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ThatWhichPost-WarWomenHaveLost (1963)

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That Which Post-War Women Have Lost (1963) by Hirabayashi Taiko

 

Translated by Dennis Yee. Copyright 2006.

 

Note: This is a translation of one of the Hirabayashi Taiko's essays which deals with her discourse on post-war women in Sakka no Tojiito (1963).

 


The Bestowed Right of Freedom

 

There are things which post-war women have gained and things which they have lost. Regarding what they have gained, many words of praise have been offered. Certainly, we have been bestowed so many things both tangible and intangible that we cannot hold them even with both of our hands. In the twenty year period after the war Japanese women have eagerly stepped forward to make as their own that which has been bestowed upon them.

 

I have seen post-war women without a twinge of guilt exercise their bestowed right of freedom through divorces which are rapidly increasing statistically, illicit affairs which are praised in novels, and florid crimes involving the embezzlement of company money which stun male supervisors. With the look of being obsessed, post-war women venture onto that road which all women must take at least once. Nowhere can be seen in these post-war women the mellow relaxation that defines the word “decadence.”

 

Indeed, post-war Japanese women have experienced unprecedented fulfillment, anxiety, and tension. Moreover, conforming to the spirit of the new civil codes, fathers have become modest in the household and do not interfere in matters of love or day to day affairs, and to the surprise and delight of women, husbands will put away their own futons, help with the cleaning, and look after the children.

 

In the case of urban working couples, it is often the husband rather than the wife who is better at using the frying pan, and it is rare for him to serve his wife a half-cooked steak. Instead, the husband will sometimes even make the praiseworthy offer to go grocery shopping because he knows of a good store which sells good meat, and he will say to his wife the accompanying phrase “Hey, how about some money!” But married couples simultaneously have equal rights and responsibilities, and therefore from the very beginning the old way of thinking which was to rely on the husband as the sole breadwinner is not embraced in the least by modern women. Rather, women are moved by the egalitarian thinking of their husbands who can freely ask them for money in this way.

 

A certain woman I know confessed to experiencing the reality of having an affair at her workplace. Her husband who was on a business trip to the countryside returned to Tokyo after hearing rumors of his wife’s affair, but when he returned his first words to his wife were not out of anger at being betrayed nor out of jealousy. He simply asked “Are you happy with him?” and these were the words that crystallized the husband’s whole attitude towards his wife. She replied “I am happy with him.”

 

Since post-war women are obstinate they sometimes go overboard in expressing how they feel. I heard that the husband responded by saying “Is that so? Well, I will just take myself out of the picture then.” With these words the couple’s divorce was decided. However, it was certainly not the husband’s intention to divorce with his wife. The half-baked logic of the husband that “Well if you are happy with him, then I should leave” caused his wife to be disillusioned and made her determined to separate from him. I have heard that after the war men have come to use “women’s words” like “happiness” which in the past they were quite embarrassed to say, but this man’s logic of love is absolutely detestable.

 

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Men and Women’s Equal Rights or Equal Lifestyles?

 

After the war women have gained a lot of things but lost one very important one. If asked “What is it?” and I answer “Men,” you will probably say “You are pulling my leg.” From the very beginning in postwar Japan, men and women’s equal rights have been mistaken for men and women’s equal lifestyles. The beginning of that mistake is co-education. Co-education is certainly not a bad thing. Moreover, it has many good features.

However, co-education is quite different from matters like the Teacher’s Union angrily commanding “Defend co-education to the death!” The idea that men and women studying together is the realization of democratic ideals whereas men and women studying apart is the opposite and reactionary did not simply come out of nowhere. Probably people who think that “we must defend co-education to the death as a way to teach about men and women’s equal lifestyles” want that system to remain at all costs.

 

Nevertheless, I recognize that at certain times a separate education system for men and women may be better. As for the problem of different educational institutions for men and women, there is no great degree of difference between them, and it may be necessary for the perfection of men and women that at certain times while maturing that they should be separated.

 

While men and women are thought to be always attracted to each another from the time they first become aware of the opposite sex, this in not true. There are times when they really like each other and times when they really repel each other, and this counteracts the power of attraction. It can be said that this is the period of time where they perfect their natural sexual differences. At this time young men and women have intrinsic secrets from one another and show tendencies to hide these secrets from one another. Shyness and embarrassment are natural instincts to protect themselves at this time. Hiding within the shadow of shyness and embarrassment, men and women cultivate their own different sexual characteristics.

 

It is not necessary to tear away this layer of natural embarrassment to make men and women the same. At this time it is better to let girls to group together with other girls and for boys to group together with other boys. Educators who think that men and women should be the same by even mixing together the desks of boys and girls in class should reflect on the meaninglessness of trying to get rid of these sexual differences.

