To view this PAPER PRESENTATION, search for the session title in the Browse by Titlelisting. (See the session title located immediately below ["In Session:"])
In Session: Cold War, What’s Cookin’: Moral Panic, Gender Equality, Coed Fellowship, and Domestic Culture in 1950’s Japan
3: Tanaka Sumiko and Her Struggle to Create a Gender-Equal Society in Postwar Japan
Monday, March 22, 2021
12:30pm – 2:00pm EDT
Seikei University (Japan), United States
Lifestyle changes accompanying the growth of consumerism in the 1920s provided the impetus for the emergence of the “modern girl,” the housewife, and professional working woman. After World War II, the motivation for changes surrounding marriage, divorce, and inheritance rights were tied to Occupation reforms that did not result from indigenous movements. In looking at the social and cultural construction of a new set of possibilities for women to act, my paper sheds light on why prominent socialist feminist Tanaka Sumiko turned to the unlikely medium of commercial mass womenʼs magazines as a site for molding more inclusive gendered identities in the 1950s and 1960s. Middle school and high-school students anxious to claim newly gained educational opportunities, working women wrestling with workplace injustices, and suburban housewives in cluster apartments built in the middle of dust fields were in the process of redefining themselves. Tanaka recognize the rights accorded women did not remove them overnight from the social and familial webs in which their lives were tangled or advance direct routes to upward mobility. Her political activities are documented in Japanese, but her influence on women whose voices had not yet resonated is practically unknown. Tanaka participated in roundtable discussions offering women a forum for discussion. She supported daycare centers for nuclear families and tackled prostitution in Okinawa, practical approaches that paved the way for the second wave of feminism (1970s) when marginalized women for whom moving forward did not begin with an organized movement could direct their lives more assertively.