WOMENS’ ROLES IN JAPAN – CHANGE AND STAGNATION – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Many things have changed in Japan since WWII but many things have also stayed the same. This dichotomy is creating unwanted trends and having far reaching consequences for the entire country.

Certain cultural expectations have remained static over time. Employees are still expected to devote most of their waking hours to their company. Working past 10 PM is the norm and men are often expected to take clients out for drinks after work. Rigorous targets must be met in order to get raises and promotions. This culture of overwork even has a name – “death from overwork.” It’s been argued that this demanding work environment leads to inefficiency and low productivity yet it still has a tight hold on Japanese work culture.

Another social phenomenon that has not changed is that women are still expected to care for the home, children and elderly relatives. They are also still given onerous tasks that they must fulfill to adequately perform their roles in the home. Cooking, for example, is a major job for Japanese women. They must prepare numerous, small dishes for their families every day AND the school lunches that they must prepare for their children have to be works of art!

Dishwashers are not as common as in the U.S and neither are dryers capable of doing large loads. So most women have to hang wet clothes on clotheslines outside, which dramatically increases the amount of time needed to do a family’s laundry.

But this is just the beginning. American women would be horrified at the volume of paperwork women have to do, every day, for their children’s schools and day-cares.

That’s right. Pre-schools demand meticulous and voluminous daily journals documenting their children’s temperatures, what they eat, their moods, conversations, sleeping hours and playtime activities. The elementary schools and after school tutoring classes, ubiquitous for older children, also require that a parent corrects and approves every page of their child’s homework. Women are thus swamped with household and bureaucratic tasks at home, which affects their ability to work outside the home.

Japanese elementary school class

Here comes the change part – now close to 70% of women 15-64 have jobs. Nevertheless, the heavy burden of domestic tasks holds women back from advancing in their careers. They can’t put in the crushing hours men do when they are on the promotion track. As a result, almost half of all working women only work part-time and often the other half are on temporary contracts. This creates a huge pay gap between men and women and also a shortage of women in management-level jobs.

Only 1% of the female workforce is in management. Yet women who work more than 49 hours a week typically also put in close to 25 hours of housework a week. Men typically average less than 5 hours a week, even when their wives work too. Thus Japanese men do less housework and childcare than men in any other of the world’s wealthiest nations.

This rigidity of gender roles at home has ramifications in the economy and society. Japan’s economic status in the world has stagnated and China has overtaken Japan as the world’s second-largest economy. The Prime Minister of Japan has pledged to return the economy to steady growth, which means countering the severe labor shortage due to a declining as well as a rapidly-aging population. To increase the workforce and energize the economy, the Prime Minister’s goal is to elevate and increase women’s participation in the workforce. This initiative is called “womenomics.”

The problem is that for women to increase their impact on the workplace, everyone has to reduce the bruising hours expected at work so the women can begin to catch up to the men. In addition, the rigid and excessive demands on a woman’s time at home have to be reduced – and/or these tasks must be shared more equally by the husbands. But that would require a major change in social norms and entrenched gender roles, which is not likely to happen quickly.

However, social change is happening in Japan, just not in the way the government wants or society needs. The biggest trend in Japanese society today is the tremendous surge of women choosing not to marry at all! More and more women are rejecting the life of domestic drudgery that comes with marriage and parenthood and the concomitant drag on their career advancement.

The Japanese are exhausted most of the time

This is a problem because Japan is also suffering from a decline in population that politicians are frantically trying to reverse. The birth rate is the lowest it’s been since 1899 when record-keeping began. The economy can’t continue to grow if the workforce continues to shrink.

The statistics on women staying single are dramatic. In the mid-1990s, only 1 in 20 women in Japan had never been married by the age of 50. By 2015, 1 in 7 remained unmarried. In women ages 35-39, 10% were unmarried 20 years ago and now 25% are staying single. The number of couples getting married is at its lowest level since WWII.

There is some good news for the business world. A growing number of new businesses have sprung up to cater to this large market of single women. Single Karaoke Bars have women-only zones, restaurants market to solo diners, travel companies book tours for single women and photo studios offer photoshoots where women put on wedding dresses and pose for solo bridal pictures. There are even solo wedding ceremonies for women committing to their independence and their single, career-oriented lives.

