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K.C.Leading the Future: Women as the Face of ANTI-Nuclear Power Demonstrations in Contemporary Japan
Kalai Chik (21)Hometown: Los AngelesHong KongMajor: International RelationsGlobal Business ManagementEast Asian Languages and CulturesAbout ME
I became interested in this topic after I watched the protests in Sakae. I thought I have to change my topic! In America, even if a woman was a mother and an activist, her community and family wouldnt be as supportive. Groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving dont have a particularly positive image in the United States. 2
"The state emphasizes the social role of women as wise mothers. Family values stressed hard work for the sake of the household and obedience to in laws"-Horiguchi, Noriko J.Women Adrift : The Literature of Japan's Imperial Body
ROLES OF WOMEN IN JAPAN
A good mothersacrifices all for her child Jill Steury Working Mothers in Japan and the Effects on Children and SocietyEXPECTATIONS OF MOTHERS
How do women maintain their subordinate role and various identities in society while also being leaders in a visible position? What does their societal given roles as mothers play into their roles as leaders? How does public opinion influence womens participation in these protests?Questions
I was initially interested in the topic of nuclear power in Japan and after I saw a demonstration in Sakae, I was inspired to do research on women in these demonstrations. What I was surprised to find was that a lot of women there were housewives. Usually in America, we dont carry that image of a woman as a housewife. Also, Japan has one of the biggest gendergaps in the world.
How do these women find the courage to get out into the streets ad protest every week when the burden of societys opinions breathing down their neck?
Interviews Nanzan Students (9)Nanzan Extension College Students (2)Key member of the Anti-Nuclear ProtestsCase StudyTwo observations of anti-nuclear protestsMethods
A simple google search for the words, Fukushima Protests, pulls up a variety of pictures, many of which women are the main subject.
There actually arent that many protests in Japan in the first place. However,7
When resistance does occur (in Japan), it is often spearheaded by women, politically marginalized mothers and housewives, who do not possess formal power or status. -Morioka RikaJapan Copes with Calamity
An explaination is provided by Seth Friedman in his paper Women in Japanese Society: Their Changing Roles, Japanese women seem to exercise political power at the grass roots level as opposed to the governmental level. In 1973 Prime Minister Tanaka said that "Women don't vote on big national issues but on things which affect their daily lives."61 -8
Mothers of FukushimaPassivity of populace vs government paralysis Health hazards concerned mothers Networking and raising awarenessBACKGROUND
Women are generally seen as uninterested in politics and participation in social protest is considered unnatural for women. (In both Japan and America and other parts of the world.)
The mothers of Fukushima have created a large network in response to the lack of governmental action. They feel they need to take the problem into their own hands. According to Days Japan, these mothers have formed groups and utilize their resources to do a variety of things such as measure the radioactivity near their homes. They believe the government can no longer be trusted and that the future of their own children, and the nation should be taken into their hands. Their presence on the streets has led to world wide media coverage and has encourage many women locally to join the cause. They are very active in local politics because their local politics shape their lives and their familys lives. Political activism gives these women a power in the government, as the voices of women hound for change for the betterment of society. 9
Housewife is a public identity that provides a common ground and legitimacy for women to unite. -Morioka RikaJapan Copes with Calamity
Positive Image9/9 Nanzan Students 1 Extension College StudentKey MemberNeutral Image1 Extension College StudentResultsData from interviews
The Nanzan students all supported the idea of women in these protests. Their image of these female protesters are of a married housewife. This stems from the large groups of mothers who took to the streets after they could no longer trust the government to give them the real facts. Even if these students believed that Japan should go back to nuclear power, they often supported these women in their efforts to stop nuclear energy. These students based their opinions on the more conservative lives theyve had to live since the shutdown of the nuclear power plants. Most of them said they wouldnt participate in these demonstrations because they dont have time. However, they feel relieved that someone else is doing it on their behalf.
The extension college student that I spoke with had seen the Fukushima protests a while ago but has never seen the protests in Sakae. After hearing that a lot of women participate in these protests, she felt very inspired. She wanted to join in the protests at some point but never did because she was afraid of what her family, friends, and husband would say about her. Women who protests are seen as very aggressive and women are expected to be meek. But given the chance, she would like to promote change.
One of the extension college students had a neutral image of the women in the protests. Although she was completely unaware of the presence of anti-nuclear protests in the first place, she didnt react very positively to the fact that many women participate in those protests. She doesnt watch the news or read the news so she had no knowledge of the protests at all. Though she was leaning slightly on the negative side because she didnt sound very sympathetic when I told her about mothers who were fighting for the removal of nuclear energy for the sake of the future.
