New Views on the Woman Question
Marcia Yonemoto. The Problem of Women in Early Modern Japan. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016. 304 pp. $70 (cloth, e-book).
Wang Zheng. Finding Women in the State: A Socialist Feminist Revolution in the People’s Republic of China, 1949–1964. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2017. 400 pp. $85 (cloth); $35 (paper, e-book).
The Problem of Women in Early Modern Japan and Finding Women in the State are in many ways quite different: they cover different geographic areas and different time periods; they use different sources and ask different questions. But it is productive to think about them in tandem, to see what kind of questions they do raise and to think about the ways “the woman question” is posed in these two contexts—early modern Japan and early Maoist China, respectively. Both books are interested in the question of what looking at history through a feminist lens does to our view of that history; both are interested in dismantling a hegemonic narrative that provides a diminished vision of women as historical subjects. And both of them point out ways in which neither the “problem of women” (Yonemoto) nor the problem of finding women in the state (Wang) has been resolved...