A Dialogue Across Generations: Ueno Chizuko’s Conversation with Younger Feminists Inspires Reexamination of Women’s Lives

  ”It is very important for women to have options.” In February 2023, a video of a conversation between Japanese feminist scholar Ueno Chizuko (1948— ) and three girls who graduated from Peking University caused a sensation on the Internet Discussions, so that free and open feminism moves from the academic hall to the public view, allowing women to rethink their own situation and examine their own unique value. With her gentle and firm words and deeds, Chizuko Ueno uncovered the “mysterious veil” that the secular society put on women, created a space of free choice, and allowed women to pursue a different self and experience an “undefined life”. Life”.
Have the freedom to submit any answer sheet: tear off the label without being defined

  Chizuko Ueno was born in a Christian family in Kamicho, Nakashinkawa County, Toyama Prefecture, Japan. At that time, the social atmosphere was that there was a prejudice against women receiving higher education, and women would be excluded from participating in social work. When Ueno was in high school, her father sent her to a school aimed at cultivating high-quality housewives. At that time, the pure Ueno did not have a sense of feminism, but just wanted to get rid of the pressure brought by marriage and family. After graduating from high school, she rejected her father’s suggestion to let her study at Kobe Women’s College, and resolutely entered Kyoto University. During college, she devoted herself to the student movement with enthusiasm, but as a woman, she was never able to stand in the center of the stage and shine, but could only faintly appear as a bystander. These personal experiences made her gradually realize that there is discrimination and oppression against women in Japanese society. In her own words, it is precisely because of her personal anger and unfair treatment that she has suffered that she has become a feminist without hesitation. embarked on the journey of helping women “awaken”. She strives to awaken the female group by holding lectures, accepting interviews, and writing books, etc., and actively fights for their rights. In Ueno’s mind, feminism means that women can think freely, have the right to choose their own way of life, and live freely.
  The essence of feminism lies in “free choice” and “not being defined”. When someone asked about the special meaning of Ueno’s red hair, she replied frankly: “The reason why I chose red is because my hair is slowly graying, and I want to dye it. But I don’t want golden yellow , because I don’t want to look like a Westerner.… Having said that, green, blue, and purple may also be good choices.” This kind of free and easy way of “living freely” according to one’s own ideas is precisely Ueno’s pursuit and true portrayal of free choice. She once said frankly: “I am very clear that what I pursue is not equality, but freedom. What we need is not to pursue ideas without differences, but to think freely even if differences exist; even if we are different from others, we will not be discriminated against. treated badly.”
“Misogyny”: Exposing the Situation of Women in a Patriarchal Society

  ”About 20 years ago, I co-authored “Theory of Men’s Literature” with Tomioka Takeko and Ogura Chikako. At the beginning of that book, I used Yoshiyuki Junnosuke as a knife because I had a lot of resentment towards him. Although I did not I have been sexually harassed by Yoshiyuki himself, but I can’t help but bear the words of sexual harassment from Yoshiyuki’s male readers. They said to me, “Go read Yoshiyuki! You will understand women after reading it.” This passage came from Ueno 20 years later Misogyny, a book that revisits male misogyny. The book relies on the theoretical progress of gender studies, especially “Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Sexual Desire” by American scholar Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. Ueno once clearly pointed out in a lecture at Rikkyo University: “In Japan, gender studies are regarded as ‘second-rate knowledge’, but I think that in the world of learning, there is no shame in borrowing from others. The key is who to learn from and How to connect what you learned. The scholar named Sedgwick explained the trinity of male solidarity, homophobia, and misogyny. Rather than simply introducing these concepts, my book focuses on How to apply these ideas to Japanese gender studies.”
  The so-called “misogyny”, in the words of Ueno, can be translated as “men hate women”, but this kind of “misogyny” is devoted to women themselves through the eyes of men , it becomes women’s “self-loathing”, regards themselves as “others”, tends to assimilate with men’s gaze, encourages patriarchal domination, and so on. Once this book was published, Ueno was asked by many people such a question: “If there is a gay society for men, is there a gay society for women?” The answer given by many people, including Sedgwick, is “Yes “, but Ueno’s answer was “No”. Starting from the value scales given by women and men, she used extremely professional terms to explain why women cannot gain independence in a same-sex society.
  ”I can’t be a feminist without being misogynistic. My mother was my negative example, and when I saw my mother wasn’t happy at all, I thought, if I’m a woman, I’m going to be like my mother. I would find it difficult to accept it.” Starting from his own family environment, Ueno personally realized the pain of being a woman struggling between “misogyny” and feminism.
The contest between two women: looking forward to “encounter” again

  When he was young, Ueno naively believed that when children grow up, they will live like their parents. Like most Japanese men, his father is a typical male chauvinist who firmly believes that “men dominate outside and women dominate inside”. Her mother is a hard-working full-time housewife, which has virtually become a negative example for Ueno. When she realized she would grow up to live the same life as her mother, she felt “this is too bad, I can’t take it”. Although there is a traditional concept of patriarchal patriarchy, Ueno did not suffer any grievances in his childhood. On the contrary, his father loved his daughter very much, and he was only very strict with his sons. However, Ueno, who is naturally keen, still feels that this is actually a kind of “indirect discrimination”. Because of strict discipline, her brothers have achieved better results than her in academics and careers, and have become excellent medical experts. She was “not expected to do anything”.

