Do Guns Have Gender?

Anne Walthall

in Recreating Japanese Men

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780520267374
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520950320 | DOI:
Do Guns Have Gender?

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In early modern Japan, guns were strongly associated with gender, particularly with masculinity. Unlike in other countries such as India, Britain, and the United States where women handled guns, Japanese women in early modern Japan did not fire guns. This strong association of guns with masculinity was due to the fact that men were the dominant group in Japan, hence their attributes remained “unmarked, transparent and unscrutinized” and this is certainly true in Japan’s history of guns. In their use of these and other weapons, men of different statuses measured their masculinity against each other in ways that have nothing to do with women as the Other. This chapter aims to establish the link between guns and masculinity in Japan. It uses guns as a lens on the cultural elaboration of the masculinity which dominated in sixteenth-century Japan and analyzes how it is affirmed, rejected, and reconstituted in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The chapter begins with the politically charged history of the matchlock’s introduction in 1543, the prestige it acquired as a gift item, and the part played by male religious practitioners who dramatized their control over fire by mastering the gun, and its role in militarized ceremony. The chapter then examines the manuals that defined the moral and physical attributes required to master the art of gunmanship. Rather than focusing on how guns transformed the warfare of Japan, the chapter diverts its attention to the connection between guns and status in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In particular, by examining how and by who guns were used for hunting and what the hunt meant for rulers, the chapter shows how the early Tokugawa shoguns both modeled and exceeded definitions of warrior masculinity through their mastery of arms. The chapter also uncovers the different ways in which their successors contested and celebrated the Tokugawa legacy.

Keywords: early modern Japan; guns; gender; masculinity; gunmanship; status

Chapter.  9761 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Gender and Sexuality

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