Modern Butterfly: American Perceptions of Japanese Women and their Role in International Relations, 1945–1960


Mettler, Meghan Warner. 2014. "Modern Butterfly: American Perceptions of Japanese Women and their Role in International Relations, 1945–1960." Journal of Women's History 26 (4): 60-82.

Author: Meghan Warner Mettler


This article explores white Americans’ understanding of women’s rights in Japan during the U.S. post-WWII occupation (1945–1961). In contrast to many Hollywood films of the time that held up submissive Japanese women as models for their more assertive American counterparts, some U.S. women instead insisted it was Japanese women who had much to learn from them in terms of feminism. However, to do so meant looking past their own gender constraints while ignoring a rather active and robust Japanese feminist movement. As such, American women echoed imperialist assumptions that a woman’s position was inevitably worse under a backward Asian nation than in an inherently progressive Western nation. This article contributes to discussions of the role gender plays in foreign policy, as well as how efforts at feminist solidarity across international borders can be hindered by power discrepancies in terms of race and nationality.

Topics: Feminisms, Gender, Women, Political Participation, Race Regions: Americas, North America, Asia Countries: Japan, United States of America

Year: 2014

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