  Just because she is a daughter, her parents have no requirements for her, and she can do “whatever she wants”, but Ueno gradually realized that her father’s favor is similar to a kind of “love for pets”. The existence of the “gender gap” has also greatly challenged the relationship between her and her mother. The gap comes from the different ways the two deal with things. My mother grew up in a traditional social environment. Although she complained, she was powerless to change. This is how Ueno watched his mother bear the burden of humiliation, and understood that if he did not have subjective initiative, it would be difficult to obtain happiness. Although she thought so in her heart, she didn’t sit down with her mother to communicate properly at that time, and the usual communication between the mother and daughter was only on the surface. When Ueno was 40 years old, his mother died of cancer, which became the biggest regret in Ueno’s heart. So she especially hopes that parents can get rid of the shackles of “the identity of parents”, because when parents are free, their children are also free.

  In addition to regretting that he could not have a good communication with his mother at that time, Ueno also deeply regretted that he could not have a real “confrontation” with his mother when she was young and strong. When she came back to her senses, her mother had become a For advanced cancer patients, it becomes very difficult to fight against the weak. In Ueno’s view, if the mother can let go of the identity of “mother” as a woman, and another mature woman (Ueno himself) who is no longer a “daughter” can meet again and meet again, fully tolerate and recognize the differences between the two sides If so, it couldn’t be better.
The ending of “one person”: optimistic, free and easy, fulfilling and wealthy

  ”Whether you are married or not, no matter who you are, you will be alone in the end.” Ueno pointedly stated the true ending of life. According to survey statistics, the proportion of elderly women aged 65 and over in Japan who do not have a significant other is 55%, while the proportion of men who do not have a significant other is only 17%, which is a far cry from the two. Ueno once said, “The 21st century is the century of obasan (meaning grandma in Japanese)”. How should the long-lived “Opassan” deal with various problems in life? Of course, you can neither rely on your children nor your spouse, but rely on yourself, plan according to your own environment, ability and resources, and arrange a person’s life properly with a mature attitude and a cheerful mood.
  In March 2023, Ueno published an article titled “The Bride of 15 Hours”, responding to criticisms on the Internet about her “secret marriage”, “violating women’s rights”, and “falling from the altar”. She admitted that she had a “registered marriage relationship” with Daikichi Irokawa, and that her choice of marriage was related to the difficulties in handling various procedures that she faced as a friend’s long-term caregiver. In order to facilitate the formalities and funeral arrangements, Ueno finally submitted a marriage application. Due to the implementation of the same surname system for couples after marriage in Japan, Irokawa changed his surname to Ueno for this reason. From the filing of the marriage application to the death of Irokawa, the two were actually only married for 15 hours. In this article, Ueno’s direct response to marriage is rare, and the text is more about the care of elderly people living alone in Japan. Irokawa, who was 23 years older than her, lived alone in his later years and had to live in a wheelchair for three years because of a broken femur. As a friend, she provided care work during this period until Irokawa’s death. Ueno said: “With the long-term care, the decline has become a process visible to the naked eye. Mr. Irokawa and I have talked about his death many times. I (legally) are completely outside his relationship. Even death There was no way to submit the certificate application form, and when it came to a critical moment, the admission or operation consent form could not be signed, so I thoroughly felt the fact that family members are given priority in various procedures.” Ueno’s previous works The work also addresses caregiving issues in the elderly living alone, and how to cope with death at home. Ueno, who is in her 70s, took care of Mr. Sekawa, who was in her 90s, to the end of her life, and she was also practicing her elderly care theory, so much so that Sekawa joked that Ueno was practicing the core part of her theory.
  Back in the summer 25 years ago, a man and a woman could often be seen in the southern foot of Yatsugatake—the feminist standard-bearer Chizuko Ueno and a man more than 20 years older than her. “Since then, she has set off from Bunkyo Ward, where the University of Tokyo is located, two or three times a month, and galloped on Chuo Avenue in her own BMW late at night. male.” (from the dictation of a person from the University of Tokyo) “At that time, Mr. Irokawa had a wife, and was ridiculed by the people around him as an ‘immoral relationship’, and the relationship between the two was soon known by his wife.” (From an acquaintance) Even so, Ueno went forward bravely. In October 1997, he purchased about 300 ping of land at the foot of Mount Yatsugatake. In August of the following year, he and Irokawa jointly built a two-story wooden single-family house. Irokawa, who was 73 years old at the time, donated part of a house in Hachioji City, where he and his wife lived together, to his wife and moved to Yatsugatake.
  Since Irokawa received home care services in his later years, “Ueno also said, ‘In this case, Irokawa can’t eat a lot of delicious food, so I’ll make it for him’…Since Irokawa can’t drive, she said, ‘That I’ll be your driver'”. (Dictation from nearby residents) Until September 7, 2021, Chizuko Ueno will be the last one to nurse Irokawa.
  After the death of Mr. Irokawa, several media offered to interview Ueno, but she declined all of them, because she hadn’t come out of her sad mood at that time, and she didn’t want to sell her important privacy. Half a year later, the people who were planning to hold Mr. Irokawa’s memorial service invited Ueno to write articles. Since he could not refuse people’s kindness, Ueno wrote a short article entitled “Mr. Irokawa, Thank You”, in which there is a sentence like this: “Can It is very lucky for me to spend time with this person in his later years….Especially for me who did not have a family, it is you, Mr. Irokawa who can make such a deep impression on me.” Ueno The sincere feelings for Irokawa are beyond words.
Dialogue of different lives: from “contradiction and conflict” to “understanding and change”

