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A Study on The Gender Representation of “Make-up” in Modern Japan —A Focus on Higuchi Ichiyo’s “Nigorie”—

Eunkyung Choi 1

1동아대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This study examines the gender representation of “make-up” in modern Japan through an analysis of Higuchi Ichiyo’s work, “Nigorie.” “Nigorie,” set in Meiji 28, follows a married woman, Ohatsu, who has traces of black teeth and shaved eyebrows., and the prostitute, Oriki, who represents status with her white powdered make-up up to the collar. The “make-up” signifies obedience in a wife and heightened femininity. It functions as a gender representation of enforced norms in the patriarchal social structure of the time. Both Ohatsi and Oriki are passive beings. One supports her husband inside and outside the home; the other becomes the object of male sexual desire. Ohatsu is unilaterally notified that her husband is divorcing her. Oriki meets a miserable end at the hands of Genshichi. Despite their differing status and positions, both women lose their livelihoods due to a man’s actions. Remarkably, Genshichi, the perpetrator, is praised for his “good death” through a traditional form of suicide known as “disembowelment.” This irony highlights the persistence of old traditions and values in modern society. “Nigorie” expresses archaic conventions and gender norms within the backdrop of a patriarchal modern society.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.