One-Way Gender Equality

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by Glenn Soenvisen

Gender equality is indeed important in these post-modern times. Women should have the same wages as men if their job is the same; salaries for women-dominated work should be equal to that of men-dominated work; women should have equal opportunity to participate in the society and workforce. At least in the First World, few would dispute that this should be an inherent right of women, and they are right to do so. However, why is it that gender equality is almost always about women gaining the rights of men? We hardly ever hear about the fight for men to have parental leave, or for working in traditional women’s occupations without prejudice. In a sense, we can say that the ongoing contemporary gender “equality” aims to make women into traditional men instead of making a neuter gender of both men and women, which is the actual goal we aim for. This has consequences both nationally and internationally.

When speaking about the First World, we can say that as a result of the above-mentioned one-way gender equalization we undermine some essential human qualities. Ehrenreich and Hochschild’s “Global Woman” puts it this way:

“It is as if the wealthy parts of the world are running short on precious emotional… resources and have to turn to poorer regions for fresh supplies.”

While women are taking advantage of their retrieved inherent rights, that is, taking higher education, entering the men-dominated workforce, living freely and independently and more, who is going to take care of the house, children and elderly population? Fewer women do, and there’s no significant increase among men either. Furthermore, family relationships may be difficult to retain since the prevailing thought seems to be that one of the two in a relationship must relinquish their inherited rights to stay at home and keep the family going. For a woman it is easier to relinquish her rights because that’s the way it has been, but she doesn’t always want to, and now she increasingly doesn’t have to. For the man it’s hard to do because the system and society doesn’t always allow him – and if he doesn’t want to it’s no problem, because that’s the way it has been. In such a way carework has become an “either/or-”situation; there is no neuter gender role where it can be “both/and.”

However, this does not mean that we do not want relationships, so we turn to nannies and maids, and we pay for their love and care. For this to work though, these people have to earn less than their employers, as is only logical. For the native people who have the opportunity for higher salaries it is not so tempting maybe, but for people living in poorer countries this is a goldmine. The women in the Philippines have noticed this, so in order to support their families many leave their children and husband behind and go abroad to do the care work we in the First World don’t have time for, or rather, no room for. In fact, the women are so many that the Philippines government itself relies to a great deal on the remittances they send home. All the same, there is still a negative pattern to be seen here: nannies and maids earn less than their employers, and the remittances to their family back in the Philippines are even less (after all, the careworkers abroad have to spend money to take care of themselves in the country where they’re working), and the family uses the said remittance to buy food and other necessities in shops where it’s employees earn even less. It’s a downward spiral.

In short, as a result of a one-way gender equalization, namely making women into men, we have not only estranged ourselves from essential human qualities such as love and care, we also help to make a transnational network which might not be very beneficial in the long run. True, it looks quite beneficial on the surface: women in the Philippines take on a male breadwinner role by doing traditional women’s work abroad, and they support their family as well as their country’s economy. Underneath, however, lies the truth that we are only moving the problems around, we are not solving them: firstly, the Philippines becomes a factory sending out careworkers, women who gives love to our children and money to theirs. Secondly, while the care workers abroad might be breadwinners, the gender roles in the home country are likely to remain the same. Lastly, The First World outsources human values so that its people can be free and work like machines, because that’s the traditional man’s role, today’s gender equality. From an economical perspective this might be beneficial, but from an emotional one it’s disastrous.

References

Ehrenreich, Barbara, and Arlie Russell Hochschild, ed. 2002. Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy. New York: Metropolitan.

Gender Equality Solutions a Problem in Korean Workforce

by Ji Soo Kim

Recovering from Japanese colonization and the Korean War, under the strong U.S influence, the Republic of Korea displayed an amazing yet abrupt economical development throughout the 20th century. Due to the traditional Confucian belief of “men are superior to women, who are expected to attend to men’s every need,” the social status of women in Korea before Western influence was significantly low. As the Western ideology of gender equality permeated in Korean society, educated men lifted their voice to give equal rights to women, and women shouted for their rights.

