Periodic Struggles: Menstruation Leave in Modern Japan

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Harvard University, 2007 - 602 pages
This dissertation examines the history of menstruation leave (seiri kyuka) in modern Japan. Menstruation leave, as articulated in Article 67 of the Japanese Labor Standards Law of 1947, gave menstruating women the right to absent themselves from work if they were experiencing difficulties working or were engaged in types of labor activity considered hazardous to the menstrual cycle. This project traces and seeks to understand the social-cultural formation in Japan of a gendered workers' right that is strikingly uncommon in both industrialized and industrializing countries. This study argues that a confluence of factors and developments involving working women, scientific studies of labor, and state mechanisms allowed for the formation of menstruation leave in Japan. Menstruation served as an important lens through which the state and scientists analyzed their subjects, and its absence and disorders were interpreted as the malignant results of the industrial capitalist system. The bodies of working women embodied the increasing conflict between wage and reproductive labors, and the debates surrounding menstruation leave provide insight into how the physiological phenomenon was interpreted and represented by competing social interests.

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