During the 1980s, just when it seemed that things could not be any better in Japan, a growing number of women began to throw up, starve, and cut themselves. This suggests that the transition to a consumer-based society had a dark side relative to the glossy magazine front covers. Since then, the incidence of eating disorders and self-harm behavior among Japanese females has been rising significantly. Such issues can partly be explained by the ‘contradictive femininity’ that emerged from the 1960s with Japan’s quick socio-economic change. Not surprisingly ‘contradictive femininity’ and related issues has been explored by women fiction producers and are now established themes in manga, anime, or literature. However, despite the many gender related criticisms of Murakami Haruki’s works, he has consistently authored a highly ignored group of works that participates in this literary expression of the contemporary social reality a growing number of women face.
This presentation has three main aims. First, introduce the concept of ‘contradictive femininity’ and relate it to problems such as self-harm and eating disorders. Second, illustrate how this difficult-to-balance femininity is thematized in fiction. And third, draw attention to what I term ‘Murakami Haruki’s female narratives’ – a group of works spanning from 1982 to present, including his latest literary hit 1Q84 – and locate their literary position within fiction that explores contemporary women’s social reality.
Gitte Marianne Hansen studied Japanese Studies and Gender Studies at the University of Copenhagen. Her master thesis deals with eating disorders and self-harm in Japanese cultural expressions since 1980. From 2004 to 2009, she studied and worked as a teaching assistant at Waseda University. She is presently a Gates Cambridge Trust PhD candidate at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge.