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Bluestockings Journal

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Bluestockings Journal

Bluestocking (Seitō)
File:The First Issue of Seito - September 1911.jpg
The first issue of Seitō.
Editor Raichō Hiratsuka; Noe Ito; Seitō-sha
Categories Newsmagazine
First issue September 1911[1]
Final issue February 1916[1]
Country Japan
Language Japanese

Bluestocking (Seitō; 青鞜) was a Japanese feminist magazine founded in 1911 by Raichō Hiratsuka and produced by Hiratsuka and other members of the associated group, the Bluestocking Society (Seitō-sha;青鞜社). The group adopted the term Bluestocking from the British usage, which had come to refer to feminists over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Hiratsuka opened the first issue with the words, “In the beginning, woman was the sun.” (「原始、女性は太陽であった」). Later it seems that it's become a reference to the Shinto myth of creation and a then-popular idea in anthropology that all prehistoric societies had been matriarchal, but it wasn't the idea of Hiratsuka Raichô who made rather an answer to Nietzsche's asertion about the inferiority of women . Contributors included renowned poet and women’s rights proponent Akiko Yosano and author Nobuko Yoshiya among others.

Many members were referred to and referred to themselves as "New Women" (shin-fujin;新婦人). This term denoted women who wore fashionable Western dress, socialized with men in public, and chose their own romantic partners. Many in the press used this term pejoratively, but the members of the Seitō-sha rejected these negative connotations and embraced an identity as leaders in the reform of gender relations.

Though originally focusing on women's literature, the magazine soon shifted focus towards women’s liberation, and the pages of Seitō are filled with essays and editorials on the question of gender quality. In many of these, members of the group air their differing opinions on issues of the day, such as the importance of a woman maintaining her virginity before marriage. Legalized prostitution, abortion, and women's suffrage were also the subject of animated discussion. Such writings caught the attention of the Ministry of Home Affairs because criticism of the system of private capital (capitalism) was banned under the Public Order and Police Law of 1900. Two other issues would be banned by the Ministry's censorship bureau and removed from store shelves because their frank expressions of female sexuality were deemed threats to public morality.

Even more than the content of the journal, the private behavior of the core members of the Bluestocking society drew public criticism. Several of them engaged in affairs with married men, rumors of which the press exploited with gusto. But this was not separate from the journal, because members of Bluestocking often wrote essays and semi-autobiographical stories that described their struggles to form equal relationships based on mutual romantic attachment (rather than through arranged marriage) both inside and outside of marriage. Their frank discussions about premarital sex and their advocacy for women's independence in this regard led to further public condemnation.

An exhausted Hiratsuka turned over the reins to Noe Itō in 1915. Ito produced the journal with little assistance for almost another year. Its last issue was published in February 1916.

References

Lévy Christine (ed) (2012): Naissance d'une revue féministe au Japon : Seitô (1911-1916), Ebisu, études Japonaises n°48.

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