|"DAWN" Newsletter of The DAWN CENTER
|Japanese Men - They are Changing
|Japanese men are changing. They live in the country where the
ideology of sex roles is strong. In one national survey investigating sex role
consciousness, there still were many men who said "yes" to the stereotypical
idea that "men should work outside the home and women should keep the household."
However, in a 1995 survey conducted by the Prime Minister's Office, as much as
34 percent of men denied the stereotype. Compared with 53.9 percent of women who
said "no" to the stereotype, there is no denying that Japanese men's
awareness lags far behind. However, in a 1987 survey, the number of men who denied
the stereotype was only 20.2 percent. Slow as they are, Japanese men are surely
|Masculinity-Formed By The System
|In Japanese society, systematized organizations like schools
and companies promote meanings such as competition, possession, and struggle in
men's lives. Moreover, the family system, constructed by laws legislating inheritance
and legitimacy, limits men's lives to a large extent. There exists a strong expectation
that men should be the heads of households and breadwinners, or "daikokubashira"in
Japanese. In addition, the tax system imposed on a family as a unit and the wage
system, including family support benefits, encourage a certain standard of family.
These also stifle the lives of Japanese men. In groups of teenage boys, who are
in the stage of building personalities, those common male images of competition,
possession, and struggle can change into dangerous ones made up of the consciousness
of sexual maturity, aggressiveness, self-assertion, and the wish to be recognized
by others. These images, combined with violent acts or delinquency, induce problems.
The reluctance to do things unmasculine plays a psychological role in making youths
afraid of dropping out of the system and encouraging group consciousness. In this
way, a male is made to be a man by the system. I name these processes the "male
system," which has the same sound as "male man" (dansei) in Japanese.
|Masculinity in the Swing
|However, such masculinity is beginning to swing. Elderly men
are afraid of a solitary single life. Middle aged men are worried about being
fired and wonder about how to live after retirement, Men in their forties want
to have meaningful lifework besides their jobs. Young men look fashionable in
their pierced earrings and become neutral beings. Young fathers take part in housework
and childcare. In other words, the traditional male system is beginning to collapse.
There are, of course, men suffering from diseases. However, the cause of death
for young men is mostly traffic accidents. Is it because of masculinity that men
turn to risky acts? There still exist a lot of alcoholic and workaholic men. It
is also men who turn to violence at home. I would like to question the sacrifices
made just by being men and spread the desire to live independent lives worthy
of ourselves. When the male system and the norm change, the social system will
|Toward a Civic Movement
|My friends and I began a new civic movement to support men experiencing
this swing. Men who want to outgrow their masculine pretenses got together, and
in the Kansai area "Men's Lib" came into being in 1991. It began as
a small discussion group of those weary of masculinity. Then, in 1995, we formed
a group called "Men's Center Japan," a non-profit organization, and
opened an office in Osaka. Men's Center Japan issues a bi-monthly newsletter called
"Men's Network." We also hold various workshops and study groups: one
group analyzes male images in mass media, another discusses how to express feelings
and how to communicate with others, still another thinks about the men who work
too much. Men's Center Japan sends lecturers to the seminars held by municipalities
and offers telephone counseling for men. What we are aiming at is the equality
of men and women, and of course equality among men, and a gender-free society,
one which is not bound by stereotypes of masculinity or femininity. On the basis
of these activities, we held, for the first time in Japan, a "Men's Conference"
in September, 1995. Men's groups like ours are beginning in various parts of Japan.
At the same time, men's studies have been introduced at universities. The development
of men's studies academically is a concrete move, one we hope to expand on with
the creation of a network of universities in the Kansai area. Japanese men are
changing. The men's movement has begun.
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