Otona Joshi no Anime Time & the state of women in Japan

That said, someone would expect to watch such a story three, four or more decades ago and not in 2013. Japanese society is very traditional in a way that reeks rotten. The man is the breadwinner, women although in position to get a job are still dreaming of becoming housewives, marrying off to a rich man, and indulging or devoting themselves to their home. No specific career aspirations. And actually even if they work, they are expected to quit when they get married. In spite of things not being black and white and some women managing to find a combining solution, the mentality behind this housewife phenomenon is  dreadful if not sick in my eyes.

“Girls here still seeks for that staying at home, being able to devote their time to husband/child in future. So, from the marriage, most of them seeks for income stability I think. There’s still a majority wanting to become a stay home mom or house wife. In their college years they go to these courses outside of university related to cooking and they call it “hanayome shugyoo” meaning “preparation to becoming a wife.” (source: Uttryck)

Why? Because firstly, I believe that an individual’s independence is indispensable and equality in a relationship is vital. For better or worse money makes the world turn and if you don’t have an income sufficient to help you support yourself, you’ll always have to tolerate the whims of the one(s) funding you. In case that your partner shows abusive behavior or deserts you or dies, and you don’t have anyone else to help you out, you’ll be at fortune’s sake. I also can’t understand how a woman does’t have enough pride to buy herself her panties and food. It’s more than shameful to be an adult and constantly beg for every little thing you need. The power balance in such a relationship is tipped towards the money-maker, and love and respect are most often than not cultivated between equals.

maslow-pyramid-big

Secondly, if we take a look at Maslow’s hierachy of needs, there are very few that are actually fulfilled, if someone chooses such a lifestyle for her whole life. Even if we assume that a woman needn’t worry about a violent husband or a sudden break-up/death, what about the upper levels which concern esteem and self-actualization? One cannot develop social skills, if (s)he simply sits all day in the house or interacts only with a small clique of friends. You won’t gain respect by others by doing what is actually a very basic routine to take care of yourself and that isn’t supposed anymore to be done only by a gender – men have two hands, too; they can cook, iron, clean as well as women. Prejudice falls to pieces when you get wider experiences through further education and in the workplace.

We are human beings with high levels of intelligence. One may argue that cooking can be creative, but the other chores aren’t so ‘inspirational’. It’s certainly a waste of potential to be engaged in monotone activities which don’t provoke further thoughts and Arlekins may intrigue the fantasy, but surely not in the same way a good seminar does. Of course, nowadays thanks to internet multiple options are available to anyone with time on her/his hands, yet don’t we usually search what we know and thus confine ourselves to certain cultures? That’s especially true when one’s education is limited. And if a woman has gone through university to end up someone’s babysitter, it’s a total shame.

As for the effect that this might have to children, we get a glimpse in Not Somewhere But Here. A child, especially a girl, doesn’t want to see its mother being subjected to all kind of troubles or humiliations. A bright example of a woman is one who has a life of her own, who speaks her mind and doesn’t only sweep floors and gives food with no monetary return but contributes with her work to society. I’ve also known of mothers who have anchored on their children’s life making them feel suffocated or even worse manipulating them psychologically due to their own complexes.

Before closing this post, I’d like to pinpoint that at least in Japanese women’s case, pursuing a career is rarely rewarding and the sexist environment that prevails doen’t give enough motives to aspire for a respectable working future. I’d be unfair, if I didn’t mention their circumstances.

Nearly half of Japanese university graduates are female but only 67% of these women have jobs, many of which are part-time or involve serving tea. Japanese women with degrees are much more likely than Americans (74% to 31%) to quit their jobs voluntarily. Whereas most Western women who take time off do so to look after children, Japanese women are more likely to say that the strongest push came from employers who do not value them. A startling 49% of highly educated Japanese women who quit do so because they feel their careers have stalled.

The Japanese workplace is not quite as sexist as it used to be. Pictures of naked women, ubiquitous on salarymen’s desks in the 1990s, have been removed. Most companies have rules against sexual discrimination. But educated women are often shunted into dead-end jobs. Old-fashioned bosses see their role as prettifying the office and forming a pool of potential marriage partners for male employees. And a traditional white-collar working day makes it hard to pick up the kids from school. (read further in the Economist)

~.~.~.~.~

Women within the company perform the housekeeping chores of the office, continuing the traditional notion of a woman’s place within society, only this time within the workplace itself, the are the companies housewives.

