March 2006 Archives

On January 7, 2006, a symposium entitled "60 years of 'post-war'in East Asia: Militarization and Sexuality"was held at Ochanomizu University. It featured reports on the relationship between militarization and gender/ sexuality, focusing particularly in China, Japan and South Korea. Prof. Kwon Insook's (Myongji University, Korea) lecture on "Korean militarization and masculinity", discussed how models of femininity and masculinity had been constructed in South Korea from the 1950s to 1970s in order to build an economically and militarily powerful state.

The conscription system for the past 50 years has created a belief that men should willingly sacrifice themselves for the state and that women should serve the state and men as subordinates. Prof. Kwon gave sex workers, factory workers as an example. They are not only stigmatized as "fallen women", but are used also to construct a model of "true femininity "for other women.

This lecture made me realize that state security is not simply about balancing power relations between nations.

Ikumi KANEKO : ICU Undergraduate

The Japan Association of Gender Law (JAGL) hosted an academic conference in snowy Sendai on December 3 and 4, 2005. This is the third year for the association, which was founded in 2003 with the aim of providing a bridge between practicing members and researchers in the law community. This year, people from diverse fields - law researchers, lawyers, judicial scriveners, researchers of social science or judicial social science, and NGO workers - who share a common interest in issues of gender and law, gathered together in Tohoku (northern Japan) to engage in various sessions of heated discussion. I have participated in this conference from the start as a member of The Gender Law Network, a national network of students of gender and law. This year, I was particularly interested in individual reports on the second day by two young researchers whose approaches were exciting both in theory and in practice. Yet I also felt that the two days of the conference raised a number of issues to be addressed in terms of bridging the gap between practitioners and researchers in the academic sphere.

On January 14, Professor Claire Maree (School of English and American Literature, Tsuda College) gave a lecture at ICU entitled "Language Negotiation -Onee kotoba and Japanese Gender Discourse". She discussed the theatrical characteristics of onee kotoba ("Drag queen talk" used by gays) as a kind of performance which transports listeners to another world. This explains why, in bar talk, the customers are drawn to the "mama" who uses onee kotoba to free them from the mundane everyday world. Onee kotoba also serves as a means of bonding for sexual minorities.

Prof. Marie then discussed entertainers who use onee kotoba in the media today. The popularity of stars like Osugi and Piiko is not due simply to their individual abilities but also to the increasing acceptance of sexual minorities in society. A clear break can be perceived between what the present and past generation of stars represent and Prof. Marie proposed the study of this generation gap as a topic for future research.

The many questions from the audience afterwards indicates the growing social awareness of onee kotoba. Perhaps because it is a conversational language it is a topic which is close to our daily lives.

ICU Undergraduate : Yohei TANAKA

On October 21, CGS and The Job Counselling Centre jointly hosted a talk program: 'Women Who Refused to Give in to Public Order and Morality'. The speakers were Ms Katsumi Nishimura, one of the plaintiffs in the gender pay discrimination case against Sumitomo Denkō (Sumitomo Electric Industries), and Ms Mitsuko Miyachi who headed the counsel for the plaintiff. It was literally about the women who stood up to, and won against, the so-called 'public consensus'.

On June 14, 2005, Upper House member Eriko Yamatani gave a lecture at Mitaka Marketing Plaza Assembly Hall. As well as being a member of the House of Councilors, Yamatani is also Vice-chairperson of the Gender Equality Promotion Council and a mother of 2 sons and a daughter. Her lecture, entitled "Redressing the Hidden Problems of 'Gender Equality'", was indeed a classic example of backlash in both content and form.

On October 26, 2005, Keiko Kawashima(Nagoya Institute of Technology), a science historian, gave a lecture entitled "Madame Lavoisier: The Woman Who Participated in the Chemical Revolution." Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier is often called "The Father of Modern Chemistry" for his part in advancing chemistry in the 18th century. Although his wife, Marie, helped him by doing translation and writing footnotes, she has been overlooked in traditional histories of science. Marie Lavoisier achieved great success in the male-dominated world of chemistry, but her achievements were made as a mere assistant to her famous scientist husband. Ms. Kawashima suggested that Marie0it has become much easier for women to participate in the world of science today, their numbers are still scarce. In order to change the deep-rooted view that science is a man's domain, we must reconsider scientific history from the perspective of gender.

ICU Undergraduate : Sho KAWAMURA

More than fifteen years after the publication of Gender Trouble, Professor Judith Butler finally landed in Japan. While the Japanese audience was interested to find out how Professor Butler, as the author of the book, was going to talk about the world today and about her latest field of interests, it was our task as the audience to figure out what we, living in our time and place, could learn from her.

The Centre for Gender Research (CGR), or in Malay, Pusat Penyelidikan Gender (PPG), is a research center under the administration of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. CGR was established on July 1, 2003. The mission of CGR is to become a center of excellence that seeks to enhance knowledge and expertise in the field of gender studies so that information gathered and the skills acquired through its activities will contribute to the improvement of the quality of life of the peoples of Malaysia and Southeast Asia.

Maison de Himiko is the second film created through the collaboration of the director Isshin Inudo and the scriptwriter Aya Watanabe. Following the success of their first film, Josee, the Tiger and the Fish, which focused on the sexuality of the handicapped, Maison de Himiko revolves around the theme of 'homosexuals and family'.

In spring, the Center of Gender Studies at ICU will commemorate its second year and the first students of the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies (PGSS) will graduate in March, with many more interested students in line to take their place. All this is due not only to the passion and energy of the many lecturers and professors but also to the high quality and motivation of about thirty dedicated student staff members who have voluntarily organized reading groups and enthusiastically communicated with people from other countries.There cannot be many other university research centers which depends so much on the energy of students.

"Gender free" has become a target term for bashing in political and educational fields in Japanese society. The term is a Japanese coined one for the idea of "setting oneself free of socially imposed gender structure". The term attracted controversy in sex education discourse. In classroom activities, "gender free" is widely used, but the opposition group has raised the argument that education based on the discourse of "gender free" is too radical and destructive of traditional values. In 2005, senior political figures such as Ms Eriko Yamatani, LDP Upper House Member, and Mr Hosoda, the then chief Cabinet secretary and the Minister for gender equality made comments: Mr Hosoda stated that "the government does not use" nor "term its social significance" of "gender free" in the context of "reforming" the social implementation of gendered views, and the use of "gender free" is "undesirable in this context". Interestingly, the limited nature of Mr Hosoda's disapproval is ignored by the opposition group. This is the general context for the present pressure on the use of "gender free" and its retrospective influence on the argument surrounding the Basic Act for Gender Equality.

n recent years there have been many voices raised in opposition to gender-free education. In this paper I discuss some of my own concerns regarding the claims of gender-free education which have been criticized by the backlash groups.

The gender-free argument that certain traditional rites such as Girls Day and Boys Day impose standards of femininity and masculinity have conversely been criticized for introducing a new standard of "correctness." Although I agree with this criticism, I also think that there is a fundamental problem with the actual structure of the argument itself and the idea that arguments must begin with a "reason" or "rationale".

Firstly, if one must always begin with a rationale, does this lower the value of statements without a rationale? Secondly, beginning with a rationale can often shift or narrow the scope of the argument. If the persuasive power of the rationale is suspect, is it not only the rationale which loses effect but also statements which are made without a rationale? If so, will I be unable to speak out? Finally, can one stir people's hearts by simply lining up rationales?

ICU Graduate School : Naomi SUZUKI