The Heian court of medieval Japan was a progressive and dynamic society where women commanded a fair amount of power and respect. In many ways it seemed to be the basis of the "rank n file", material culture of today’s society. The social structure of society throughout the court was set up in three different ranks. In chapter two, Genji’s friend, To no Chujo explained the three roles and how they determined the role of women in court. Women of high rank would be the wife of a high ranking elite, thus responsible for raising the future heirs, women of lower rank were concubines and often had better relationships with the man than his wife. did It was this complicated ranking system that led to the abundance of accepted promiscuity, however the two roles kept a bit of stability and normalcy throughout the court.
Social rank was a main factor in determining women’s role in court and from the ...view middle of the document...
Genji’s mother was a lower (Middle) rank concubine of the emperor. As happened often Genji’s mother was admired by the Emperor more than he admired his wife. Women of high rank had a certain façade they had to keep up. Personifying such greatness makes for a shrewd and cold person. Jealous women would spread rumors and falsities to keep their social standing within the court while their husbands screwed everyone.
Promiscuity was so popular do to the same social ranks that defined the elite’s from the commoners. The façade that elite had to keep often times turned them into overbearing, nagging woman that men were intimidated by. Men wanted a strong, educated, cultured woman to run his household and bear the children, but they also wanted a woman who was compassionate and understanding to his needs. To spoke of this in chapter two saying, “No, let us not worry too much about rank and beauty. Let us be satisfied if a woman is not too demanding and eccentric. It is best to settle on a quiet steady girl.” This proves that the overbearing societal roles of women pushed men into promiscuous relationships often with lower ranking women.
While men were having sex with every woman in every rank they could find, women were responsible for raising the future heirs entirely alone. Thus women had the power of the future court entirely in their hands. Children of elite men born to a lower ranking concubine took the mothers maiden name due to tradition. However this left the child in better standing in court as proved when the Emperor wanted to make Genji the crowned prince after his mother died but couldn’t make it fly with The Kokian Lady. Not being able to crown Genji prince the emperor gave his mother’s maiden name thus making him a commoner the emperor then assigned him to the palace of the right as a guardsman. This proves that women had quite a bit of pull in court, the emperor was willing to overlook tradition just because he had so much respect for his concubine, however the strong will of the Kioken Lady kept the tradition going. The dynamic of their society and how it balanced out is shown with the emperors gesture too.