Women no longer need husbands to ensure their economic security because if they stay single and avoid the cultural demands on wives and mothers, they can put in the hours to get ahead at work. They can also have the freedom to pursue hobbies, travel and cultivate large circles of friends. Many see this lifestyle as more rewarding than being stuck in the quicksand of the socially mandated gender role of wife and mother.

Until these domestic roles are redefined, Japan will see more and more women opting out of the domestic rat race. And the population will continue to decline along with the economy. I’m not sure how the government can mandate the kind of social change they need, but they may have to try. It should be interesting to watch how this social experiment works out.

A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO LIVE – Marilyn Armstrong

One-Liner Wednesday — Women’s Rights

I remember the awful days before legalized abortion. When women’s jobs were listed separately in the paper. When the first question you got asked on a job interview was “How fast can you type,” and the second was “Who will take care of your child if he or she is sick?”

When contraception was nearly impossible and a lot of it hadn’t even been invented, so no matter how hard you tried, you could end up pregnant anyway. We fought a lonely battle to retain control over our own bodies.

We won. I was sure we won, didn’t we?

Roe V. Wade put an end to getting abortions in a back room somewhere. Right?

pro-choice-advert

I remember backroom abortions performed with chlorine bleach, coat hangers, and turkey basters. When sepsis or perforation of your uterus was not an unusual price to pay to end a pregnancy and as likely as not ended in death for both the fetus and you. When young women, unable to obtain an abortion threw themselves off bridges rather than have an unwanted baby, or tried to abort themselves, with terminal results for mother and child.

Despite conservative backlash and brainwashing on this issue, and despite the current frenzy in Washington DC, having an abortion was not and is not a sign one is irresponsible or anti-life. It’s a choice to have a good life when the alternative is at its best, bleak. These frenzy has been going on for my entire life. I’m 72 and women have been fighting this battle since before I was born.

suffragettes

Women have abortions for all kinds of reasons, including a desire to be more than a mother.

Physical health. The welfare of living children. The basic need to survive. A career that leaves no time to properly care for a child. The lack of a career that makes it possible to bear and raise children in a life that is not squalor.

Meanwhile, these so-called men are trying to stop a woman’s access to abortion are simultaneously determined to keep women from getting effective birth control, a weird set of beliefs that no matter how hard I try to make sense of it, doesn’t make any sense. And the worst part of the “pro-life” movement is that these same people care nothing about what kind of life this not-yet-a-person will lead following birth. They only care about being born, not about living. Squalor is fine, abortion or even birth control is not.


This is not “pro-life.” On every level, it is “anti-woman.”

This has little to do with preserving life. It’s about power. Isn’t it always?

Getting women back to their position of subjugation so old white men can own the world. They already control most of its assets, so let’s finally get those pesky women back where they belong.

It has always been about that.

So many women my age went through an abortion. Were we happy about it? No, but we weighed our options, then did what we felt was our best (only) choice.


The most significant gains in personal freedom women
have won are at risk. If we don’t speak up, speak out,
and stand together, we will lose it all.

I never imagined that I would have to fight this battle AGAIN. I remember my friends looking for someone to perform an abortion, terrified of the consequences, but even more terrified of what their lives would become should they be required to go full term with pregnancy.

I am many years past child-bearing. This is about women. All women. Whether or not we are fully equal in this world, this nation — and have the right to decide what happens or is done to our bodies.

If there is a right to life involved, how about the right of women to have a good life, to bear the number of children we want from none to many.


No one wants an abortion, but sometimes, you need one.

No woman should be forced to bear children.

This is a position I have held since I was very young and before I’d ever had sex. If you don’t own a uterus (and never did), you have no right to be part of this conversation. As a person who will never carry or bear a child– or even be responsible for those you had a part in creating, what right have you to speak on the matter? Old, childless men who want to force women to be baby machines are particularly loathsome.

I had an abortion. It wasn’t a “real” abortion because it was too early to even be sure it was a fetus. That was before tests made it possible to determine whether or not you were pregnant until pregnancy at least 8 weeks advanced. I had a husband in the hospital with cancer, a young child, a career just getting off the ground, and issues in the marriage that would later end with divorce. There was no way we could survive a new baby. Not to mention significant genetic issues that still haunt the family into new generations.