 

However, this kind of thought advocating a separate education for men and women is no longer valid in present day Japan. All of the effort now is on working towards an environment with the exact same lifestyle for men and women. I am not sure if it still occurs, but in the past at elementary schools even little boys were taught sewing. But when they were being taught what I found to be really disagreeable was the speech which the teacher made at some length about men and women’s equal lifestyles. In order to bring about a democratic education it is not necessary to do this sort of thing, and the teacher’s words echoing in the students ears everyday about men and women’s equal lifestyles, which is a matter completely separate from the ideal of democracy, will control a small child for the rest of life. In particular, since women teachers who have a family are relieved of the double burden by their husband’s consideration at home, they enthusiastically convince their students of the ideal of equal lifestyles for both men and women.

 

In this way, boys from a very young age will grow up thinking that their masculinity is a hindrance or come to yearn for the female form. And by going through real world experiences beginning with the school entrance exams, they are not given a chance to develop their masculinity. Rote memorization for taking tests at school is an ability particularly suited for girls. And at no matter which university, male test-takers are pushed aside by female matriculants, and there will even be the issue of whether or not there should be a limit to the number of female students. And even at school male students will have impressed upon them the degree to which femininity is a social demand and will be compelled to remake themselves.

 

I foresee a bleak future where students as they become upperclassmen at school will be churned out in a mass production style.

 

As for the so-called “lone-wolf” like Hideo Noguchi or Albert Schweitzer becoming the ideal image of these male students, there is no mistake that this image reflects the exact opposite of their reality. But in the end what will revive in one stroke the masculinity of male students is working in the real world. Particularly in the corporate world, outstanding personalities are no more desirable than foolish ones, something that cannot be helped insofar as the organization must function as one organic entity. It is perfectly acceptable if the men through their own ability can work well only within the limited role given to them by the company. Individuals who venture beyond their roles are frequently expelled.

 

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House Work and Men’s Attractiveness

 

It is said that outside of the home men have their ambition or in the company men have their work, but in reality this applies only to politicians, entertainers, and artists whose personalities are incalculably exaggerated by the media.

 

Incidentally, because in these roles individuals are so grossly enlarged, the men have become lost from sight. As for their charm which is distributed among tens of thousands of female fans, it is not something which the men themselves pass out but rather a fictional human image that has been enlarged several times like by a magnifying glass between the men and their fans.

 

While having only some degree of knowledge yet an intense sense of responsibility regarding his role in the company, the company man who fulfills society’s expectation by filling only one role in the company really lacks comprehensive knowledge and a feeling for the company as a whole. This may be an obvious fact and nothing may be done about it, but the fact is that this corresponds exactly to the characteristics of women of yesterday and today. Despite the fact that no progressives were demanding it, there has come about equal lifestyles for both men and women.

 

History tells us that depending on the circumstances women are not necessarily the same as they are today. Putting aside the question of whether or not primeval women were the “Sun,” in the age of matrilineal families didn’t women enjoy more authority than they do now? I do not really know what daily life was like in that period. By observing our grandmothers and mothers and by looking at our present-day neighbor’s lifestyle, if we take one step away from work and enter the home, the work we are required to do is unlimted with no beginning nor end. In other words, this work has no entirety but only parts and is exactly the same as men’s work. If we insist on classifying it, the framework of the household corresponds to the framework of the husband’s workplace.

 

In other words, a woman of the household is still of course in her original sex a woman, but post-war men in Japanese society are women. Men have been gradually falling into this status but have not put up any conspicuous resistance. They make a living comforted only by just small ripples of enjoyment.

 

In the realm of relations between men and women the tragedy of this loss of the male sex is most clear. I can’t say enough about the influence of co-education, but the passion of men’s love no longer burns hot. There is no mistake that the meeting of the sexes who had been separated from each other since the age of seven once led to a great explosion. But that sort of heat energy is perhaps given off now only a little bit at a time in day to day life, and these days passion is at a low ebb. The difference between “I like” and “I love” has become unclear, and the vast majority is bound together at the “I like” degree.

 

It is said that in Japan from the very beginning there were no great love stories like those written in Western literature, but despite this in the Taisho era there were various great love stories that remain part of history. These days the love of ordinary citizens is a feeling which has become a part of their everyday routine, but in contrast love in the previous era consumed a major portion of their whole lives.

 

What are the men of this era thinking about regarding marriage? If you go to the Tokyo Metropolitan Marriage Bureau, you will be surprised at the large number of men who attach the condition towards their prospective marriage partner that “She should be either cultured or know some sort of handicraft and after getting married she should still bring home her salary.” In the past, this was the qualification that women wanted in men as their prospective marriage partners. And from the everyday conversations of young men comes forth the disheartening words “Aren’t there any good adoption offers available?” Regarding their own existence men have no desire to let the differences between the two sexes shine.

 

So to the men, married life is nothing more than co-habitation with the opposite sex. Even if men truly believe that “going Dutch” is best or that it is good to be frank with your marriage partner, the equality of men and women based on sex is a mistaken equality. Male fish and birds have beautiful crests and wings, and if human males have lost the function to attract females by having an attractive tail like this, they can no longer be called “men.”

