Modern Japanese Girls Flying Into the Sky: Gender Norms and Aviation Fashion in the 1920s

Abstract

In 1952, the year of the end of the US occupation of Japan, Japan Women’s Association of Aviation (JWAA) was founded. It presented a milestone in Japanese aviation history. The sky was hitherto a predominantly male sphere. During World War II, men alone became soldiers and flew into the sky. Most women (perhaps except for nurses and “comfort women”) stayed at the home front. They could not fight on the war front because of the Military Service Law enacted in 1927, and there were no female military pilots. Even so, when peace came, women decided to fly planes, and they established JWAA. Some members had flown planes before the war. Historians such as Hiraki Kunio, Kano Mikiyo, and Matsumura Yuriko significantly recover the history of prewar Japanese female fliers. However, their researches remain mostly biographical. They tell a story of pioneer female fliers such as Hyodo Tadashi, who became the first aviatrix in Japan. Historians find the historical significance of female fliers because they deviated from traditional female gender norms. This paper would be less interested in how they departed from gender norms than how they refashioned literally or ideologically such norms. In this paper, I will examine the development of women’s aviation in the 1920s that significantly created a new nexus between the female body and speed. Specifically, I will analyze the photographs and images in newspapers. As I hope to show, the air-minded age helped refashion female gender norms in patriarchal Japan.



Author Information
Yu Umehara, University of Tsukuba, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: ACCS2020
Stream: Cultural Studies

This paper is part of the ACCS2020 Conference Proceedings (View)
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