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Working toward gender equality in language and society

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By Mario Leto

The other day I was sitting on the can in the men’s bathroom at Wonder Rex reading the instructions on how to use the baby seat that was attached to the inside of my father-friendly stall, when I noticed that the illustrations accompanying the instructions featured a female parent, and I thought: Huh. That’s interesting. When will a female parent ever use that seat?

So I pulled out my smartphone and started surfing the web for better reading material when I came across this sporting news headline: “108-3 girls basketball rout raises questions.” Ignoring the absurdly lopsided score, I again thought: That’s bizarre. Why does the name basketball need to be qualified for women? Or, more accurately, why is the men’s game the standard and the women’s game the exception, as exemplified through name modification?

Then a few days ago, there was this headline: “U.S. play Women’s World Cup in kit resembling nurse’s uniform.” I thought: Wow. A double whammy.

In fact, the more I looked, the more I found standardized inequalities between the genders; and the more I found, the more I became attuned to noticing yet more. Of course, the areas of society with the highest visibility get the most attention: Did you hear about the Indian school textbooks a few years back that stated donkeys were more loyal than housewives (another double whammy)? Or about the Italian firm that issued pink slips only to its female employees? Or how about — on a slightly different note — the Swedish preschool in Stockholm that has attempted to erase all gender discrepancies from its program in order to promote gender equality from an early age?

But let us consider areas of life with low-visibility, areas that generally go unnoticed or lack consideration. These can be the most insidious in promoting gender inequality, areas like language and education. Language and education, after all, infiltrate all areas of human life and have the most potential for damage, the former even more so than the latter. Over the years, though, some aspects of the English language have gone through the revision process and we no longer have to endure the generic he, or male-marked, occupational titles for gender-unspecified people.

Or do we? I taught a lesson the other day using a textbook in which the characters complain about the absence of a bellman at a hotel (what happened to the bellhop?). And then I picked up some light reading last week and encountered a consistent use of generic he throughout—publication date 2008 and written by a female.

Even if the more noticeable transgressions someday undergo complete rehabilitation with regards to gender equality, there are still other aspects of language and education that will need work and take longer to amend. Earlier this year I did some original research on a private English conversation school textbook with regards to language and gender equality. Private schools are in the habit of publishing their own materials and thus remain hidden from the prying eyes of the greater academic community, and yet figures from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) show that in 2005 there were 1,144 documented language enterprises with almost 33,000 people employed and over one million students on record. That’s a lot of students learning language at private institutions.

This is what my research revealed: the more salient aspects of language and gender showed progressiveness and a carefully considered predilection for gender equality; the less salient aspects left something to be desired. More specifically, there was no use of the generic he and the visibility and distribution of females throughout the textbook was equal to that of males—greater, in fact. But social and occupational roles were horribly stereotyped: unemployed women in skirts gossip about shopping while employed men in business suits play golf and burn dinner. And so while we seem to be on the path to gender equality, we also seem to have a way to go.

There are a few simple things that can be done by everyone to promote gender equality. One is to use gender inequalities as opportunities for discussion. Another is to challenge standardized stereotypes in our everyday lives. And yet a third is to encourage a change in the way people think about our world and how it is organized. While I worry about my two daughters and the challenges they’ll face in life as females, I am also acutely aware that everyone—female and male alike — has a stake in the quality of the human race. Some men may find satisfaction with the coerced elevation of their status in society, but others are more aware of the losses we all incur when half of the population is treated like second-class citizens.

Mario Leto works as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Tsukuba’s Foreign Languages Center.

This commentary originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

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In fact, the more I looked, the more I found standardized inequalities between the genders;

You've should take a marketing class at your uni. Commercials and ads are rife with gender stereotyping. It's actually a fascinating subject and changes how you view advertising.

But for your diaper seat example, creating a sticker with a daddy would simply be impractical.

And then I picked up some light reading last week and encountered a consistent use of generic he throughout—publication date 2008 and written by a female.

The generic "he" is still perfectly valid (as is "she"). Some prefer it to the generic "they" since that creates number inconsistencies. Rewriting a sentence just to avoid a gender pronoun can lead to awkward text and switching between generic "he" and "she" would be jarring.

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I regularly correct my male (Japanese) friends when they reflexively use the term josei shachou (woman president), pointing out that in this day and age, the distinction isn't important, and reinforces the stereotype that female business owners are some kind of aberration. It doesn't help much, since they're still referred to that way regularly in the media, but 90% of the time my friends respond positively--"I never even thought about it when I used the term, but you're right, it's silly." A lot of Japanese men aren't really sexist, at heart, but simply haven't been exposed to any consciousness-raising experiences.

Another one you see in the media all the time here is the lumping together of women, children, and the elderly (i.e., "Designed to be lightweight and portable--even women and the elderly can use it!"), and the frequent segregationist phrase josei demo ~ ("even women can... "). People--women included--just don't think about the implications of language used in this fashion.

