Profs & Pints DC: Japan's Most Feared Women-Door tickets remain available.

By Profs and Pints (other events)

Sunday, March 12 2023 6:30 PM 8:30 PM EDT

Advance ticket sales have ended but plenty of additional tickets remain available at the door.

Profs and Pints DC presents: “Japan’s Most Feared Women,” a look at the provocative, notorious, and genderfluid female figures who have pushed boundaries and aroused panic in Japan, with Michele M. Mason, associate professor of Japanese cultural studies at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Say this much for moral panics: They often shed light on a society’s fault lines and insecurities.

Such is the case in Japan, where various episodes of handwringing and fearmongering over the behavior of women have revealed a lot about how men sought to control women’s lives.

Join Professor Michele M. Mason, a scholar of Japanese culture who previously gave an excellent Profs and Pints talk on Japanese ghost stories, for a fascinating discussion of the “nasty women” of Japan, who gained notoriety by defying expectations.

Dr. Mason will start by discussing a late 19th century panic over women who were passing as men. Many who did so had a strong economic incentive: they were poor and needed to travel in search of better circumstances in a society where women’s travel was restricted. But men of their time were predisposed to see something far more sinister at work.

Then, she’ll turn to “poison women,” the female criminals whose scandalous behavior and misdeeds were repeatedly described in tabloids and portrayed in fiction and film over a roughly 100-year period beginning from 1870. Not all of these women used poison to kill their victims, but the moniker “poison women” was created to broadly depict women gone wrong. They were typically poor women, and often their crimes included violence against men.

Professor Mason also will discuss the women of the 1910s and 1920s labelled as “Modern Girls” because they defied traditions and wore western dresses instead of kimonos, cut their hair short, and drank cocktails, which had just been introduced in Japan. A sister to the Flapper, their “outlandish” behavior also included smoking cigarettes, wearing swimming suits, and choosing their own suitors!

Finally, you’ll learn about contemporary manga known as Yaoi—homoerotic narratives featuring men drawn by women. Dr. Mason will reveal how the limits imposed on women’s sexuality by gendered expectations have inspired women manga creators to imagine much more rich and exciting sex lives through fictional renderings of provocative relationships between men. In this way, they rebel against the restrictions on women's sex lives and create some delightful titillation for anyone who is game. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.) 

Image: Japanese “Modern Girl” style in a 1929 advertisement for the Shirokiya department store.