As we celebrate Mother’s Day on May 13, a hashtag highlighting the daily struggles of mothers in Japan is going viral on Twitter.
The hashtag — #名画で学ぶ主婦業 (“meiga de manabu shufugyō” or “learn about homemakers through classical paintings”) — uses classical paintings to reflect the frustrations that our mothers face.
One woman uses an artwork by M.C. Escher titled “Ascending and Descending” to portray the never-ending list of chores in a day. “Cleaning, doing laundry, making meals, washing dishes, cleaning, doing laundry, making meals, washing dishes, cleaning. Wait — when does it end!?!” she writes. Another pairs Francis Bacon’s “Screaming Pope” with the caption, “Stepping on a Lego block.”
By transforming highbrow art into snapshots of the mundane, the moms of Twitter are giving everyone a taste of what it’s like to have a 24-hour job.
The Meiga de Manabu hashtag has been followed closely over the past week, spurring offshoots such as #名画で学ぶ飲食業 (“meiga de manabu inshokugyō” or “learn about the food industry through classical paintings”), #名画で学ぶJリーグ (“meiga de manabu J riigu” or “learn about the J. League through classical paintings”) and even #名画で学ぶ安倍政権 (“meiga de manabu Abe seiken” or “learn about the Abe administration through classical paintings”) gaining traction.
However, the most popular ultimately proved to be the hashtag focusing on homemakers, with a steady stream of tweets being published every hour. Someone even created a Twitter bot in order to archive the best tweets.
“Out of the ‘Meiga de Manabu’ series, #MeigadeManabuShufugyo touches me the most. Thank you for all your hard work,” Twitter user @HSMTkrs writes.
Instead of tweeting their own jokes, many mothers are letting off steam simply by following the struggles of other Twitter moms.
“I’ve been in a bad mood after my husband hurt my feelings on what was supposed to be a fun Golden Week trip. I just happened upon this hashtag,” writes @ukkari_mamma. “I laughed so hard I forgot all about it! Thank you so much Twitter!”
The majority of tweets focus on the exhausting work of looking after children.
“Left: What I thought having kids would be like. Right: What it’s actually like,” writes @wagahai2016, comparing Raphael’s “Madonna of the Meadow” with Lucas Cranach the Elder’s “Melancholia.”
“Finding a bento box in my son’s room from who knows when,” writes @haruki_o18, pointing to British painter John William Waterhouse’s “Psyche Opening the Golden Box.”
Other tweets express their frustration with husbands who do minimal work around the house.
“Me when my husband says somen noodles are ‘fine,’” writes @sevenssjpjp, using a painting of a Buddhist hell with demons throwing sinners into an iron mill to illustrate her fury.
“My husband looking at me when he’s changing the baby’s diaper and realizing it’s poop,” writes @yukikisnowflake, pointing to a self-portrait by Gustave Courbet titled “The Desperate Man.”
When it comes to letting off steam through comedy, it seems that Japanese mothers have an endless source of inspiration.
After all, Japanese women perform over three-quarters of unpaid labor around the home, despite the fact that more women are joining the workforce than ever before.
With traditional gender roles still widely promoted, many women give up their professional careers in favor of taking on domestic duties.
It doesn’t help that Japanese men often work long hours and rarely take paternity leave. Only 3 percent of fathers take paternity leave, even though Japan has one of the most liberal paternity leave laws in the world.
What’s more, the shortage of day care centers in urban areas has become a major issue facing Japan and its plan to usher in more women into the workforce.
The lack of child care services compounds the stress that double-income families already face, and the government’s inactivity to solve the problem has sparked online outrage in the past.
“Me when I’m finally about to put the baby to sleep after 30 minutes of trying, but I hear an election campaign car loudly announce, “We support families with young children!” and the baby wakes up,” writes @pocky_pocky, accompanying the tweet with Andrea Mantegna’s “Madonna and Child.”
Twitter is an effective platform for debating political and social issues, and coming up with a catchy hashtag can be the best way to get the message out quick.
While most topics touching on social issues will bring out trolls from the dark corners of the internet, reactions to the meiga de manabu shufugyō hashtag has been surprisingly troll-free and overwhelmingly positive.
Then again, perhaps it’s not surprising at all — after all our mothers have done for us, it’s hard not to appreciate them.
As Twitter user @ayuco_nakanici puts it: “I’m just realizing how hard it is to be a homemaker! To my mom who worked hard to raise me, all I have is gratitude.”