5. What is the message in the print Vulgarly Called the Wanton?
Another print in this series is referred to by the title Vulgarly Called the Wanton or Zoku Ni Iu Bakuren. The print depicts a woman with a glass of saké in one hand and a crab in the other indicating that she is partying heavily. She is drinking and eating with both hands, so much so that she neglects to notice that her kimono has fallen open. Her breast is concealed strategically by the one hand with which she is drinking saké.
The commentary that accompanies it describes an explicit attitude of condemnation towards the womans behavior. Even her body motions, here, with the one glass, her head tilted back and the glass tilted very sharply. Its very undelicate.
The moralizing tone is not overly strong, and there isnt an explicit alternative for how women should act. Partying is not condemned, drinking is not condemned. This woman seems simply to have carried it to extremes and therefore manifests some kind of negative character trait.
The artist is more interested in making a good picture with the yellow crab in one hand and the unusual body position and draping of her kimono. One of the subtexts to this print is that, in her kimono, one can see the trademarks of different saké companies. So its a very creative print, visually. The print is aimed less at moralizing than at interesting, unusual, striking art.
The commentary is:
This woman imagines that it is good not to keep up any sense of appearance. Chattering away in a loud voice, she isnt afraid of anyone. Nor does she despise herself in any sense. She just acts as if shes fancy-free, though these are not her true feelings. She doesnt want to know about proper things. Isnt it so lacking in discretion to display your faults openly? In the past the conduct of a woman who had no experience of service in a mansion was unworthy of attention.
She clearly is a courtesan or a waitress at a teahouse in the floating world. There was a hierarchy in some women who were highly skilled courtesans. There were different expectations for behavior and manner for those women than for lower status women. She would appear to be a lower-class courtesan. Perhaps the message here is that what is wrong about her is not necessarily that shes engaging in this behavior, but that its inappropriate for a woman of her particular status within this world of female employment.