• Kyodo

  • SHARE

Convenience store operator FamilyMart Co. has launched a new brand, “Famimaru,” after an older version — “Okasan Shokudo,” meaning “mother’s diner” — drew criticism that it may sent a biased message that women should cook for their families.

The Okasan Shokudo brand, which was used to market a series of prepared foods, had been under scrutiny since late last year after three high school girls started a protest asking the retailer to rename it.

The students gathered 7,268 signatures online and sent them to the company in April, according to the petition website.

The earlier brand name was introduced in September 2017, with the initial concept of offering food products that are “as hearty as those made by mothers” and the peace of mind that “busy working mothers can give to their children and family members” through the use of safe ingredients, according to the company.

FamilyMart President Kensuke Hosomi said in a news conference in late October that the rebranding was due to “changes in the values and lifestyles of our customers.” The company said the students’ protest was not the direct reason for the change as the brand renewal had been planned before the petition started.

The new Famimaru brand name was chosen because it better represents the company name and can include items other than foods, a FamilyMart spokesman said.

FamilyMart President Kensuke Hosomi (second from left) and others pose for photographs at a news conference in Tokyo on Oct. 18. | KYODO
FamilyMart President Kensuke Hosomi (second from left) and others pose for photographs at a news conference in Tokyo on Oct. 18. | KYODO

Toko Tanaka, a cultural studies professor at Otsuma Women’s University, said even though changing the brand name was a good decision, it came too late.

“It is shocking that such a gender-stereotyped concept was approved in 2017 in the first place when the #MeToo movement was gaining momentum,” she said.

In the past 30 years, the number of households in Japan with full-time housewives declined from about 50% to around 30%, according to the Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training, a state-backed research organization.

But expectations that mothers cook every day remain strong, Tanaka said, citing a tweet that went viral in July last year as an example.

The tweet described an old man asking a mother who was about to buy a prepared potato salad at a deli why she “can’t even make a potato salad.” It was retweeted more than 100,000 times, with many defending the mother.

Tanaka said a major company naming a brand in a way that reinforces such a conservative idea about gender roles would “cast a curse” on many mothers, making them feel guilty for not being able to live up to expectations.

A customer uses a FamilyMart convenience store kiosk at a post office in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, last Friday. | KYODO
A customer uses a FamilyMart convenience store kiosk at a post office in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, last Friday. | KYODO

Similar problems have been seen in how women are represented in advertisements, and corporations have been urged to be more aware of gender equality issues and have more females in leadership positions for greater diversity, she said.

“It is also important to bring out in the open the decision process of how a controversial expression was chosen every time a company receives criticism,” Tanaka said.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

PHOTO GALLERY (CLICK TO ENLARGE)