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Chōkōdō Shujin explores Yukio Mishima’s notion of masculinity and the misinterpretation of men by modern women, highlighting the clash between traditional heroism and the feminist redefinition of strength and heroism.

“Women who have been married for two or three years usually come to the conclusion that men are stupid, simple, good-natured and, in short, children. Then, when women who have been married for more than ten years get together, they may not say it, but they will come to the conclusion that men are more or less scoundrels, liars, treacherous, and, in short, enigmatic. Finally, when wives who have reached their golden weddings gather together, the expression becomes much more moderate, back to the original conclusion, men are stupid, naïve, good-natured and, in short, children.”

Stoicism, heroism, individualism, restraint, and objectivity are mocked, while performative “caring,” collectivism, and various patronizing forms of nurturing and faux-empathy as practiced by career women are all praised.

Thus begins Yukio Mishima’s 1964 essay Dai-ichi no Sei, or The First Sex, titled after Simone de Beauvoir’s 1949 “The Second Sex.” In the form of a sprawling manifesto, Simone de Beauvoir asks, “What is woman?” Yukio Mishima, in response, asks, “What is man?” With his typical elegant yet rousing and inspired prose, he then delves into his exploration of the subject of masculinity in the modern era. Mishima begins with his own observations of the behavior of modern women in relation to their various interactions with and general impressions of the opposite sex. “These conclusions are scientific enough,” Mishima caustically says, “since most women are locked away in the sacred laboratory of their lifelong marriage, studying the poor male with great precision and care.”

Upon examining these three conclusions drawn by modern urban women, it becomes apparent that the first and the third conclusion, although nearly identical in wording, are actually different in substance and content. The final conclusion is of course reached only after going through the second one, the vapid assertion that men are mentally and emotionally inferior to women. Fundamentally, he finds, modern women have little respect for men. In the end, the conclusion drawn by these patently Americanized housewives of Tokyo is simply that “men are bad.” It is difficult to conceive of a more prescient statement, being that traditional masculinity has recently been categorized as a form of mental illness by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Moreover, allegations of misogyny are sufficient grounds for dismissal from many places of employment, while misandry is casually accepted, or even encouraged and lauded. The simple and childish wording of the statement, too, “men are bad,” reflects the simplistic and binary attitudes of those who supported such measures, who describe any outward demonstration of masculine characteristics as “toxic.” Stoicism, heroism, individualism, restraint, and objectivity are mocked, while performative “caring,” collectivism, and various patronizing forms of nurturing and faux-empathy as practiced by career women are all praised. To say that men are bad, of course, implies that women are good. These women do not want equality, but domination.

In the end, it is a woman’s full-body expression of the very last possible admission: husbands should be treated like children, and women, who are natural nurturers, should be in charge. As Sonia Sotomayor said, cheered on by the mainstream media, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” I will let her quote speak for itself; no commentary is necessary. Such views, inappropriate as they may be, have become mainstream.

Beyond being merely ignorant of men’s lives and motivations, women often seem to willfully misunderstand men’s actions and priorities. This behavior, too, has become unsettlingly mainstream – it is considered commendable even. American television and mass media perpetuate and then propagate such an image. Sitcoms and films typically feature the archetypes of a bumbling, incompetent husband, fat and guzzling beer, and his long-suffering wife, who saves him from whatever mishap he has gotten himself into. And yet I cannot fail to note that many modern female entertainers, in the guise of empowerment, celebrate their gluttony and sloth, and the obesity that follows. These women expect tall and handsome men to fall for them while damning and questioning the masculinity of any man who finds their repellant physiques and hysterical temperaments unattractive.

Even more extreme in its misandry is so-called prestige programming, in which men seem to solely exist to rape, abuse, and generally persecute women, or to offer their undiluted adulation to the brilliant and remarkably capable women who surround them. These are the two roles men are allowed to play in the theaters of the American self-appointed elites.  Strolling through various mainstream bookstores, I have seen that this abounds in novels as well. What is particularly disturbing is the number of these television programs and novels that are marketed towards young girls. The propagandization begins young.

… Mishima is implying something greater: that women largely and fundamentally do not understand the male instinct towards heroism.

Anecdotally, I have observed many women who take no interest in films or novels that feature male protagonists. “I just can’t relate to them,” a friend’s wife said. It is an irony that would never occur to her that she insists upon her husband watching her preferred television shows with her, all of which have female protagonists, often teenage girls, and are heavily misandrist. Such women revel in their refusal to either understand or take the faintest interest in men, while expecting their husbands to find all aspects of the lives and the various problems of women to be endlessly fascinating. What is it about men, then, that women find so inscrutable?

“What is it that makes them go to war in the countryside to have a hard time when they have plenty of money, plenty of women, plenty of admiration from the world, and plenty of fun?” a hypothetical woman asks in Mishima’s essay.

