Day: May 6, 2022

The Pillow Book

PILLOW BOOK

Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book was highly influential for its time. The work’s beliefs and expectations completely changed the common public’s view on women, domesticity, and high society. Shonagon was one of the high ladies in court, who was almost the authority of the social standards. She focused her works on feminine dealings that were not inherently domestic. It was one of the first to show women as characters with power and authority, rather than simple homemakers and mothers. She is writing about political power, particularly in support of another woman. She also reflects on what power she does and doesn’t have. “If the ladies who went to sermons in those days had lived long enough to see the way things are today, I can just imagine how they would have been criticized and condemned.”

It would have been much more of a feminist work if the Pillow Book didn’t focus only on or praise women who directly benefitted her. The obvious classism displayed in the text does not conform with modern values concerning feminism– or any version of it. She displays and explains the aesthetics and how they relate to the power a person has, and romanticizes the times and stories she encountered during her time in the emperor’s court. She is completely out of step with the true order of the world.  “I must say, however, from my own sinful point of view, it seems quite uncalled-for to go around as some do, vaunting their religious piety and rushing to be the first to be seated wherever a sermon is being preached.”