirota Gordon, one architect of the Postwar Japanese Constitution, dies at 89, her goals uncompleted if not currently being undone

  • I think Beate Sirota-Gordon was wonderful and her influence was a marvellous miracle, and I am glad that towards the end of her life she received the recognition she deserved, but I think these articles misrepresent her and how the clause came about … it was basically accidental, by luck, and through Sirota-Gordon’s personal initiative.

    It was fate rather than design.

    Beate was employed simply as a interpreter and not to “drafting language that gave women a set of legal rights” and the enfranchisement of women was done for numerous reasons.

    Although the internet is going to be awash with such obituaries, I encourage people to dig out the real story and how the clause was actually adopted. It’s a fascinating story. ‘Democratizing Women: American Women and the U.S. Occupation of Japan, 1945-1951’ by Jeanne M. Gleich-Anthon has once such insight.

    It’s worth pointing out that she was targeted by Willoughby, of the US Occupation Force, as a possible leftist infiltrator but also that the idea for sexual equality was already present within Japanese politics, as part of the Socialist Party’s manifesto, which Sirota was aware of and that there were feminist movements within Japan, and indeed political parties, seeking right even before WWII. Many of them fell foul of SCAP’s political purges. It initially had no interest in the cause of women.

    It’s also wrong to suggest that women’s rights in Japan came about solely due to the influence of conquering White people, as Beate-Gordon acknowledged, ignoring the long and intelligent struggle of Japanese women’s rights activists, such as Ichikawa Fusae, Yamakawa Kikue and others going back to the 1920s.

    — Like I said, “opportunities to improve Japanese society well taken”. Anyway, let’s have some sources for Willoughby etc.

  • “I wonder what Gordon would say now about Japan’s December 2012 rightward swing. My guess is that she would lament her work remaining unaddressed if not being undone.”

    Probably a lot like what she said in the Q&A session after her 2007 speech at Middlebury College – starts at about 1:08-ish.
    “Compared to what it was, it is tremendous what the Japanese women accomplished during these sixty years, which is nothing in history. And secondly, the Japanese women have been very, very active. Even now, in this terrible period with Mr. Abe where they really are afraid. And, by the way, that is one of the reasons I did not speak about this, although, about my being part of the constitution, because, at first, it was top secret. And that was not lifted, that classification, till 1972. But I didn’t want to speak about it for other reasons. There were, of course, people who knew. You can’t keep a thing like that as a secret…American’s were involved. It was not generally known in the general public. But I had heard from somebody that they had read a derogatory article in one of the newspapers around ’72 or ’73 after the occupational forced left in which is said ‘How can an article written by a 22-year-old be correct?’ And I didn’t want that to be used, using me to denigrate the constitution. So I decided not to talk at all.”

    Will be interesting to see what other comments turn up.


  • Jim Di Griz says:

    God bless her soul, and may she rest in peace (although I suspect that she is spinning in her grave like an electromagnet since now her work is being undone).

    It really riles me to my absolute limit when Japanese start talking about changing the constitution, or whining about how the constitution was ‘imposed on them’. They really haven’t got a clue. Compare the case of having a constitution ‘imposed’ upon you in defeat by the Allies to what the Japanese imposed on the nations that fell before the Japanese army; the Japanese got off extremely lightly after the surrender (which they accepted the 3rd time it was offered; once in ’44, once after Hiroshima, and again after Nagasaki). Admiral Halsey promised that by the time the war was over, ‘Japanese will be a language only spoken in hell’, and by ’45 the US was able to make good on that. By 1947 the Japanese were joking that GHQ was an acronym for ‘Go Home Quicky’, the height of ingratitude for not treating Japanese civilians the way the Japanese treated other nations civilians. Talk about a sense of entitlement!

  • Go Home Quickly says:

    I have no idea what is the immediate cause of your own personal unhappiness with life, and I think as you get older you’ll discover that you’re very largely responsible for creating your own moods (and opportunities in life), but you seem to have gotten your head stuck in very comic book version of Japan. A sort of Boy’s Own or “Bucky Goes to War” WWII version, and a very toxic one at that.

    What on earth is eating at you? If Debito will allow, I am very happy to spend some time talking you through this difficult phase of your life and, trust me, I think you’ll find the problems and solutions are within … not in events over which you have no influence or control.

    “The Japanese … the Japanese …” who are these mythic people you rail against? You see have to bought into the myth that “We Japanese” are all one (and Tōjō’s evil cousins). Keeping on topic, were the little old ladies and children to blame? The Christians-socialists and anarchists? The humanists or pacifists? I bet you today is the first day you read of Japanese suffragettes.