  ”Limits mean the dividing line with no way ahead, the bottom line that does not allow further progress, the limit of endurance, the limit of physical strength, the limit of cognition, and the limit of breakthrough… After thinking about it in this way, I realized that the life of these years The world is located within the boundary, and the world I should embrace from now on is outside the limit.” This passage of life philosophy comes from a year-long letter collection between Ueno Chizuko and the popular post-80s Japanese writer Suzuki Ryomi. One is a pioneer of contemporary feminism, and the other is a “rebellious” writer who lives a life shuttling between day and night. Two women with different backgrounds start from different perspectives, focusing on love and sex, mother-daughter relationship, and workplace. 12 topics closely related to the current cultural context, launched a cross-time and space dialogue starting from “contradictions and conflicts” and leading to “understanding and change”. Compared with the logical Ueno, Suzuki is more like an ordinary girl living in a muddy swamp, confused by this generation of women “even though they are stepping up at work, they still have a desire for romantic love.”
  The communication between Chizuko Ueno and Ryomi Suzuki began in May 2020, which was the first spring of the outbreak of the new crown pneumonia epidemic. At that time, many people in it had reached a certain limit, as described in the book Saying: “Whether it is economic or spiritual, many people’s anxiety has reached the limit.” In the era of big data, they collided with sparks in the form of letters, presenting a deep dialogue mode of introspection for current readers.
  ”A smart mother will suffocate the child. Smartness means ‘mother knows everything about you’. So the child loses breathing space and is exposed to a transparent vision. There is no way to escape and nowhere to hide.” Ueno is very grateful for himself She was able to have her mother’s “upright love” since she was a child, so that she could freely explore the way of survival under the watchful eyes full of trust and love; she envied Suzuki Ryomi for having an extremely intelligent mother who could give her intellectual guidance, but the same I can imagine the pressure of growing up that Suzuki faces all the time—when a smart mother sees through everything about you, the sense of suffocation with nowhere to escape can be seen everywhere. The effect of force is often reciprocal. Suzuki Ryomi, a smart daughter, also stabbed her mother’s “Achilles heel” fiercely with the sharpest “weapon”, repaying the pain twice at any cost. This kind of emotional confrontation may be one of the reasons why Ueno chose not to be a mother. On the issue of mother-daughter relationship, the two have formed an interesting intertextuality.
  ”Male friends will leave one by one, but female friends will not. But in any case, they will be alone in the end. The difference is only sooner or later. Whether it is marriage or family, it is not a guarantee for women’s life. After all, from marriage Women who have ‘graduated’ with their families will have a deep understanding of this.” This ending of “homelessness” later became the best solution for her to rest her soul with books. It is such a blessing to read and write alone in the space of the reading room.” Ueno humorously mentioned his solution to buying land and the problem of women buying real estate, which is like an extension of the problem of “a room of one’s own” raised by Virginia Woolf many years ago. Then at least you can enjoy time happily alone in your own room.
  At the end of the back-and-forth, Chizuko Ueno says that men generally don’t read her books, but then adds that she, too, wants to know how men will feel after reading her books. Ueno and Suzuki more or less sketched two images of men in their correspondence, one appeared as the opposite of women, and the other appeared as women’s defenders. If the former image gave them the desire to fight, then the latter’s self-righteousness also made them feel extremely awkward. When these two images have become their structural understanding of all male voices, how can any male voice achieve the independence of his own subject in their overall structural understanding? Even if you can’t say the words “trembling like walking on thin ice” in a rather hypocritical way, the feeling of self-conscious embarrassment is still lingering, although many writers often turn a deaf ear to other people’s evaluations. As Ueno said when talking about the topic of feminism: “I cannot be defined by the so-called ‘female’ label, I am just myself.” The core meaning of real “feminism” is to let women have The freedom not to be bound by external standards, to be able to follow their own hearts and truly be themselves.

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