Beginning with women’s suffrage in 1948, the social and governmental movement for women’s rights rapidly settled in society. As a result, women in Korea now seem to have equal rights under the protection of the whole society. However, the process of achieving gender equality was done too abruptly. People do not understand the true definition of gender equality, thus real problems regarding gender have not been solved in many parts of society, and men are claiming their feelings of reverse discrimination. In this article, I will specifically talk about gender equality issues in workforce, and suggest better solutions to current activities for improvement.

The Korean government set laws and encouraged businesses to protect women from being discriminated against in employment, and in the workplace. An example of the law is that an employer should not consider female employee’s physical looking, or ask about marriage status, which are unnecessary in work performance. Businesses were encouraged to increase female welfare in the company, to provide long maternal leave, menstrual leave, shuttle bus system for safe return to home, anonymous telephone line for accusation of any sexual discrimination, powder rooms and lounges only for women, and extra financial support for child care. An example of Korean company known for fine female welfare is Hyundai Motors. It is one of the most popular businesses where young women wish to be employed. However, uncongenial to its high reputation, women employees consist only 4.3% of the entire company. Why is the women employee proportion considerably low while the company provides satisfying welfare for women? Looking around the young graduates around me, I also see many who wish to be employed by Hyundai Motors, which means that there are sufficient, and even an overflow of applicants.

One valid reason for low constitution of female employees in Hyundai Motors could be employers’ unwillingness to employ women. The cost of hiring a woman in their workforce is much higher compared to that of hiring a man, since they have to provide all different kinds of welfare. If there is a man and a woman in interview with almost the same quality and potential, even if I was an employer, I would choose man not because I am discriminating against woman, but for cost reduction. This possible reason is suggesting that current welfare system is designed just to satisfy the wants of the government and the society, and this is ineffective because it shows a decline of women employment in some business sectors and discourages younger unemployed women to aim for these businesses.

The society demands female welfare because we are taught that women must have ‘equal’ rights to men, and that women had not been treated ‘equally’ in past. With such excessive focus on women, not many people clearly come to understand the true meaning of gender equality. The majority focused only on present discrimination against women around us. The law protected women first, and businesses started to provide immoderate welfares for women, and there’s no specific word as ‘male welfare.’

In workplaces, to stop employer’s unconscious thinking of preferring man over woman for cost reduction, not only female welfare but also male welfare should be considered thoughtfully. Excessive focus on women empowerment in workforce created current system. Companies should concern men and women together and provide what is needed for each fairly. Increase in paternal leave, provision of comfortable lounge for men, or provision of children’s kindergarten in father’s company could be possible solutions. Concern for both men and women in work places would make both willing to work for longer period with loyalty, and lead to better understanding of each other. The change in work places would result in a bigger change in the entire society. Starting with work places, a deep knowledge and discussion about gender equality should be taught and held in public education system. The society would not be able to change at once, but with the effort of current generation, the future generation will grow up with much improvement.

Can Japanese Women Serve the Nation by Serving Tea? The Jietai, J-Jobs, and Justice

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by Robert Moorehead

Japan’s Self-Defense Force is joining the nation’s efforts to offer more employment opportunities for women, through this recruitment campaign. Women can get a “j-na shigoto,” or a j-job. What’s a j-job? Actually there are 3 j’s, so you know it’s good: Jietai (self-defense force), joyful, and job. “Won’t you try?” says one of the uniformed women, photographed lounging about.

If Prime Minister Abe’s efforts to recruit more women into the workforce are to be successful, employers like the Jietai might want to rethink how they treat women. Are they workers, or are they eye-candy? Can they help defend the nation, or can they answer the phones? Serve the nation or serve tea?

As Laura D’Andrea Tyson noted recently in a blog post for the New York Times, Japanese women’s employment rate is 25 points lower than men’s, and when women are working, they are paid on average 28% less for equivalent jobs. Japanese tax laws also penalize two-income families, and Japanese women face a greater “mommy tax” than women in any other OECD country.

Plus, not only is childcare rarely available, but the burden of childcare remains clearly gendered in Japan. Policy debates of how to enable more women to work discuss how women, and only women, can better work the “second shift,” balancing work and family. Such proposals ignore men completely, even though my male Japanese students often tell me they too would like to be able to have a career and raise a family.