Results All of these people had a favorable image because they think back to their own mothers. They believe these women are protesting for the sake of their children and future children. Linking women to their roles as mothers was the main reason why they thought highly of these women. When I asked if these women werent mothers, what would they think of them? 5 students responded that these women were doing it for the sake of other children or future children. 11
Anti-Nuclear power Demonstration group in Nagoya
For the past 2 years, this unnamed protest group gathers every Friday in front of the Chubu and Kansai Electric Power buildings in Sakae. There is an occasional large demonstration that is formally known as the No Nukes Team but thats different. This group has been around since 2011 and demonstrate every single Friday. Their demonstrations run on time from 6-7 in front of the Chubu Electric Company and then from 7 to 8 pm in front of the Kansai Electric Company. Most of the participants are older women (above 40) but occasionally younger women would be there too. Children of some protesters would be accompanied by their parents (mostly mothers). I asked why they brought their children there and they said that their children feel strongly about their future and theyre afraid of nuclear energy. A key member of the protests, Hazuki Fujiwara, told me that it gives their movement greater power.
localized, fragmented and loosely organize. Participants tended to change from week to week as some people have work or some days may be a holiday weekend.
No clear leader. Everyone speaks for themselves. Luckily there were two other Americans who are also from Los Angeles who helped me out. They helped me explain how the group worked and pointed out the key members of the group. However, I wasnt able to contact anyone from inside the group until one of the American researchers, Joe, acted as my translator and my guide into the group. He participates in the protests occasionally and other times he observes. 12
The Key member of the Sakae anti nuclear protests is not a mother and has no intention of marrying or having children. Her reasoning for protesting is that she felt like she couldnt just sit at home and do nothing. Shes very involved as an activist. She actively advocates for equality for all, standing in solidarity with many disenfranchised groups of people in Japan such as the burakumin. Outside of these protests, shes an interior designer.
She says that shes never cared for what people thought of her and that Japan is seeing an increase of a new kind of woman who are just like her. Shes a feminist. Shes supports women who are mothers and hopes to inspire other people to join in their demonstrations.
When I asked if she knew anyone else at the protests. She said she knew most if not all of them. Likewise, what seemed like a random gathering of protesters was actually a band of friends. Initially, she was contacted by the leader of the protests in Tokyo to organize this protest in Nagoya. They had been friends for a while and she immediately took the opportunity. Through her vast network of friends and neighbors, she and other key members were able to band a group of over 200 people for their first protest back in April 2011. The group is very fluid and anyone is welcome to join when they have time and are not required to go to the weekly meeting on Wednesday. When I asked her who was the leader of the group, she said there isnt one. Because if theres a leader, that means that everyone else is a subordinate and just that hierarchical image didnt sit well with her and everyone else. 13
Perception of Fukushima women.Their concerns were dismissed by school teachers as irrational fears of nervous, fussy women. (Rika, 171)Encourages and discouragesSometimes has no affect at allPublic opinion is changingInfluence of Public opinion
Some women are really passionate that they dont care how theyre viewed.Others such as one of the extension college students was discouraged.
People I interviewed had positive views of women demonstrating in the protests. Thought of them as caring housewives. One had a negative image and saw some of the women in the protests as hypocritical. Although this person lacked experience with these demonstrations both observing and participating. So she was probably applying what she thought onto these groups. 14
Empowers yet traps womenLimits them to their societal role. Given legitimacy only for topics relating to a housewifes responsibilities.
The realm of responsibilities for Japanese women centers on domestic matters: running the household, ensuring the health of family members and educating children.
At the same time, its a double edged sowrd. Women are only able to speak effectively on issues traditionally related to female roles such as health and safety of workers and children. Moral legitimacy and cultural power. Although the same role they are given gives them some authority, it limits their voices to family related issues
Multiple identities work in tandemChanging views of womenRole-appropriate topicsPublic opinion promotes empowerment
Women can only speak on role appropriate topicsPublic opinion tends to give women invisible supportCommunities and networks from the womans life helps to further provide supportWomen seeing other women inspire them to work join in.
The societal expectation of a woman to be a mother doesnt clash with their participation in these demonstrations. Even if it did, many of these women would still do it.
Fujiawara Hazuki said Japanese people tend to be private and so the plight of others usually do not concern them very much. However, many of these women protest because this is an issue that expands outside the private realm. Women are using the tools they have at hand to make policy change for the future.
Friedman, Seth. "The Changing Roles of Women in Japanese Society."The Changing Roles of Women in Japanese Society. N.p., Dec. 1992. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. .Gill, Tom, Brigitte Steger, and David H. Slater.Japan Copes with Calamity Ethnographies of the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Disasters of March 2011. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.Horiguchi, Noriko J.Women Adrift: The Literature of Japan's Imperial Body. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2011. Print.Steury, Jill. 1993. Working Mothers in Japan and the Effects on Children and Society. Intercultural Communication Studies . Paper presented at the biennial conference of the Institute for Cross-Cultural Research, San Antonio, TX (March). References
How would you view politically active women in your own country? Why?DISCUSSION QUESTION