Tradition & Change –
Examining gender roles in japan, , “i don’t interfere with my husband’s business, not with my mouth, hands or legs.”  this statement, made by kumiko hashimoto, the wife of former japanese prime minister ryutario hashimoto, underlines the traditional role of women in japan. indeed, as the former first lady articulates, she had no “special duties” in her job, and her main roles were as a housewife, a mother, and in taking care of her ill mother-in-law.  hashimoto’s comments on the traditional role of women underscore the deeply-rooted nature of inequality in the gender roles and relationships in japan. however, in today’s japan, such traditional attitudes are changing, as illustrated by the emergence of a class of young, educated and professional women, who are preferring to remain single, in order to preserve their freedom.  in examining the nature of gender roles and inequality in japan, it is therefore important to consider the major traditional patterns, understanding how these patterns have changed today, and how the changes have affected society in general. in this manner, it would then be possible to re-examine the questions of gender inequality, and recommend a direction for future changes., traditional gender roles in japan are characterised by a strong sense of patriarchy in society, which account for the bifurcation of the productive and reproductive spheres, with a distinct separation of gender roles. in the family, this refers to the idea of the man as the primary breadwinner of the family, and the woman as the primary caregiver in the family, an idea that is depicted in iwao sumiko’s story of akiko.  gender roles in the family bear a close relationship to the situation in the workforce, where there is a strong male dominance in the company hierarchy. resultantly, males possess increased career opportunities, unlike females, who are marginalised in the workforce and are considered to be temporary labour, expected to resign upon marriage or childbirth.  as can be seen, there is an intimate family-work relationship in japanese society and this hinges on the traditional gender roles within society., the traditional gender patterns in japanese society have however not been without their tensions and problems. for instance, traditional patterns in the family require women to be put their husbands before their jobs, as articulated by 33-year old interpreter asaki shimoda.  this has resulted in a tension between the status and economic security of marriage and the freedom of remaining single, where many women find themselves trapped in marriages that deny them personal freedom.  in addition, women in rural communities do not enjoy equal rights and status as their husbands, being expected to serve the families as “workers”, while at the same time not rewarded in terms of inheritance.  in the workplace, the idea that women play a temporary labour role has resulted in their limited career advancement. as executive director of shisedo sales company hisako nagashima asserts, japanese society generally adopts a “chauvinistic” attitude towards career women, and it is very difficult for them to climb the success ladder.  moreover, there is a relegation of women to non-leadership positions, which one analyst has referred to like “serving as a decoration”. , with the rising problems faced by the japanese economy, there have been changes in the structured patterns of gender in both the family and the workplace. economic recessions in the country have forced many women to enter the workforce in order to increase the level of income earned for the family.  with an increasing number of women in the workforce, the existing gender ratios have been altered favouring increased gender equality in that women now have a greater say in the family, and also participate more in the workforce. for instance, changes in the family can be seen in the rejection of omiai , the traditional arranged marriage. women are also marrying later, with the average age of first marriage at 26.3 years in 1995, compared to 25.4 in 1983.  in addition, an osaka marriage medical guidance survey found that a third of 400 women surveyed expressed a desire not to live with their husbands after marriage.  in the workforce, there has been a rise in the number of single career women who have been successful in the professional field. hisako nagashima of the shisedo sales company is one notable example. hisako rejected the comfortable job of running her aunt’s restaurant and being married to a man of her aunt’s choice, instead choosing to lead a single life, with the opportunity to choose her own life-partner herself. she joined a multinational company and rose in the ranks as an executive director, through her outstanding capabilities and hard work. , in addition to changing trends in the economy, an increase in educational standards has also tipped the balance of gender equality. this has in turn led to an increasing awareness of gender inequalities, which when coupled with changing attitudes towards women’s roles, have led to an increasing demand for the government to decrease gender inequality. consequently, the government began to pass legislation such as a gender equality law, which aimed to set broad new principles for japanese society.  in addition, government legislation such as the equal employment opportunity and labour standard laws were set up to outlaw workplace discrimination and set up a definition for sexual harassment.  