Contesting images of gender: reexamining Mizoguchi Kenji’s Sisters of the Gion for the twenty-first century

Kelly Jean Hansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Japan today is known for one of the lowest levels of gender equality in the developed world. Orientalist perceptions of feminine beauty, both domestically and internationally, frequently contribute to this gender gap by privileging nostalgic images of women who conform to premodern values. This study examines Mizoguchi Kenji’s well-known 1936 film Sisters of the Gion (Gion no shimai), a work that has gained a new audience in the twenty-first century through release on DVD. I propose that re-examining this film as a loose adaptation of Aleksandr Kuprin’s portrayal of prostitution in his early twentieth- century Russian novel Yama: The Pit (1909–1915) can expose these contesting images of nostalgia and gender inequality. Centered on the geisha world of the 1930s, Sisters of the Gion depicts the struggles faced by women whose existence depends on the whims of men. When considered alongside Yama, the film becomes not simply a depiction of an outdated geisha system, but a broader statement of the inability of women to attain any degree of autonomy in a world where premodern patriarchal values continue to govern social norms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Japanese and Korean Cinema
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2 2017

Fingerprint

twenty-first century
gender
image of women
DVD
Videodisks
nostalgia
prostitution
Social Norms
beauty
Values
equality
twentieth century
autonomy
Japan
Sister
Premodern
Autonomy
Gender Equality
Orientalist
Nostalgia

Keywords

  • geisha
  • gender equality
  • Japan
  • Mizoguchi Kenji
  • Orientalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Communication

Cite this

Contesting images of gender : reexamining Mizoguchi Kenji’s Sisters of the Gion for the twenty-first century. / Jean Hansen, Kelly.

In: Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema, Vol. 9, No. 1, 02.01.2017, p. 1-13.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{bf1ea9718dbe47dc9421343d6342a3d1,
title = "Contesting images of gender: reexamining Mizoguchi Kenji’s Sisters of the Gion for the twenty-first century",
abstract = "Japan today is known for one of the lowest levels of gender equality in the developed world. Orientalist perceptions of feminine beauty, both domestically and internationally, frequently contribute to this gender gap by privileging nostalgic images of women who conform to premodern values. This study examines Mizoguchi Kenji’s well-known 1936 film Sisters of the Gion (Gion no shimai), a work that has gained a new audience in the twenty-first century through release on DVD. I propose that re-examining this film as a loose adaptation of Aleksandr Kuprin’s portrayal of prostitution in his early twentieth- century Russian novel Yama: The Pit (1909–1915) can expose these contesting images of nostalgia and gender inequality. Centered on the geisha world of the 1930s, Sisters of the Gion depicts the struggles faced by women whose existence depends on the whims of men. When considered alongside Yama, the film becomes not simply a depiction of an outdated geisha system, but a broader statement of the inability of women to attain any degree of autonomy in a world where premodern patriarchal values continue to govern social norms.",
keywords = "geisha, gender equality, Japan, Mizoguchi Kenji, Orientalism",
author = "{Jean Hansen}, Kelly",
year = "2017",
month = "1",
day = "2",
doi = "10.1080/17564905.2017.1292098",
language = "English",
volume = "9",
pages = "1--13",
journal = "Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema",
issn = "1756-4905",
publisher = "Taylor and Francis Ltd.",
number = "1",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Contesting images of gender

T2 - reexamining Mizoguchi Kenji’s Sisters of the Gion for the twenty-first century

AU - Jean Hansen, Kelly

PY - 2017/1/2

Y1 - 2017/1/2

N2 - Japan today is known for one of the lowest levels of gender equality in the developed world. Orientalist perceptions of feminine beauty, both domestically and internationally, frequently contribute to this gender gap by privileging nostalgic images of women who conform to premodern values. This study examines Mizoguchi Kenji’s well-known 1936 film Sisters of the Gion (Gion no shimai), a work that has gained a new audience in the twenty-first century through release on DVD. I propose that re-examining this film as a loose adaptation of Aleksandr Kuprin’s portrayal of prostitution in his early twentieth- century Russian novel Yama: The Pit (1909–1915) can expose these contesting images of nostalgia and gender inequality. Centered on the geisha world of the 1930s, Sisters of the Gion depicts the struggles faced by women whose existence depends on the whims of men. When considered alongside Yama, the film becomes not simply a depiction of an outdated geisha system, but a broader statement of the inability of women to attain any degree of autonomy in a world where premodern patriarchal values continue to govern social norms.

AB - Japan today is known for one of the lowest levels of gender equality in the developed world. Orientalist perceptions of feminine beauty, both domestically and internationally, frequently contribute to this gender gap by privileging nostalgic images of women who conform to premodern values. This study examines Mizoguchi Kenji’s well-known 1936 film Sisters of the Gion (Gion no shimai), a work that has gained a new audience in the twenty-first century through release on DVD. I propose that re-examining this film as a loose adaptation of Aleksandr Kuprin’s portrayal of prostitution in his early twentieth- century Russian novel Yama: The Pit (1909–1915) can expose these contesting images of nostalgia and gender inequality. Centered on the geisha world of the 1930s, Sisters of the Gion depicts the struggles faced by women whose existence depends on the whims of men. When considered alongside Yama, the film becomes not simply a depiction of an outdated geisha system, but a broader statement of the inability of women to attain any degree of autonomy in a world where premodern patriarchal values continue to govern social norms.

KW - geisha

KW - gender equality

KW - Japan

KW - Mizoguchi Kenji

KW - Orientalism

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85013175512&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=85013175512&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1080/17564905.2017.1292098

DO - 10.1080/17564905.2017.1292098

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:85013175512

VL - 9

SP - 1

EP - 13

JO - Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema

JF - Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema

SN - 1756-4905

IS - 1

ER -