What are “Ikumen”?

by Kaho Nagao

Recently Japanese media such as TV and newspapers often mention the word “ikumen.” Ikumen means men who are taking care their children so much and spend more time than traditional Japanese father. Actually my father was non-Ikumen and we, my father and I, spent only 5 years together because of father’s job and my school life. He lived in the mountains and he came back home only once a month or once a week. I never felt sadness because it was natural for my family, and I could spend good time with my mother and friends. In addition I never envied friends who spent much time with their father. However, after he came back home, we did not know how to communicate with each other. Still it makes our relation little bit complicated. Therefore, when I heard the word Ikumen, I felt very uncomfortable. Are these good fathers real or are they just on the screen? This question is coming up my mind.

On the other hand, one of my professors in Ritsumeikan really helps his wife and is caring for his children. He often mentions about that in small talk before class starts. In addition, Takeshi Tsuruno, who is a TV star, is quite famous as Ikumen. He has four kids and he appears on some child caring programs. Moreover, he took child caring break for three month in 2010. When this news appeared, most people think that Japanese society is changing.

Of course, there are still many traditional Japanese fathers. According to News Post Seven, even though bosses think it is nonsense for men take child care breaks, and for them it seems selfish and spoils their wives. Moreover, they tend to question what man can do to babies.

For old generations, it has been difficult to change our minds toward child caring, but for young generations, it is not too late to change our minds. The reason why younger generations want to take care of their children is they may not get enough money as pension from government and seniority by length of service in company.

Before researching about this topic, I thought Ikumen was just Japanese men starting to have interests to take care of children and changing their minds, however, it is one of the reasons and they also have worry about their future. Needless to say, Japanese society is starting to change and Ikumen is a word, which shows the reality in Japan. Still this word and situation seems to be uncomfortable for some people. However, someday this word is going to be usual and it is really great to everyone who has children can enjoy child-caring.

Reference

News Post http://news.mynavi.jp/news/2013/11/17/037/

Discrimination causes self-discrimination and vice-versa

Cover of "Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, a...

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Anonymous student post

It is bad sign to start with triteness, but for my defense I can say that sometimes we need to remind ourselves simple truths which we always tend to forget. So here is a well-known fact: gender as opposed to sex is created by people, not nature. We all understand that since it follows from definition of word ‘gender’ as ‘socio-cultural sex’, but we somehow forget that if gender exists in people’s mind, not in real world, then it is people who put sense in this concept. But here comes great paradox of our society: we talk about gender inequality as a problem that must be solved, but still wear newborn baby, who is too young to even say word “gender”, in pink if it is girl and in blue if it is boy. We start with clothes while baby don’t understand anything about its sex yet, and continue cultivate gender with imposing socio-cultural role on grown-up child. From now on girl will wear uncomfortable dress and play with doll and boy will climb trees in his pants. And this is the very beginning of discrimination.

Such paradox is common occurrence in patriarchal (or “masculine”) societies, which Japan is related to. In such societies gender roles are clearly distinct as well as characteristics that women and men are supposed to have. Patriarchal culture implies that woman is object of men’s desire, which he admires, that is why the main thing that matters about this “object” is its appearance. But I could not help but wonder: isn’t it women, who maintain this status of themselves? Isn’t it women who dress their daughters in pink and say to them that the most important is to find a good husband?

This thought was getting stronger while I was reading the articles “The care crisis in the Philippines” and “Global women”. Migrant mothers challenge the dominant gender ideology, which holds that a woman’s rightful place is in the home, but in fact these mothers migrate to do in other houses abroad that very work they are supposed to do in their own house. “Migrant mothers, who work as nannies carry for other people’s children while being unable to tend their own.” In masculine society underpaid and not prestigious work designed for women, in short, woman is supposed to be engaged in the same work that she does at home – that is service sector. And immigrant women, engaged in service sector, support masculine society’s view on woman, even though they want to earn more money and become independent. That is what I call self-discrimination. And the best example of this self-discrimination is the fact that middle-class families come to depend on migrants from poorer regions to provide child care and homemaking. It means that women from the First World who almost achieved gender equality support gender inequality for women from poorer regions!

Japan provides best examples of women’s self-discrimination. Being patriarchal society, it considers woman as an object, and that’s why it provides great variety of places where women should entertain men. There are not only Hostess Clubs, but also so-called キャバクラ “Kyabakura” (cabaret-club), スナックバー “Snack Bars”and メイドカフェー “Maid Café”. It is obviously represents Japanese society’s view on woman. Yes, not Japanese men’s view but society’s view, because quick look at modern situation is enough to understand that women don’t oppose this view at all. They try very hard to be かわいい “kawaii” (cute), and they even created new category of Japanese TV show – “obaka-chara” (stupid character), where women acts pretending to be stupid and be laughed at – and, therefore, to be “kawaii”. Where is demand, there is supply, in other words, discrimination causes self-discrimination, and self-discrimination supports discrimination. Is there any exit from this vicious circle?