What’s behind the move to get more women into the workforce? Japan’s aging society needs more workers. As Tyson notes:

These initiatives are not motivated by softhearted political correctness but by hard-headed economic logic. Japan needs to expand its work force, which is shrinking rapidly as a result of a sagging birth rate and an aging population. The International Monetary Fund estimates that Japan’s working-age population will fall by almost 40 percent by 2050. The share of citizens older than 65 is expected to jump from 24 percent in 2012 to 38 percent in 2050, when the ratio of the working population to the elderly population will be 1 to 1.

“Japan is growing older faster than anywhere else in the world,” the I.M.F. reports. Unless the nation can shore up its work force, it faces a long-term drag on economic growth at a time of soaring obligations for old-age entitlements.

My university classrooms are filled with intelligent, highly trained women who are looking for career opportunities that take advantage of their skills. They do not want to be asked to serve tea, or be expected to quit when they get married or have children.

They want real jobs, not j-jobs.

Media and Gender: Do Japanese TV Commercials Deepen Gender Gap?

by Sanae Tanaka

On Japanese TV, you see a lot of advertisement commercials for alcohol, such as beers, whiskey and non-alcoholic drinks. In these TV commercials, mostly beautiful women are holding the product and smiling to the camera. This is something very “traditional” to use woman as a symbolic character in alcohol advertisement, because advertisement itself is often targeting male consumers. For example, every year, many Japanese alcohol companies have competition for “Campaign girl of the year” and recruit young girls as a “campaign girl”. In the poster and advertisement of the “campaign girl”, the girl is always wearing bikini or sexy dress and the advertisement is spreading and will be posted all over the pubs and bars in Japan every year.

It is obvious that women have been “sexual object” as a product for men in Japan. Beautiful women wearing sexy clothes and holding alcohol is very male domineering and happened to be good tool to selling these products. However the problem is that alcohol advertisements have not changed so much for long time. There are more feminism movements than before in Japan and they have become popular. However, although feminism and post-feminism ideas have become gradually known to Japanese, the way of advertising men targeted products have not changed their idea. That men dominate women socially, culturally, traditionally and sometimes as sexual objects is the reality of Japanese media.

It is obvious that in Japan, even in the media field, male dominant situations still strongly exist and the ideal women’s role is still being men’s dream. Women are still being sexual object for men and even for commercial as a product. Strong women are only accepted for women itself, and men’s idea towards women have not changed much. Because we see the media all around us everywhere, we can say that it has strong impact on our idea.

To change the present gender stereotype situation, the role of media is necessary, however, to change the gender stereotype is not only a problem with media, but the things that consist media, such as culture, history, tradition, morals and national identity, are very significant and cannot be ignored and should be considered carefully.

References

van Zoonen, Liesbet (1994) Feminist Media Studies. London: Sage.

Dow, B.J. and Wood, J.T. (eds.) (2006) The SAGE handbook of Gender and Communication. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications. Parts: Evolution of Gender and Communication Research, Feminism and/in Mass Media

Hausman, R, K Tyson, and S Zahidi. World economic forum. Gender Gap Report 2010. Geneva: World Economic Forum, 2010. Web. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GenderGap_Report_2010.pdf.

Promoting Super Dads and Permitting Normal Moms

by Ayaka Nakamura

One of my Japanese American girl friends told me, “I hate the idea ‘equal rights’ between men and women. Why do I have to work like a man? I just want to marry someone and be a mother.” I was surprised, as I had always wanted to have a professional job and be treated in the same as men. She continued, “Who on earth did start to talk about equal rights? I want to go back to mom’s generation! Then, no one would blame me for not having a job.” Although I had not thought about the equal rights in that way, I could understand what she was saying. She was afraid of working in the same conditions as men because she wanted to have a child, so that a happy marriage was the only way to realize her desire. It is actually too tough for women to have a job with being a great mother at the same time. Equal right discourses having a place in Japan are about promoting women’s rights and giving the same amount of opportunities in job hunting, which would be good for those who want to work like men but not for those who want to enjoy being women. Also, this type of equal rights does not let men to enjoy their fatherhood either because raising children is still entrusted to women and embedded in women’s rights. Although the Japanese government declare equal rights, gendered ideologies and norms still remain vital. Therefore, some women, such as my friend, are having struggles between expectations for powerful women and the reality of women. The government set the equal opportunities, but women often have different life styles from men because male and female are different and only female can give a birth (I would like not to touch arguments about trans-sexual here), so that different approaches to realize the equality within considerations of gender differences are necessary.