This is a lifelong process of recognition for women, but as Mishima says, from a male point of view, we can only say, “You don’t get it, do you?” Of course, here Mishima is implying something greater: that women largely and fundamentally do not understand the male instinct towards heroism.

Women typically shun the concept of nobility; anything but equality, or, lately, “equity,” is unfashionable.

When Lord Byron went abroad to support the Greek War of Independence, selling his estate to support a private army of thirty philhellene officers and about two hundred men, his faithful steward, who had served him for many years, said to him on the outbound ship, “I don’t understand your lordship’s feelings at all.” Had Byron remained in England, he would have lived a life of privilege and luxury, a celebrated artist who wanted for nothing. Byron replied that he was honored to be misunderstood, for “[a] servant cannot understand the heart of a hero.” This would have resonated with Mishima especially, a writer twice nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature, who also founded a private army, the Tatenokai, or Shield Society, comprised mainly of young men from Waseda University. The Tatenokai was formed due to Mishima’s alarm over the scale of leftist protests in Tokyo in 1968, although he vowed to stand against threats to Japan from both the left and the right.

“But nowadays, in a democracy, everyone is a servant,” Mishima wrote in The First Sex.

It seems that women are naturally democratic, which I have always maintained is a system very much like communism, at least in its present iteration. To simplify the matter perhaps too much, both systems involve governance by the masses. In a very democratic way, women typically believe that rather than be ruled by the elite, everyone should have a say, although as Orwell said in Animal Farm, some are more equal than others. Women typically shun the concept of nobility; anything but equality, or, lately, “equity,” is unfashionable. And much like Lord Byron’s devoted steward, women can rarely understand the psychology of a hero, instead looking at the daily lives of their husbands from a limited and myopic perspective. While Byron’s steward was impressed though confused by this impulse to heroism, women tend to be repelled by it and aim to stifle or even extinguish this impulse.

“Every man is a hero,” Mishima says. Indeed, the title of the first chapter of The First Sex is “All Men Are Heroes.” He continues, “I say this as a man. It’s just that the world’s men are wrong. The only thing wrong with men in the world is that they try to make women see their heroism.”

And modern women, upon seeing this heroism, are either threatened or repelled. For the modern feminist, the concept of heroism is viewed as inherently tied to patriarchal structures and ideals, which they describe as promoting a narrow and often exclusionary definition of strength and heroism. They argue that traditional heroes tend to reflect masculine qualities and reinforce traditional gender roles, sidelining or dismissing the experiences and contributions of women and marginalized groups, to use their jargon, which I cannot help but notice is strangely interchangeable with the jargon used by modern race baiters.

What then do these women advocate? The modern feminist might advocate a broader understanding of heroism that includes “diverse” perspectives and attributes. “Diverse,” of course, is a euphemism for non-European and, increasingly, non-Asian. A “diverse” course in literature would not include Sōseki Natsume or Lu Xun, but instead whichever writers can be plucked from various developing countries, or American women and minorities. They celebrate what they describe as the courage and resilience of everyday people, shining a light on so-called individuals who challenge societal norms, fight for “social justice,” and work towards destroying systems that they consider oppressive. It is a thoroughly Marxist doctrine.

In their eyes, heroism should encompass acts of compassion, empathy, and advocacy for communities that they define as marginalized. They emphasize collective action, community-building, and cooperation over individualistic notions of heroism. These feminists advocate narratives that explore “complex” characters – that is, characters who reflect their own experiences, preferences, and perspectives. Their diversity is remarkable in its homogeneity.

In The First Sex, Mishima provides an anecdote in which a beautiful fashion model accidentally drove her car into a moat. Frightened and unable to swim, the young woman climbed onto the roof of her stranded car and shouted for help. Three men immediately appeared, jumped into the water, and rescued the woman. “…and we can only wonder how chivalry could have spread from Europe at the end of the Middle Ages in the fifteenth century to Japan in the twentieth century,” Mishima writes.

The three men in question were all men of great integrity. All three of them were unquestionably noble, not because they rescued the woman for some ulterior motive, not because any money or glory was at stake, but simply because they were “chivalrous heroes.” This is one of many things that modern feminists are waging war against.

“Chivalry was a very cunning Western invention,” writes Mishima. Indeed, it was chivalry that established an aesthetically pleasing image of the hero that was easy for women to understand. In the modern era, the hero has been reduced to an archetype. In fact, heroism is perhaps the most difficult idea for the modern woman to comprehend, but cunning chivalry is a successful adaptation of this ancient concept for the modern woman. As I described earlier, we see this cunning heroism on television in the form of the plucky female protagonist’s adoring, obsequious, and non-threateningly handsome love interest.