References

Rhacel Salazar Parreñas, “The Care Crisis in Philippines: Children and Transnational Families in the New Global Economy,” pp. 39-54, in Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy, Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild. (New York Metropolitan, 2003).

“Introduction” by Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild, Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy, Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild. (New York Metropolitan, 2003).

“Ikumen” – The real situation in Japan and comparison to Sweden

A father and his children.

A father and his children. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Aki Yamada

Ikumen” is the expression and slang of the father in Japan who takes care of his children positively instead of the mother, and who enjoys child care. In 2006, one Japanese company started to use Ikumen in order to encourage father’s participation into childcare and stop the decreasing of population of Japan. After that, Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare began to project of Ikumen in 2010 trying to make better society for business men to take part in domestic work and encourage childcare. In this essay, I would like to discuss how Ikumen made an impact for Japanese father trough the gap between ideal purpose and real situation in the first part and in the second, I will compare systems and laws between Japan and Sweden, which quite famous for its developed childcare system for father.

Firstly, possibly if you are Japanese, many times you might hear about the word, Ikumen in dramas, books and magazines. Actually, according to the public-opinion poll in 2000, 70 percent of family agreed that father take caring of their child and 10 percent of father strongly desire to do childcare by himself. However, most of their real opinions say that I want to do childcare but “I want to focus on my work” or “women have to take care of child”. Therefore, I think more and more father think that they want to help mother, however, still stereotype of gender role reminds in Japanese soiety.

Second of all, I would like to see the Japanese government’s movements for supporting Ikumen and compare them to Sweden’s processes of how they adopt father to take care of child. In 1992, the Japanese government made the law about Child‐Care Leave Law for men for the first time. And after that, in 2002, they made an agenda for the goal that archive 10 percent increase of childcare leave. Additionally, they also made the law for companies to have the system of enough childcare leave for men.

Those movements made Japanese society easier for father to have childcare leave and take care of child, however, it is not enough because we need more comprehensive support system from both government and companies. At that same time, when we see the system of Sweden, they also spent 30 years to adopt their Ikumen support system from 1974 such as making childcare leave system for 240 days for each gender, giving 80 percent of salary for father when he is taking childcare leave, and providing money for $18 for each day as an allowance. Therefore, I can say that Japan also need more long time to be good society for Ikumen like Sweden did.

How Legal is a Hostess Bar?

English: Signage for hostess bars in Kabukicho...

English: Signage for hostess bars in Kabukicho, Tokyo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Miranda Solly

The issue of women from the Philippines working in Japanese hostess bars, as described in research by Rhacel Parreñas, was thought-provoking for me. One point I would like to address in particular is the stereotype of these women. There is an apparently widely held expectation that the women working in a hostess bar would be illegal immigrants, as can be seen in videos of Japanese police raiding hostess bars. This is also a common belief surrounding places like lap dancing bars in the UK (my native country). As was demonstrated by those videos, very few of the Filipino women were actually in Japan illegally. Why does such a misunderstanding about this kind of work exist?

While the past 50 years or so have seen a huge change across the world in the way race, gender, and sexuality are perceived, I don’t think it’s controversial to say that we’ve not managed to reach equality yet. In a way, hostess bars in Japan are a perfect example of this. First of all, consider gender and sexuality. If a group of men go to a hostess bar, it is seen as a good night out. If a woman works at one, however, there are suppositions made about her morality, her economic position, and her vulnerability. Why is it socially acceptable to use a service, but not to provide it?

Moreover, the women who come to Japan from the Philippines to work in hostess bars are assumed to be illegal, and most probably trafficked to Japan against their will. As Parreñas’ research demonstrated, for the majority neither of these is true. Often, women find that they can earn much more as a hostess than other jobs, so the work makes economic sense. This reason is probably no different to the reason why Japanese women work in hostess bars. Why does a female immigrant’s nationality play such a large role in the way she is perceived at her job?

As a foreign student in Japan, I can apply for a work permit and am free to take up a job such as teaching English, as long as it does not interfere with my studies. But that work permit does not allow me to work in a hostess bar. On the other hand, the entertainment visa that allows you to work in a hostess bar is specifically targeted at women from the Philippines. This distinction is made because of our different goals in entering Japan. But why should a part-time job at a hostess bar, talking in Japanese with clients, distract me from my studies more than a part-time job at an English school, speaking English with clients? I would have thought that the former would actually give me more of a chance to improve my Japanese. However, hostess bars apparently sit uncomfortably close to immorality for Japanese lawmakers. They appear to be tied up with all kinds of crime; mafia, trafficking, prostitution. While it is not actually prostitution, an unsuspecting foreign student would no doubt be in serious danger if allowed into such an environment. But if the work is so dangerous, why are women on the entertainment visa allowed to work there? In fairness, the Japanese government did also attempt to protect female immigrants from the Philippines from these threats, by changing the entertainment visa laws. However, it was shown that this actually forced some of the more vulnerable women into prostitution in other countries.