 

Incidentally, men have lost confidence in their own attractiveness and seek to imitate feminine things including even using makeup. An example of this is the Beatles’ hairstyle. And according to rumor, once they form their own families, men will on the pretext of the noble cause of “family democracy” forfeit their leadership and substitute it with doing housework for their women.

 

No matter how often the men wash the dishes, it seems that they don’t understand that this does not increase their attractiveness. Regarding serving the household, I must say that the increasing feminization of men is a strange phenomenon. However, since Western men have always from the very beginning done housework they have not lost even a little of their male subjectivity.

 

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The Monosexualization of Men and Women

 

In service of the household, Japanese men feel embarrassment over their last remaining rough and course manners and reform them. Men have arrived at the point of having such delicate sensibilities that when washing rice they will pick up even a single grain which had been accidentally spilt away.

 

Before the era of democracy, a husband would only clean the house when his wife was sick once every three years or once every five years. For the rest of her life, the wife will never forget her husband’s odd way of cleaning their home. At that time the husband would move the large hibachi and wardrobe which are generally only moved during the New Year’s Big Cleaning and sweep under them. While the husband’s methods were rough, they were also thorough and he put all of his effort into cleaning the home.

 

Incidentally, these days the husband who helps with housework has become as good as his wife in taking shortcuts. In spite of the fact that outside of the home he has the physical power to quickly move a concrete wastebasket to a different location when playing a prank on a friend, inside of the home he has become so stingy in cleaning that he cleans without moving the toaster or thermos bottle, and when using the broom in rectangular-shaped rooms he sweeps in circles.

 

In the company, the bad habit of the husband to simply do just enough work to get by while carrying out the commands of his superiors shows up in exactly the same way in the household when he does housework. And strangely, this is exactly the same habit of the wife who does just enough work to get by in the household.

 

However, by bringing home his monthly salary without taking out any money for his own allowance, the husband has gained the trust of his wife. In the past the husband has never done this before. In fact, in the past the wife did not even know how much was her husband’s total monthly salary. Now the husband brings home all of his monthly salary. But the wife is not told by the husband of the extra pay which he keeps for himself for doing various overtime and side jobs. In the past the husband would nobly take out only the portion of money he needed for his allowance and bring the rest back for his wife but now the husband knows he can make his wife happy by putting on a show of handing over his total monthly pay without taking out any money.

 

This kind of male personality certainly did not come from the forced “democratization” of the household. Nor did it come from early childhood co-education. I think instead that it came from “democratization” which is the result of a major factor of “monosexualization” and that this, in a “reverse effect,” became dominant over men. In this way women after the war gained many things but lost the “men.” Even if men show some flashes of masculinity by cheering loudly at a baseball game or pushing around others inside of a train, the fact is that they are imitation women. Therefore today’s lifestyle for men and women is just the same as people trying to run while wearing two right-sided shoes. “Manly” men like Takamori Saigo of the past, Winston Churchill of recent times, or Sakae Osugi have already disappeared from this society, and a dreary monotone century has come.

 

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Notes

 

This translation would not be possible without the invaluable help and infinite patience of Yoshiko Watanabe at the University of Chicago.

Hideo Noguchi (1876-1928) was the famous Japanese bacteriologist from Fukushima who discovered the bacteria responsible for Yellow Fever in Africa. Despite having a slight deformity in his left hand from a childhood accident, Noguchi went on to study medicine and became a full-fledged doctor at the age of 20. In 1928 he succumbed to Yellow Fever in Africa while conducting research. Since 2004 his image has replaced Natsume Soseki’s on the Japanese 1000 Yen Bill.

Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) was a German physician from Kaysersberg in Alsace-Lorraine who received the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize for the establishment of the Lambarene Hospital in Gabon, Africa. Schweitzer spent most of his life as medical missionary in Gabon and treated countless numbers of patients. Later in his life he campaigned against nuclear weapons production with Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell, and on Radio Oslo he broadcast four speeches against nuclear testing.

Takamori Saigo (1827-1877) was a samurai from Kagoshima who despite his humble background rose to the position of state councilor and army general of the new Meiji State. After losing the Seikanron debate in 1873 he resigned from his government post and returned to Kagoshima and later led the Satsuma Rebellion against the government in 1877. According to rumor Saigo committed seppaku in the Battle of Shiroyama after being wounded in the hip to avoid being captured. His body was never found and legend has it that he escaped to plot revenge

Sakae Osugi (1885-1923) was a radical individualist and anarchist from Kagawa prefecture. While publishing numerous anarchist works and journals he was arrested several times but even while in prison he studied various foreign languages so he could translate Western anarchist essays. After the Great Kanto Earthquake, Osugi was beaten to death by the military police in the notorious Amakasu Incident of September 16, 1923.

 

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