Uchi BenKei Soto JiZoIf you're looking for the 'inside scoop' on all the romance I've had in Japan, you've got the wrong page. In that case, you might want an "Error 404" to be returned to you.
[A formidable warrior* inside; Statuesque outside]
Japanese proverb concerning women
Rather, this page is a brief discussion of the gender gap and Japanese women in general.
From a historical prospective, Japan has an rich history of flirting with both equality and inequality. Before the Spanish arrived, there was apparently little distinction in clothing between the sexes. And, they may have even enjoyed similar duties and responsibilities. But, the real truth will still be a (very) long time comming. Due, at least in part, to the rich culture of muddling things up. As with most historic issues, the daft sense of nationalistic pride together with feeble ideas of 'harmony' provide motivation to hide the many shame(s) of the past.
But, at least there is a small body of evidence that attests to cycles of matriarchal and patriarchal societies. From Himiko (the woman ruler of 'Japan' at that time) to today where most women are content to rule the family house. There has been constant change. Recently, with the birth of a royal daughter, the government will have to change the preceding laws designed to prevent women from assending the throne (as there are no males in line).
Ever since the Sengoku (Warring Country) era, (I have been told) men feel the women have become a bit more ferocious. Of course that might just be a survival characteristic given those times.
There is a highly-developed system of role-reinforcement that manifests itself in many ways in Japan. The vast majority of women's given names contain 'mi' [beauty] and/or 'ko' [child]. School uniform codes are strictly enforced with, apparently, no pant-options for women. Some feel that mass media also exerts a significant influence. A similar situation exists for the men.
In terms of 'today', women are a bit confused. And they have every right to be. Companies and government alike seem to pay only 'lip service' to issues of sexual equality and sexual harassment. (Even though they continue to spout off rhetoric on the subject.) In keeping with the self-serving ideas of 'harmony' and 'implicit conduct', when the occasional (actually frequent) 'incident' happens, it is every woman for herself. And the 'culture of shame' helps to provide a comprehensive intimidation mechanism ensuring silence. From my barbaric Canadian prospective, I would venture to say that Japan is a place where, sadly, "See no evil, hear no evil, say no evil" reaches extremes far too easily.
On the other hand, Japan is also a place where 'equal opportunity' is rife in some areas. Sexual harassment is not a one-sided affair. In addition, just like men have 'hostess' bars, women have 'host bars' where they can be served by attractive men. Although you might think this sort of thing the stuff of a James Bond movie, it is more frequently in the 'Austin Powers' genre. (One friend told me of a television special showing spunky obese middle-aged ladies in a 'host-bar' groping some of the male hosts). Similarly, sex-chat lines for women are just as available as for men. In addition, men also have a choice of aesthetics salons to go to for their pedicures, make-overs, etc.
Tough to swallow
Contraceptive pills are just becoming available here. Other forms of birth control are also becoming more available. It is still a commonplace expectation that they will never be 'career-track' employees. And there is a typical feeling that, after graduation, they will get a job for a couple of years, before 'settling down' (leaving the workplace to raise a family). In fact, in terms of population, the bureaucrats are becoming increasingly nervous over a 'fall in the production quotas' (for/of humans). I have not seen any studies to reflect this, but, it appears that Hermes, et al, have proved a more effective contraceptive than artificial hormone regulation.
In the end, I suppose it is all about power. If there is any constant to power it must be that absolute power corrupts absolutely. When you look at Japan and other countries you can readily see that ones' sex (or sexual orientation, for that matter) makes no difference in one's abilities. Women in positions of power have proved time-and-time-again they have the same prowess as men. And the same weaknesses. Just like male politicians, they are prone to debauchery, gifts of sinecure, corruption, sureptitious dealings, etc.
'No' means 'Field'
One area where many Japanese women are clearly at a disadvantage is in dealing with untoward advances. Of all the public transit systems (in the world) I have been in, Japan has the most notices about lechery. Now, most of the transit companies also have coaches that are women only (during specific time and day zones). Obviously, this sort of thing tells a sad tale of their society. There might even be a relationship with the fact that laws against prostitution are seldom, if ever, enforced. This is one of many examples of unpleasant things, that the Japanese are not keen to look into and 'fix' . No accurate statistics are kept on it, and the police don't seem to be keen to get involved. In fact, considering what they do 90% of the time, they should be more aptly called "armed maps".
Another category of 'untoward advances' takes place in the office. I suppose you could think of it as 'Machiavellian Love'. This happens surprisingly often, apparently. And, where it is not desired, only women with incredible fortitude and resolution can survive it's onslaught. This is when a co-worker fancies the woman very much. So much that he decides to 'try with all his might' to entice and/or intimidate her into marriage. Typical methods include the following: Expressing ones 'true' deep-rooted feelings to a trusted superior (in order that they act as a go-between). Tracking the woman and reminding her that you care --with tangible gifts, visits to her/parrents home. Talking to the parrents. Intercepting her en route to/from work and offering a lift in a beautiful car. And, quite often, this sort of thing happens when the man is a manager (senior), and the woman is not (subordinate). I could be jumping to conclusions, but it certainly seems coercion to me.
Japanese society is worse off than other societies because it clearly does not treat women with the decorum and dignity they deserve as equal human beings and contributing members of society.
The West has a curious record of folly in this department: Inequality and bias have been used with varying results to fight inequality and bias. Any control engineer could see that one comming (backlash leading to backlash --nasty perturbations in the system)! If there is one thing to learn from these two approaches to a problem, it certainly has to be: It shouldn't have been allowed to happen in the first place. As it does, it further entrenches itself, both sexes bear the prices of the situation. It is the same with racial discrimination. It is so unfortunate that people are so easily persuaded not to 'play nicely' .
*(name: MuSashiBou BenKei, written: 武蔵坊弁慶)