I’d like to suggest that instead of treating hostess bars as more illegal than they are, we do the opposite. They may offend a conservative person’s sensibilities, but the sex industry exists in one form or another in most parts of the world, and has done so for a very long time. As can be seen with hostesses from the Philippines, if conservative attitudes discourage native women from this kind of work, immigrants often fill the jobs; this also appears to be true in the UK. Looking at history you can see that making sex work illegal does not make it go away, and while some people attribute it to our endemic gender imbalance, that is unlikely to be rectified any time soon. In any case, hostess work is as emotionally taxing as, say, a flight attendant’s job, but no-one views foreign flight attendants with the same mistrust. Hostess work is also much less open to abuse than prostitution. By allowing hostess bars to exist on the same level as mainstream society, it would be easier to police visas and abuse, and an open discourse might help to dispel some of the myths surrounding women who immigrate to work there.

Japan reaches top rank – in gender inequality

by Michelle Liebheit

As The Mainichi reported last month, Japan has been slipping down on the gender gap ranking for the last couple of years. This year it finally reached the lowest rank in gender equality within industrialized countries. We talked about this topic various times in class too, but most of our discussions were based on perception rather than data. I was therefore interested how gender equality in Japan is really doing and the data I found was still surprising.

First, the gender gap report shows some interesting numbers. Whereas the unemployment rate is very low for both genders in Japan (women 4%, men 5%), we see a huge difference in the type of employment. 35% of the female labour force works part-time. If we compare this to their male counterparts, of which only 10% are part-time employees, the difference is clearly visible.

Other major points for Japan’s bad performance are due to a lack of political empowerment (ranking 118 out of 135 in the subindex). In the current diet, only 8% of the parliament seats are hold by women. Moreover, Japan has had no female head of state since the establishment of a parliament in the late 19th century.

This numbers seem quite shocking, but actually Japan has established a very good basis for empowerment in all areas of life for women. A high number (56%) of women is attending tertiary education such as universities and specialized schools. Japanese women are more educated and skilled than ever before. They hold their own bank accounts and have good health. However, at some point most of the female population drops out of the system and their potentials are being overlooked.

So what is still hindering Japanese women from becoming more equal to their male peers?

The major changing point in the life of a Japanese women is having children. Women’s maternity leave is from 6 weeks before childbirth to up to 8 weeks after childbirth. The (expecting) mother will be receive at least 2/3 of her last salary and other benefit, during this time. After childbirth both parents are eligible to take 12 month parental leave each with receiving 50% of their last earnings. However, a survey (2008) found at that only 1.23% of male employes take parental leave, compared to 90.6 percent of mothers. Only receiving half of one’s income can be a huge burden to families. Since the father’s income is likely to be higher than the mother’s, he will keep his job in order to financially secure his family. However, because kindergarten placements are very scare and difficulties in re-entering the job market, childcare often becomes the mother’s task only.

OECD’s studies have shown some further indicators of Japan’s gender gap. Japanese women spend around 270 minutes per day on domestic work, whereas Japanese men are spend around 60 minutes for housework per day (the OECD average being 131 minutes!). Housework clearly seems to be a female task. Moreover, childcare seems to be a female task too, since many women are only employed part-time. Only 28% of Japanese children under three are enrolled in a childcare institution, this meaning that the rest are being cared for most likely by their mothers. In comparison with other OECD countries, Japan ranks fourth lowest when it comes to public spending on childcare and preschool services.

Once women dropped out of the workforce due to maternity and childcare, it becomes very difficult for them to get a similar position afterwards. What the job market offers mothers will be most likely temporary, low paid, non-regular and part-time. Japanese mothers earn on average 61% less than men (full-time workers between 25 and 44) and even the total average income gap of the working force is still nearly 30%, without taking children into account. Due to this fact many Japanese mothers would rather stay at home than work, if their husband’s income can allow it. Additionally, the Japanese tax system actually disfavors married couples with two full-time incomes.

Creating more opportunities for mothers to re-enter the job market would have a huge impact on Japanese economics. Solving this problem and creating work possibilities for these women would rise Japanese GDP by 16% as the gender gap reports states (2010). Moreover, a change in Japanese society‘s perception of motherhood is urgently needed, if Japan wants to stop its population declining and create a more friendly atmosphere for women.

References

The Mainichi. Japan slips further to 105th in gender equality ranking. 10/25/2013. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20131025p2g00m0dm026000c.html

The World Economic Forum. The Global Gender Gap Report 2013. http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2013/

OECD Better Life Index. Work-Life Balance (Subindex). http://oecdbetterlifeindex.org/topics/work-life-balance/

The Japan Times. Pay gap worst for Japan’s mothers. 12/19/2012. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2012/12/19/national/pay-gap-worst-for-japans-mothers/

The Japan Times. Parental leave still finds dads in huge minority. 06/02/2010. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2010/06/02/news/parental-leave-still-finds-dads-in-huge-minority/