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About “The Gift from Beate”

“ Beate Sirota Gordon, the American woman who wrote women’s wellbeing into the constitution. ”

The Gift from BeateThe film “The Gift from Beate” (2004/Japan/92 minutes/Director: Tomoko Fujiwara), which was shown at the Dawn Center’s Women’s Film Festival, shows how women have lived and improved their social status during the past 60 years since Japan’s defeat in World War II. The film is a herstory of women that centers on Article 24 in the Japanese Constitution, “the essential equality of the sexes.” During the writing of the new constitution after the war, an American drafter Ms. Beate Sirota Gordon, age 22 at the time, added a women’s rights clause to the new constitution. Her father, Leo Sirota, was a world-famous pianist. As a young girl, she lived in Japan and questioned the low-status and lack of rights of Japanese women; her ideal was reflected in Article 14 (equality under the law) and Article 24 (individual dignity and the equality of the sexes pertaining to marriage and the family). This was the gift from Beate to Japanese women.

Because of Article 24, the law was adjusted, and the Japanese women’s movement started. There was a steady effort to improve the status of women; in 1945 women gained suffrage, 1946 saw the first woman in the Diet, and in 1947 the Women and Minors’ Bureau was established as part of the Ministry of Labor. Following in step with the UN Decade for Women, which was born out of the International Women’s Year, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was ratified. Japan passed the Equal Employment Opportunity Law in 1985 and the Basic Law for a Gender Equal Society in 1998. In private enterprise, women attained careers, gained administrative positions, and moved into new fields of work while fighting for the improvement of labor conditions. These women opened up a path for other women to follow.

We had a lot of feedback from the participants at the film festival, for instance; “The surroundings that I have taken for granted were actually the result of the effort and hardship of those women. I realized that we wouldn’t be where we are now without them,” and “Knowing what those women did has inspired and empowered me.” We expect that this film will spread nationally through women’s groups, organizations, and related facilities. Furthermore, we hope that it will reach women internationally with the message of Article 9 (permanent peace) in the Japanese Constitution — along with Beate’s message that; “people need something that can be used for peace. If women aren’t happy, the world won’t be a peaceful place.”

Dawn Center Planning and Promotion Division
Ayumi Nishina

Technical details about the movie :

Get the poster of the invitation :

Comments»

1. Dr. Peter Feller - April 10, 2008

During a lengthy visit to Tokyo I have seen this film at the OAG in Tokyo (Ost-Asiatische Gesellschaft, east asian society) and was very impressed both of Beates biography (and her father’s) and the informations about womens fight for more rights over many decades.

Being only 22, she was able to influence the japanese postwar constitution, kind of a miracle to me.

So being a “gaijin” or alien can be of great benefiteverywhere.

PS: The soundtrack was especially remarkable

2. Yoshiko Kurisaki - April 26, 2008

Dear Dr. Peter,

Thank you so much for watching the film and taking time to write in the blog.

I watched the film many times thanks to the “Beate connections”, that was naturally created following its first presentation in Switzerland (in Geneva, May 2006). Every time I see it, I discover something new. Being a working women, I feel the histroy of women well documented in the film gives me the energy. The film assures me that I am with many women who fought to live their lives with the full self-esteem as a human being.

3. Ann Jamison - April 11, 2009

I would really like to see this film but I can’t seem to find it in the in the United States.

I read about Ms Gordon not long ago while I was doing some research and she and my Aunt a lot in common. I bet they passed each other in the hall. Ms Gordon and Anne Marie worked in the same building in Tokyo and Anne Marie, like Ms. Gordon, had strong ties to the people and culture of the Far East.

Anne Marie was born in Indochina and at 14 she too had a big culture shock. Not only was there no house staff in America but English was the only lanquage Anne Marie could’nt speak.

Anne Marie was with GHQ all through the SWP and in Occupied Japan she was a ‘Special Reports Writer’ from October 1945. I don’t know what that entails but when the Women’s Army Corps reduced ranks, Anne Marie chose to stay in Japan. She wore civilan clothing and Captain became Miss.

Anne Marie attended the Tokyo Trials as well as the reading of the Constitution and I am positve her favorite part was exactly what Ms Gordon crafted..

I’d love to hear from her, Regards, Ann

4. Passion makes things happen « Geneva-Kurisaki Market Intelligence Lab - December 23, 2009

[...] of facts of women’s fights to establish human rights since the end of the WWII. Helping its screening in Switzerland and all over Europe and beyond has become my passion since [...]

5. Susan Gould - January 2, 2012

I saw this film in Kasugi-shi while I was living in Japan. It was of great interest to me since I had never heard about Beate before. She was a remarkable young woman, and more should be made public of her life and contribution to Japanese women.

6. kentxu - January 2, 2013

Equality needs to be grounded in Asian communitarianism and nationalism, not dictated by western ideologies. This woman simply stepped over Japan’s own ethnic agency to implement western thought where it does not belong. The idea that Asians ourselves cannot achieve gender equality on our own terms is insulting and condescending.

