2006 Volume 57 Issue 2 Pages 292-310
This paper examines the history of women's movements, focusing on the “second wave” feminism and its aftermath in Japan. After the enactment of the Basic Law for Gender Equal Society in 1999, Japanese feminists have been facing difficulties with attacks from right wingers. The author carries out a historical examination of feminism to explore the problems and determine the future possibilities for feminism, women's movements, and social movements as a whole.
Although women's liberation movement in the first half of the 1970s and women's movements after 1975-the UN International Year of Women-had rather different and even conflicting ideas and organizational principles, these two tend to be acknowledged as the “second wave, ” as if these two movements are totally continuous. Such historicism reveals that feminists nowadays fail to recognize the political radicalism of women's liberation and the transfiguration of women's movements as they grew and became institutionalized.
The history of feminism exemplifies the struggle that social movements underwent to acquire political power. Women's movements, as well as gay movements and other minorities'movements, cannot help being ambivalent about power as they succeed; they will not be able to make any progress without power while they turn themselves to be a part of existent social structure against which they have fought as they acquire power. By overcoming the difficulty in a dialectic manner, feminism will be able to thrive as a 'new social movement' in the twenty-first century.