As American as Apple Pie?

English: Apple pie.

English: Apple pie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Lourdes Fritts

It is always amusing to observe the looks of disbelief in a classroom when the topic of invented traditions is being discussed. Some look betrayed as if their whole life had been a lie, while others scratch their heads and ask “Well, weren’t all traditions invented at some point?”

Unfortunately, I must confess that I generally fall under the same category as the head scratchers. There are certain qualities of an invented tradition that don’t make sense to me. For example, the discussion in this case was about the Scottish kilt, Hugh Trevor-Roper (1983) argues that the Scottish kilt was not an ancient Highlander tradition, but rather workwear designed for Scots by an Englishman; the kilt was not even considered to be a cultural asset until the noblemen began to wear it and refer to it as such. While these two facts are not exactly difficult for me to grasp, it is the fact that the kilt can be considered an invented tradition when the version that we know today was created in 1745 (Trevor-Roper 1983). Hasn’t it been long enough for it just to be considered a tradition?

In 1745 my home country, the United States, hadn’t even been officially created yet. This lead me to ask myself if there are any genuine traditions present in modern America that cannot be classified as “invented”. It is common knowledge that many aspects of culture and tradition in America have derived from the cultures that immigrants brought with them. While all traditions were invented at some point, the term “invented tradition” refers to a pre-existing symbol, item, or ritual that has been repurposed to fit the new needs of society (Hobsbawn and Ranger 1983). But what about traditions that serve little to no purpose such as a food like apple pie?

Apple pie is considered to be a traditional American treat, in fact the phrase “as American as apple pie” describes something or someone that is archetypically American. However, the tasty treat is actually a blend of pastries that came from multiple European countries. Thus, it is not quite an American tradition (Ferroni 2012). This being said, can it then be considered invented? It is not an ancient dish nor is it original, but what could have possibly been accomplished by apple pie being viewed as an American tradition?

The same can be said for a number of traditions present in modern America, which leads me to believe that the definition of invented traditions needs to grow in order to include hybridity, creolization, and time progression. With cultures becoming more influenced by one and other, new traditions and meanings to old symbols are being formed. When will today’s new symbols become the next old tradition?

References

Ferroni, Nicholas. 2012. There Is Nothing More American Than Apple Pie, Right? Huffington Post, December 27. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nicholas-ferroni/as-american-as-apple-pie_b_2369851.html

Hobsbawm, Eric and Terence Ranger. 1983. The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Trevor-Roper, Hugh. 1983. The Invention of Tradition: The Highland Tradition of Scotland. Pp. 15-41 in The Invention of tradition, edited by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

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Care Crisis at the Core of Gender Non-Equality

by Anna Dreveau

As Rhacel Salazar Parreñas notices in her chapter, “The Care Crisis in the Philippines,” a “crisis of care” is striking developed and developing countries.

As women in developed countries tend to a more masculine position, i.e. a career-oriented job instead of her traditional mother role. Those both income household generally let their children without any family care anymore. Indeed, the traditional gender roles are as such: the father is away from home, working as the family breadwinner and the mother stay at home, taking care of domestic labor and childcare. Those views are still contemporary, even in some developed countries, such as Japan.

However, in most Western societies, roles tend to become more gender-neutral. Does that mean that former female and male-specific role’s work share is equally divided ? That both parents manage to contribute to childcare and work ?

Alas, it was not the path paved by those claiming for a more gender egalitarian society. Wanted to be able to have a professional career, women did achieve to get it, but the load of work of their “mother role” did not decrease. Therefore, two options are offered: either being a “supermom”, being able to achieve both career and family life or simply abandon the task of taking care of the children to someone else, because of obvious lack of time.