these laws set the stage for a more equitable treatment of women and served as a positive step towards increased gender equality., on the surface, it would appear that the changes in gender patterns have served to redress gender equality. for instance, the post-world war two family system suffered a “shake-up” in the increasing feelings of emptiness among women after their children had grown up. many of these women then re-entered the workforce in a bid to search for a sense of satisfaction.  there has also been a questioning of the old family system and its customs in rural communities in japan.  as for increasing gender equality in the workplace, this can be seen in that women can now work late and take most dangerous jobs once reserved for men. there is also better treatment of women, as can be seen in more promotions of women to supervisory positions, reflecting a greater appreciation of women in the workforce.  in addition, there has been an increase in the number of sexual harassment complaints to local government, from 968 in 1995 to 7,019 in 1998.  there has also been a re-evaluation of the family-work relationship, in that more women are prepared to remain single, looking towards their jobs as the main avenue of expression rather than merely for the sole purpose of earning income. , despite such surface trends towards gender equality, many analysts have questioned the recent social changes, saying they have only been “cosmetic” in terms of their lasting impact on society.  take for instance the case of japanese official hiromu nonaka, dubbed the “minister of gender equality” for his role in promoting gender equality. hiromu had instead suggested to a female cabinet member to get married, implying that by getting pregnant, she could help to reverse japan’s low birth rate.  more concrete criticisms have targeted the equality laws themselves, saying that they are too “vague” and do not include any punishment for companies that disregard its provisions.  in addition, 1997 statistics show that japanese women hold only 9.3% of professional positions, compared to 44.3% in the united states.  another controversy had been the approval of the birth control pill in june 1999, which questioned the treatment of sexual equality in japan. the approval of the pill had been postponed several times since 1965, with government experts saying that approving the oral contraceptive would lead to “promiscuity” and “moral decay” as it would reduce condom use and would increase the spread of aids.  on the contrary, the government introduced the more risky medium and high-dose pills officially prescribed to control menstrual disorders.  this was compared to the relatively quick approval of the anti-impotence viagra drug only six months after its application. as one gynaecologist quipped, “maybe some important guys in government wanted it”. , as can be seen, the patterns of gender inequality in japan are still deeply rooted in the japanese psyche. consequently, it is essential to embark on further changes so as to alter this fundamental trend. hence, it is important to establish stronger government policies promoting equality in both the family and the workplace. in the family, this could take the form of laws altering the family registration system, for instance allowing women to retain their maiden name instead of insisting that married couples use a single surname under the current koseki system.  in the workplace this could be through legislation discouraging gender inequality in the company hierarchy, and through laws tangibly expressing the extent of punishment for sexual discrimination and harassment. such policy changes, if implemented, would indeed promote greater gender equality. however, due to the ingrained mindsets of patriarchy in japanese society, it is crucial to implement widespread educational reforms to alter such traditional notions, such as through public information campaigns or through the school textbooks. considering japan’s entrenched social traditions, such a task would be momentous. it would however be a considerable step towards establishing greater gender equality..
The above essay was written by Mark Lim Shan-Loong on 14th March 2000.
Hindell, Juliet, “International: Single Women in Japan woo their Valentines with a bridal message”, Sunday Telegraph [London], 14 February 1999, Online, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 22 Mar 1999.
Iwao, Sumiko, The Japanese Woman: Traditional Image and Changing Reality , Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1994.
Jameson, Sam, “Japan’s glass ceiling”, The Denver Post , 24 May 1998, Online, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 8 May 1999.
Jordan, Mary, “A First Lady’s Secondary Role; Premier’s Wife stands behind her man, typifying gender roles in modern Japan”, The Washington Post , 15 April 1996, Online, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 11 Mar 2000.
Lev, Michael A., “Japanese women see bias in quick ok for viagra”, The Buffalo News , 1 February 1999, Online, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 22 Mar 1999.
Magnier, Mark, “Equality evolving in Japan”, Los Angeles Times , 30 August 1999, Online, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 21 Feb 2000.
Mayo, Issobe, “Woman fights Japan to keep maiden name”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch , 26 March 1991, Online, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 13 Mar 2000.
Mullen, Ruth, “Educated Japanese women in no hurry down aisle”, The Indianapolis Star , 15 November 1998, Online, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 22 Mar 1999.
Sharmini, R., “Hisako – mistress of her own life”, New Straits Times [Malaysia], 18 October 1998, Online, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 22 Mar 1999.
