Re-imaging Japanese Women in the Pacific Stars and Stripes During the Allied Occupation of Japan

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts major in Japanese Studies


Japanese Studies

First Advisor

Karl Ian U. Cheng Chua, PhD


From the Meiji period’s (1868-1912) ryōsai kenbo (good wife, wise mother) to the Pacific War's (1941-1945) kokkateki bosei (motherhood in the interest of the state), Japanese women’s role in the family and society has been influenced by the government. After Japan’s defeat in 1945, the Allied powers, indirectly led by the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP), occupied Japan (1945-1952) and included policies for Japanese women in the 1947 Constitution of Japan that stipulated Western liberation. Despite Japanese women’s active participation in feminist movements prior to the occupation of Japan, the SCAP viewed women as helpless and caged by the Japanese society. In the same year as the 1947 Constitution of Japan was enacted, for the first time, a women’s bureau was created within the Japanese government through the cooperation of American women and Japanese women. 1948 continued to be a chaotic year for Japanese women. In the early years of the Cold War, the SCAP decided to shift its occupation policy—from democratization and liberation of women to assisting the Japanese economy. Many scholars use Japanese magazines to understand the representations of liberation and women. However, this study finds the narrative incomplete for it does not show propaganda from the side of the policy makers. The objectives of SCAP can be easily gathered from the existing policies. However, did these policies directly translate to praxis? This paper utilizes the 291 issues of Pacific Stars and Stripes—a military-owned newspaper of the United States of America —published in 1948. Due to its association with leadership in US-occupied Japan, the periodical is considered suitable resource for the examination of women’s representations from a collective subjective view of SCAP. Overall, this study examined a total of 167 images of Japanese women from the Pacific Stars and Stripes. The images were used as units and categorized according to major themes based on the policies for women in the 1947 Constitution: Housewife (Right of Suffrage and Articles 14 and 24), Educated Women (Fundamental Law of Education), Working Women (Labor Standards Law)—further classified as Professional, Service and Clerical, Entertainment, and the Exoticism of Japanese Women. Through the application of content analysis and examination through the lenses of gender and power, postcolonial feminist, and propaganda theories, the study finds that the representations of women align with the propaganda of SCAP. Its policies for Japanese women directly translated to praxis but with limitations. In the Pacific Stars and Stripes, SCAP portrayed itself as liberator of Japanese women. For example, the newspaper indirectly emphasized that Japanese women needed SCAP by showing them as having a preference towards Western culture and as emancipated voters. The Pacific Stars and Stripes also curated its images, for example, by excluding images of Japanese women in active various movements or those that include female Japanese politicians. The newspaper further reinforced the image of a passive Japanese woman may it be in the context of the home, education, or work though images of subservient women. This does not only follow Cold War domesticity; it also changes the narrative of Japanese women’s journey in fighting for their rights.

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