Dangerous Women, Deadly Words: Phallic Fantasy and Modernity in Three Japanese Writers

By Nina Cornyetz | Go to book overview

SEVEN
(Un)reproductivities: Maternity and Sex

The 1947 Japanese constitution, which guaranteed gender equality and was promulgated during the American occupation, was undercut by, as Sandra Buckley wrote, "gender-based discrimination . . . across all levels of society throughout the postwar period."1 Regardless of the law, the de facto economic and sociopolitical subordination of women to men ensured that most women could neither support their own households nor ascend to the higher levels of their chosen professions. Rather, women's social participation continued to be restricted to maternal and spousal roles. Against the postwar sociocultural context of a fully naturalized restriction of women to the dual roles of wife and mother, with motherhood taking clear primacy,2 Enchi "Hebi no koe" (The snake's voice, 1970) conceives of a strikingly different mother-daughter relationship:

Shiga often quarreled with her daughter. The quarrels were intrinsically different from the sort that arise from the mutual indulgences mothers and daughters tend to grant each other. Shiga had assumed that human beings were born with a receptacle for love inside their hearts. She knew early on that her own receptacle housed a very meager share of such feelings. Even so, hers was like that of a two- quart flask when compared with the one that her daughter possessed--which was as tiny as a miniature doll's flask. Her daughter lacked even temporary empathy for Shiga. Though she never tired of usurping Shiga's authority, she didn't even visit her mother when Shiga was ill in the hospital.3

Shiga lacks the supposedly innate maternal instinct for unconditional love. The daughter, in turn, feels no deep gratitude toward or attachment

-104-

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