[…] There are deep-rooted social and cultural ideas surrounding the role of women in Japanese society that create and re-create inequalities within the work force, and more generally within society itself. When young women graduates took to the streets of Tokyo in 1994 to protest against the discrimination of major corporations and companies, we saw a shocked society. Japanese people, including young men and women were shocked by the demonstrations and were worried about protestors ‘un-Japanese’ behavior, viewing it to have ruined their chances of being hired by any company (Renshaw, 1999:19). This example demonstrates how women are expected to conform to cultural norms and avoid confrontation, nowhere is there any thought of their reason for protesting, rather people immediately jump to the assumption that they are going against their own society and are therefore dangerous. (source: Illogicalzen)

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8 thoughts on “Otona Joshi no Anime Time & the state of women in Japan

  1. I said I was going to post a comment for laughs and here it is:
    The term “they grow up so fast” has never been more true until I read the first paragraph by this talented blogger. A 24 year old beauty with the mind of a 57 year old. Women really do mature faster than men…for better or worse.

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  2. Wah, great article! The first story seems really disturbing and god the part where Kou called her an animal makes me think that maybe the anime is meant to be satirical. How true that in some places women simply think that their life has to revolve around men, and the men just take it for granted.

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  3. I appreciated your view of this anime, and I have just as much to say about your post that you have written. Your post sort of opened my mind to how Japanese women are treated in the workforce, but I disagree with your perspective on housewives. I sure hope you were only speaking in terms of your research on Japanese women, but even so… It seems that you see it as a negative thing, when in fact it isn’t. Your notion that stay-at-home women, despite the fact of possibly having gone to post-secondary, have limited education and social skills is very wrong. First off, a post secondary experience (not only the education) expands your mind to different issues & cultures to begin with. And saying that someone’s education is limited is very vague; everyone’s knowledge is limited, the question is limited in what? Is a scientist going to know everything about architecture, and is a PR consultant going to know anything about plumbing, because they’re in the workforce? A housewife with a well-rounded education is just as smart and brilliant as any of these professionals, and maybe even more. She herself is a professional, but her position is not in the workforce. There’s knowledge in taking care of your family and raising children well. Being a stay-at-home mom doesn’t mean you’re stuck at home, you never go out & learn new things, or have a social life. Come on now. I especially see your view on housewives as negative because you only talk about how they do chores. There’s much more to them than that. For example, there are plenty of women in charge of the money their husbands gain. My mother for example was one of these women, and I’m not the only one. Being in control of the family’s money, that’s a form of power. Have you ever heard that saying “behind every great man, is an even greater woman”? The woman is the head of the family, while the man is only the neck, yet it doesn’t seem that way. A woman’s power is not determined in the boardroom, it’s a matter of character and how in charge you are of your life, no matter your role. She’s absolutely able to speak her mind, and is not always controlled by the man contrary to what you most people think or what the man himself may think. I’d also like to add that they absolutely contribute to society, and it doesn’t always mean being active in the workforce; that is, making money.They contribute by raising children, who are the future generation of the society. Life isn’t about making money anyways. Lastly, if a woman decides to stay home after university, it’s her choice. A lot of the time for these women, getting a degree is a backup, or life happens and she decides she wants to stay home and devote her time to raise her family. If she wants, she can contribute to the workforce. There’s nothing wrong with that, so don’t get upset because it’s not what you would choose to do.

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    • “Your notion that stay-at-home women, despite the fact of possibly having gone to post-secondary, have limited education and social skills is very wrong.” – I obviously didn’t make a very clear differentiation. I talked about limited education mainly for people who haven’t had post-secondary education. About those who have I think it’s a shame they let their knowledge and skills go to waste or get rusty. Have you seen Mona Lisa Smile – that’s what I had in mind. As for the theory of having a degree as a back-up, I’m not sure that is very common, much more applicable, if you consider that an employer would rather have someone striving to improve their knowledge constantly than someone who after many years of disinterest and ‘negligence’ decided that wants to get in the working force.

