Recent comments by health minister Hakuo Yanagisawa were very disappointing, but they really got me thinking nonetheless. According to his view, I, too, am a “baby-making machine.” I am a healthy male, capable of reproduction, even good with kids. However, the big difference is that my value as a human being is not attached to this fact.

Buddha was a man, and most would agree that his philosophy has been valuable to society. The same goes for Jesus and Muhammad the prophet. Many great men have been valued for what they have given to society or humanity — even when they did not have children.

There have also been women that that we could put into this group. For example, some might say Mother Teresa was a “baby-making machine” and that she should have lived up to that role. Yet she gave so much more through her work.

In Japan, Yanagisawa’s view seems widespread. As a teacher at an all-girls’ high school, I see young girls who believe it themselves — that their only value is as a wife and mother.

The debate surrounding female succession to the throne also shows how the government views the matter. Women in the royal family seem to have value only when they are having babies, male babies that is.

I have heard young people say there are no gender issues in Japan, because women don’t seem to have a problem with the state of things. Maybe we need to start talking more openly about these things. Maybe the current education reform needs to look at the issues of gender equality in education, rather than at “love of country” or more study hours. Maybe we need to have more women in positions of authority.

Maybe we need more female school principles, more female politicians, more female business leaders, more women as heads of the household and, dare I say, a female emperor.

james down

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