I was lucky to be raised by a feminist mother in the midst of the woman's movement in the U.S. (1960s-70s), so this all seems rather obvious to me. The average Japanese man or woman is unlikely to ever be exposed to issues of gender and language, though--it's simply not part of the social curriculum--so I find it hard to fault them for their cluelessness in the matter.

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I can't say the josei demo ~ ("even women can... ") thing bothers me that much - IF we're talking about things being light and portable for smaller bodies. What gets me is when it's applied to other things that have nothing to do with physical size or strength, as in 'This software/video deck/mobile phone is simple enough for even a woman to use'. It's a few years ago now, but we once bought a video/DVD recorder with lots of cool functions, like a timer and a dual-language function. The manual was split into three sections, basic, intermediate and advanced. The 'basic' section was illustrated with pictures of a housewife pressing the big button on the remote to record/playback directly, and looking chuffed when it actually worked. The 'intermediate' section showed her husband setting the timer to record stuff while he was out at an important business meeting, while the 'advanced' section showed their kids switching between languages, dubbing from video to DVD, changing between different picture qualities, etc. One of the kids was a little girl, though, so maybe there's hope for the future.

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Cleo--good point. Pictures--ubiquitous in Japanese marketing and, as you point out, even user manuals--are an even bigger reinforcer of stereotypes...

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Textbooks here are shocking with their stereotypes. Women are wives, teachers, secretaries or nurses. Nothing else. They are shown with their kids, shopping or cooking. Men are whatever they want to be, usually never with the kids and if they are cooking, it is because their job is a chef.

There has been various research on this - and actually an article in this month's JALT TLT.

Characters are... Japanese and American. Japanese girls are shy, American girls are aggressive and outgoing. Japanese guys are shy, American guys are, you guessed it, aggressive, outgoing and handsome!

The pub world here needs to step back and ask themselves why they publish such rubbish and need to get with the times.

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I would prefer working towards not looking for sexism/racism/ageism where is does not exist.

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Someone has far too much time on his (their) hands :)

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Perhaps if you both saw these textbooks you would have an idea of what is being discussed and how blatantly obvious it is.

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Well, I suppose this is what a lecturer should do; get people thinking. If the goal was to aim at a low IQ audience, I would say well done.

But what is annoying is pretending that some androgenous future is possible, desirable, and beneficial. Its none of the above. Gender differences are here to stay, and its nothing to do with giving dolls to a girl and trucks to a boy. The genders are different, and it takes work to train women to be less feminine and boys to be less masculine. In some ways, that work is worth it. In others, its a waste of so many things. But girls will tend to grab the doll on their own, and boys the trucks, and I say that as a boy who was very attached to my Raggedy Andy doll. Big deal. A few years later I was blowing up army men with firecrackers. That was my own idea. Find me a girl you trained to do that who wants to do it over and over. Good luck with that.

Of course we must account for tomboys and girly boys ( but let them be) , but gender stereotypes are more often right than wrong. All we need do is get rid of the unnecessary hard headed stuff, like thinking a woman can't be a boss and a man can't be a house husband and getting rid of attempts to brand them as "odd" would be nice. But people who actually think a genderless society is a worthy goal tend to be just as hard headed in the opposite direction.

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I would love to see the research where girls usually grab and doll rather than the truck and boys do the opposite. Men and women are indeed different but it doesn't mean that it is okay to continuously put women in lower roles and stereotype them as helpless and unable to work along side of men.

There are a lot of women here and around the world that are pushing forward with their careers while raising families, there are a lot of men doing the same. Why can't that be shown in the textbooks instead of outdated stereotypes?

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@tmarie. I dont think they deny that women have other jobs, but when you get to thebasics, it is usually presumed that wome give birth to the children, and at some stage that may involve being at home. It is you who is saying that is a lower role.

@oracle. while I agree with you overall. I think your 2 examples, that of a woman boss and a stay at home dad are unbalanced. A woman boss is totally understandable, but it is only in certain circumstances that a father can stay at home. Like whether the father or mother work, when it comes to giving birth, the mother will need time off. Like the mothers career, a afthers career, cant always take the stopping and starting. Unless of course those jobs and circumstances of the parents is specific enough to allow this. Like, a father who may work in agriculture is at home mostly, but he is still going to need the time to get the field tended to when wife is pregnant or children are growing. There will need to be support other than him. Or a father whose wife works as a English teacher may very well be able to take over classes for a short time-but hey this is Japan-and be allowed, but a science teacher wont get away with that, or even a PE teacher wont. Or there is the father who may earn money through stocks, he may be able to stay at home, but time is still needed to concentrate on earnings. (And if you ask me Id just call them glorified pachinko heads, but thats me....) A better example might have been aomale nurse-my first serious biyfriend was a male nurse and he was most valued at the hospital....and in fact so was my father a nurse at one stage. They were both highly valued in that role compared to a female nurse, because of what their gender could handle a lot better in that role.

