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WRITING

Regulating bodies: gender construction in Japan

ABSTRACT

The pervasive policing of the gendered body by the Japanese state continues into the present and is an issue that this article explores: how and why the rigid regulation of gendered bodies in modern Japan began. This article examines the colonial pressures that introduced the Euroamerican gender binary system to Japan in the late 19th century. The complex opening up of Japan in the 1850s by Western powers forced the Japanese government to reconceptualise and regulate the corporeal body of its citizens. This process caused the erasure of many indigenous gender identities that were defined by sartorial and tonsorial signifiers. The erasure of historic gender identities was important for Japan to appear as equals to their Western oppressors. This research serves to contextualise historic gender identities within contemporary discourse.

This article was written for the SOAS History Blog as part of a programme of articles to celebrate Pride month 2022. The article can be read online here.