because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Kishida Toshiko

When Kishida Toshiko was eighteen in 1881, she was so smart, refined and intelligent that she was chosen to tutor the Empress of Japan in literature. The problem was that her intelligence actually got in the way of her doing her job. So a year later, disgusted by the differences in men's and women's freedoms, she pretended to be sick to get out of her job and started speaking on women's rights instead.

In almost no time, she became famous for a speech she was busy delivering entitled "Daughters in a Box" -- about how well-intentioned Japanese parents were doing their daughters great harm by hiding them away and teaching them absolute and unquestioning obedience to authority. Unfortunately, the "authorities" didn't like the young in-your-face woman's speech. In fact, they disliked it so much, they arrested Toshiko, fined her, and locked her up for a while.

Even after Toshiko married a young politician, police continued to harass her, but Toshiko was unmoved. She wrote. She spoke. And she wrote some more. About women's rights and need for education. And most especially about the double standard related to sex. Men could have sex outside their marriage without risking divorce for adultery, while women most certainly could not.

Toshiko was convinced that equal rights for men and women would strengthen not only the home, but the nation. The politicians, however, disagreed and delayed until the 1920's the social change for which Toshiko called. The sad part of this was that Kishida Toshiko died of tuberculosis in 1901 so she didn't get to see the day when young Japanese women were finally able "to tread wherever their feet might lead and stretch their arms as wide as they wish," as she had suggested in "Daughters in a Box." In-your-face women don't always get to see the results of their work, but they know what those results will look like.

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