In recent weeks I’ve noticed more and more the gender inequality in Japan and the role that woman are expected to play. The Japanese workplace is still very much a male driven place. At the three schools I visit on a weekly basis, about half of the teachers are male. In the States I did encounter make teachers in high school, and at university most my professors were male. However, in elementary school the only make teacher was the art teacher. I guess I can’t complain about the make teachers though because for the most part, they are all good looking Japanese men.
Anyway, a couple weeks ago one fourth grade class started a unit on school subjects. The teacher is linking it together with, “What do you want to be in the future.” Students need to reflect on their futures and write a school schedule appropriate to their Desiree outcome. He made a short PowerPoint presentation to highlight the coming objectives. The cartoon image he happen to choose was three children with thought bubbles imagining their futures. One boy imagined being a baseball player while the other a firefighter. And the girl? Her dream was her in a wedding dress. Really?! Her only dream in life is getting married?! Why couldn’t this cartoon have the girl dreaming of being an astronaut or prime minister. Or at the very least a teacher (it’s what every girl wants to be here). Nope, just a wedding dress.
I know what you’re thinking, it’s just a cartoon and there’s no reason to get worked up about it. But it is! What image are we giving children? Both genders would be inspired to dream big and be anything they want to be. And yes, girls can dream to be a housewife because there is nothing won’t with that, but until we encourage boys to become househusbands then I’m not ok with it.
The week after I had dinner with my best Japanese friend. I always tell her my crazy dating life stories. She spends half the time completely shocked and the other half laughing hysterically. I always enjoy talking to her because we share and learn a lot about each other’s culture. We talked about how Japanese women are more submissive and since I have a dominant personality I should give up on dating Japanese men because out relationship would be doomed in the long run. She says that Japanese women of course have their own opinions, but they always keep it to themselves in a relationship and goes along with whatever the make wants to do, even when she has zero interest in doing it. Yes, part of being in a relationship is doing things you don’t want to because it makes your partner happy. However, it’s a two way street, my friends.
She told me that in he group of Japanese girl friends she is one of the only ones that wants to keep working. They are 23 or 24 years old and she told me they only complain that they are tired of working and want to get married so they can stay at home. Now, this is obviously not the case for all Japanese women, but I think it’s fair to say it’s common.
Over the weekend, Owl told me about a debate he had with some of his students about gender roles. He asked his student if he would like his daughter to live in a society that supported them working and climbing the corporate ladder. They nodded their heads in agreement, but it was more out of politeness. The section manager chimed in that this was a very Western outlook. He asserted that Japanese women are the top members of society because they get to live and enjoy life. Work is work and nothing special. The men work so that the women can enjoy life.
So, instead of encouraging women to have something they worked for and earned it’s better to teach them to marry rich so they can gain a higher social status? The richer their husband is the more she can show off to her friends? I can see both sides of the argument. Perhaps women are at the top of the pyramid because they get lots of free time. Some people may argue they are treated more like slaves and nannies, cooking, cleaning, and raising children while the husband works.
Owl’s experience brought up and interesting argument that I never thought of before. Perhaps because not so long ago, women in the US didn’t work, but I’ve never been told that they were regarded as the top members in society. Usually the belief is that women aren’t as smart as men and are insuperior in every aspect. Even now, women are discriminated against for doing the same work. Seeing that women don’t work, are rarely seen in a position of power, and are submissive to their partners, it’s difficult to imagine anything else.
What do you guys think? All I know is that I’m going to keep encouraging boys and girls to study engineering and I’m going to keep being me.