We cannot ignore existing gender ideologies, such as women are supporters of men, women are inferior to men, women are emotional and illogical beings, and child caring is women’s job, which have been continued within this patriarchal society. We cannot skip any steps to realize the equality. It seems that giving equal opportunities is an idea of “gender-neutral society” in which people do not have gendered fetters and only one’s ability is a criterion of a judgment. Yet, Japan obviously has not reached that point, so that it has to aim for “gender-understanding society,” as the first step, in which people accept the differences of sexes and gender roles and aim to get equal results. Also, at this point, people understand not only that women have been victimized and had lower statuses at work, but also that men have been marginalized from child caring and forced to work outside.

In order to realize gender-understanding society, I believe education would play a key role to develop people’s new norms. Current Japanese schools are saturated with gendered ideas. From my experiences, girls’ bathrooms were more beautiful and had more mirrors than boys’. Girls had different P.E. curriculums. Girls were expected to perform better than boys in home economic (kateika 家庭科) classes. Boys were expected to perform better than girls in science and math classes. Girls were more likely to go on to language majors at universities. Scientific schools (rikei 理系) were full of boys. Most of English teachers were women while math teachers were men. All art history professors were women at American University in Washington, D.C. As to job hunting, mostly men got in a career course (sogoshoku 総合職) and women in a non-career course (ippanshoku 一般職). These examples seem to prove that Japanese gender ideologies are generated in children’s minds from elementary schools to universities. Therefore, it should be changed. All students and teachers have to be aware of gender norms and gendered decision-making processes. Having a lecture about gender at elementary school level would help children to have more equalized and neutral ideas about their future. Moreover, ability-based, not gender-based, curriculums and advices would give students wider opportunities to find their best field.

However, only education would not be enough for a gender ideology reform. Politics that promote gender-understanding society would be necessary. Ikumen 育メン, which can be translated to cool fathers, project has started with supports of the Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare of Japan. According to its website, the projects aim for increasing the percentage of paternity leave from 2.63 % to 10 % by 2017 and 13 % by 2020.[1] I believe this project is worth to try for both purposes: to release women from child caring roles and to let men fulfill their fatherhoods. Moreover, companies’ supports by establishing a new paternity and maternity leave system are essential to produce ikumen and to achieve gender equality. Equal start lines that only force women to work like men do not bring reasonable results, thus companies must let women have a paid maternity leave that can cover their living for a limited time. Also, accepting mothers and fathers who have worked at the companies as part-time workers while they need a certain time for childcare. Those part-time workers should be able to have salaries at the same rate as full-time workers. I believe the experienced part-time workers are more worth to hire than a new graduate full-time worker who have not got any skills yet. Although giving a paid maternity leave is an expensive solution for companies, contributing society will end up bringing benefits for them, too. Many people would choose more flexible and more secured companies to work with than old-fashioned companies that use women as tea servers and fire pregnant workers.

If educations are improved and society understands gender ideologies and norms, then the number of female workers will increase and women will get more independent and free lives, and someday the society could achieve the real gender equality appreciating equal start lines. Yet, the change would not come in one or two years because the whole patriarchal system has lasted for hundreds of years and is a part of Japanese culture. Gendered ideas construct the bases of its society. Therefore, ikumen project and other gender equalizing projects must be kept going until we see the change in next generation. I hope, in the future, there are more super dads who are evolved from ever-at-work dads and normal moms who are released from pressures of being super moms.


[1] “育メンプロジェクト” Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare of Japan. http://ikumen-project.jp/project/index.html

Women workers

by Natsumi Ichioka

In this society, it is said that all people are equal, but this is not always. There are still many problems for our truly equal life and society. Then, I consider about the better situation for the women’s workers in Japan. There are three points from the class discussion and my opinion.

