Feminism: An Alternative Point of View

Feminism: An alternative point of view

Title:

Feminism: An Alternative Point of View

Requirement:

This is a sample essay for which the writer could choose the topic.

Word Count / Required:

4176 / nil

Writer’s Comment:

I have always been interested in feminism and the stereotypes that people apply to it. For this essay, I decided to write something that would put feminism in a different light.

I approached this essay in a slightly different way. Instead of long paragraphs stating and explaining a certain point, there are many small paragraphs which make it easier for readers to understand. UK universities condone this method of essay writing.

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With the death of Emperor Meiji in 1912, the Japanese throne became a mere symbol. The new emperor, Yoshihito Taisho, Meiji’s mentally backward son, ruled in name only until his son, Hirohito, became Prince Regent in 1921.  The younger generation of generals, admirals, bureaucrats, businessmen, and intellectuals assumed new importance in the Japanese political system. They not only enjoyed leading their “docile” people, accustomed to centuries of feudal and oligarchical rule, but they also delighted in their newly acquired position of power in the early decades of the twentieth century. Japan’s industry and technological output were strengthening; commerce and industry expanded as an aftermath of World War I. Business empires, such as Mitsui and Mitsubishi, became more influential in post-war Japan than even the military, the bureaucrats, and the rural landowners

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Democratic and liberal legislation led to the 1921 universal manhood suffrage bill which gave voting power to the entire male population–upper classes as well as peasants and city dwellers. Intellectuals, supported by white-collar workers and some laborers, founded left-wing and liberal parties, such as the Farmer Labor Party, the Social Democratic Party, and the Communist Party. By 1925, however, the threat of a dictatorship by the proletariat served to encourage the passage of a law designed to stamp out “dangerous thoughts”–an excuse to crush the Communist Party by sending its members to prison until they recanted.

Extreme nationalism, conservatism, and fanaticism were on the rise, as was the power of the military. A system of indoctrination, as well as rigid concepts of paternalism, was fed to the population, becoming the basis for fierce and fanatic devotion to the might and authority of the Emperor and the army clique. Freedom of expression was curtailed; liberal educators and statesmen were obliged to resign; political parties were dissolved. Silence was the rule of the day. Business was also compromised, armaments and munitions becoming the most important commodity. The Rape of Manchuria became a reality in 1932–the prelude to Japan’s aggression in World War II (Reischauer, 1964).

The role of women during the Meiji era had improved on the whole. Not only had they become better educated, but many had been permitted to work. Emperor Taisho’s attitude toward women proved to be more liberal than that of his ancestors. When he was crowned Emperor, the Empress was given, for the first time, a throne of her own. When still a Crown Prince, Taisho not only gave his wife permission to enter a carriage before him, but he took his meals with her–an incredible step forward in a Japan where women were traditionally accorded so little status. Statistics show that couples married later, during Emperor Taisho’s reign, at twenty-three rather than at sixteen, than they did during the early Meiji era. The decline in divorce figures was attributed to the increase in the age as well as the status of women who married (Hendry, 1981).

That women were permitted to divorce at all indicated another forward leap. Whereas, at the outset of the Meiji Period, a man was permitted to divorce his wife on the grounds of sterility, adultery, jealousy, disease, or even for disobeying her parents-in-law, by 1873, a wife had the right to appeal for divorce on the grounds of her husband’s desertion, imprisonment, profligacy, or illness. The Meiji Civil Code (Art. 808) of 1898 stated that mutual consent was sufficient grounds for divorce, although abuses of all types could still be found (Hendry, 1981).

Despite these and other steps forward, a basic antagonism between the new democratic ideals and the traditional social structure and family system persevered during and after World War I. Confucianist and samurai credos, the belief in the divine ancestry of the Emperor, and arranged marriages, were antipodal to the growing practice of free unions. Indeed, the samurai viewed personal choice in marriage and love as “barbaric,” “backward,” “disruptive,” and a negative act toward family and nation. Yasu Iwasaki wrote in 1930 that it was deemed a sign of mental and moral weakness to “fall in love.” Love was considered “effeminate and unmanly.” Courtship simply did not exist. The practice of arranged marriages, even at this late date, led to many suicides by young lovers forced to live apart (Hendry, 1981)

Nevertheless, changes for the better did take place in the field of education. More women were reading books, magazines, newspapers, and attending plays and films than before. Along- side the prototypes of the traditional good mother and wife, there arose a new image: the wife as her husband’s companion and friend, rather than simply his housekeeper. In defiance of tradition, couples sought to live alone rather than with their mothers after World War II, when the very thought of a happy marriage was still considered innovative.

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