Unpinning History : Japanese Posters in the Age of Commercialism, Imperialism, and Modernism

Moga in Taishō Japan

Moga or “modern girl” emerged from the new cosmopolitan Taishō period (1912-1926), in which mass consumerism, production, and media largely defined the era.[1] She represented a newfound liberation, divorced from the previous state-mandated expectations and laws — such as the Meiji Civil Code (1890) — which had relegated the legal and social statuses of the woman to the home and her family. Instead of performing exclusively as wife, mother, daughter, or sister, moga filled various positions in urban spaces, whether this be consumer or professional working woman. As practitioners of shūyō — self-cultivation practices of self-care, shopping, reading and spending time outside of the home —moga was both increasingly feminine and disruptive to the long established role of women. Scholarly debate has argued to what degree moga is the product of Westernization — whether she symbolized an idealization of Euro-American ideals, or is rather an image of cosmopolitan trends worldwide during the period. Regardless, her birth must be contextualized within a modern mass media and consumer market, in which the attitudes, behaviors, and duties of women were undeniably challenged and reexamined in Japan. (Sophie Ceniza)

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