America, modernity, and democratization of everyday life: Japanese women’s magazines during the occupation period
Abstract During the post-war occupation period in Japan (1945-1952), a number of political and legal reforms were conducted under the GHQ/SCAP’s initiatives. Enhancement of women’s rights was one of the major targets of GHQ/SCAP’s policies, and existing studies have examined if the reforms have actually achieved the democratization of Japanese gender relations. This paper challenges some of the assumptions made in previous studies, and has revealed how images of women and femininity were recreated and consumed during that time. Rather than discussing how GHQ/SCAP democratized Japanese society, this study explores how ‘democracy’ was re-conceptualized in Japanese women’s magazines, which were some of the most popular and influential forms of cultural media during the period. The paper demonstrates how the notion of democracy was understood as a way of life, rather than as a particular type of political structure, and how white middle-class American women were illustrated as the model of Japanese women. The author discusses how the Occupation period was a time where the notion of democracy was integrated into women’s everyday life sphere, and America became the reference point in the Japanese woman’s everyday life politics.
Keywords: women’s magazines, Japanese history, American occupation, popular culture
Hiroko Matsuda is currently a research fellow of Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.. She received her doctoral degree in history from the Australian National University. Her publications include ‘Yaeyama: From Periphery of the Ryukyus to Frontier of Japan’ Japanese Studies, vol.28, no.2 (2008) and ‘Moving out from the “Margin”: Imperialism and Migrations from Japan, the Ryukyu Islands and Taiwan’, Asian Studies Review, vol.32 (2008).