Urquhart, Alexander, “Doctors find Pill hard to swallow”, South China Morning Post , 7 March 1999, Online, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 22 Mar 1999.
Yoshimi, Nagamine, “Imported brides not the answer”, The Daily Yomiuri [Tokyo], 1 September 1999, Online, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 21 Feb 2000.
Yumiko, Miyai, “Postwar family system bound to change”, The Daily Yomiuri [Tokyo], 24 December 1998, Online, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 8 May 1999.
Comments? Email [email protected] to share your thoughts.
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 Quoted in Mary Jordan, “A First Lady’s Secondary Role; Premier’s Wife stands behind her man, typifying gender roles in modern Japan”, The Washington Post , 15 April 1996, Online, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 11 Mar 2000.
 Ruth Mullen, “Educated Japanese women in no hurry down aisle”, The Indianapolis Star , 15 November 1998, Online, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 22 Mar 1999.
 See Iwao Sumiko, The Japanese Woman: Traditional Image and Changing Reality , Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1994, pp.47-51. Iwao tells of the relationship between Akiko and her husband Kazuo. While Kazuo was solely responsible for his job, Akiko managed practically every aspect of the home, and was of the firm conviction that a mother should devote full time to raising her children.
 Ibid., pp. 42-7. Akiko was expected to resign from her job when news broke out that she was getting married. She eventually did so when she was pregnant.
 Quoted in Ruth Mullen, “Educated Japanese women in no hurry down aisle”.
 Quoted in R. Sharmini, “Hisako – mistress of her own life”, New Straits Times [Malaysia], 18 October 1998, Online, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 22 Mar 1999.
 Sam Jameson, “Japan’s glass ceiling”, The Denver Post , 24 May 1998, Online, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 8 May 1999.
 Emiko Ochiai, quoted in Yumiko Miyai, “Postwar family system bound to change”, The Daily Yomiuri [Tokyo], 24 December 1998, Online, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 8 May 1999.
 Ruth Mullen, “Educated Japanese women in no hurry down aisle”.
 Juliet Hindell, “International: Single Women in Japan woo their Valentines with a bridal message”, Sunday Telegraph [London], 14 February 1999, Online, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 22 Mar 1999.
 R. Sharmini, “Hisako – mistress of her own life”.
 Mark Magnier, “Equality evolving in Japan”, Los Angeles Times , 30 August 1999, Online, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 21 Feb 2000.
 Emiko Ochiai, quoted in Yumiko Miyai, “Postwar family system bound to change”.
 Yoshimi Nagamine, “Imported brides not the answer”.
 Mark Magnier, “Equality evolving in Japan”.
 Asaki Shinoda, quoted in Ruth Mullen, “Educated Japanese women in no hurry down aisle”.
[ 22] Mark Magnier, “Equality evolving in Japan”.
 Michael A Lev., “Japanese women see bias in quick ok for viagra”, The Buffalo News , 1 February 1999, Online, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 22 Mar 1999.
 Alexander Urquhart, “Doctors find Pill hard to swallow”, South China Morning Post , 7 March 1999, Online, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 22 Mar 1999.
 Masako Horiguchi, quoted in Michael A Lev., “Japanese women see bias in quick ok for viagra”.
 Mayo Issobe, “Woman fights Japan to keep maiden name”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch , 26 March 1991, Online, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 13 Mar 2000.
Japanese vs. American Male Gender Roles
Being a comparatively isolated island country of Asia, Japan has been finely sheltered from external incursions. Even though its past includes a few domestic conflicts, the populace of Japan has by and large preserved and benefited from a nonviolent country for more than two thousand years.
The populace of Japan is inclined to the philosophy of ‘Confucianism’ which has phenomenally impacted not only the culture but also the historical development of Japan.
The morals of the ‘Confucian’ system give emphasis to a pleasant culture in which a ‘hierarchical’ configuration is preserved thereby teaching the people faithfulness, piousness, and reverence for elders and powers as also stressing individual inner virtues such as honesty, morality, and compassion. Moreover, Confucianism stresses a hierarchical societal structure, which presupposes the compliance of younger people to the elders and male authority over women and children (Reischauer & Craig, 1973).