As Parreñas observed, to respond to this demand of caretakers, women from developing countries, such as the Philippines, came to those families to be hired to take care of their children, leaving their own children back in their mother countries, generally in the custody of relatives.
The initially from-developed-country care deficit is thus moving into developing countries, through the process of global care chain. And quite similarly to developed countries, women gain the status of the main income earner of the family, getting the respect from this position within the family. Still, the buck is passed to those transnational mothers by mass media or local government as they are seen to have abandon their most important and initial role: being here and taking care of the children. Even though Parreñas’ examples can overcome the “not taking care of the children” part (as they do so as a “long-distance supermom”), their absence is undeniable.

Nevertheless, the real absent one in family life that can be observed in both developed and developing countries seems to be the father. Even though the father’s role is considered important even in gender non-egalitarian society, they are not relied on when the mother is away as other relatives or even elder siblings are preferred, as Parreñas’ interviewees testified. It would be unjust to claim that in Western countries, families do not rely on fatherhood as those societies became increasingly aware of both parenting’s benefits. Still, even those rely more on motherhood to raise children: as an example, when a couple get a divorce, this is easier for the mother to get custody for the child(ren) than it is for the father.

Getting more gender equality do not mean getting women at the same standards than men, but creating middle standards in which both gender can fit equally. Dividing work and family life more equally is one of the solution, but the most important thing to get rid of is those sexist expectations that just build the gender non-egalitarian societies around the world.

“Ikumen”: challenges and support of new generation of Japanese fathers

by Dina Akylbekova

For many years Japan was famous for the social phenomenon of workaholics but last few years the new concept of “ikumen” has gotten attention from both domestic and foreign press.

What does this “mysterious” concept of ikumen mean? The word “ikumen” is a word combination of the Japanese “ikuji” (child care) and the English “men” (Koh, 2010). Ikumen is officially defined as a “men who enjoy parenting and grow through parenting or those who wish to do so in the future” or just basically a stay-at-home dad (MHLW, 2012).

It is interesting that there is media interest in such a thing as a stay-at-home dad. The stay-at-home dad is nonsense for Japanese society with the strong traditional family model, in which men are workaholic “breadwinners” and women are caring mothers and good wives. The average Japanese man, who follows canons of traditional family model spends only 30 minutes per day for care work, including child care (MHLW, 2011). The rate of fathers’ care leave of 2.63% (among all working men with children) also shows the low level of fathers’ engagement into child bearing process (MHLW, 2011).

However, a recent survey revealed that more than a half of Japanese men want to spend more time with their children (Benesse, 2011). There are many factors hindering male family engagement, the most concerning ones are overwork and social pressure. Japanese workers, who prioritize the family over work and neglect overwork “tradition”, can be considered as irresponsible, incompetent and selfish workers. Moreover, many employers consider fathers’ parental leave as the end of the professional career’s end. Japanese men, who are willing to be engaged more into family issues, face many social and professional challenges.

Fortunately, the Japanese government has started a large-scale policy towards the improvement of gender equality, which includes the promotion of father’s family engagement. The policy includes a social campaign “Ikumen Project”. The campaign consists of seminars, events promoting father’s participation in child bearing, moreover supporting websites are created.

Additionally, there is an on-going media campaign, which includes the production of dramas and TV-shows about ikumen, for instance, a popular movie “Usagi drop”. Moreover, some politicians joined the promotion by taking parental leave: the governor of Hiroshima Hidehiko Yuzaki and the mayor of the central Bunkyo ward Hironobu Narisawa (Koh, 2010).

Maybe, the social campaigns and famous people’ role models will make the society to accept father’s childcare leave and promote new values to the young generations. Finally, Japanese society has to face many challenges before reaching gender equality and forming new family model. The emerging “ikumen” phenomenon supported by the government is giving a hope for more positive changes in Japanese families and society.

References

The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan http://www.mhlw.go.jp

Koh Y., 2010. “Japan’s Next Big Thing: Stay-at-Home Dads?”, Japan Times.

Benesse Institute for Child Sciences and Parenting “Wishing to be ikumen: The Ideal and Reality of Young Japanese Fathers