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Furthermore, one of the most impactful characters in the story which one can debate whether she shows female empowerment or not is the Rokujo Haven. According to how she was described in the story, she seemed to have had a high status earlier in her days but had lost her power. She does not seem to be treated with the utmost respect in the story. Personally, to have a female character start off as one of the highest rankings possible shows the powerful side of feminism; that women can be almost as high a status as men during the Heian period.
This must have been a compliment to the female audience. However, when the Rokujo Haven attacks Yugao in chapter 4, she is angry, jealous, and aggressively violent. She is portrayed as the perpetrator, making the audience believe that some aristocratic women were out of control and crazy.
“Meanwhile, messengers- the young gentlemen from his Excellency’s- came from His Majesty, whose failure to find Genji yesterday had worried him greatly,” (Tyler.
One perspective of the Rokujo Haven is that she had the power to make others feel great emotions. Her attack on Yugao left Genji devastated, and his negativity ultimately depressed everyone at the palace, even His Majesty his father. Her bold, leading actions of making herself noticed to others, especially to Genji, makes her different from other women who usually just waits for Genji to notice them. In a sense, the Rokujo Haven spoke out her thoughts and actively behaved how she thought she must.
Although her spirit that killed Yugao was unconscious, unconscious behaviors are automatic and they influence our feelings, judgement, and behaviors (McLeod). Our breathing and heart rate are done unconsciously and maintains our stability. Likewise, it was an automatic behavior for the Rokujo Haven to react in a way that reflected how she truly felt. She does not hold back, which is a feministic perspective because she does not restrain herself for the sake of a man. She showed the audience that she is actively conveying her thoughts rather than being passive like many others (such as Suetsumuhana waiting for Genji to veer his attention towards her).
Similarly, the Rokujo Haven’s spirit has unconsciously attacked Aoi as she gave birth to her and Genji’s child, Yugiri, and ultimately took her life as well. However, in this instance, Rokujo Haven was portrayed more as a victim rather than the aggressor.
“By the time all the carriages were in place, the Rokujo Haven’s had been pushed behind the least of the gentlewomen’s, and she had no view at all… With her shaft benches broken and her carriage shafts now resting willy-nilly on the wheel hubs of other carriages, she looked so ridiculous that she rued her folly and wondered helplessly why she had ever come,” (Tyler, 167).
At the parade, Genji does not realize what has happened to the Rokujo Haven’s carriage. She is without a doubt outraged at what has happened; she feels extremely disrespected and cannot get out of this humiliating situation because the other carriages were blocking her path. After being treated horribly by Genji (his ignorance) and the people at the parade, the Rokujo Haven’s actions seem to be justified. Although taking someone’s life is never justifiable, when taking the perspective of the Rokujo Haven, the audience can sympathize with her. In my perception, it seems as if Murasaki Shikibu has written in this style on purpose. She made the Rokujo Haven look like the antagonist at first, and then made her into a victim to have the Rokujo Haven feel relatable to those who read this novel. It creates a deep impression that she is in fact just a woman trying her best to get what she wants, fight for what she wants when she feels something is unfair. This speaks volumes to female empowerment to readers. To note, however, a different perception of her actions suggests to me that it goes little against female empowerment when the Rokujo Haven attacks other women.
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