The Erotic and the Vulgar
Visual Culture and Organized Labor's Critique of U.S. Hegemony in Occupied Japan
Author: Christopher Gerteis
This essay engages the colonial legacy of postwar Japan by arguing that the political cartoons produced as part of the postwar Japanese labor movement's critique of U.S. cultural hegemony illustrate how gendered discourses underpinned, and sometimes undermined, the ideologies formally represented by visual artists and the organizations that funded them. A significant component of organized labor's propaganda rested on a corpus of visual media that depicted women as icons of Japanese national culture. Japan's most militant labor unions were propagating anti-imperialist discourses that invoked an engendered/endangered nation that accentuated the importance of union roles for men by subordinating, then eliminating, union roles for women.