Sata Ineko and Hirabayashi Taiko: The Café and Jokyû as a Stage for Social Criticism
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Sedimentations of transformations and experiences empowered the 20th century writers Sata Ineko and Hirabayashi Taiko as writers. Because of their mutual belief in the early principles of the proletarian literary movement--writing the reality of the working class from their perspectives--both produced works centered on daily life. In not only delineating but also examining the daily occurrences, their stories and critiques acutely exposed the issues, the conditions, and the exploitation of the working class under capitalism, particularly the unfair and unreasonable treatment of women and women workers under the patriarchal slogan "Good Wives and Wise Mothers" and the discrimination of women workers and writers even within the proletarian movement. The café proved the best site for both to offer keen analyses. Materializing the actual working experiences of jokyû (café waitresses), they exposed the superficiality of Japanese modernity in the 1920s and 30s, the suppression and oppression of women under patriarchy, commodification and exploitation of working women under capitalism, and the ultimate consequences--social myopia and deterioration of human life. While the café was for jokyû a site of exploration and challenge by overturning the dominant power hierarchy practiced in society, for Sata and Hirabayashi, writing about the café challenged the prejudice and confinement of existing categorizations such as "women," "women workers," " jokyû ," "women writers," and "proletarian writers." Both Sata and Hirabayashi treated the café and jokyû as realistic and multifaceted. To strengthen this realism, both writers relied on their own corporeal experiences and sensations, supporting honest illustrations of power dynamics and the dual-system oppression of women at play within and beyond the café environment. Both acknowledged the body as a site of complication and possibility. Through their acknowledgments beyond the surface inscriptions that restrict and limit who and what lies within, both Sata and Hirabayashi contended that the body was an interactive and potentially productive catalyst for change. For them, the corporeal experience proved more effective for gaining consciousness, obtaining class-consciousness, and eventually achieving ideological resolution than through doctrinal readings and teachings.