It seems like the world of gender news has exploded in the last month, so I’m feeling a bit behind here. First, congrats to President Obama for coming out of the support closet on homogamous marriage in time for the election! And now on to our regularly scheduled programming: gender stereotypes, women in Egypt, marginalization, hope for the birth dearth, Japanese PFLAG, and the best Tumblr of this administration.
“5 Gender Stereotypes That Used To Be the Exact Opposite” by J.F. Sargent, Cracked.com
If you have a working knowledge of gender studies, you probably know that pink wasn’t always for girls. However, a platform like Cracked.com, with its disarming format and snarky pictures, can bring ideas like “Gay Stereotypes Change More Often Than a Gay Man’s Clothing” into the public eye by taking them out of the academic sphere and into the pop cultural one. Choice quote: “Once again, trying to separate cultural influences from biology turns into a big mess.”
“Why Do They Hate Us?: The real war on women is in the Middle East” by Mona Eltahawy, Foreign Policy
TRIGGER WARNING: descriptions and images of violence against women
Reading about how women are treated in Japan and the US leads many to dismiss women for being overly sensitive for wanting to be treated as human beings instead of walking uteruses or second-class citizens. Eltahawy discusses another very real war on women- one in which unspeakable acts of violence are committed and one in which women have no or little legal standing, and all because they and ~50% of the world’s population were unfortunate enough to be born female. One caveat: the hatred we see toward women in the countries I deal with is present. Just because we have more legal standing doesn’t mean that our struggles are null, that “why are you complaining? No one will murder you for wanting equal rights; you have the vote and two valid drivers’ licenses” and realizing how “good we have it” is an excuse to give up and say we are “equal enough.” No. We need to read this and keep fighting wherever we are because if the extreme is child marriage and being raped in the streets but the “norm” is women-only cars to prevent groping in rush hours and camera-sounds on our cell phones to prevent up-skirt shots, how do we not see how fucked up this all is?
Choice quote: “Call out the hate for what it is. Resist cultural relativism and know that even in countries undergoing revolutions and uprisings, women will remain the cheapest bargaining chips. You — the outside world — will be told that it’s our ‘culture’ and ‘religion’ to do X, Y, or Z to women. Understand that whoever deemed it as such was never a woman.”
“The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature, Abridged Edition” by Kathryn Hemmann, Contemporary Japanese Literature
On to the subject of marginalization in academic culture, Kathryn points out how a new anthology favors “real” literature by men over not just minority voices but also marginalized genres. Choice quote: “Some types of print culture (such as dramatic scripts) are literature, but others (such as the text portions of visual novels) are not?”
Next, two decent articles for the Japan and the family front, which is consistently rife with blaming working women, herbivore men, and the Internet for the decline in the number of children born here.
“Reversing Japan’s rising sex aversion may depend on a rebirth of hope” by Roger Pulvers, The Japan Times
The typical problems surrounding a survey in which respondents seemed to be having less sex than normal in the midst of the birth dearth show up: recession, which means no money for wooing; the Internet, which means abnormal ideas about sex and porn. And those are true, but what are the deeper problems? First, there’s a huge cultural gender gap–the reason why men and women can’t seem to communicate here is because the society is quite homosocial. Can’t talk to men/women? Try treating your crush like a human being instead of an alien. When you don’t think of the Other as the Other, you can get along a lot better. Stick it to that Sex and the City mentality! Choice quote: “Apart from a person’s physical condition or disability that may diminish their sexual urges, the problem, to my mind, is one of motivation.”
But encouraging more sex is actually not the sole solution for creating more babies! The solution is creating a society that is friendly toward parents. Hence,
“Japanese families on endangered list” by Michael Hoffman, The Japan Times
Hoffman muses that singledom may be more appealing than creating a (nuclear, parent-child-based) family. And yet, in Fukui prefecture, the birthrate is very steady at about 2.5 children per employee of parent-friendly companies. Why? For the exact same reasons that I and every other scholar who discusses sexism in relation to the birth dearth has been saying for the last ten years. If you provide legal and societal (home and work) support for your citizens, they will happily have children. Choice quote: (are you reading this, government officials and politicians?)
When it comes to women combining careers and motherhood, Fukui ranks No. 1 nationwide.
And the birthrate has risen accordingly. Fukui has its own local way of measuring birthrate: Not children per woman, the standard elsewhere, but children per employee, female or male, and at least seven maternity-friendly companies in the prefecture boast rates of 2.0 or more — the highest is 2.48 — well above the stagnant national birth-per-woman average of 1.39.
What constitutes maternity-friendliness? An easy return to work after maternity leave is one feature; flexible work schedules allowing working parents to attend to their children is another. Some companies Josei Jishin introduces have childcare facilities on the premises.
And the three-generation household, of course, means there’s generally a baby-sitter at home, to say nothing of seasoned older people to whom younger family members can turn in times of crisis.
Today has been a big rant on the place of women in society, but luckily I have a submission from reader angrygaijin that is both uplifting and about the queer community!: http://lgbt-family.or.jp, a nonprofit for the family and friends of sexual minorities (like PFLAG). Though it hasn’t been updated in a while, there are lots of good stories there from minorities, family and friends, and you can get current information on their meet-ups in various cities on their blog.
And because every gender reader ought to end on a high note, I bring you When Obama Endorsed Marriage Equality the Tumblr.
Have reading suggestions for me? Send them my way in the comments!