First, from the class discussion, women who want to work are also hoping to raise their children. I think this is too greedy that women want to do both work and housework. But so many women want to do that if they are in good situation. Actually, I would like to work in near future and also make my family and raise my children by myself. But in present situation in Japan, women have to choose whether work or housework in the general company. Some companies have the child-care leave systems, but they are just apparent system in most company. I can say that there are still some kinds of women’s discriminations. Some companies have the label that women will quit the job because of the childcare. Actually women quit their job, but there is no choice in our society. So, all the companies have to make the child-care leave system. In addition, the companies have to make a good situation for all the people in order to people can take this system as one of the natural rights.

Secondly, I also think it is important to think about this system for all the people. It means not only for women but also men. There are so many situations in the family. If woman is in the important position like general manager, she have to come back soon in her position. Then, instead of woman, man takes the child-care system. Like this, we do not make the fixed idea like this system is for the women. It is important to think this system without fixed idea for the truly equal society.

Thirdly, man cannot substitute for woman in some points in present situation. In Japan, some people are still thinking that women have to work in the house and men work out. This case meets that women have to work more than men, because women are working in the house and in the company. It because that some men do not know how to do the housework and how to raise their children. I think it is important to change the education in the house. For not to rely on women too much, men also need to know how to do the housework and how to raise their children. In each family, all children need to know how to do some housework. It is not good to teach housework only for girl. I think the basic change in our family is needed. In this way, we will gradually change the social situation more equal one.

We need to change the basic ideas of gender in three points. It is not good to rely on one side. In the present situation, men and women cannot share the difficulties each other in Japan. If we can make an equal society, Japan will change better. In addition, Japanese society will change kinder one for all the children. For the truly equal society, now is our social reform.

The Color of an Ideal Beauty Queen

by Cherry Zhou

This chapter discusses how skin color matters in a beauty contest. In the hope of challenging racial exclusion outside of contest and colorism within it, the Miss Bronze contest was held first in 1961. One must not ignore a strong social background during the period, when the American society was in the middle of a transformation in black consciousness that emerged from the Civil Right and Black Power Movements. By crowning dark-skinned beauties, dark-skinned women come to realize that they can be seen as beautiful! Miss Bronze’s attractive face and body shape could refute disparaging representations of black women. Such contest encouraged dark-skinned women to be proud of whom they are and created the climate for media to look at black beauty. However, it is because that the black beauty standards were shaped by social movements, when the movements decline, the meanings that they supported weaken. Mass media could then redefine the concept of beauty as social background changes.

Moreover, I believe a beauty pageant is not only just about appearance (including skin color), but more importantly, it could be seen as a major event that celebrates and honors ethnic values. The winner usually serve as a role model of female and through training and education, the beauty is more like a symbol of a certain group and she has the power to unify the group and thus to strengthen it. For example, in Miss Bronze contest, the assumption seems to be that with a little make-up, a home-sewn gown, and charm school courses, any daughter of the striving African American working class could perfect the performance of middle-class, heterosexual, femininity. The winner usually claims positions of exemplary middle-class femininity for black women.

Another point I would like to make is that the social media has a great influence on promoting the image of beauty. What is beauty? It appears that the definition of beauty changes through time as the social climate changes. As I was googling information for this presentation, I found many examples claiming that mass media somehow communicate false/unrealistic image of beauty especially for women to follow. Does media has the power to define beauty in this information era? Few would argue that media defines beauty, but the reality is all we see on TV, magazines, the internet and etc. are sending messages that what kind of look is considered as attractive. The media assaults us daily with images of “beautiful” people and articles on how to make ourselves look just more like them. In Japan, pick up any women’s magazine and there must be articles on how to have a more balanced diet, how to wear better makeup … Society always has an expectation of what is considered attractive. The Miss Bronze Contest challenged the expectation of beauty at that time, but what about now? At the end of the day, it’s not just about appearance. Everyone is beautiful in their way but no one is perfect. Human bodies come in all shapes and sizes and yet the fact is only a few are just like those who are on TV or on magazine covers. Body image can be a very deceptive realm that we all are susceptible to and if people all strive to look like the “beauty” that media creates, which to a large extent very hard to replicate, it is without doubt that they will end up with low self-esteem. There are so many reasons behind the model “beauty image” that media creates such as advertising and other commercial benefits that they are getting; however, I think it will be helpful to build up people’s self-esteem if more positive images and the portrayal of more realistic and healthy instead of pencil-like skinny body types are presented in the media.