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Bangladeshis in Italy  

Andrea Priori

The Bangladeshi population in Italy boomed in 1990, spreading from Rome and forming local enclaves shaped by migration chains; it is the second-largest Bangladeshi group in Europe and sees a preponderance of Sunni Muslims, a large majority of working-age men, and poor access of women to employment. Although both Italian institutions and migrant associations promoted a monolithic image of the “Bangladeshi community” as a category of political visibility, Italian Bangladeshis present considerable variety in terms of geographic origin and ideological affiliations and important differences in terms of social origins between endangered middle classes and urban middle classes with steady economic situations. Interaction with the Italian institutions results in further differentiation between “legal” and undocumented migrants, which overlaps, in part, with that between those in northern Italy, where Bangladeshi workers are generally entitled to full rights, and those in Rome and the south, where the informal economy is widespread. The large presence of undocumented working-age men fuels marginality and exploitation, both by natives and co-nationals. Patronage relations between co-nationals are crucial in providing access to emigration, housing, and employment and add to the dynamics of self-organization, especially in the case of secular associations. A peculiar characteristic of Italian Bangladeshis is the tendency to form mononational organizations (both secular and Islamic) that proliferate by virtue of scissions, along with transnationalism and entrepreneurship. In contrast, the new generation tends to move beyond communal introversion and transnationalism, but this is limited to only those with promising careers. Even among young people, extensive areas of marginality exist; this results in the persistence of attitudes typical of the migrant generation and reproduces among those who grew up in Italy the distinction, characteristic of the situation of the migrants, between those who have been successfully incorporated into Italian society and those suffering social exclusion.

Article

Feminism in Japan  

Barbara Molony

Japan’s first movement for civil rights emerged in the 1870s, and a small number of women were part of it. Women’s legal status was significantly inferior to men’s in the pre–World War II era, and feminists struggled for decades to improve it. Their activism in transnational organizations often gave them a voice they did not have at home. For example, the Japanese branch of the International Woman’s Christian Temperance Union worked to end international sex trafficking, licensed prostitution, and marital inequality. The Japanese cultural world took a feminist turn in the second decade of the 20th century. Increasing numbers of women entered the classroom as teachers, nurses served on the battlefield and in hospitals, and actresses performed in plays like A Doll’s House. Many of these women were called “New Women,” and an explicitly women’s rights organization, founded in 1919, called itself the New Woman’s Association. When the Tokyo earthquake killed 100,000 people and destroyed millions of homes in 1923, women’s organizations of all types—Christian, Buddhist, alumnae, housewives, and socialists—coalesced to carry out earthquake relief. The following year, several of those groups decided to address women’s political rights. The Women’s Suffrage League grew from this collaboration in 1924. Annual Women’s Suffrage Conferences brought together women of diverse organizations from 1930 to 1937. In the 1920s and early 1930s, Japanese feminists also made their voices heard through transnational organizations, including the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the Young Women’s Christian Association, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and the Pan-Pacific Women’s Association. When Japanese militarism at home and abroad repressed freedom of expression in the 1930s, feminist groups continued to meet, turning to community activism (like improving municipal utilities) and nonthreatening feminist legislation (the Mother-Child Protection Law of 1937). During World War II, many feminists accepted government advisory positions to improve the lives of women and families, viewing this as a step toward greater political integration. By the 1980s, however, feminists strongly critiqued prewar feminists for collaboration with the wartime government. Women voted for the first time in 1946. In 1947, the new Constitution granted equal rights, the new Civil Code eradicated most of the patriarchal provisions of the 1898 Civil Code, and the Labor Standards Law called for equal pay for equal work. Nevertheless, women continued to face discrimination in the workplace, at home, and even in the law. Feminists supported the United Nations International Women’s Year (1975) with vigor. Since then, they have successfully advocated for strengthened employment and child-care leave laws as well as anti–domestic violence laws. But gender-neutral legislation has been hotly contested and has led to a backlash against feminism in general.

