Haiku reflections on Japan

Dress right or else…

A person`s way of

dressing could get them in some

serious trouble

I heard a radio interview today, well parts of it, with an American woman who has written a book called Dressing Constitutionally (Hierachy, Sexuality and Democracy from our hairstyles to our shoes).   It was a really interesting interview and covered how people were forced to dress over history according to whatever country`s laws and how democracy plays a role in our clothing choices (and how people can judge others for same).

When I say forced to dress, I mean you could be punished for wearing or not wearing something in particular or having a hairstyle that was outside your class as it was written into the law.    Now how mad is that.    For example, the early English settlers to Ireland were encouraged not to `go native` and distinguish themselves clearly from the Irish and a certain hairstyle called the culan (never heard of it myself either but it`s similiar to today`s mullet – uughh can`t stand the mullet) was only permitted for either the Irish natives or the English settlers.  I can`t remember exactly which group were allowed wear it and the other not because I was also talking to someone while the radio show was on.    Even in certain states in the USA over history, there were laws about whether men or women could both wear shirts, or just the men.   Today in France we see the outruling of hijabs in schools (it`s not just the students who have to deal with it but the mothers of said students who may be taking part in school activities or volunteering on school tours) and of course the wearing of other religious emblems like crosses have long been banned in the schools of secular France.

Anyway, while I was listening to it, I was thinking that I had heard something like this before and then of course I remembered.   In Japan in the Edo and Meiji period and most likely before that as well, you had to dress according to what social class you were in so you could be identified as being of a certain class.   People who were not from samurai households, for example, could not wear a kimono with a certain pattern or of a certain colour.   Women who were prostitutes could not have what was considered a typical married woman (read `civilized`) hairstyle because they were not considered good enough (read`civilized`) to have this particular hairstyle.   It`s ironic because a couple of the hairstyles that these married women aspired to were centuries earlier sported by prostitutes.   I`m willing to bet though that they didn`t consult too many history books before they decided on their look so they weren`t to know (I bet the local historians had a giggle at that)  : P  I wonder if Japan is mentioned in the book as it wasn`t mentioned in the parts of the interview I heard.

So, it sounds like a really interesting read.    I missed the part about how young women today are judged for the clothes they wear but I didn`t really have to listen to that to understand that part as you see it everywhere and hear about it all the time.    Unfortunately, this applies in the justice system when young women are often blamed by the opposing legal team based on how they might have been dressed when something happened.  This is not just the justice system of course but is deeply ingrained in society as a whole.

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