In the beginning, Japan was an egalitarian society in nature but developed a robustly patriarchal society in later years (Reischauer & Craig, 1973). The system of male American society on the other hand differed radically in many aspects. Among the American males, allegiance was perceived as an agreement in a legal and legislative system whereas loyalty in Japan was distinguished as moral conduct distinguishing the ethical principles of Japanese males to be extensively different from those of their American counterparts.
Furthermore, feudal American males perceived their women as weak and powerless creatures requiring protection (Reischauer & Craig, 1973) whereas the Japanese male stereotypes envisioned their women as being subordinate to men, but gave them a right to become heirs to their possessions and position from their family units, and expected their women to display the same courage and devotion as men. Similarly, in the fighter era, even the Japanese men, we’re supposed to be proficient in literature as well as arts (Otake, 1977) which was not the case of “macho type” (Chia et al., 1994) males in American society who were required to attain success only in their distinct domains of war. Chia et al. (1994) wrote that ideal men in Japan were not the “macho type” described in the U.S. culture because Japanese males men were adapted to the Confucian tradition, which places values the traits of fine arts, music, along with military arts incomplete men. Thus we see indistinctiveness in the male gender expectations in Japan as compared to their counterparts in America.
Williams and Best (1990a), in their cross-cultural study of gender stereotypes, indicated that Japanese masculine stereotypes were favored over feminine stereotypes in Japan as compared to America where the situation was reversed.
They also found that Japanese male stereotypes were perceived as less active than American male stereotypes. On the domestic front, the Japanese fathers assumed critical roles in parenting their children whereas American fathers were generally associated with nurturing parent roles in America (Williams and Best 1990). This proves the fact that gender typecasts are an outcome of cultures, the idea of cultural difference in male gender roles has been supported by numerous studies (Basow, 1984; Chia, Moore, Lam, Chuang, & Cheng, 1994; Lara-Cantu & Navarro-Arias, 1987; Moore, 1999; Novakovic & Kidd, 1988; Ward & Sethi, 1986; Williams, Satterwhite, & Best, 1999).
Gender stereotypes change over the years along with societal changes. Changes in occupational choices of Japanese males as compared to American males clearly reflect differences in gender stereotypes in their respective societies. Whereas American males are supposed to be dynamic, brave, and go-getters, typical Japanese males are expected to be polite, docile, cooperative, and peaceful. Numerous researchers have investigated gender stereotypes cross-culturally (Chia, Moore, Lam, Chuang, & Cheng, 1994; Lara-Cantu & NavarroArias, 1987; Lobel, Slone, & Winch, 1997; Ward & Sethi, 1986).
Even in contemporary Japanese males, ethics such as accord, commonality, and faithfulness have been highlighted and promoted in the process of renovating ancient Japan to a present industrial nation. Males in America, on the other hand, have witnessed degradation in the value system, which evidently is falling apart. More and more Japanese males became income producers as the country industrialized, and the partition of gender for labor became severe and obvious.
Typically males spent more time working outside the home, in Japan and women stayed at home to take care of children and household chores in contrast to the wives of American males who were rapidly getting involved in the industrialization process and were demanding equality with men (Otake, 1977). Thus the Japanese male society transferred and adapted the Confucian ethics in work settings to achieve relatively high economical prosperity as compared to American males where the problems of industrialization were clearly visible. The males in the companies of Japan acclimatized a permanent occupational system, and constancy and commitment to the company were implicit, this not being the case in a typical male American society.
The working males of Japan undertook group accountability and judgment by personal harmony through the absence of written rules as opposed to the comprehensively written legislative directives for the working males of the American working culture. The stereotype men of Japan expected their women to undertake absolute accountability for domestic chores and children giving them the authority to make decisions in addition to the control of the money at home so that the male members could be liberated from domestic issues and could be dedicated to their work.
Typical males in Japan desire a traditional family pattern (Arichi, 1993) and the Asahi newspaper (“Henkasurukekkonkan,” 1989) reported that about 50% of men between the late 20s and early 30s had no dating partners.
Traditional families are those in which the man is an earning partner and member and expects the woman to be a homemaker (Nihon Fujind antai Rengoukai, 1998) which is radically different from a modern American family, where the male knows and wholeheartedly accepts the wife as a working partner and not only a homemaker (Twenge, 1997).
