Nissan Seminar: Gender/ed Justice: Feminism in War and Peace

Convener(s): Professor Sho Konishi and Dr Mateja Kovacic

Speaker(s): Professor Barbara Molony, Santa Clara University


Japanese feminists, including activists, writers, members of transnational peace movements, and others who had long emphasized women's inherent maternal goodness and opposition to gendered violence, had ambivalent or negative attitudes toward Japanese wartime aggression in Asia in the early 1930s. In the next decade, however, many came to accept their nation’s aggressive actions. Several well-known women accompanied Japanese troops as observers and morale builders in Japan's Pen Squadron, that is, as writers and other producers of popular culture. Others, like Ichikawa Fusae and other political feminist activists, went to the continent on their own. Although they claimed to be independent of the Japanese state and its military, they always benefited from the imperial privilege of Japanese military protection, whether or not they recognized that privilege. To what extent could one argue that feminists failed to look deeply into the gendered violence of Japanese militarism in China (the “comfort women” system)? And why, in their quest for gender equality, secure lives for women and their families, and gender justice, did Japanese feminists neglect gendered justice and gender violence?

Barbara MOLONY, Professor of Japanese History at Santa Clara University, co-President of the Coordinating Council for Women in History, past president of the American Historical Association Pacific Coast Branch, and incoming co-President of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, specializes in research on women’s rights, transnational feminisms, and the construction and representation of gender in Japan and East Asia. She has published more than two dozen articles and chapters on these topics. She has also co-authored or co-edited Women’s Activism and “Second Wave” Feminism: Transnational Histories (with Jennifer Nelson, 2017), Gender in Modern East Asia (with Janet Theiss and Hyaeweol Choi, 2016), Modern East Asia: An Integrated History (with Jonathan Lipman and Michael Robinson, 2010), Asia’s New Mothers: Crafting Gender Roles and Childcare Networks in East and Southeast Asian Societies (with Ochiai Emiko, 2008), and Gendering Modern Japanese History (with Kathleen Uno, 2005). She is an associate editor of Women and Social Movements in Modern Empires since 1820 (on-line). She is currently co-authoring Ichikawa Fusae: A Political Biography (in progress) and co-editing Transnational Transgressions: Marriage Resisters, Gender Benders, and Feminists Against War, Violence, and Empire (with Eileen Boris and Sandra Dawson, in progress).