Journal article written by 2006 Abe Fellow Ayako Kano based on her project “Gender Equal, Gender Free, and the Backlash: A Comparative Study of Gender Policy Debates in Japan and the U.S.A.”
From the mid-1990s, the Japanese government has promoted the creation of a “gender-equal society,” but since about 2000 this example of “state feminism” has faced a severe backlash. This article addresses the following questions about the phenomenon of Japanese state feminism, its history and its consequence: (1) How did the government policy for a “gender equal society” come into existence, and what explains its remarkably progressive nature? (2) What was the impact of the involvement of feminist scholars on policy-making? (3) What was the initial response to the policy? (4) What was the background of the backlash, who were the people and organizations involved, and what were the main arguments? (5) What has been the response to the backlash? (6) What are the connections and differences between the present controversy and the collaboration between feminism and the state in previous moments in Japanese history?