In the beginning of my first article on Women in Japan, I would like to introduce the axiom by one of the most influential and pivotal Japanese feminists, Raicho Hiratsuka, made more than a hundred years ago. Under pressure of patriarchal and misogynistic Japanese society, she rejected the conventional role of women as good wife and wise mother. She was a nonconformist. She said “In the beginning, woman was truly the sun. An authentic person. Now she is the moon, a wan and sickly moon, dependent on another, reflecting another’s brilliance.”
I wonder how she would view over the current situations of Women in Japan. How much progress have been achieved and how much womens status has improved since Raicho fiercely criticised womens status in Japan. I doubt whether true feminism has taken root in Japanese society.
Even now, in 21st century Japanese women are under pressure of neoliberal style patriarchy, which demands women to make something extremely incompatible possible; Stay home for her family; Earn money for her family; Be a good wife and wise mother; Sacrifice everything for her family; Respect her partner; Be independent but be subservient to her partner; Don’t rely on national welfare system; Self-help!!
I really don’t know how women in Japan are coping with those absurd demands from misogynistic society. Is there any chance for them to let their silent outcry be heard to improve their status or should they settle for it in the country ranked 121 in gender equality ? There are too few female lawmakers in the Diet. Cabinet seats are occupied by males mostly. Nevertheless I would say there is hope though.
Nearly 30 years ago, I was an apprentice of a MP’s office. When I campaigned for him, I was often told by many housewives that they would have to ask their husband before voting. They would vote in line with their husband’s choice. It was only three decades ago. Shocker, isn’t it ? Then how has Japanese women’s mindset changed now or it hasn’t ? My answer is it would be safe to say it has changed significantly.
In the most recent general election held in last year, women were more likely to vote for the left leaning opposition parties regardless of age group while men voted for the ultra conservative and neoliberal ruling parties. At least, now most of Japanese female voters have been aware that how their right to vote should be exercised, it should be free from patriarchal control. It may have taken more than decades for them to realise their right to vote is protected and respected. Speed of change may be sluggish in Japan though it would be inevitable for Japanese men to lose their ultimate superiority over women sooner or later. More and more women in Japan have started realising that males are superior to women is a mere myth just as the maternal instincts are a myth.
It amuses me to picture women regaining their ancient status as the sun.
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