I am horrified by these people and their cruelty. Disgusted, revolted and sickened. I do not care who knows it.

#1linerWeds – One-Liner Wednesday and yes, this is way too long, but this is a big issue for me and always has been. I cannot keep this funny. It isn’t funny.

A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO LIVE – Marilyn Armstrong

I remember those bad old days. When contraception was nearly impossible to find and no matter how hard you tried, you could still end up pregnant. We fought a lonely battle to retain control over our own bodies. We won. I was sure we won, didn’t we?

Roe V. Wade put an end to getting abortions in a back room somewhere. Right?

pro-choice-advert

I remember backroom abortions performed with chlorine bleach, coat hangers, and turkey basters. When sepsis or perforation of your uterus was not an unusual price to pay to end a pregnancy. Where young women, unable to obtain an abortion threw themselves off bridges rather than have an unwanted baby, or tried to abort themselves, often with terminal results for mother and child.

Despite conservative backlash and brainwashing on this issue, and despite the current frenzy in Washington DC, having an abortion was not and is not a sign one is irresponsible or anti-life. It’s a choice to have a good life when the alternative is at its best, bleak.

suffragettes

Women have abortions for all kinds of reasons, including a desire to be more than a mother. Physical health. The welfare of existing children. The basic will to survive. Meanwhile, men are trying to stop a woman’s access to abortion are simultaneously determined to keep women from getting effective birth control.

That isn’t “pro-life.” It’s entirely “anti-woman.”

It has nothing to do with preserving life. It’s about power. Getting women back to their position of subjugation so old white men can regain world control. It has always been about that.

So many women my age went through an abortion. Were we happy about it? No, but we weighed our options, then did what we felt was our best (only) choice.


The most significant gains in personal freedom women have won are at risk. If we don’t speak up, speak out, and stand together, we will lose it.
All of it.


I am many years past child-bearing. This is about women. All women. Whether or not we are fully equal in our world and have the right to decide what happens to our bodies.

If there is a right to life involved, how about the right of women to have a good life, to bear the number of children we want from none to whatever.

No one wants an abortion, but sometimes, you need one.

SHAME ON #METOO – Marilyn Armstrong

The Daily Post: GENIE!

Of all the genies in all the world, why is my brain totally stuck on “I Dream of Jeannie?” I could be obsessing on “the Djinn of the Desert” or the many Djinn of the worlds of poetry and mythology. Instead, I’m stuck on a 1960 TV series which I rarely watched. The problem was, I found it insulting.

I was a pre-menstrual girl child. No breasts. I just intensely hated the concept, it made me want to spit.

My father once commented that he didn’t really like children because he found them dull. I pointed out that he never found me dull (when he wasn’t being crazy, he was interesting) and he said “Yes, but you weren’t a child. You were a person.” That is probably the only compliment he ever gave me and I think I was 50 at the time.

I felt belittled by it the show. Embarrassed. Humiliated. The idea of wanting a beautiful personal female slave — never mind that the show often didn’t go in that direction regardless. As a note, I think Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman were offended by it too. Larry’s mom was a strong woman in her own right, so they intentionally took it off the rails.

Larry Hagman and Barbara Eden

I was a child, but I already knew it was a bad idea whose time would never come. Besides — I wasn’t blond.

My mother didn’t act like that. She was so very far from that place you could not even mention the concept without a gigantic blast of angry energy. I did not have a penis of my own and thus the concept of having a “beautiful slave girl” wasn’t rattling around my genitalia as it does for so many male persons of the penile persuasion.

I’m probably too much #metoo to be the right genie gal writer. I was #metoo before #metoo was #metoo. I’m betting so were millions and millions of women throughout the world.

We didn’t have a hashtag because “hash” was ground up potatoes and corned beef so you didn’t tag it on anything except your scrambled eggs, but we were pissed off with men long, long decades (possibly centuries) before the “official” movement drifted into view. And we fought back within the limits of physical abilities and the realism of needing to have a professional job in a world dominated by men, many of whom didn’t like women.

So you may have dreamed of Jeannie, but I didn’t.

Still, that little nose wiggle Elizabeth Montgomery did — I could have lived with that. Anything to not have to ever clean — or repair — the house.