In the conventional male Japanese society, children are reared up by inculcating the morals and ethics of the society in them. Whereas American boys are trained to be independent, the Japanese male children specifically the boys are expected to discover and instill this communal dual configuration by way of male socializing.
Research students of Japan have universally acknowledged the claim of Doi (1973; 1996) that ‘Amae’ is a distinct feature in Japanese child-rearing which is peculiarly different from that of Americans (Shwalb & Shwalb 1996).
Young boys are taught to obey their parents and elders at home, a process which begins when they are very young. When they begin going to school, they enter the ‘senpai-kohai’ or the ‘senior-junior’ correlation where the senpai’s beliefs and commands are supreme and necessitate compliance. When they enter college, it becomes the most fundamental situation to form the ‘senpai-kohai’ association which influences them all through their existence.
When the young males join work, they are positioned by maturity, and all over again the ‘senpai-kohai’ associations are created in accordance with the duration of services offered to the company. The ‘senpai’ is highly honored and respected by granting him an elevated status by the kohai, while the ‘kohai’ obtains along with the job, position, and timely promotion, along with support and care even for his family members. Consequently, vertical associations are formed not only in colleges and universities but also in the public and private companies in which the males work (Nakane, 1970). There is no evidence of any such kind of relationship in the American male society, whether at school, college or workplace.
There is an emphasis on these personality traits of Japanese males throughout their society making them highly desirable characteristics among male stereotypes of Japan. Males of Japan are not expected to impede in any way, the hierarchical relationships which are only expected and encouraged to be greatly valued. This highlights the strong differences in the personality traits of American males as compared to their Japanese counterparts who have not much scope for room to employ talents comprising of management, determination, equality, vivacity, and power in the strict hierarchical system.
The Japanese males are necessitated to imbibe characteristics such as tranquility, courteousness, and perception towards others at the higher end of the hierarchical system as they are perceived as being more functional than those at the bottom of the ladder of hierarchy (Nakane, 1970). Thus, as opposed to American males, Japanese men, through their experiences, learn and acquire both masculine and feminine characteristics which enable them to function peacefully in any relationship.
Arichi, T. (1993). Nihon no kazoku ha kawattaka [Have Japanese families changed?]. Tokyo: Yuhikaku.
Basow, S. A. (1984). Cultural variations in sex-typing. Sex Roles, 10, 577–585.
Chia, R. C., Moore, I. L., Lam, K. N., Chuang, C. J., & Cheng, B. S. (1994). Cultural differences in gender role attitudes between Chinese and American students. Sex Roles, 31, 23-30.
Henkasuru kekkonkan [Changing attitude toward marriage]. (1989). The Asahi Shinbun, p.4.
Lara-Cantu, M. A., & Navarro-Arias, R. (1987). Self-descriptions of Mexican college students in response to the Bem Sex Role Inventory and other sex role items. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 18, 331-344.
Lobel, T. E., Stone, M., & Winch, G. (1997). Masculinity, popularity, and self-esteem among Israeli preadolescent girls. Sex Roles, 36, 395-408.
Moore, D. (1999). Gender traits and identities in a “masculine” organization: The Israeli police force. Journal of Social Psychology, 139, 49-68.
Nihon Fujindantai Rengoukai. (1998). Fujin Hakusyo 1998 [Report on Women 1998]. Tokyo: Porupu Syuppan.
Nakane, C. (1970). Japanese society. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Novakovic, T., & Kidd, A. H. (1988). Gender self-concepts in the USA and Yugoslavia. Psychological Reports, 62, 611-617.
Otake, S. (1977). “Ie” to jyosei no rekishi [History of “ie” and women]. Tokyo: Kogundo.
Reischauer, E. O., & Craig, A. M. (1973). Japan: Tradition and transformation. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
Twenge, J. M. (1997). Changes in masculine and feminine traits over time: A meta analysis. Sex Roles, 36, 305-325.
Ward, C., & Sethi, R. R. (1986). Cross-cultural validation of the Bern Sex Role Inventory: Malaysian and South Indian research. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 17, 300-314.
Williams, J. E., & Best, D. L. (1990a). Measuring sex stereotypes: A thirty-nation study. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Williams, J. E., Satterwhite, R. C., & Best, D. L. (1999). Pancultural gender stereotypes revisited: The five-factor model. Sex Roles, 40, 513-525.