    How can you blame all of them and impinge on their democratic rights as “Japanese” human beings?

    You don’t seem to understand the game America has been playing in Asia at all, nor its historical recreation of Japan. You’ve swallowed it whole and are regurgitating it like so many.

  • Go Home Quickly says:

    As a side not, it’s also worth point out that Beate’s notions of gender equality arguably came not from the USA but from the Weimar and Soviet states. MacArthur and his government had little concern about them and gave no instructions. These, and other factors, led to her being labelled a dangerous subversive.

    (And bear in mind that only a few years later, the CIA was going to be structuring and financing the Liberal Democratic Party and ensuring its grip on power).

    Why weren’t Japanese women consulted and invited to part of the creation of the constitution? They were as much victims to the regime as any other and many were highly educated members amongst the suffragette movement.

    Sadly, although I do believe Beate was a “leftie” and subversive, she’s been bundled into the great white Imperial myth of the saving of Asia, reform of evil Japan, the war against communism, or whatever it is this week.

    — Point of order. This isn’t “a side not[e]”. Gordon’s work is the topic of this blog entry — not a psychoanalysis of Jim. Jim can reply once to comment #4 if he likes and then the thread will be discontinued.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @#4&5 (hope this poster is a real person–not a sock-puppet, or a talking machine)

    I don’t know what your motives are. But, if you describe ‘the Japanese’ in the wartime exactly the same way you (we) generally refer to the Japanese people in the present context, you are completely missing the point. Do you really know how “We Japanese are all one”–or what you might call “myth” was disseminated to the people in wartime!? The imperial regime forced them to believe, and did not allow anyone to displace oneself from the cardinal principle of Kokutai–a.k.a. one nation under the emperor.

    And believe it or not, there are still some people in Japan today who are even critical of the general public for being incapable of challenging the regime over the series of misconducts (hikokumin harassment, gag order) by the imperial authorities and those who pledged allegiance to the emperor. Are you using exactly the same logic to Japanese, too? Or are you singling out him out of curiosity simple because you assume he’s one of your hostile NJ?

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    Regarding her philosophical thinking, I think Beate has similar ideas with several key feminists in the 1st–i.e., Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ida Wells, Suzan B. Anthony, as well as those in the 2nd Wave–i.e., Betty Freidan, Gloria Steinem. Unlike Ayn Rand, a Russian Jewish who eventually sold her soul to meritocracy for an egoistic pursuit of happiness in her fantasy of “Atlas Shrugged.”

    Just like many Jewish immigrants in the US and Europe throughout 20th century, she placed her utmost interest in the community for moral and social improvement of people’s life. It’s not surprising that SCAP kept their close eyes on her—but, I wonder if the Japanese public were able to see her philosophical thinking and cultural identity different from the white in the first place.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Dear Go Home Quickly (unfortunate moniker you have chosen there, it sounds apologist but maybe that is just a mistake).

    “the game America has been playing in Asia at all, nor its historical recreation of Japan”

    This is very true, as Japan was of course rebranded by the USA as a postmodern “democracy” with some fascists lingering around to go along with (but secretly hinder) this facade. Beate was able to slot in something truly democractic, but as we know the sexist nature of Japanese politicians since has pretty much ignored it, just as Stalin ignored his own Western style constitution.

    However, the fact that gender equality was inserted in the constitution gives Japanese women, to quote Michael Collins, “the freedom to achieve freedom”.

    So when Ishihara or whoever utters some misogynistic comment, they are in fact violating the constitution. And they look bad, and everyone knows it.

    Thus we have the Theatre of the Absurd in postmodern Japan, as V. Havel would say, as there is a huge daily contradiction between what Japanese women can legally achieve, and what they are in fact allowed to achieve, by subsequently elected (or not so elected) misogynist grandsons of fascists. America, caring only about the Red Peril, or Chiinese peril, could care less. We need another Beate.

    ps.”the immediate cause of your own personal unhappiness with life”. WTF? You are saying happiness = unconditional love of Japan? The ganko ojisans, the corruption, the politicians, the police?

    Jim does not seem unhappy to me at all.He is getting a kick out of this site, if anything.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Sorry, forgot to include a parallel to the above, I noted in the South China morning post on Friday about a Southern Chinese newspaper that had publically complained that 1. they had been forced to run a pro CCP article, and 2. drop an article asking for real legal implementation of the constitution.

