I arrived in Japan during the spring. It grew warmer with each passing day, warm enough to wear tank tops. A friend of mine I made in the dorm, a girl who had been there for the fall semester and had been to Japan before, told me that in the case I want to wear a tank top I should wear a cardigan over it. It’s considered a little rude or frowned upon to wear a tank top without one. I thought it was a little silly, considering that I saw girls in skirts shorter than short, but complied nonetheless. When in Rome, as they say.
Japan tends to lean on the more conservative side of the spectrum, which is fine. It’s not fine, however, when said conservatism literally prevents a huge portion of its population from achieving their goals and living their daily lives with ease. Right now, I’m talking about women and Japanese patriarchy.
Yukioka Tetsuo took a bow after a press conference in which he admitted that the Tokyo Medical School purposefully lowered the scores of their female applicants and instead added 20 points to the scores of their male applicants. Having heard the news, I was utterly disappointed but not surprised.
My other female friends and I would often talk about the state of Japan’s gender politics, their attitudes towards women and so on. Granted we were Americans or women from other Western countries analyzing the state of things with that perspective. Sometimes I wondered if we were too harsh, too Western in our approach to fixing the gender crisis Japan is going through. Is it a gender crisis?
Crisis is too strong a word, but there’s certainly a big, fat “women are meant to be in the home” elephant in the country. Last year, Japan fell 3 spots and was ranked 114th on the gender equality list. For an advanced country, that ranking is utterly devastating.
In a patriarchal Japan, Japanese women are faced with tough decisions throughout their lives and careers. Women who enter the workforce have to combat cultural norms that reduce their position to that of the woman who pours drinks at the nomikai (drinking party). Even more challenging, if a woman does marry and have children while in the midst of her career, she is ousted and forced into the role of the permanent housewife. The lame excuse Tokyo Medical School provided was that having female doctors would inevitably leave hospitals “short staffed” if said doctor decided to have children.
Women are, after all, merely sacks of baby-makin’ uteruses. We don’t need those silly careers!
Silence becomes the easiest way to move through society, despite one’s own traumas. The #MeToo movement never took off the way it did in America simply because those who spoke out were shunned, were called liars and told to die. At that rate, something as revolutionary as #MeToo will never make lasting change if victim blaming is to be the only solution.
It’s interesting because Japanese culture prides itself on caring about the wellbeing of others, of making sure your neighbor is happy and vice versa. When said neighbor is a woman who was sexually harassed, attacked, or had her scores changed to benefit her male counterparts, why is the response to call her a liar and go die? That fundamentally doesn’t make sense.
We live in a world that puts the comfort of men up and above the comfort of men and women. Women always come second, if we’re lucky. Just having the rights to our bodies is a fight in of itself, because for some reason men are so concerned with what we do to our physical persons instead of being concerned with our equal rights. The government is currently launching an investigation into the matter, with a mandatory deadline of August 24th. I’m curious to see what comes out of this and if the government will make the right moves in ensuring that women will be equally accepted into higher learning institutions.
As much as I love Japan, I have to admit its flaws. It’s why the dreams of an enamored 13-year-old Myliyah will never come to fruition. At that age, I was set on living the rest of my days out overseas. Now I’ll be more than satisfied with a few years. I can’t imagine raising a family with a possible daughter or daughters and have her grow up in a country that ultimately believes she is meant to stay home, not to achieve her dreams. I wasn’t raised that way. I want to make sure that her future is a bright one and that she can accomplish anything she sets her heart on. I want to make sure she can live without a patriarchal society telling her to become a housewife if that’s not what she wants.
I do believe that this patriarchal mindset that Japan is still clinging to is more of a detriment than anything else. With a society still struggling with low birth rates and ample resources for working parents with young children, it would do Japan an immense good to realize that its current population is a little more than half female. What good is it to tell women that they’re better off at home rather than a part of their society?
While this case does find itself in an extreme, the world, ultimately, has little respect for women. Societies across the globe still perceive women as property rather than human beings, and thus securing her rights is an afterthought. At some point, however, we can’t continue to be the afterthought. Women are contributing too much to society, outnumbering our male counterparts, to be ignored.
In short, get with the times. The sooner Japan and countries like it realize this, the sooner actual gender equality can come to life.