Medium Post #2
Why is Tsurumi’s argument about the importance of Japanese women’s labor power to nation-building an important intervention to week 1’s theorizations of nationalism? On the flip side, what experiences might focusing too much on this point occlude?
In Tsurumi’s book, she first presented women’s importance as the “spark” to Industrialization in Japan during the Meiji Era. In her introduction, she claimed that the silk/cotton processing industry could only thrive by the women’s “fingertip skills.” In her piece, she implied the injustice female workers faced at that time suggested by her argument of their low wage and the ignorance of their side of the story.
At first glance, Tsurumi’s argument slants towards McClinton’s view on nationalism. In her piece, Tsurumi claimed that the women are “victims,” which coincides with McClinton’s idea of how a nation is formed partially on the gender inequalities and the exploitation of the weaker class. As Tsurumi claimed that the females are victimized, her theory contradicts Anderson’s imagined community where he asserts, “regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship.” By viewing the ones sent to the textile industries as “victims” and the company as “victimizers,” the sense of nationality within the people thins, creating a bond solely consisted of “human-less” exploits.
Continuing, the piece, however, revealed a trend that may be perplexing: the women whom people would commonly deem “victims” rarely hold grudges against the companies they work for. Dismissing my first thought of this being a mass case of the Stockholm Syndrome, I realized that this resulted from our difference in perception of “peace.” With enough to eat, clothes to wear, and a decent shelter is considered bliss during their times. Thus, when their whole family’s well-being and languor are put on a scale, it is normal for them to choose the former and work in the factories. As suggested by the verse in the song: “Boys to the army,/Girls to the factory./Reeling silk is for the nation too,” the women believed that it is not only expected but essential for women to work in factories. The wide acceptance of the seemly ridiculous behavior became legitimized, resulting in the women’s lack of resistance or even unconsciousness to being exploited. In conclusion, as opposed to the theory on exploited people being essential to nationalism, the Japanese women during the Meiji Era do not believe in being exploited; instead, they are thankful for the textile industry’s work to earn enough money to feed their family.