    Here is another link

    It is most striking that a Chinese newspaper dares to complain in this manner.

    The Japanese media needs to stand up and do the same for gender equality, ie. real legal implementation of the constitution, as Japan is of course far more “democratic” than China, right?

    So it should be easy (lol).

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Go Home Quickly #4, #5

    (With my most sincere regards to Debito, Loverilakkuma, and last, but by no means least, Baudrillard).

    I will make this one post by way of addressing the issues you have raised, and then desist so as not to derail the thread further.

    First, I must apologize for my tardy response. I make a special point of spending sufficient time each weekend to de-program my children from the ‘we Japanese’ brainwashing they are subjected to over the course of the preceding week (that, and going out for dinner as a family).

    It is rather arrogant of you presume as you do in comment #4 that you are in a position to either analyze or assist me to come to terms with what you perceive to be my self-induced dissatisfaction with Japan. The manner in which that comment alone is made would lead me to suspect that you are indeed a troll. I do not require your personal assistance with my private matters, whatever they may (or may not) be.

    However, to give you the benefit of the doubt that you are not trolling, every apologist deserves the chance to be enlightened once (although please note, not ‘at least once’). And having said as much, let me reply to the other criticisms you make of my comments.

    ‘“The Japanese … the Japanese …” who are these mythic people you rail against? You see have to bought into the myth that “We Japanese” are all one ‘, you say.
    The ‘Japanese’ in question could well be the ‘ware ware nihonjin’ that is oft rammed down the throats of NJ, don’t you think? Or maybe it is just shorthand to save the time and effort of having to type ‘many Japanese people, most of the time, in my (not infallible) experience (insert comment here)’?

    You think that I have bought into ‘the myth’? Wow, I am surprised, since busting ‘myths of Japaneseness’ wide open is a pet hobby of mine. However, since you seem aware that this ‘myth of We japanese’ is a product of that most stubborn nemesis of proper social science, Nihonjinron-giron, let me propose the following;

    Since the Japanese seem content to continue to divide the world into, what, 125 million (and falling) Japanese, and 7 billion ‘gaijin’ (presented as a monoloithic non-Japanese entity with a shared culture and society), what moral reservation should I (as a victim of outdated and racist, discredited nazi pseudo-science) have about using the contextual framework of their ‘theory’ (although the phrase ‘belief system’ would be more fitting) against them, and discrediting both in the process? Rather neat approach, don’t you agree? Even should you not, the ends justify the means. I am quite unrepentant.

    Secondly, you mention ‘little old ladies and children’, ‘Christians-socialists and anarchists’, ‘humanists’, ‘pacifists’, and ‘Japanese suffragettes’. You ask ‘How can you blame all of them and impinge on their democratic rights as “Japanese” human beings?’. To which I would reply, how can they impinge on my basic rights as a human being? I didn’t notice any of these aforementioned blameless victims and rebels against the Japanese state standing up for my rights as a human being, nor that of any other NJ. Did you? ID cards? 15 years false imprisonment? Death during deportation? I didn’t hear so much as a squeak out of any of those groups on such NJ related issues. They are not part of the solution, they are part of the problem.

    ‘You don’t seem to understand the game America has been playing in Asia at all, nor its historical recreation of Japan. You’ve swallowed it whole and are regurgitating it like so many.’

    Whilst I am by no means such an expert on that issue as Baudrillard (whose insight is most enlightening, and should formed into a Phd. thesis), by all means go back and read some of my other comments on other threads and come back at me if you still stand by such an absurd statement. You should at least make the effort to ‘catch up’ before uttering such garbage.

    And in mentioning Baudrillard, he (she?) is quite correct in the assertion that ‘happiness does not equal unconditional love of Japan’. Unconditional love is an irrational infatuation and whilst permissible in regards to women, is totally inappropriate in the field of social sciences. Such mental shackles are the result of laziness and an aversion to (or incapability of) critical analysis, which in itself does not represent any disrespect or contempt for the subject of the analysis (although I must disclose to you that there are indeed aspects of Japan that are truly worthy of contempt, as such as we may find in any country). Indeed, if I did not have some affection remaining for Japan, I would not give the country a moments further thought.

    However, since becoming a father, I no longer have the self-indulgent luxury of ‘rolling with it’ and finishing the day with a beer and laughing at the perverted absurdity of my situation as an NJ in Japan. I am obliged by moral decency to act on the best interests of my children’s futures, and in doing so seriously apply myself to the issues at hand in a ‘take no prisoners’ manner. This game is being played for all the marbles. Lead, follow, or get the hell out of my way.