“The men in the middle are real sissies,” Mishima says quite candidly, describing these milquetoast figures. They know neither art nor action. “There is not a single heroic figure that women are concerned with, and heroes are all difficult figures for women to understand, from the ancient Japanese warrior Yamato Takeru-no-Mikoto, who achieved great deeds through the sacrifice of women, to the patriots of the late Tokugawa shogunate, who only knew women as merchant girls who fell to their knees.”

In his long prose poem, “The Crowned Poet,” Yojūrō Yasuda describes Takeru-no-Mikoto as such: “He was the epitome of one of Japan’s finest warriors, and therefore also the epitome of a Japanese poet. Not only is it significant because he was a poet, but it is also significant because he was a warrior.” Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, famous as a poet, writer, and aesthete, was also accomplished as a master of judo, and it was his contention that all artists should also be martial artists, and vice versa.

But for women, what matters is, essentially, emotion. To put it bluntly, the masculine principle is forever a mystery to women, just as the feminine principle is forever a mystery to men. And to understand the hero, the symbol of the masculine principle, a woman has no choice but to understand things in a woman’s way. This leads to her interpreting the emotions and motivations of men as being essentially similar to her own, and drawing conclusions that are often vastly incorrect. As a result , she sees the man as some inferior and inscrutable “other,” to use the modern parlance. When women weep, it is due to their profound empathy, yet when men weep, it is a failing, a weakness, in their eyes. In The Father, playwright August Strindberg addresses this, paraphrasing Shylock’s famous monologue from The Merchant of Venice. “Yes, I am crying although I am a man. But has not a man eyes! Has not a man hands, limbs, senses, thoughts, passions? Is he not fed with the same food, hurt by the same weapons, warmed and cooled by the same summer and winter as a woman? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? And if you poison us, do we not die? Why shouldn’t a man complain, a soldier weep? Because it is unmanly? Why is it unmanly?”

In the world of boys, Mishima contends, the highest principle in the world is the test of heroism: to climb higher, to run faster, to prove one’s physical and mental bravery.

Mishima describes the process of the typical feminine attempts to unravel a man’s feelings as pulling the yarn from one place on a woollen doll when she finds a tear, finding a particular point of view when it comes undone, pulling the yarn out from that point of view, and then pulling the wool out again, and again, and again. They pull the yarn from the woolen doll until they eventually tear it to pieces, turning it into a mere ball of mangled yarn. “Poor men, they grow up in a storm from childhood. Subjected to ridicule, abuse, and criticism, they wear themselves out trying not to be the laughing stock of others. In the world of boys, the degree of respect depends on the development of secondary sexual characteristics.”

In the world of boys, Mishima contends, the highest principle in the world is the test of heroism: to climb higher, to run faster, to prove one’s physical and mental bravery. The most undeveloped aspect of such a competitive spirit remains even in adulthood, and although women are different in their love of physically strong men, and many women do not value strength to such a degree, most men without muscles envy men who are physically strong. This is no longer a question of merely being popular among women or not, but a remnant of the fierce competition for secondary sexual characteristics in the world of boys, and a lingering vestige of the near-extinct heroic type.

The pointlessness of the heroic struggle in the male world, even for muscular physique, still seems ridiculous to many modern women. The competition between women regarding appearance is vaguely similar to this, but modern women tend to decry any display of vanity, at least in public. This explains the popularity of designer sweatpants and nude lipstick, which are worn with the intention of impressing other women, rather than to appeal to men. This also explains the great number of overweight fashion models and pop singers. It is other women whose respect they seek, and in seeking this catty sort of respect, they often unflatteringly alter their appearances.

Let us return to the words of Mishima’s anonymous Tokyo housewife.

“Men are stupid, simple, good-natured and, in short, children.”

This is the conclusion of those who proclaim their superior empathy and emotional intelligence, the modern woman’s substitute for physical vanity.

“But, wait a moment,” Mishima says. The competition for women’s appearances is solely a matter of the physical, but the heroics of men immediately pass through the physical realm and extend into the spiritual and metaphysical world. Although their basic motives are in essence childish, they reach the giants of the world of politics and economies, of philosophical thought and art, conquests, and war. In other words, a man’s feet can lose ground more easily than a woman’s. This is the privilege of men, as well as the source of all honor, Mishima writes. And this is something that should never be disparaged or discarded, regardless of the best attempts of modern progressives to destroy masculinity.

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Chōkōdō Shujin

Chōkōdō Shujin is an artist in the tradition of the Shirakaba-ha,or White Birch School, of Japanese literature. As such, his work is strongly grounded in aesthetics, pessimism, and a strong skepticism towards modernity and technological “advancements.” A believer in art for art’s sake, Shujin is a poet, essayist, novelist, and hack writer of short stories. His translations of Japanese literature into English can be found on his substack:, and Twitter account: @CShujin. His hobbies include smoking cigarettes and thinking unpleasant thoughts. He resides in Aomori, Japan.

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