Furthermore, I suspect few Japanese see the dangerous liberalism surrounding western “women’s rights” activism, most of which are naive idealism not suitable for non-Western countries.

7. Pragmatic - January 2, 2013

Kentxu, you should re-read your Japanese history. During the Heian Period (794-1185).women had nearly equal status to men. It was later lost during the long feudal period. Thus, gender equality was an Asian and Japanese concept at least 1,000 years before the founding of America. Countries who practice gender equality have a natural competitive advantage because they make use of the full mental capacity of their society, rather than just 50%. From Musashi’s Book “The 5 Rings”, it is the wise Samurai who adopts the successful ways of his advisories to persevere in battle. How many more centuries do you feel Japan should have waited to fully utilize the capabilities of its male AND female population to compete globally? It seems to me that while suffering the injustices of post WWII gender equality, they kicked our (America’s) rear quite handily in the auto and electronics’ industries.

Beate Sirota Gordon had the heart of a tiger, and Japan and women world-wide will reap the rewards of her courage forever.

8. Chinesewoman - January 2, 2013

@Kentxu, it’s insulting to assume/imply that Asian women do not want equality, fast, immediately and in full measure. Men should stop fantasizing about having obedient household slaves. Get your own beer lol. It seems some Asian men (and many men in the rest of the world) can’t get over not being served tea or not having their wives wash their clothes and stay in the kitchen all day, and bleat about not equality being ‘naive’. Women have all the right to vote, and have full careers. If asian society was so concerned about women’s equality, it would have been achieved long ago. Beate achieved a fantastic and morally amazing feat by writing this into the Japanese constitution.

9. Chinesewoman - January 2, 2013

@kentxu – and pray tell, what exactly is “women’s equality rooted in (asian) communitarianism and nationalism?”

You mean like half equality? Or like ending slavery, but slowly, so slaveowners can get used to it? Lol.

10. A Jew in Japan During WWII « Googling the Holocaust - January 2, 2013

[...] She didn’t mention her role in Japan’s constitution until the mid-1980s. Her memoir, The Only Woman in the Room, which came out in 1995, made her a celebrity in Japan. There is also a documentary about her life, “The Gift From Beate.” [...]

11. Newtoblog - January 2, 2013

I hope NETFLIX is listening.

12. Jim Wilsterman - January 2, 2013

I am very sad to hear of her passing – She has been a hero of mine for years.

My wife is a very outspoken feminist from Osaka, and I am certain she would never have been allowed to ever speak her mind if it was not for Beate.

13. Kamaaina - January 3, 2013

Where can you find this film? Is it available in DVD? Considering her paperback book is costing $420.75 at Amazon, I am sure there is a market for the film.

14. Rachel - January 3, 2013

I agree, I hope Netflix is listening. I’m disappointed after trying to find it on Netflix in vain. I’d love to watch this documentary & don’t know where to find it.

15. indy.texto - January 3, 2013

It’s unfortunate to discover her work in the obituary section of the NYT !
I mail the French Public TV network and Arte, the Franco German tv channel to have this fillm shown here in France …
70 years after WW2, we discover one by one the silent peoples who did with the utmost discretion a splendit job to heal the wounds inflicted on so many victims.

16. Sandra Joncus - January 3, 2013

I, too, was disappointed not to find this film available from Netflix. Guess I’ll try to contact them.

17. Maria Rocco - January 5, 2013

I heard about Beate Gordon for the first time in the NY Times yesterday. I have a special interest in Japan and would like to know if Is is possible to get the film in Japan? If so I could ask a friend of mine to send it to me. I live in a college town, six minutes away from Mount Holyoke College for Women in Western MA and one professor would be interested in showing it.

18. Slinking Toward Retirement | Beate Gordon, Feminist Heroine in Japan, Dies at 89 – NYTimes.com | News, Travel, Opinion and Just Odd and Funny Things... - January 7, 2013

[...]  But in the mid-1980s, she began to speak of it publicly. The release of her memoir, “The Only Woman in the Room,” published in Japanese in 1995 and in English two years later, made her a celebrity in Japan, where she lectured widely, appeared on television and was the subject of a stage play and a documentary film, “The Gift From Beate.” [...]

19. MichelleR - January 16, 2013

I read about her today in the Economist magazine. I wish I had known about her earlier! This woman offered so much to the world. Imagine what she could accomplish if she were young today, in a much less sexist world.

20. Yvonne - February 8, 2013

I was living in Tokyo in the 1990’s and was lucky to attend a presentation at the Tokyo American Club given by Beate. She was a very approachable and amazing woman. I have a signed copy of her book. I think it is time to read it again!

21. Anonymous - March 7, 2014

about the gift from beate sirota gordon the american woman who wrote women is wellbeing into the constitution

22. http://friendfeed.com/mitch31/b448b30e/houston-wholesale-diamonds - August 9, 2014

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about sterling silver jewelry.

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23. Evangeline - August 14, 2014

This blog was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something which helped me.

Appreciate it!


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