      Continuing though your train of thought about post-secondary education, I’ll have to mark that the experience, knowledge and skills you get during university -let’s say- isn’t the same within that of a workplace. I don’t know about your age and occupation but I’m working right now and I can certainly see the difference. I’m forced to organize things for others and I’m not even allowed to do it in my way. I have to lie and compromise my morals with my survival. I am scolded when a customer is displeased even when it’s irrational or doesn’t know better. I have to cope with many different people most of which I can’t avoid. It wasn’t like this during education. Of course, you couldn’t avoid some hyperbolically or crazily demanding professors, yet you could work in your own way as long as the outcome was fine. You needn’t cope with peers you didn’t like necessarily.

      As for the ‘limited knowlege’ part, I see your point, but I think it’s irrelevant. I perhaps tried to avoid talking about it because morals are a very different thing for everyone, though I kinda implied it. For me a ‘good person’ is one that is open-minded and isn’t hostile against women, lgbtq individuals, and other minorities. I’m referring to that ‘lack of prejudice’ on Maslow’s pyramid. I also think that such people are happier since they don’t harm other people and don’t leak poison; hatred is something that poisons the person bearing it, too. I was able to overcome many prejudices of mine throughout university and people I’ve met online in places where polyphony dominated. That is not that easy when you have a very specific clique and you don’t have to put up and come in contact with people you’d otherwise ignore.

      “Being a stay-at-home mom doesn’t mean you’re stuck at home, you never go out & learn new things, or have a social life.” Ok, it’s not the way things are all the time. It’s still the rule though. And then there is how one defines ‘social life’, because going out to bars on the one hand does involve social interactions on the other under the usual bar circumstances I’m not sure something productive comes out. Where you live also makes a difference. I do think though that people who choose to be housewives don’t usually live in big cities, which can offer a lot of educational and entertainment choices.

      “there are plenty of women in charge of the money their husbands gain.”- Right, it’s their husbands’ money not theirs. The fact that they decide what to do with them doesn’t cancel my arguments about pride and emergency cases.

      “They contribute by raising children, who are the future generation of the society.” – Women who work still take care of their children and housework. I know that some don’t pay enough attention, but it’s not a matter of how much time you spend with your children as how quality time this is. I have seen some working women’s children who are very clever and know how to take care of themselves way better than me who was pampered by my parents who try to spend lots of time with us doing many things for us instead of us thinking they grant us happiness -while on the contrary they suffocate and impair us. And they were working before going into retirement. I don’t want to think what they’d do, if they didn’t work… As I mentioned in the post I know 2 cases where the stay-at-home mom did more harm than good due to jealousy, latching onto their children and planting guilty in them for various things.

      “Life isn’t about making money anyways.” I don’t disagree at all. I never said otherwise. Nevertheless, I claimed that money is a very important means -among others- to reach your goals, achieve your independence and happiness.

      I’m sorry to say that I still stand by my opinion. I don’t intend on offending your mother specifically by being negative about the notion of housewife generally. I’m really glad you came out and voiced your opinion and thus contributed to the discussion 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

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      • Thanks for replying. I just needed to voice my opinion in hopes of opening your mind even a little. We could go on about this, but I’ll end it here. About Otona Joshi no Anime Time specifically, you pointed out a lot of things I hadn’t even noticed so thanks for that.

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  4. A very thoughtful and thought provoking post. Being a male, I don’t have much room to comment. It does trouble me how these episodes seem to portray shallow characters. Personally, I would find a wife/girlfriend who didn’t have hobbies, a career, and goals for herself unattractive. There isn’t anything wrong with wanting to take care of someone else; I don’t think I would mind being a stay-at-home husband. However, making someone else your “all” is co-dependency and not healthy at all.

    I liked how you added the last bit of information about traditional Japanese society. While they are heavily Westernized, they still retain their own mores and norms.

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    • Thanks for sitting through it. It got bigger than I thought and wondered if would be any good. I’m happy that you liked it.

      I think it’s fine to stay at home for some period of your life, especially for the first 3 years of your baby and granted that the state doesn’t give you many other options. But otherwise it can be boring apart from unhealthy.

      Also, some further reading you might find interesting:

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