1999 Volume 66 Issue 4 Pages 406-416
In this paper, I will examine the contribution of women's studies/gender studies in the area of "kyoyo kyoiku" (Liberal/General Education) in Japanese universities. According to the traditional definition, the role of "kyoyo kyoiku" is to assist the development of well-balanced personality among university students through the acquisition of broad-based knowledge in Arts and Sciences. But after the second wave of women's movement, it is generally accepted that "knowledge" is genderized. Gender is one of the most fundamental structures of our social organization and our experiences of ourselves. An understanding of gender relations is therefore central to an understanding of contemporary social life and processes of social change, locally and globally. It is therefore important to include gender perspectives in "kyoyo kyoiku" at the universities. Com-pared to other countries, however, not many Japanese universities offer women's/gender studies. According to the survey done by the National Women's Education Center in 1996, 351 universities have such courses but none offers a degree course at the undergraduate level. And at the graduate level, Josai International University and Ochanomizu University offer M.A. and Ph.D.degrees. Section One discusses various aspects of gender bias found in Japanese universities, including the under-representation of female faculty members. Section Two introduces a general survey of women's/gender studies courses offered in various Japanese universities. Section Three considers several reasons for the increase in the number of students enrolling in women's/gender studies courses. One reason is the innovative method of teaching employed by those who teach the courses. Section Four describes some of the students' reactions, when they are confronted with "new knowledge" offered by women's/gender studies. In the Japanese education system, students are normally instructed to memorise and absorb "knowledge" which is remote from their own experiences. But this paper shows that when students are exposed to women's/gender studies, they come to see how "knowledge" is constructed, and realize that they have the power to challenge /question the old value system and construct a new one. Furthermore, the awareness of how gender identities are socially/culturally constructed opens the possibility of constructing their own identity without being bound by social convention and thus of discovering a new future. Women's/gender studies also enable them to see the gendered power relationship in public arena. For example, upon examining an incident when a high school girl was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a group of youths, most students taking these courses were able to see the hidden gender bias in mass media. This paper also touches upon how students, both female and male, became sensitive to the way rape victims were treated by the police. They also realized the lightness of the penalty imposed on the culprits of rape in the Japanese legal system. Once they understand that both knowledges and social systems are genderized, it is easier for them to understand that the Declaration of Human Rights in the French Revolution or the idea of republicanism, for example, exclude women. They also understand the way modem science has encompassed sex and race discrimination. Such awareness encouraged them to think about the importance of creating new knowledges Which are not gender biased. In many countries, the importance and usefulness of gender analysis are recognized in various fields. I therefore argue that women's/gender studies perspectives should be incorporated more fully in "kyoyo kyoiku" in all the universities in the twenty-first century.