Thursday, 20 November 2008

Let's Start the Revolution, Ladies!

We live in the 98th ranked country in terms of the gender gap. Out of 130 countries! Japan is the only country most people would refer to as 'developed' outside of the top 30. While I know women's rights and equality in Japan are bismal at best. I was still sort of shocked by the actual number. Japan's overall score and ranking from 2007 also dropped.

I think between Sarah and I we could surprise lots of our readers about the discrimination that we have either witnessed first hand or have had happen to us.

I was talking to my boyfriend (who is Japanese) about this list and he told me about a still common way for men to propose marriage to women. They say 'Will you please make miso soup for me everyday?' I mean WTF!?!? My boyfriend knows he'd get a straight punch to the face if he ever said that to me. However, I can't even tell you the number of times I've heard 'oh, Ume's so lucky you like to cook, you'll make a great wife'! And I've heard this by people my age and younger. When his sister said that to me, I laughed and she was like 'don't American people say things like that?' I responded, 'yeah, 30 years ago'.

Granted I know the US is still far behind where it should be and is nowhere near perfect, I'm not meaning to imply that. I just want to give you some examples.

About 2 years ago, while at a school function in the gym (of all Japanese people, except 2 of us) we were sitting on the floor. My coworker next to me (the only other non-Japanese person) was sitting with her legs straight out in front of her like several of the male coworkers around us. Our boss came up to her and told her she had to sit holding her knees or with her knees under her (seiza). He said nothing to the other teachers. Then when we go back to the staff room, he announced to the whole staff that the women teacher's have to be careful how they sit and that only those 2 positions are acceptable. My friend was mortified.

At several of the school's I've taught at, all the boys are listed alphabetically first. Then all the girls are listed.

Not to mention the now famous 'maid' cafes where girls dress like maids and refer to the all male clientele as 'master'. I've also recently heard about cafes where the girls where short skirts and the customers are encouraged to look up their skirts!

There are lots of other small examples I could give you like: my coworker who laughed at another coworker when she said her husband makes her lunch, or the girl I know who allowed her breasts to be grabbed by the 'winner' of a game she wasn't even playing, or how pretty much the only jobs women get to do are secretarial, or the blatant and laughed about sexual harassment that goes on in the work place, or dear god the porn industry, goes on and on...

I didn't really have anywhere I wanted to go with this, I just needed to rant. I may be back for more.

Sorry there are a lot of run-on sentences in this that I'm not going to fix.



Jennifer Michele said...

My aunt is married to a Japanese business man and boy have I heard some stories. When they have dinner parties she's pretty much treated like a maid. She's often not allowed to sit at the table with them. She is a very intelligent woman herself and was even hired by a bank while living in Japan (not as a secretary actually, she did some translating stuff I believe). It is really quite shocking the way they still treat women but I have to wonder if it's really any worse than America? I think America is a little more sneaky with it's discrimination and perhaps more violent too. I think the discrimination is just approached differently among cultures.

herbivore said...

This is one of the few reasons I am afraid to go to Japan. (well, mainly if I wanted to live there, I don't know if I could handle it).

I guess change would never happen if women don't stand up for themselves. Its a shame that the take it.

Are women supposed to be equal? Like in America, they can't discriminate based on sex whether they are going to hire you are not? Do women just not seek out different jobs because it is not normal? Or is it impossible for them to get the?

I agree with Jennifer. Once we couldn't have public discrimination we brought it into the private. Which is probably more dangerous physically. (Not to say we should go back to the way things were..)

Pamela & Sarah said...

Thanks for the comments.

I don't know of any specific laws to protect women like that. In the last several years, with the declining birth rates, there have been laws passed that allow women to keep their jobs after having a baby and give them leave and some protections surrounding that issue. So that is probably a factor as to why women don't do many types of jobs. It's still largely you either choose to have a career or have a family, it is very difficult to do both.

And just because Japan's discrimination is so obvious and public, don't forget they have many of the same 'private' discimination problems.

Honestly, it is probably the thing I dislike most oabout Japan and the thing that makes it hardest for me to live here.

I also find it almost impossible to be friends with Japanese women because of this. Ahhh...the frustrations.

VeganCowGirl said...

I just found your blog and I am totally impressed - as a traveller, vegan and a feminist I will be reading the hell out of your posts.

I am adding you to my blogline up!