Friday 12 May 2017

munakata or men’s spaces

Similar to the monastic Greek island of Mount Athos, the Shinto maintain a remote and isolated brotherhood on an island in the East China Sea between Fukuoka and Busan, South Korea—which is strictly off-limits to women.
Since the fourth century, the waters where the group of islands which includes the sacred Okinoshima are found have been vital trade routes and the tradition of prayer for safe passage, invoking the three Munkata sea goddesses (the Virgin Mary is the only female that can be in the monks’ company on Mount Athos), and economic prosperity has continued unbroken since. Women are banned from the island at all times and under all conditions (though there’s no word if they have the same strictures for female farm animals, like Mount Athos), but even male outsiders are just barely tolerated, allowed to visit on one day in the year in remembrance of a tragic 1905 naval battle that took place nearby, and not allowed to talk of their experience. Since 2009, there has been discussion of inscribing Okinoshima into the UNESCO World Heritage registry and perhaps the island, with its ancient temples and vast collection of offerings ferried from passing ships on to its shores for a millennia and a half, will be so honoured but not without detractors for the place’s practises of exclusion, which some consider not in keeping with the principles of the United Nations. What do you think? Maybe boys should be allowed their clubs, but such traditions can also be used as leverage for institutionalising and justifying misogyny in other contexts.