From Modern Girl to Post-Modern Girl: State, Society, and Self
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The Japanese state has long attempted to control the choices and behaviors of women through campaigns of moral suasion and social management. These campaigns have varied in terms of their efficacy but have all endeavored to encourage women to embrace the “good wife, wise mother” ideals espoused in ryosai kenbo ideology, often for the purported good of the nation. Leading up to WWII, these campaigns were effective in undermining the Modern Girl and eventually squeezing her out of existence. The bursting of Japan’s economic bubble in the early 1990s, however, created the Post-Modern Girl, who, like the Modern Girl, has particular attitudes about marriage, children, work, and sexuality. Unlike the Modern Girl, however, the Post-Modern Girl has survived nearly three decades since her emergence. This thesis examines these two figures and their converging and diverging trajectories and explores the limits of state control in the lives of modern Japanese women.