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Gender and Nation in Meiji JapanModernity, Loss, and the Doing of History$
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Jason G. Karlin

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780824838263

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824838263.001.0001

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Competing Masculinities in Meiji Japan

Competing Masculinities in Meiji Japan

(p.19) Chapter 1 Competing Masculinities in Meiji Japan
Gender and Nation in Meiji Japan

Jason G. Karlin

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter explores two opposing expressions of masculinity in Meiji Japan and their implications for modernity: a “feminized” masculinity centered on the image of the Japanese gentleman, and a “masculinized” masculinity that rejected Western material culture. Drawing on the work of Abigail Solomon-Godeau and especially her notion of “internal gendering,” the chapter considers the “difference within” that had to be disavowed in Japanese discourses of masculinity. Rather than empirically domesticating the category of manhood in Meiji Japan, it analyzes gender symbolism in modern Japanese nationalism in order to avoid unintentionally reproducing the feminine/masculine binarism. It first discusses the association of Western clothing with government officials before turning to satire in popular discourse as a way to criticize the Meiji state, mainly due to its perceived frivolity and extravagance. It then looks at the sōshi and how they represented themselves as an authentic masculinity. It also discusses the issues surrounding “high-collar” (haikara) and bankara.

Keywords:   masculinity, Japanese gentleman, Abigail Solomon-Godeau, gender symbolism, nationalism, Western clothing, satire, sōshi, high-collar, bankara

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