The Gender History Association of Japan (GHAJ) is a research organization dedicated to the study of various subjects in human history from a gender perspective. We have sought to understand the characteristics and mechanisms of gender and the various ways in which the concept has been constructed. Furthermore, we use international, interdisciplinary, and regional approaches in exploring a variety of subjects in gender history. By conducting comprehensive studies [of history] from a gender perspective, we attempt to reexamine conventional historical images and create new intellectual paradigms for the twenty-first century.

However, some media sources and political parties, persisting in one-sided moral theories, oppose the Basic Law for a Gender-Equal Society and the realization of a gender-equal society. They even attack the concept of gender and gender studies. We find this a grave situation.

The concept of gender, which emerged within the Women's Liberation Movement of the 1960s and ideological discussions [among the activists], has become a basic analytical concept in the humanities and social sciences. The establishment of the concept can be called an intellectual achievement and realization for women because they, who had been excluded from citizenship and defined as “Others" or The Second Sex in modern nation-states, have successfully constructed their own subjectivities and identities. Today, gender is widely recognized as a key concept or perspective essential for understanding the past and planning for the future of society, and this is a universal understanding shared by scholars and citizens regardless of their sex, not only in Western societies but also in all countries and regions of the world.

[From a gender perspective], modern Japanese history can be divided into the following periods: the pre-war period when Japanese women did not have the right to vote, a political right that people take for granted today, under the Constitution of the Empire of Japan; the period when women gained the right to vote under the [American occupation forces'] democratization policy after Japan's defeat in the war; the high economic growth period of the 1960s, when women became aware of the persistence of gender discrimination [in society] and started organizing the [women's rights] movement; and the period when women started new activities in tandem with international movements for women's rights, including the declaration of 1975 as the International Women's Year (IWY) by the United Nations and the adoptation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEADW) by the UN General Assembly in 1979. These women's continuous efforts led to the ratification of CEADW in Japan in 1985 and the establishment of the Basic Law for a Gender-Equal Society (BLGES) of 1999, which encouraged men and women to respect the other's rights and make efforts to form a peaceful and energetic society. The concept of gender and gender studies have made significant contributions to the passage of the BLGES and the formation of a gender-equal society.

It has been pointed out that to realize a gender-equal society, it is necessary to reexamine the division of gender roles, the cause of which appear to lie in the strict ideas about gender roles rooted in Japanese society. For example, compared to the situations in other countries, the number of hours men spend on housework is much smaller and the wage disparities between men and women are much greater in Japan. Focusing on the flexibility of gender on the vertical axis of history, the GHAJ has demonstrated that gender roles, which appear to be inflexible and essential at first sight, are actually flexible and inessential things constructed in specific historical contexts. Gender approach has also permitted scholars to show that the conservative rhetoric of “Japanese traditions" has often helped conceal various forms of gender biases existing in Japanese politics, economy, and culture. It is no exaggeration to say that gender studies in various fields, including those of the GHAJ, are providing academic support for the realization of a gender-equal society.

The GHAJ will not submit to some people who oppose the realization of a gender-equal society and attack the concept of gender and gender studies. By cooperating with gender studies-related academic organizations and institutions, the GHAJ will make further contributions to the promotion of scientific research and the future of human society.

August 15, 2005

Gender History Association of Japan Executive Board
c/o Hiroko Nagano
Department of Economics
Chuo University
Higashi Nakano 742-1, Hachioji-city, Tokyo 192-0393
Phone: 0426-74-3424 Fax: 0426-74-3425