Article

Feminist Student Movement in Japan 1945–1975  

Anna Vittinghoff

Contrary to the common notion that depicts Japanese postwar student activism, and leftist activism more broadly, as being predominantly male, female activists within these movements played more than just supporting roles. Upon closer inspection of modern Japanese history, it becomes evident that female students were integral to and contributed in multiple ways to campus-based activism across Japan, ultimately pushing the liberatory discourse beyond schools, colleges, and universities into everyday life in the 1970s. During Japan’s nation-building project of the prewar period, sex-segregated education was a direct expression of the binary division of the site of activity between men and women. However, in the postwar period the introduction of coeducation and the subsequent student movement ultimately formed the hotbed for the women’s liberation movement of the early 1970s and the fundamental challenge it posed to the masculine bias of modern Japanese society. The experiences of female student activists across Japan were an important catalyst for feminist movements of the following decades because they not only highlighted the gendered discrimination of postwar Japanese society but also the necessity of an intersectional analysis of the systems of power at play.

Article

Gender and Demography in Asia (India and China)  

Ravinder Kaur

China and India together account for over one-third of the world’s population and both countries have considerably fewer women than men.. With long histories of skewed sex ratios and gender discrimination, these two countries have experienced a sharp decline in the birth of girls since the late 20th century. The unfolding and intimate relationship between gendered social structures, son preference, fertility decline, and new sex determination technologies has had serious demographic and social consequences, resulting in millions of “missing” girls, surplus males, bride shortages, and possibly, rising levels of gender violence. Even as women’s socio-economic indicators such as life expectancy, literacy, education, and fertility have improved, families continue to show a preference for sons raising questions between the tenuous relationship between development and gender equality. The advantages of raising sons over daughters, supported by traditional kinship, family, and marriage systems, appear to have got further entrenched in the era of neoliberal economies. Family planning policies of both nations, advocating small families, and the advent of pre-natal sex selection technologies further set the stage for the prevention of birth of daughters. Governments in both countries have since banned sex determination and launched policies and schemes to redress the gender imbalance and improve the value of the girl child. While these policies have not been highly successful, other social forces such as urbanization and rising educational levels are beginning to transform the way girls are perceived. A kernel of hope seems to be emerging at the beginning of the 21st century, as some improvement is visible in the sex ratio at birth in some of the worst affected regions in the two countries.

Article

Gender and Social Life in Imperial China  

Weijing Lu

Social life in imperial China was structured on the Confucian gender principles of the separation of male and female and the division of “inner and outer” spheres. Homosociality prevailed while heterosociality was limited. Homosociality dominated the forms and manners of social interaction. Men moved around freely and faced little constraint in forging relationships and networks, while women were largely homebound and secluded. In general, women enjoyed more physical freedom in earlier imperial times than in late imperial China, when seclusion of women intensified thanks to the rise of the female chastity cult and the spread of the practice of foot-binding. But even in the late imperial period, women were able to form networks and communities, in person or by means of writing. Local traditions and stages in the life cycle influenced women’s lived experiences of socialization, and class also played an important part in social life for both men and women. For example, education and a government career provided main venues for elite male socialization but for the men in lower social classes, their networks were built around localized institutions such as temple associations, sworn brotherhood, secret societies, and native place association.

Article

Masculinities in Bangladesh: 'Sofol Purush' as Hegemonic Masculinity Model at the State Level  

Sayed Saikh Imtiaz

The emergence and reproduction of hegemonic masculinities in state-level institutional practices in a developing country like Bangladesh are still underresearched. Since its independence Bangladesh has gone through different periods of political turmoil leading to several autocratic regimes. After the fall of General Ershad in 1990, the country started a renewed journey to democracy and electoral politics. Over the years, the corrupt political processes interacting with modernization and different nationalist projects have resulted in a patron-client system that resulted in a new gender order. This gender order celebrates the creation of the sofol purush model as a symbol of power and status and thus constitutes hegemonic masculinity. Although this hegemonic masculinity model does not correspond to any particular man, it could sustain itself by dominating the ideas and fantasies of young men across classes in general. The discursive construction of the sofol purush model and corresponding institutional mechanisms to embody such a model refer to a situation in which young men, in general, find a place for them to be a sofol purush, although in reality, only a very few of them could achieve the attributes. Nevertheless, as most young men endorse the model in one way or another, sofol purush as a hegemonic masculinity model is reproduced and sustained.

