Teaching "Comfort Women" Issues in Women's Studies Courses

By Stetz, Margaret D. | Radical Teacher, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

Teaching "Comfort Women" Issues in Women's Studies Courses


Stetz, Margaret D., Radical Teacher


Over the past ten years, Asian and Western feminists and human rights activists have created transnational coalitions to support the demands for redress by survivors of the Japanese military's "comfort system" of WWII. For nearly fifty years, the stories of these survivors--Asian women who were forced or coerced into brothels and sexually assaulted by thirty to forty soldiers a day over a period of months or years--were omitted from the history of the War; now the details of this systematic sexual abuse are being published everywhere, if not always in textbooks in Japan. But the survivors are no closer today to receiving official apologies or compensation from the government of Japan for their wartime sexual exploitation than they were a decade ago. Since the survivors came forward in the early 1990s, small bands of rightwing nationalists in Japan have loudly denied the truth of their accounts. Meanwhile, Japanese and Western judges alike have continued to dismiss their legal claims for reparations for the wa r crimes to which they were subjected. The former "comfort women (or "military sex slaves," as some prefer to be known) are now women in their seventies and eighties, who will probably never live to see justice done. Those who represent them in courts in Asia and the U. S., or who rake their cause to the global political stage--whether to the U. N., to the Hague Tribunals, or to the U. S. Congress, where two different pro-"comfort women" resolutions have been introduced and have languished--are unlikely to experience victory either.

On the other hand, those who have been and still are attempting to "represent" them in other ways--especially by creating, producing, and disseminating scholarly, or literary, or visual texts about their stories--have already been tremendously successful in making known both their past sufferings and their current political struggles. There is now a large body of material available in English, in a variety of media: documentary films, catalogues of multi-media installations and photo exhibitions, novels, nonfiction works combining historical data and analysis, and reproductions of drawings and paintings all focused on what the "comfort women" endured in the 1930s and 1940s and on how the few hundred remaining survivors live now. The oral testimonials and the written memoirs of many former "comfort women" themselves have begun to be translated and published in the U. S. (1) In addition, there are growing numbers of essays and, as in the case of my own 2001 volume, Legacies of the Comfort Women of WWII, co-edit ed with Bonnie B. C. Oh, books that now focus on recording and studying the phenomenon of feminist activism with and around the "comfort women." Such books tell the story of women and also of men building coalitions in the numerous countries throughout Asia--including Korea, the Philippines, Burma, China, Indonesia, Taiwan--from which the "comfort women were seized by the Japanese and joining not only with Australians and Americans of Asian and non-Asian descent, but with the numerous Japanese feminists who endorse the "comfort women's" claims.

I would like to argue for the importance of bringing this interdisciplinary, multi-racial, transnational material into Women's Studies courses, whether those on global feminist movements, women and war, Asian and Western feminisms, women and violence, women in the arts, women and politics, women's history; or in the introduction to Women's Studies as a field. My reasons for making this argument include those you may already expect. Certainly, teaching the story of the "comfort women" and of the organizing efforts that have grown up around them can help to express solidarity with women who deserve support; having a new generation of academics take their experiences of sexual violence seriously is the least that these women deserve as their due. Such teaching can have the side benefit, too, of demonstrating that (contrary to the standard anti-feminist line) feminist concerns are not primarily white, middle-class, or exclusively American. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Teaching "Comfort Women" Issues in Women's Studies Courses
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.