Japanese men hard to change

Regarding the article titled “Seeking to change men’s mind-sets to spur on prosperity for all Japanese” in the Sept. 11 “Summer Davos” Special supplement: Changing men’s mind-sets, in Japan? What sort of quixotic nonsense is this? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and most Japanese men are very happy with the gender gap, thank you very much. Masako Mori has promised members of her male staff a promotion if they take child-care leave (paternity leave), but she’s forgetting that government ministers like herself come and go, a career is forever. Any guy dumb enough to take such leave will be penalized for it down the road. It’s a guy thing! Does Mori really think she’ll ever empower anyone? Talk about tokenism writ large.

I was surprised that Japanese men with children under 6 years old spend even 39 minutes on average with their little rug rats. What would their early Showa era grandfathers think of such familial nonsense? Mori goes too far! She actually expects proud “Bushi” men to do household chores and change diapers? No self-respecting salaryman would ever stoop so low. Male dominance is the social norm in Japan. There’s nothing “lingering” about the tradition of males being the dominant sex. As for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s promises of greater opportunity for women in Japan’s workforce, his so-called “womanomics,” I bet this works about as well as Reaganomics did in the 1980s. Trickle down what? Right!

About that Global Gender Gap report, Japan might have been ranked 101 out of 135 countries surveyed. Scandinavia has given women the greatest measure of equality based on the GGG report — Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark were all in the top 10. Damn you Henrik Ibsen and your radical play “A Doll’s House.” This Scandinavian feminist manifesto isn’t staged very often in Tokyo’s theatre district, is it? The Best Picture Oscar-winning 1979 Hollywood film “Kramer vs. Kramer” was inspired by Ibsen’s own script. Small wonder world literature has been marginalized in Japan’s educational system. Writers like Ibsen could undermine the sexist status quo. Besides, why would any woman in her right mind leave her husband and children to “discover herself” as Nora did in Ibsen’s play? Isn’t it better that an estimated 60 percent of working women in Japan quit their jobs after giving birth?

All kidding aside, why do Mori and Abe link gender equality almost exclusively to Japan’s GDP? It isn’t simply about economic productivity, is it? What of human dignity and self-realization or the fulfillment of one’s potential? Women of great talent, intelligence, ambition and creativity must have the opportunity to realize their dreams. The entire society suffers when such women are frustrated and held back by tradition-bound male chauvinists who are terrified that they might be bested by a gifted woman. Such Japanese males suffer from existential emasculation phobia. Call this the “wimp factor” in Japan. Many white males in America once feared having a black boss since this would have suggested that they were somehow inferior to blacks.

robert mckinney
otaru, hokkaido

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.