In “Whose History is it Anyway?”, Tsurumi argues that even though koojo suffered from unsafe working conditions, ruthless supervisors, tedious regulation rules, harsh monetary fines, iniquitous contracts and sexual harassment, many of them didn’t view themselves as victim but instead valuable contributors who benefits their families and supports the textile industry. Tsurumi quotes Nawa Tooichi to demonstrates that low wage female labor is the central to Japanese cotton industry’s rapid rise and the cheif weapon in international market during Meiji period. The koojo tended to not see Meiji state, their parents, or even textile firms and supervisors as their victimizer as many scholars believe. The female operatives played important role in economy and industrial revolution of Meiji Japan but were payed the lower wages compared to the male operatives but many of them took it as regular lives of women.
The role of female textile operatives as contributors but not politically participant of the nation state coherent with McClintock. McClintock defines nationalism as “radically constitutive of people’s identities, through social contests that are frequently violent and always gendered”. She also argues that women are typically construed as the symbolic bearers of the nation, but are denied any direct relation to national agency. In Meiji Japan, women were expected to be good mother, good daughter, good operative and the standard of “good” is discretionary and determined by the patriarchal society. The nationalism is patriarchal and masculine. The rare appearance of nations in the song of women operative supports this point. The women operatives works in the textile firm accepts their roles as contributors and producer and rarely doubt the rationale behind the gender discrimination.
As Tsurumi emphasized in the argument that the available sources that contains the view point of koojos are limited as those sources only include the voices of survivors who earned relatively good wages in the textile factories. Other koojos such as those who commit suicide were excluded. We need to keep seeking for new historical evidences in order to unravel the full images of koojo during Meiji period.
I believe that it will be one-sided to overemphasize the importance of koojo’s view on themselves and sugar-coated the suffering of koojo. Some female workers might took unfair wage, sexual harassment to be regular as it was prevalent opinion back then. The victims don’t think they were exploited don’t mean victimization didn’t happen.
One of koojo’s song sings that “this company is like a brothel, we are whores who live by selling our faces”. The situation of women in brothel and koojo are actually very similar: many prostitutes are sold to the brothel by their parents and koojo often come to the factories to be financial contributor of her family; koojos were liable of high travel fee and cannot leave the company without paying it and prostitutes need to earn money to buy herself from brothel; both of them earn money by sacrificing their health. As koojo didn’t necessarily believe in nationalism, would prostitutes take the same position?