MISOGYNY FROM THE 1950’S TO TODAY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I was a child in the 1950’s and a teenager in the 1960’s. So I should be well versed in the misogynistic attitudes that were, and in some ways still are, ingrained in the American psyche. But I grew up in a progressive family in New York City. The women we knew were mostly professionals and I was expected to be a professional too. Not just a working woman, but a professional doctor, lawyer, psychologist, or whatever. I apparently missed the sexism and marginalization of women as well as the excessive empowerment of men.

It never occurred to me for a nanosecond that men were better than women in any way. Apparently I’m outside the norm, even today.

I read an article in The Washington Post by Sally Kohn, titled “Sexual Harassment Should Be Treated As A Hate Crime”. The article cites recent studies that show that both men and women have unconscious biases against women. In fact, women hold these biases even more than men do! We are all absorbing the cultural messages that women are inherently inferior. Even further, society is also promoting the view that women should be submissive and subjugated to men and that men should have disproportionate power, privilege and dominance.

There’s a wonderful show on Amazon called “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”. It is wildly funny and entertaining and totally binge worthy. We binge watched it and got a crash course in the social position of women in the 1950’s. I only watched one season of “Mad Men” so this was an eye opener for me. It may have hit home for me because the main character, Midge, like me, grew up in an upper middle class, Jewish family in New York City in the 1950’s. The high ceilings in the luxurious apartments, the doormen and the maids, the overly involved parents, all rang true to me.

Midge was brought up believing that she should get married right after college, have children and stay home to take care of them and her husband. Period. She took her role in life seriously. Particularly the part about keeping your ‘man’ happy and pampered.

Midge’s wedding in the show

Midge went to bed with her hair and makeup still beautifully done. She waited for her husband to fall asleep and only then did she get up to put curlers in her hair, take off her makeup and put cream on her face. To add insult to injury, she also set her alarm to wake her before her husband got up. Then she could take the curlers out, do her hair and put on her makeup, get back into bed and pretend to be asleep when her husband woke up. So he never knew about Midge’s frenzied and exhausting ritual of female submission. All to keep her husband from seeing her in anything but the best and most flattering light!

Midge also admits to her husband, after they are separated, that when she knew they were going to have sex, she would undo half of the hooks on her complex, corset like bra. She did that so he would have an easy time getting it off of her in the heat of the moment. She thought it was part of her job to make everything as easy as possible for her husband.

Midge would also obsessively measure every part of her body with a tape measure and record the numbers to make sure that she was maintaining her girlish figure. She seemed to believe that her world would fall apart if she wasn’t perfect for her spouse 24/7, in all ways. What a terrible way to live! And what a one sided relationship!

All of this appalled me. My mother always wore makeup and nice clothes during the day, even on weekends when we all stayed home. But she did wear curlers and cream to bed. I don’t know how many women went to the lengths Midge did to be a ‘good wife’ and keep her husband interested. But the fact that there were any, makes me truly sick. And Midge was an intelligent, college graduate with a strong personality and a lot of self-confidence.

As part of the plot, Midge is discouraged from working, even after her husband leaves her, but she gets a job anyway. She is also discouraged from pursuing stand up comedy because that is a ‘man’s field’. She does this anyway too. So she’s not totally passive or without backbone and ambition. This makes her subservient behavior even more egregious.

Midge doing stand up

In some ways, things haven’t changed that much in America. We recently had an election in Alabama in which large numbers of women (as well as men) voted for a man who openly said that women should not vote or hold office. He was also accused, by multiple women, of sexually harassing teenagers as young as 14! How could any woman vote for someone like that? How could ANYONE vote for someone like that in 2017?

I guess there are people, including women, who still believe that men are superior and should control everything, in public life as well as private. They are also people who will believe a man’s lame denials of sexual abuse over multiple women risking a lot to come out and accuse him. Or maybe it’s even worse. Maybe sexually abusing women is okay in these people’s moral universe. Maybe it’s considered men’s right, or somehow the women’s fault.

It’s sad to see that while women have made so much progress in so many ways, we are still in the dark ages in other ways. We’ve come a long way, baby! But there’s still a really long way to go as well.

