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Women in Japanese Society

von Friedemann Winkler

  • Englischreferat (Jahrgang 13)
  • ca. 5 Minuten
  • 13 Punkte

Women in Japanese Society

My report is about the woman's role in Japan. I will first deal with the historical development that still influences today's situation and then go on with the woman's role in Japan's modern society.

The historical image of women is mostly formed from three different influences: First of all the Confucianism that stressed the priority of men over women, stating: "A woman is to obey her father as daughter, her husband as wife, and her son as aged mother."

The second one is Buddhism that doesn't provide salvation for women. The third influence came from the warrior class of Japan, the Samurai who believed that "A woman should look upon her husband as if he were heaven itself".

An example of how society viewed women is shown by an excerpt from "The Tale of Genji", a Japanese novel written by a woman. She wrote: "If women were not fundamentally evil, they would not have been born women at all."

Women did not exist legally, could not own property, and husbands were allowed to kill their wives for being lazy or bad. The Japanese word for wife is "kanai" which consists of "home" and "inside" 家内. This shows the attitude men had towards women in earlier times.

As Japan was isolated from other countries by the ocean and also by an edict not allowing foreigners to enter or natives to leave, this discrimination was preserved for a long time until the country was suddenly thrust into the modern world when the United States enforced international trade with Japan.

Afterwards Japan began exporting textiles and employed hundreds of thousands of women in the textile industry, where they worked for low wages and lived in crowded dormitories.

After World War II the leaders of the American occupying forces brought new laws into Japan's constitution that gave women more rights.

Today women are legally equal to men, but there are still big differences. Women are paid only about two thirds of their male co-workers' income. 99.8% of all leading positions are occupied by men. Lots of women belong to various organizations and engage in public demonstrations ranging from protests against airport noise to boycotts of dangerous products. In spite of this women do not consider themselves politically active. In a 1975 poll only 16% of women felt that they were considerably or very interested in politics. Although Women comprise a larger voting power than men, the percentage of women in the government is pitifully small. As the odds are so high against a woman succeeding in a Japanese company, where she is blatantly discriminated against, many women started working on their own at home or as part-time workers. Normally women are expected to work only in the time from finishing their study till giving birth to children. It is very hard for them to get back to work later.

The opposite of this drastic situation can be seen in Japanese family life. A woman has almost unquestioned authority within the family system of today's Japan. Typically the wife will make all decisions regarding the raising of the children and will have absolute control about the family's finances. Many wives in Japan regard their husbands as if they were their oldest son, who must be respected, but who is not fit to handle delicate matters. The fact that women talk about their husbands in this manner shows that they no longer consider themselves subservient. A reason for women often taking over the household dominance is that the husband is simply not at home often. Working days are very long in Japan and they become even longer when you work far away from your home, which is quite normal.

The role of women in Japanese society will continue to evolve. Having already achieved a dominant role in issues involving the household it will only be a matter of time till women start acquiring public power.

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