lifestyle

Battling ingrained sexism in the Japanese workplace

8 Comments
By Chiara Terzuolo

Climbing the corporate ladder while dealing with a sexist office culture is, unfortunately, all in a day’s work for ladies in Japan. We show you some tactics to effect change at your workplace — even if it’s only baby steps.

It was 10 p.m. and my boss and I had just walked out of our last meeting for the day. I was lightheaded with hunger, tired and fantasizing about the moment I could take off my high heels. As we walked to the closest station together, out of the blue he turned to me and asked: “So, do you make dinner for your husband every night?”

My eyes narrowed and my neocortex went on red alert. What I really wanted to say was: “How could I possibly do that? It’s 10 p.m. and I’m here. With you. Working. For the third time this week — and it’s only Thursday!” Instead, I scrounged around for a comment biting enough to (hopefully) make him think and said: “My partner works for a gaishikei (foreign company). He leaves work on time and cooks for me.’

Ingrained sexism at the office

Deeply entrenched beliefs and assumptions like this flourish in Japan’s traditionally-minded office culture. This goes for office environments across the country, where due to the cultural focus on wa (harmony) and gaman (basically, “grin and bear it”), many women go along with uncomfortable situations and remain silent, since fighting back would paradoxically make them “a troublemaker.”

Most instances of outlandish behavior come from older managerial types, such as those who summon their female coworkers by calling out, “Ne! (Hey!)” or who refuse to see women as anything other than “OL” (office ladies) who take care of the workspace and perform menial tasks. Although the younger generation is not usually so blatantly sexist, it’s easy for men in the Japanese workplace to remain blissfully unaware of how the nature of their comments can affect us.

Click here to read more.

© Savvy Tokyo

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

8 Comments
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My daughter is about to reenter the Japanese work environment after a few years in the States. I've warned her about this.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

Terrible work environment in corporate Japan.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

You can called it sexism but it is bullying. When not respectful, just say it. If you accept it, bear it.

Being called an hostess woman in whatever professional situation if you are not one is an insult.

Men bear other types of insults from their superiors or other same level collesgues, don't worry.

And yes, men like discussing comments between them in relation even indirect to sex (weight, hair color...). This is natural. It just needs to be respectful.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

"fantasizing about the moment I could take off my high heels"

That thief in the other posted story was thinking the same thing as he reads through jT from his holding tank awaiting arrangement of theft of heels.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Japan: no country for women

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Japan: no country for women

Haha very funny

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I have lots of guy friends that are called with -chan. It is cute and endearing.

There might be hassles for women at work, but they do rule the roost at home in 99% of the time.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

As we walked to the closest station together, out of the blue he turned to me and asked: “So, do you make dinner for your husband every night?”My eyes narrowed and my neocortex went on red alert. What I really wanted to say was: “How could I possibly do that? It’s 10 p.m. and I’m here. With you. Working. For the third time this week — and it’s only Thursday!”

Is the boss demanding that she cook meals for her husband? Or is he simply asking about any responsibilities she normally takes on at home? Shouldn't a good boss try to find out whether the demands of the company are putting an unreasonable strain on an employee's normal family life? (Especially if this is the third time this week she's being asked to work late?). Now that the boss knows the husband does all the cooking, he doesn't have to worry about a malnourished family or marital strife. While sexism clearly does exist, there also seems to be an increasing tendency to interpret every clumsy statement in the worst possible light.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

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