Gendered Identities East and West
This paper will address the theme of gendered identities from a cross cultural perspective. In particular, I will explore the resonance between contemporary Japanese philosopher WATSUJI Tetsuro’s (1889-1960) concept of the human being as ningen (human being) and the concept of self described in some feminist ethics. In fact, the way in which the Japanese self is described and characterized by Watsuji is very similar to the ways in which the ‘female self’ is identified in some feminist theory. What is identified as belonging to the female gender in the West, is described as belonging to the human being generally in the philosophy of Watsuji, with no specific gender identification. I analyze the work of feminist theorists Luce Irigaray, and Virginia Held in relation to Watsuji’s concepts of ningen (human being) as well as ‘betweenness’ (aidagara). I argue that Watsuji’s ethics might be appropriated by feminism and used to support and inform feminist ethics such as the projects proposed by Irigaray and Held. This cross-cultural investigation of the very notion of gendered identities allows us to begin to rethink gender in a cross cultural context.
Keywords: Self, Identity, Feminism, Ethics, Japan, Watsuji, Irigaray
Dr. Erin McCarthy
Associate Professor, Philosophy; Coordinator, Asian Studies Program, St. Lawrence University