You may have heard that Japan is obsessed with youth, which is ironic for a country with an ageing population, this is ironic. In fact, Japan is purported to have the highest proportion of elderly citizens compared to all other countries. With so many older folks making up a vast percentage of the population, why is Japan’s society still often casually ageist, particularly towards women?
A recent poll asked “at what age does a woman become middle-aged?” and the results are extremely telling.
In Japan, it’s common to refer to someone using their most defining characteristic. Saying “you” is often considered way too direct and impolite, so a good way to circumvent this is to address someone according to their position in society. Thus, a taxi driver will be “Mr. Driver” and a postman will be “Mr. Postman”.
Similarly, if you don’t know someone’s name or status, you can refer to them using their age as a base guideline. A young girl may be “ojosan” (young miss), a young woman may be “onesan” (big sister) and a middle-aged woman becomes “obasan” (aunt). Similarly, a young man might be “oniisan” (big brother) and a middle-aged man “ojisan” (uncle).
But at what age does this naming shift occur, for women in particular?
A poll by MyNavi News asked 300 single men and women “At what age does a woman shift from “big sister” to “aunt”? The results are as follows:
During her twenties 8% During her thirties 9% During her forties 63% During her fifties: 20%
From this, we can clearly see that most men think women switch from “big sister” to “aunt” during her forties.” However, women’s answers were vastly different.
During her twenties 6% During her thirties 55% During her forties 29% During her fifties: 10%
Over half of the women polled answered that a woman switches from “big sister” to “aunt” in society during her thirties. This speaks volumes about women in Japan’s anxiety over ageing. Indeed, in Japan a woman’s primary social value is still tied up in marriage and child-bearing. As fertility begins to decline from the age of 32, it seems many believe that women become “old” at a much younger age than do men.
What’s heartening, however, is that the men polled seemed to allow an extra decade for women before considering them “middle-aged.” This hints that women are much harsher on themselves than they perhaps have any need to be.
Here’s a few of the comments provided by the participants:
In her twenties:
“From the age of 25, a woman’s skin begins losing its luster.” – Male, 30 “A woman’s skin begins turning a corner after 25.” – Female, 25 “A woman starts to sound ridiculous using modern slang from around 26.” – Male, 26
In her thirties:
“I think it has more to do with whether she’s married and has kids or not.” – Male, 30 “In her thirties, her siblings will probably have kids, making her a genuine aunty.” – Female, 32 “You can tell when she starts getting wrinkles at 35.” – Male, 28 “It’s gross to even call a woman in her later thirties “big sister.” – Female, 27
In her forties:
“In her forties, she becomes a mature beauty. ” – Male, 39 “Her kids will be in middle school by this time.” – Male, 37 “45 is how old my parents are, so I’d say around this age.” – Female, 24
In her fifties:
“Being referred to as ‘big sister’ is highly improbable at this age.” – Female, 25 At what age do you think women start to be considered “middle-aged” in your country? Do you think that perception is harsh or fair?
Source: Nicovideo News
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