  • There is a subtle point I’d like to make here which is critical of the vision being present.

    You’re portraying the “man’s income” as being the man’s own personal income, and thereby extrapolating an unfairness and inequality against “women’s income”.

    I don’t think that is quite right and I think it is an extension of the “Western”, “neo-liberalist” … or whatever you want to call it view ….

    I would say the problem is more about dissonance being created in the move from a more collective way of life (which I’ll roughly state at this point as “Asian”) to an more individualistic way of life (which I’ll roughly state as “American”).

    Really what you have is not “man’s income” versus “woman’s income” … and therefore a “bad inequality” … but a ‘primary income and secondary income’ model. The primary income is not “the man’s”, it was the family’s or the home’s. The “secondary income” is not “woman’s”, it is just a secondary income which, historically, might equally have been the activity of a male.

    The simplest demonstration of this is the traditional habit in Japan of the man going out to earn the money, handing it over to his wife to manage, and being given a small stipend back.

    The traditional or “Asian model” (which we could go on to describe communally) actually worked quite well, and many Japanese women were the heads of their own houses or business. The real problem we have is in the increasing culture of selfishness, consumerism and the breaking down of traditional family, house or community structures.

    This breaking down of communalism even on a familial level, and the strengths of communities and families, is quite a deliberate process of the ruling classes whether native or Imperial.

    It is not just woman but also low ranking males who suffer at now being expected to live on the secondary or supplementary wage alone … but, of course, that is to the advantage of the exploitative classes.

    (Please excuse the quick and rough sketch).

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Go Home (Quickly?) #11

    I would like to correct your interpretation of historical gender roles in historical Japanese domestic economics (which I’ll roughly state as ‘historical fact’).

    The ‘historical fact’ is that the idea that ‘The simplest demonstration of this is the traditional habit in Japan of the man going out to earn the money, handing it over to his wife to manage, and being given a small stipend back.’ is a Meiji period invention designed to legitimize (dare I say even, ‘sweeten’) the discrimination of women into early marriages at a young age (where they would become their husbands legal property) and a lifetime divided between childcare and the kitchen (although those two roles are not mutually exclusive). This legalized discrimination against women, codified in the Meiji constitution, legitimized itself by creating (yet another!) Japanese myth; that the wife was always in control of the home (and secretly the boss!).

    Wow! How being the boss of the home must have so satisfied Meiji period womenfolks aspirations! No job, career, public service, and having their needs sidelined and legally marginalized by the ruling class of men. With the legal status of ‘husbands property’ it must have been a rude awakening the first time any Meiji-era newly-wed bride tried to enforce her supposed domestic authority, only to be DV’ed back into the scullery, with no legal recourse.

    You have bought in to the ‘the old days, before westernization (=losing the war and the failure of imperialist ideology) were so much better! Japanese values are being corrupted by ‘gaijin’ ideas. Who are they to dictate cultural imperialism upon us?’ myth. BTW, the answer to ‘Who are they to dictate cultural imperialism upon us?’ is ‘We are those whose ideology of humanism defeated yours of discrimination enforced by brutality, in a global struggle called WW2’. That is just the way the world works. Please do not forget that Imperial Japan invaded every country it could reach, not visa-versa, and in that sense seem to have rather lost the moral high-ground (with the exception of the domestic audience) regarding who’s ideology was valid.

    The defeat of Japan, and this ideology not only allowed women theoretical legally protected rights (see Debito’s comments at the start of this thread), but also the freedom to make their own choices and broaden their aspirations. You claim ‘The real problem we have is in the increasing culture of selfishness, consumerism and the breaking down of traditional family, house or community structures.’ is a result of western influence. You are incorrect. In fact, quite the opposite is true. After the ‘reverse course’ many Japanese were politically active in civil society, which threatened to overturn the wartime, right thinking politicians who had been allowed to return to power. PM Ikeda launched his ‘income doubling policy’ specifically as a means to mollify voices of discontent with materialistic consumerism. Please note, it was a japanese government that adopted the policy voluntarily, and the japanese people lapped it up, hence the state of post-modern Japan’s pre-occupation with ‘the spectacle’.
    Please do some reading, I normally get paid for teaching (or writing!) this kind of stuff.

    Anyhow, you have not just bought into the myth, but are repeating it hook, line, and sinker.

    — GHQ is welcome to respond to this topic if he can do it without being obnoxious or getting personal. (Rather difficult for him, since even the very moniker he chose is obnoxious and runs counter to the aims of…)


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