KNOWING WHEN TWO THINGS AREN’T THE SAME

If a guy grabs your ass and you remove his hand, tell him he’s a jerk — and that’s the end of the story — is that the same as a 32-year-old attorney-general groping and threatening a 14-year-old child?

I have been raped. I have been groped. I have been propositioned. I have been abused. Despite this, I can differentiate between these events. All things are not the same thing and they shouldn’t be to anyone else, either.


When everything is the same, nothing means anything.


As an adult, getting groped — sometimes by guys too drunk to remember what they were doing — and telling them to cut it out  — was not a life-and-death issue for the young adult me. Getting raped was a lot more serious, but I got through it. Abuse as a child was entirely different and it took me the better part of a lifetime to get over it, if indeed I really have.

You can’t make everything the same without ultimately making it all meaningless. If we are going to punish equally for every inappropriate,  thoughtless move, or bad joke by any guy to any woman, it all becomes a meaningless jumble. Men won’t know what’s okay and what’s not — assuming they know it now, which many obviously don’t — and in this case, not unreasonably. Punishment is supposed to fit the crime. And that means, there ought to be a crime involved. A stupid joke in bad taste is not the same as a threat — and most assuredly is not the same as rape or attempted rape.

Let’s make some meaningful definitions. Let’s agree that something any normal adult woman can handle on her own, probably isn’t criminal. Stupid for sure. Embarrassing, no doubt. Annoying? Absolutely. But when no one is threatened, no one’s job is in peril, there’s no harm implied or done — you can embarrass the guy, publish the story on your Facebook page. Confront him and give him a piece of your mind — but I don’t think you need a jury and a prison.

All activities by men that aggravate, annoy, or disrespect women are not the same. Bad taste and bad jokes may be disrespectful, but disrespect isn’t criminal. Poorly worded comments are also not criminal. We have all said things that came out wrong and which embarrassed us — even when we weren’t trying to say anything much at all. If you use that as a gauge, the whole thing becomes ridiculous and in the end, no one will take any of this seriously.

I know the difference between criminal and not criminal. So do you. Use your brains. You have to leave room for people to be people. To make mistakes, to say the wrong thing, to make a bad joke, to have an embarrassing scene. That’s just life.

There has got to be room for people to be just plain silly or stupid without it being a felony — thus leaving room for actual crimes to be taken seriously.

HOLLYWOOD SEX AND OTHER DISTASTEFUL STUFF

I’m afraid there won’t be any men left in Hollywood. The way things are going, they will all be out on sexual assault charges. This is not me saying this stuff didn’t happen. I’m positive it did. I always thought it was going on. Everything I knew about people in show business said that powerful men abused women pretty much all the time and got away with it because … they were powerful men.

Some guy I know suggested he had thought that it was a mutual thing. Sort of humorous.

No, it wasn’t. Not mutual nor humorous. Guys who force women to have sex don’t look like a young Robert Redford. Guys who can have any woman by saying “Hey baby … ” and she faints in his arms, don’t need to force anyone to have sex. Okay, well, there are some pretty weird guys out there, so who knows … but overall, I think you’ll find more guys like Harvey Weinstein and fewer really handsome studs.

Date rape — regular old date rape — was so common when I was in college, no one bothered to officially complain about it. I wonder if they still don’t bother?

No one believed in date rape. If you were “out” with a guy, clearly you expected sex, right? I mean — we all know that women never dated men unless they wanted to have sex.

Your girl friends believed you, though. Because they had gone through the same experiences, if not with the same guy, then with guys just like him. The best way to prevent it from happening again was to tell all your girl friends — and have them spread it around — so they would know and not go out with those creeps. Those guys with eight, tentacle-like arms who more or less strangled you in the car and then told their friends that you’d really wanted it, oh yeah!

 

So there was no point in complaining because the cops sure as hell wouldn’t believe you. The school authorities wouldn’t believe it — and mostly, they still don’t. It was entirely possible your own mother wouldn’t believe you, so if you got into one of those scenes, you just got through it, never dated the asshole again and tried to make sure other women knew he was “one of those guys.” It was the least you could do for them.

So it’s really possible that by next year, at least half the guys in Hollywood will be up on charges, behind bars, or simply too embarrassed to be seen in public.

It’s going to put a real hole in the scripts of some yet-to-be-made movies. Somehow, I’ll deal with it.