Article

Sex Work during the Tokugawa Era  

Elizabeth D. Lublin

In the early 1600s, the Tokugawa shogunate licensed prostitution as one of many policies that it implemented to establish order and to consolidate its control over a once war-torn Japan. The system that emerged confined legal sex work by women and girls to designated quarters, enclosed by walls and with their gates tightly regulated. The prostitutes within overwhelmingly came from impoverished commoner families who sold their daughters into indentured servitude to secure cash advances critical to their own survival. These transactions escaped condemnation due to the belief that girls so sold were fulfilling their filial duty. The absence of any stigma associated with officially authorized sex work conversely drew scores of men to the licensed quarters, and rapid expansion of the commercial sector of the economy, the increasing use of cash, and urbanization produced a commoner class able to vie with samurai, their political and supposed social superiors, for the affections of licensed prostitutes. By the 18th century, the licensed quarters had become destinations for the masses, integral components of the urban economy, and both site of and subject matter for a flourishing early modern culture. The very existence of the quarters helped to legitimize prostitution and, together with growing economic stratification, stimulated demand for cheaper sex. Sex work proliferated legally in the licensed quarters with female prostitutes and both semiofficially and illicitly in cities, market towns, ports, and post stations around Japan, with women and men and girls and boys selling and being sold for sex. While the shogunate tried to regulate clandestine female sex work where it could and periodically imposed harsh penalties where systematic oversight proved elusive, it largely turned a blind eye to male sex work. The vast majority of clients of male prostitutes were men themselves, and sexual relations between men not only had been a common practice within samurai society for centuries but also did not threaten the sanctity of the family or challenge gender norms. While the shogunate largely overlooked sex work with foreigners as well during the early Tokugawa period, beginning in the 1640s and coincident with restrictions on foreign trade, it sanctioned sexual labor but only by licensed brothel prostitutes. The easing of those restrictions through treaties in the 1850s and the influx of foreigners prompted the opening of legal brothels and quarters just for non-Japanese. Much more so than prostitutes with only Japanese clients, those servicing the foreign population were stigmatized by Japanese and foreigners, with the latter linking them to the threat of syphilis.

Article

Tobacco, Cigarettes, and Women’s Status in Modern China  

Carol Benedict

Cigarette smoking in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is a highly gendered practice. The vast majority of China’s three hundred million plus smokers are men: in 2016, about 48 percent of men over age 15 were current smokers, but less than 2 percent of women smoked. The stark difference in this pattern of men and women’s smoking behavior is often attributed to lingering cultural taboos against female smoking assumed to have been in place for centuries. In fact, the virtual exclusivity of male smoking in China is of relatively recent vintage, dating only from the mid-1900s. From the 17th to the 19th centuries, smoking was socially acceptable for Chinese women. Granted, there were gendered and class differences in the location of tobacco consumption. Chinese men could smoke in public, but well-mannered women smoked privately out of view. After cigarettes were introduced into China at the end of the 19th century, some women, especially those living in coastal cities, took to smoking them rather than pipe tobacco. In the opening decades of the 20th century, the number of women who smoked cigarettes increased, but this trend was reversed in the 1930s and 1940s. After the establishment of the PRC in 1949, the number of women who smoked diminished even further such that by the 1980s, only a small percentage of women consumed tobacco products of any kind. Many social, economic, and cultural factors contributed to the gendered pattern of smoking that emerged in China over the course of the 20th century. An essential aspect of this history was the transformation in social norms that made cigarette smoking less rather than more respectable for women as time went on. At the beginning of the century, many women were already accustomed to smoking pipe tobacco. Some women, including those who identified as forward-looking “New Women,” preferred cigarettes. However, by mid-century cigarettes came to be widely associated with a stigmatized type of New Woman known as the “Modern Girl.” Portrayed in popular culture and political rhetoric alike as extravagant and sexually promiscuous, the Modern Girl’s pursuit of luxury came to symbolize bourgeois decadence and insufficient national loyalty. These associations came forward into the PRC period and as a result, most women born after 1949 elected not to smoke at all. Major differences in male and female smoking prevalence rates persist because female smoking remains objectionable to many Chinese citizens in the 21st century.