Surviving Female Gender Roles
What defines being ‘feminine’ will vary with each culture, but two archetypes: passive homemaker and liberal feminist have existed for centuries as one will see in two Japanese stories written in the 17th century. In The Love Suicides at Amijima, readers see the social chains that bind a submissive woman to her societal duties. On the other hand, in Tales of Sensuous Women, readers are shown a complete opposite archetype where women find ways to circumvent the social expectations that have been imposed upon them. Although four hundred or so years have passed since these stories were written, modern women these days still have a number of societal restrictions that make them less liberated than their male counterparts which brings us to question who “society” actually is and whether or not it has correct or faulty judgment regarding gender roles. The female characters in The Love Suicides at Amijima are examples of the passive and supportive archetype. The female protagonist, Koharu, comes from the lower class in 17th century Japan, a time defined by the samurai and social hierarchies. Koharu is a prostitute who is in love with a merchant class individual named Jihei. Because of her weak social leverage, her male clients can disrespect her as Tahei does when he says: “this is the Koharu I’ve confided to you about – the good-hearted, good-natured, good-in-bed Koharu. Will I soon be the lucky man and get Koharu for my wife?” (49). Koharu keeps her composure and merely scolds Tahei for judging a person without personally knowing them. Even today, it’s typical that a female would be more composed in order to keep up her feminine appearances. Showing aggression toward Koharu would be a masculine trait. Later in the story, Koharu reveals to readers that her lover, Jihei has decided to “purchase” her for himself with the only problem being he can’t afford it. Koharu is concerned about Jihei’s reputation when she says, “if...
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