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Gender roles/expectations that exists in contemporary Japanese society
Sociology Final Take Home Exam
Gender role/expectation that exists in contemporary Japanese society
Discuss one gender role or expectation that exists in contemporary Japanese society, please talk about: 1. how/why this role emerged and 2. provide examples of how men and/or women are changing and resisting/subverting this gender role/expectation.
In Japan, traditional gender roles are characterised by a strong sense of patriarchy in society, this is a male dominated country with a distinct separation of gender roles. In the family, this refers to the idea that the man is a breadwinner and the woman is a homemaker. At the workplace, there is a strong male dominance in the company hierarchy. Generally, men have more career opportunities, often life-time job and good salary, and women are considered to be temporary employers, expected to stop working after the marriage or childbirth. Working women generally take on non leadership roles, so this reduces the possibility to climb on career steps. Childcare is regarded as the mother's responsibility and the father's domestic role is limited in helping to repair something and playing with children on weekends. Wives spend lot of time inside the house, and husbands - outside.
Today this situation is a little bit changing, but still, remains the idea that man stands few steps higher than women, especially at work places and at government institutions. Gender roles and attitudes towards these roles among young generation’s couples are changing in a good way – men spend more time with their children, and women have more opportunities in their career, especially in international context. Young people, travelling abroad and then coming back to Japan begin to be more flexible and more elastic in this strict Asian country. They bring new waves, new feelings and new experiences, so it is natural, that little change towards the equality between man and woman is coming also. Then the old generation is less flexible than young Japanese people – attitudes are changing, but their behaviour is not.
Nowadays, we can see optimistic alterations, for example, some sociologists claim that with the rising problems faced by the Japanese economy, there have been changes in the structured patterns of gender in both the family and the workplace. Economic recessions in this country have forced many women to enter the labour force in order to increase the level of income. With an increasing number of women in the labour force, the existing gender ratios have been altered favouring increased gender equality. Changes in the family can be seen in the presence of omiai, the traditional arranged marriage. Women are also marrying later, with the average age of first marriage at 28-29 years in 2005, compared to 25 years in 1983.
For increasing equality between gender roles, the government began to pass legislation such as a Gender Equality Law, which aimed to set broad new principles for Japanese society. In addition, government legislation such as the Equal Employment Opportunity and Labour Standard Laws were set up to outlaw workplace discrimination and set up a definition for sexual harassment. These laws set the stage for a more equitable treatment of women and served as a positive step towards increased gender equality. ( )
Coming back to the discourse about marriage, in modern Japan, under the democratic constitution, marriage is supposed to be based on equal relations between man and woman. Polygamy is prohibited, and Japanese family is formed under the father as a head of household. The contemporary Japanese family, however, is changing rapidly because of lower birth rates, longer life expectancies, an increase in the number of one-person households, and later age at marriage. Globalisation and cheaper travelling has also positive transformations in gender roles and equality.
This is a preview of the whole essay
As an example, I would like to tell about one young Japanese couple, I was living in their neighbourhood for 4 months. I have noticed that the wife is not subordinated under her husband, as I have read before in some articles about traditional relations between married couple. During my university classes I have read that traditionally husband and wife are expected to communicate as little as possible here in Japan. This situation is described as a domestic divorce. There is no conversation, communication and sexual relations between a husband and wife, but they do not divorce. Well, now I can say that not all the couples are like that. Wife’s and husband’s roles are changing in positive. This young couple, on my opinion, is really an ideal couple. They were dividing their house keeping roles without any dominating behaviour. I haven’t noticed more power on her or his behaviour. They were acting as a normal, equal couple. Of course, one gender role - mother’s role, is noticeable, and, I think, is still resisting in Japan. Being a good mother sometimes could be even more important than being a good wife or lover. The concept of motherhood in Japan has deep cultural and historical roots, and today’s women still believe in the power of caring their children as well as they can. Another role, man as the main breadwinner of the family, is also resisting. The perception of the man as a main householder is common also in the rest of world, especially in South European countries.
On conclusion, we can see that young Japanese families are changing apparently. Men are more and more present in domestic activities and women are more and more able to combine work and house-keeping together. I am sure that now, in the 21st century, the Japanese family is becoming on gender-equality based family!
