Embodying Japan: Cultures of Sport, Beauty, and Medicine 2017

Commodification of Identity

Identities in Japan after WWII have historically been used and hegemonized for the benefit of the state. Even seemingly "underground" professions, as long as they reinforce politically-endorsed gender roles, have enjoyed more acceptance than those that do not. As long as men use their bodies for the benefit of the state and women use theirs for the benefit of men, the profession is considered tolerable, if not always proper. Women are "allowed" (through acceptance by the state and society in general) to hold professions outside of their homes so long as they reinforce this model and eventually become wives and mothers. We have seen this in readings by Horne and Foucault that explain that, while Japan was working toward a Westernized view that would allow them better economic and political standing in the Post-Restoration world, they maintained some views that were in direct opposition to Western beliefs on morality. Sexuality was a natural part of human life rather than something to be hidden and ashamed of and because of this, sex workers were much less stigmatized in Japan than in Western countries like America. Prostitution held less taboo in Japanese society because, though it may not be the profession one would choose for their daughter, it was for the benefit of the nation. Prostitutes serviced the men that serviced the economy through their biopower and maintained their morale in order to keep up productivity. For this reason, it was crucial that nationally-sanctioned identity roles were maintained.

Image result for japanese businessman with geisha

In recent years, however, there has been a change in Japanese societal structure. Since the 1980s when arranged marriages fell to near 40%, women have begun to experience more autonomy of choice when it came to their life, both in family and career aspects. Women began leaving home and joining the workforce to find a husband and this has given them their own disposable income and the independence to choose how to spend it (Freidman, 1992). Men are developing an acceptance of the women that make more money than them (possibly because this cuts their risk of Karōshi, or maybe because it allows them the opportunity to pursue hobbies or other free time activities - which is arguably still a patriarchal idea because the women are working to supply the men with free time and leisure). This shift in society has not erased the patriarchal views and traditions of the Confucian "Old-Japan", but it marks a possible growth for the country that for so long refused to even admit that women legally existed. It will be interesting to see whether this commodification of identity is adapted to fit the new societal model or if the citizens have finally found a way to wrestle agency for themselves and their future.

Image result for japanese gender roles

Works cited:

1. Freidman, Seth "Women in Japanese Society: Their Changing Roles". 1992. http://www2.gol.com/users/friedman/writings/p1.html

2. Horne, John "Understanding Sport and Body Culture in Japan". Body and Science Vol 6, No 2. https://sakai.unc.edu/access/content/group/fe99adab-65cc-430f-bdf3-688e81d0f8d2/Week%203/Horne%20understanding%20sport%20body%20culture%20japan.pdf

3. Miller, Aaron L. "Foucauldian theory and the Making of the Japanese Sporting Body". Contemporary Japan 2015; 27(1): 13-31. https://sakai.unc.edu/access/content/group/fe99adab-65cc-430f-bdf3-688e81d0f8d2/Week%203/AaronLMiller2015ContemporaryJapanFoucaultSportingBody.pdf

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