Haruki Murakami’s Objectification of Women


Anya Yang, Editor in Chief

I’ve loved Haruki Murakami’s writing since I first read 1Q84, a densely-packed 932 page novel about female assassins, alternate universes, and terrifying cults. His prose was simple yet effective, transporting me to his plethora of imaginary worlds so vividly. I, along with the millions of other fans worldwide (Harukists, as they’re called), felt a special connection to Murakami’s writing. 

But one thing bothered me as I read. Why was he so obsessed with the female body?

Scattered amongst the “normal” parts of 1Q84 are overly-detailed descriptions of female adolescent body parts. One of the main characters, Fuka-Eri, is described as a 17-year-old girl with “large and perfectly ripe breasts.” The novel, often from the male protagonist, Tengo’s, point of view, continues to objectify Fuka-Eri through it all––specifically, her chest as she’s sleeping, walking into a cafe, or simply breathing. 

This objectification of women isn’t specific to Fuka-Eri’s character, either. As the female protagonist, Aomame, grieves the gruesome deaths of her only two friends, she reflects on the physical loss of their bodies as well. Murakami writes that she mourns “their lovely breasts – breasts that had vanished without a trace.” 

Murakami has long been criticized for his objectification of women. In a 2004 Art of Fiction interview, he stated, “women are mediums – harbingers of the coming world. That’s why they always come to my protagonist; he doesn’t go to them.”

Reading Norwegian Wood, arguably one of his most famous works, left a sour taste in my mouth. The female characters truly existed as “mediums” for the male protagonist, both physically and emotionally. Elaborate descriptions of transformative sex for the narrator overwhelmed what little plot there was to begin with, and I found myself dreading each page I flipped.

The women in his novels serve as convenient plot devices or cures for his male protagonists’ angst. They’re one-dimensional characters, written only to provide sexual gratification and/or trigger some great realization for the narrator. Many are enigmatic in a shallow way––brief explanations of their manic-pixie-dream-girl-ness are used to highlight the emotional turmoil their male partners face. And with nearly every book comes an explicit sex scene or dream, and in some cases, they’re disturbingly non-consensual.

There’s no denying Murakami’s talent. He truly has taken magic realism to new heights, and books like Kafka on the Shore and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle remain some of my favorite compositions. But to read Murakami is to accept the blatant misogyny that mars each of his works––something that shakes me awake from his otherwise perfectly-crafted fantasy worlds.


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