2 FOLLOWING QUESTIONS
Depiction of gender in the Japanese media (advertising/ TV commercials)
Researchers and sociologists recently are talking a lot about that the stereotypic portrayals of men and women found in mass media reinforce gender stereotypes in Japanese society. A limited literature and research on Japanese media suggests that gender stereotypes may be present in Japan. Theoretically, we can argue about the existence or not, but practically, it’s true. Stereotypes exist, and fairly strong, especially during the after war period and the past three decades. We can see it on TV, magazines and newspapers. Media is a reflection of mass culture. So it’s normal to see these stereotypes depicted in media. Over the past decade gender stereotyping in television commercials has received particular attention. Some studies have reported either modest (Schneider & Schneider, 1979) or substantial decrements (Bretl and Cantor, 1988; Ferrente et al., 1988) in stereotyping while others have found no significant changes in the portrayals of men and women over time (Lovdal, 1989; Maklin & Kolbe 1984).
Of course, there is always big difference between woman and man, their role in society, work and family has different meanings and different approaches. For example, „boys are encouraged to be aggressive, become leaders, engage in sports, and grow into 'macho' men. Research by Sobieraj, 1998 (Children Now, Images of Men and Boys in Advertising, Spring, 2000), found in advertising for toys that these showed boys as "strong, independent, athletic, in control of their environments, adventurous, and aggressive. Girls are shown as giggling, gentle, affectionate, fixated on their physical appearance, and extremely well behaved.‟ ( )
I have watched some advertisements in TV, and noticed that women in these commercials are more likely to be young, beautiful, dependents, in the home and users of the products. They also are recommending some products without specific explanation how to use it or without the support of factual arguments (Men are better in to weigh in with an argument, I think). Men, on the other hand, are older, often “salarymen”, somewhere outside of the home and authorities on the products. They are also often explaining why the products are good and recommending items soundly.
Even though some stereotypes about the presentation of gender in commercials persist (for setting, product type, voice-over), the recent study found an equal number of males and females appearing as primary characters in commercials during prime time. („Changing Gender Roles in Prime-Time Commercials in Malaysia, Japan, Taiwan, and the United States‟, , , and ).
Talking about gender stereotypes in Japanese media, maybe somebody would talk about women position and how this position is objectified. Of course, Japanese women in past few decades felt discriminated politically and economically. This unsafeness made them feel weaker, and maybe unappreciated. But we can also see it from the opposite side. We can think about how men are objectified. Especially, how the male ideal in Japanese media is becoming closer and closer to a woman (as I have mentioned about it in past sociology papers).
Recent studies talk about some changes of stereotypic portrayals of men and women and also are investigating changes in gender stereotyping over time. As example, in one online magazine we can find that „ although some indigenous gender stereotyping was evident, several traits previously associated with Japanese women (devoted, obliging, rattle-brained, superstitious) were associated with men. Also, men were not linked with certain stereotypical male traits (autocratic, blustery, forgiving, generous, and severe). ( ). Other findings included women being shown in a positive way as often as men. This means that women are represented almost in the same way as men, for example, if advertisement is promoting a high-price product, there is an equal number of man and women shown in commercials.
Otherwise, it is evident that gender, sex and advertising are „working‟ for only one purpose- to make people desire specific product and to buy it. The construction of gender, which is where a girl learns to be a woman and where a boy learns to be a man depending on what society has taught us about each of the genders is similar with the construction of the consumer in Japan context, which is what a woman should be wanting to buy to increase her femininity/ to be a good housewife and what a man should be wanting to buy to increase his masculinity/ to have success at work. This is one of the main reasons for advertising and gender to be so closely linked to one another. In Japanese society cultural values, history and practices have deep roots and very important meaning. To see housewives dressed in kimono and teaching their daughters how to cook, helping their sons to study or preparing meals for husbands returning from long-hour work; husbands, working all day long in offices playing golf and drinking with friends after work – all these situations are reflection of a wonderful Japanese culture, culture, which persists for a long time and is so different from Western cultures.
In conclusion, researchers as Akira Sakamoto and Mieko Takahira claim that tr aditional stereotypic portrayals of men and women in Japanese television commercials have not substantially decreased from 1961 to 1993. Nor do they accurately reflect contemporary social trends in Japan. ( ) That means that generally, Japan society has withstood from West influence, is quiet strict and unwilling for big changes.
