Crispinella's Retort (foonalicious) wrote in art_of_debate,
Crispinella's Retort

Topic for Discussion--

Hey all-

If history is not your brand of fun, no worries. I just thought it was interesting.

(Information and text from Factory Girls: Women in the Thread Mills of Meiji Japan by Patricia Tsurumi)

A little background- the thread industry in Japan circa late 1800's was originally worked by prestigious (but poor) former samurai women and men- But around 1880, the manual jobs were predominatly worked by poor tenant women and children, with men as supervisors- Tsurumi speculates that the economic conditions (depression in Japan, competitive + technologicaly superior European Silk markets) married with the new (very poor) class of employee caused employers to pretty much uniformly increase working hours, decrease wages, implement harsh penalties, start sending around dubious recruiters (whose travel expenses were debted to the recruited's future paycheck), and block strikers from finding positions at other factories.

The Quote (refers to the living conditions of the factory women):

"With recruits coming from distant places, company dormitories became common features of silk establishments. Dormitories kept workers from tgoing elsewhere to work or running home, but they also enabled managers to extract longer hours from workers who no longer had to be alloted time to commute home and prepare meals there. Under strict discipline, dormitory inmates could be controlled so thoroughly that nearly all their energies were spent on thread production. Sumiya Mikio's blunt assessment is accurate; "The dormitory system was originally developed to tyhe convenience of employees from distant places, but it now functioned virtually as detention houses." Solidly constructed and equipped with heavy metal screens, dormitories were surrouned by eight-foot fences or connected to the adjacent plant bya bridge high above ground. Sometimes fences were crowned with broken glass, sharpened bamboo spears, barbed wire, and other forbidding objects to discourage runaways. Management claimed that workers were locked in after working hours "to protect their morals." However, that claim rings hollow. The women and girls endured sexual abuse at the hands of male mangers and supervisors as well as male workers" (67).

So, clearly I was interested by the intersecting class/gender divisions that seem evident in the conditions- what do you all think about this? If this sounds too history class, feel free to ignore me :D
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I doubt you will find much debate on this issue.

It appears to be another case of keeping the masses down and producing expensive items to keep a small portion of the population rich.

As is often the case, the people that are suffering are women. Well, a lot can probably be said about the presentation and history of women in many Asian cultures.

I think it sucks. Women are beautiful creatures that create, and are just as important, (probably more so), as men. At the very least, they deserve equal values and rights. (even though I toy at beleiveing otherwise just to needle Foonalicious and watch her writhe with indignation...oh the joy).

But, usually, all of this seems like a good idea, but in the end they probably start producing a poor quality product and spending more time/energy on keeping the employees oppressed than in producing a good product. Then there, is the inevitable rebellion as the down trodden rise up against their oppressors, and tragedy ensues for the oppressors...or at least a temporarily reduced profit margin ;)
Hmm, I was partially interested in how people saw similar correlations: Industrial Revolution in England and the US (as most of us tend to be most familiar with those) and the implications of the creation of the working class.

For instance, while England's IR involved the explotation of women, it also (fairly equally) exploited it's men and women. Whole families were frequently forced to live in the factories to pay of "debts"

Textile factories in Japan had their "prison dormitories" so that girls and women couldn't run away from contracts that lasted as long as the employer wanted (contracts could be renewed without the consent of the employee) forcing the women to be frequently acrue debts they couldn't pay off-

Correlation with the business practices of many orange-groves in Florida post bellum...

Or, how these practices emerged from an attempt to perpetuate a feudalistic society in the face of rapidly emergy modernism?