Follow up on Japanese Sexism

A commenter expands on the subject of Japanese Sexism.

japanese white rabbit…
Image by colodio via Flickr

On my post about Sexism in Japanese culture, one commenter left a reply that I thought was far to interesting to let it delve in obscurity. So I’m posting it here to give you perhaps a deeper understanding on what goes on there.

Having lived in Japan for a while and having married a Japanese woman, I’d say that’s you’re fairly correct in your assumptions. In general, the progressive image of Japan comes under a lot of heat in many areas when viewed from the inside-out.

Japan has never truly had a woman’s revolution. I visit corporate clients on a daily basis and find that the majority of women are still used in a 1960s-ish ‘coffee secretary’ role. I’ve been told directly by more than a few clients that they tend to hire women solely for having them around the office to meet male workers, marry them, get pregnant, and leave the workplace so they can get new, younger women in the office.

The idea behind this is that it helps Japanese male employees meet women (which they’re fairly near utterly incapable of doing on their own sometimes) and don’t have the free time to usually pursue because of long work hours. In this way, it keeps Japan from extinction.

On the other hand, sexual harassment is the norm, and there doesn’t exist much currently to combat such things. I’ve seen female employees treated like complete garbage by men who have never had to confront the word ‘equality.’

So has the oppressing hand of man kept women down and successfully prevented a woman’s revolution?

Not Exactly….

In Japan, the workplace is traditionally the domain of men and the home is the domain of women. While men puff out their chests in public and can show dominance over their spouses there, they are normally completely at a loss to control ANY home issues.

The woman handles all money and the man readily gives her his monthly paychecks. She normally doles out a pittance to the man to buy a bit of lunch, and dictates all monetary issues.

I know many a man that I can deflate upon asking why they can’t come out for a drink.

“My wife only allows me 500 yen (5 dollars) a day for lunch.”

In this way, there’s a bit more under the carpet than can be easily seen.

I’d argue that a woman’s revolution has never occurred because the majority of Japanese woman are quite happy with the status quo and don’t feel the need for work when they can dream of being a house wife that holds out her hand to collect her husband’s money.

I liken it to some people on welfare in America/Australia that don’t bother getting jobs because life’s already basically paid for, but many Japanese woman seem quite comfortable with the arrangement. Perhaps they don’t know better, or perhaps it just IS better (I often wonder what life would be like if I could just collect a spouses money and maintain the house all day)

Of course, there are a minority of woman who want to achieve a life where they can manage companies and advance in their line of work/careers, and these women truly get the shaft and have to endure a barrage of men trying to put them back in their place.

I often get angry at it, but Japan is a place where you accept roles and stick to those roles. It’s not going to change overnight.

It IS changing slowly, extremely slowly. Men today seem to have lost a bit of their old ways and are slowly emerging in home life. Some would argue that women’s control has actually increased due to a weaker man.

I loved your post, totally agree, would love to see change, but am cognizant of the fact that I’m viewing the whole situation from a different cultural standpoint and perhaps could be wrong.


EDIT: Just to make it clear since the comment above can be taken to apologize for the rampart patriarchy of Japan (Although I do not think that was Craig’s intention) when it says stuff like:

So has the oppressing hand of man kept women down and successfully prevented a woman’s revolution?

Not Exactly….

I believe it has been absolutely the oppressive hand of man that kept women down. I do not see the role of the woman in such a society as having any power but rather as having internalized their oppression and trying to use the position decided for them by the patriarchy to its full extent. As Sitakali wrote in the comments (and I agree wholeheartedly):

I find excuses like the one presented here to be good examples of why cultural relativism can be dangerous. Just as Sharia Law is not acceptable, regardless of the cultural history of Islamic nations, so is this separation of “duties” along gender lines unacceptable and unfair.

PS: This is the reason why I like blogging my thoughts on things like this, even if they’re not so well educated. So often will you find people that are able to provide a thoughtful and new perspective on something you’re thinking of, correct your preconceptions and generally ecpand your understanding.

Is it just me or is Japanese culture really so sexist?

Watching Japanese anime, I can’t help but notice the implicit sexism that permeates them.

Sakura Haruno
Image via Wikipedia

I recently started watching Naruto and by now, I’ve watched around 17 episodes and what has really made an impression of me is the undeniable sexism that exists in the story. You see, in these series, at the point where I am now at least, you follow the story of Naruto, a kid “ninja” who is travelling around with his Sensei and his two schoolmates, 1 girl and one boy. As is to be expected, they have to overcome any number of enemies and challenges in their travels.

Until now, I haven’t seen the girl do anything. Seriously. While the two boys have defeated enemies far stronger than them, and shown some awesome initiative and power, continuously impressing their Sensei, the girl’s accomplishments until now are: Faint, Fail to provide a weapon to he schoolmate, cry over the body of the one she loves, roundhouse kick someone (not anyone powerful mind you) who tried to steal her bag, be the object of lust for Naruto. And that’s about it. Oh no, wait, her biggest accomplishment is that she managed to climb a tree using Chakra.

I keep waiting, since the 3rd episode, to see her do something exciting. Anything. But she won’t. She politely stays away from all the battles and is dutifully impressed and scared when the true heroes, teh mens, do all the dangerous stuff. This kind of shit is so heavy it really threatens to ruin the whole show for me. I keep hoping it will get better but given past experience with Japanese cartoon, I can’t hold my breath.

You see, I’ve also been watching the Legend of the Galactic Heroes for a while now and that one is far worse at reinforcing the patriarchy. There’s basically two strong women in that show, both in some kind of advisory role, which isn’t as bad per se but given that the whole thing revolves around dozens and dozens of men, it’s really sad that the only thing women can do apparently is advise the men. But as bad as this is, it got even worse as the show moved on, one of these women got married to one of the main protagonists and then she immediately became practically his wife-slave. It would show the protagonists sitting in the living room relaxing, while his wife would cook, clean and arrange of all the social duties. Her biggest fear was that she wasn’t a good enough cook for fuck’s sake.

All the other women that were married naturally had the same role. Take care of the household while the men did the important stuff like war and politics. I was thinking if this was because this looked like an older TV show but then I learned that it run from 1988-2000 which is definitely not that old. This can only mean that Japanese culture continues to remain so patriarchal that such displays of sexism are considered the norm and expected by the majority of their viewers. Nevertheless, I was hoping that Naruto, which started 10 years later, would be more progressive, but alas it was not so.

It also makes me wonder if any girls watch shows like Naruto or if it’s explicitly targeted at boys. If girls watch it, which character could they possibly identify with an support? Can they really enjoy having their gender being displayed simply as an object of lust?

So I’m curious, is Japanese society really so sexist in the 21st century? For one of the most progressive countries out there, their patriarchy seems exceedingly preserved.