Relationship between gender and consumerism in Japan
In this topic I am going to discuss about consumerism in Japan, and especially about female consumers, as women are the main figures in Japan’s consumer culture.
Social, cultural, economical and ideological history of Japan in the 20th century brings to life the gender differentiation guided by the mix of urbanization, globalisation, the growing middle class and consumerism. Global internationalisation reached the island of Sun also, but it doesn’t mean that it made increase consumerism there, I mean, Japan had no necessity to be surrounded by Western novelties. Japanese women became the icons of an emerging urban femininity quickly, and, later, it was the main marketer’s object. Also, they could immediately recognise different types of female consumers, which were depending from their lifestyle, age and other criteria. This was particular period marked by new ways of living and working.
Buying goods, clothes and cosmetics was a good way to feel sophisticated and happy, to make your dreams come true. Buying was a real form of self-fulfilment, and also making decisions on what to buy and what not to buy. Women became the leading role’s players. They were representing the main group of mass consume culture.
Nowadays, Japan is known as one of the richest country in the world, and consumerism here has really high incomes (and, actually it has also negative side). Today Japanese magazines, advertisings, TV are promoting are a lot of commercial goods, often in persuading way. Especially women’s magazines are playing a significant role in promoting a consumer culture, and are themselves items of mass consumption. I think, the main success of these magazines is that they are helping women to construct their own identity. Japanese women had and still have a lot of difficulties in this male-dominated country. In these magazines they find out that there is somebody who thinks exactly in the same way, has exactly the same problems, and, also, has the same dreams…So they do not feel alone anymore.
It is evident that doing shopping makes woman feel good. Well, today in Japan is emerging one big problem related to consumerism- enjo kosai, or „dating for assistance‟, a practice where high school-aged girls are paid by older men to accompany them on dates and sometimes to render sexual services, even if it seems not so frequent phenomenon as media claims. However, statistics shows that not all the girls involved in this activity, are talking about it loudly. The social network surrounding enjo kosai is complex. This phenomena is linked with the consumerist kogal subculture. It appeared after the end of the 1980s economic boom, and many observers believe that it serves as a way for young girls to preserve the lifestyle of that era, despite their families' more difficult financial situations. ( )
Also it is present in other Asian countries, Europe and America.
I think, the main problem is that with growing materialism and consumerism enjo kosai is still continuing. These young girls need luxurious and well-known designer’s goods and men - something they receive in change of it. It is like a magic circle, it makes these girls to be involved in this activity for a long time, because it is easy and immediate money. Earning money in this way can be even like a drug, it can create a strong dependency, and once they begin, it is quiet hard to stop later.
Some sociologists see enjo kosai as a coming-of-age ritual that has naturally developed in Japan's contemporary capitalist society. Japan is famous for being a place full of contradictions and various sexual politics, which are quiet strange looking with West person’s eyes. In Japan enjo kosai is interpreted in much more easy way - girls lots of times even do not have to have sexual relation with a man, so they do not feel ashamed, and men, are justifying being them involved in this activity because this is the nature who created this „uncontrollable attraction‟, a justification that is not understandable to foreigners.
In conclusion, for the girls who offer themselves and the men who pay, enjo kosai is a dangerous drug which consists of two powerful „elements‟ of thought that are deeply rooted in the collective perception of modern Japan – it is the point at which sexual fetish meets consumerism and, unfortunately, they „need‟ each other for all the time to make it work.
- Author Type Student
- Word Count 2578
- Page Count 6
- Level AS and A Level
- Subject Sociology
- Type of work Coursework
Outline and discuss the view that there now exists a range of family types...
Assess the view that the symmetrical family exists in modern day society
Evaluate sociological theories of the role of the family in contemporary so...
Assess the extent to which the traditional nuclear family is the norm in co...
Home — Essay Samples — Sociology — Gender Roles — Exploration of Women’s Role in Japanese Patriarchal Society
Exploration of Women's Role in Japanese Patriarchal Society
- Categories: Gender Roles Japanese Culture Woman
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Published: Aug 14, 2023
Words: 1923 | Pages: 4 | 10 min read
Table of contents
The origin of patriarchal values, the image of marriage and motherhood in such society, the role of women in workforce, women's perception on androcentrism.
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