The next Lady Killer on this list was on the other side of that war: Hōjō Masako.
Masako’s husband was the direct enemy of Tomoe’s master–both men were the leaders of each opposing sides. Both were Minamoto, and cousins. While still a young girl, Masako was trained in martial arts, hunting, riding, and fishing. And while her combat record isn’t quite as accomplished as Tomoe’s, Masako (being of very high noble birth) had to fight her battles in a slightly different way. Although Masako never took to the field of battle, she did become the Shogūn Regent when her husband died. This wasn’t a position to have been held by someone without any skill (in battle or politics). (And for our records, counts here as females having held both positions of national leadership in Japan: Empress and Shogūn [Regent].)
Even after she left noble life and became a nun, she was repeatedly brought back in by the government to unfuck shit that had gone wrong in the empire. Japanese politics really was just a twisted soap opera of bullshit, backstabbing, and fuck-fuck games. Then and kinda now. I guess now, there are fewer people getting their heads chopped off, though. But one thing that Masako did was manipulate politics in *the 13th Century* to give women a “separate but equal” level of rights in Japan. Women were granted equal inheritance in wills, and were given control of the home (like, not just cleaning shit…raising and educating the kids, managing servants, property, finances, and defense; the men weren’t allowed to jack with any of that stuff).
This example really tracks with what we’re trying to hammer home through this entire series; this whole power level (not just rights, but *power*) that women seem to have *always* had here and there historically. Unfortunately, everyone would prefer to woe-is-me that they didn’t. I’m not sure how that shit really helps anyone, in the end. Like a mentioned earlier in this series: You’re shitting on an already VERY accomplished lineage of fucking awesomeness and radicality. But everyone loves a nay-sayer, and misery fucking *loves* company…
The infusion of Neo-Confucian thought in the Edo Period (1600-1868; Japanese ‘Rennaissance’) sent that hard-fought equality straight into the shitter–thanks, fortune cookie dude. Over the following years, many women had made their way into warfare. And although the footing they maintained in battle culture wasn’t *the same* as the men…(this is the real nugget here, killers) it was their own. And men could not access it.
The Edo Period did a lot of weird shit to Japan. First of all, it was the first time in the history of the country that no one was really fighting anyone else. All elements of warrior culture started to freak out. Dudes couldn’t just go around and cut each other. (I mean, they did…but it just wasn’t as prevalent as it had been.) All the pipe hitters of the time settled down, started teaching, and wrote a ton of books that are still read today. (So…not much different than the modern U.S.) And this is really the span of time where all the cloak and dagger and political intrigue stuff started going on. That included arranged marriages.
See, Neo-Confucian thought brought on this whole whack culture of civil obedience and passivity. The government was all about it because…why not? They didn’t have reality TV and professional sports to keep people stupid and occupied, so they had to wing it. And, as a result of the *overall* destabilization of warrior culture, and the perception of women as a kind of currency (as marriages were leveraged for political or monetary gain)…women warriors became scarce. They were there. But the level of bullshit they had to put up with went through the roof. (“Why you still single?” “Why you not married?” I bet those girls REALLY wanted to cut a mofo then.) This is also the period that heralded the still prevalent weird-by-Western-standards relationship that husbands and wives…uh…share? (This includes, but is not limited to, husbands and wives not only having their own beds and bedrooms…but also having their own parts of the house, wherein the other could not go. Man-cave my ass, woman this whole FLOOR is mine!)
(Linguistics nerd time: This is why “wife” in Japanese is “oku-san”. “Oku” means “inner, inside”…so essentially means “inside person”. Essentially. There are some specifics I ain’t gettin’ into here.)
And due to this propertization perception on women, most local citizenry frowned on chicks “acting like dudes.” This is also reflected in what the Japanese viewed as “beautiful”: women should have soft skin, and be as white as possible. (I won’t get into the black teeth thing, I still don’t understand that completely myself.) This whole white/soft thing was accomplished primarily by staying inside and not ever doing a damn thing. And this *also* contributed to the further popularity and social stratification of geisha–who were highly accomplished at their own brand of physical performance and ceremony. And…if you’ve ever seen anything involving ancient Japan, chicks are always dolled up like a fresh corpse in layers of white chalky make-up. It’s terrifying.
In the next part, I’ll cover the end of “traditional” Japan, and the beginning of the Modern Era. (This will include the previously-mentioned ninja chicks. Even though they existed throughout this entire timeline.)
Featured image courtesy of www.pinterest.com
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