So while oracle has points that I agree with, that is like places of Sweeden that idealize a gender equality society, as just being ridiculous. I think the examples oracle has provided misses the point; and often quickly jumps to people like tmarie suggesting that a wife is a lower role......I dont believe in gender equality. I believe in equality of people of different genders.

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Defining language in genders is sometimes a little too cultural specific,

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tmarieSep. 01, 2011 - 05:57PM JST

I would love to see the research where girls usually grab and doll rather than the truck and boys do the opposite.

I never saw any. It just seemed obvious enough to me just from living life. But, I did a web search and here it is:

http://oregonwomensreport.com/2010/04/study-9-month-babies-choose-gender-toys/

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In Okinawa recently - probably other parts of Japan too, there are nappy (diaper) changing tables in the Gents' (men's) as well as (presumably, I haven't looked) Ladies' (women's).

I was amused to see the huge and very conspicuous label on the nappy changing table in the Gents':

"MOMMY'S LITTLE HELPER"

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'Obvious enough"???? Laughable. Nature vs Nurture. Why would a baby girl grab a doll more than a boy? In terms of nurture, because they are pushed to grab the doll by gestures/facial expressions and positive reinforcement.

illsayit, I don't think I am putting anyone down. SAHM who actually do the job properly are amazing. However, why only the focus on them? Why not female presidents or female CEOs? Why not female profs? It also goes the other way. Why disrespect the SAHF and the men who help with housework and cooking?

My husband helps with cooking and cleaning. Why not represent that so it doesn't seem strange or unusual? What about male teachers? It isn't just disrespectful to women but also to men.

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When our kids were little we bought them all the 'right' toys - dollies and tea-sets for daughter, train sets and cars for son. They were as likely to share or swap as they were to play with their own toys, so we soon decided just to get them whatever seemed fun, regardless of which gender it was 'supposed' to be for. Books, drawing stuff, puzzles and lego were long-lasting favourites. As they grew older they settled pretty naturally into their 'proper' male and female roles. It's my (unscientific) opinion that little kids are influenced as much by their environment as they are by their x and y chromosomes, and that when they hit puberty the hormones sort everything out.

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tmarieSep. 01, 2011 - 09:24PM JST

'Obvious enough"???? Laughable. Nature vs Nurture

And obviously nature usually wins on the basics. Throughout the animal kingdom, its the females that tend to do the rearing. This sex difference has to come about at sometime in the lifecycle before birth of the offspring. But to think such a massive difference could be from the hormones of pregnancy or puberty in something as complex as the human mind seems rather far fetched. Whether its hormonal or brain structure or both, I cannot say, but it simply must be present very young, and in the process since conception. I have seen many a little girl take a massive interest in babies in a nurturing fashion. If little boys take an interest, its more like something to poke at.

If one just opens one's eyes and observes, yes, its obvious. If one gets lost in one's own imaginings, they tell us how they think the world should be, rather than the way it is, and that is where we got this crazy idea that the difference between boys and girls was nurture. Some people were very much up in their own heads to come up with that nonsense, desperately wanting the world to be a certain way. I am reminded of the poor boy who lost his penis, so they surgically made him a vagina and tried to raise him as a girl. What utter foolishness.

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People think too much about this. there are clearly defined differences between men and and women. Women give birth, the world heavyweight boxing champion will always be a man. That cannot be changed by laws or trendy ideas.

Of course mena nd women should be treated equally under the law, but our bodies differences mean men are better at soem things women at others, Why not encourage each gender to be used to thei best strengths? We are here not just to benefit oursleves but society as a whole.

Why do women like window shopping at weekends while the men watch sports, conditioning, no? Before soemone calls me names, i am talking about generally not every person in the world. I am sure some men like windo shopping and some women watch sports at weekend.

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@illsayit:

I think your 2 examples, that of a woman boss and a stay at home dad are unbalanced. A woman boss is totally understandable, but it is only in certain circumstances that a father can stay at home.

It seems like you're saying that even though women can have all the same jobs as men, a woman's career is somehow allowed to stop and start while a man's is not, regardless of how important her job is. Does that really make sense to you? Yes, I'm sure that after childbirth a woman needs some time off to physically heal (although I haven't done it myself yet), but after that, both parents are on pretty equal footing as far as caring for the kid. So it comes down to whose job more easily lets them take time off. In more progressive countries, both parents get a certain amount of time off by law, for them to divide up as they see fit. If you're implying that a woman's career is somehow disposable while a man's career can't afford the time off, simply because one is a woman and the other is a man, then you must assume that the woman should naturally be in a lower or less important career, which is totally at odds with what you said about women bosses being "understandable."

It's that kind of thinking that keeps women in lower positions. The argument that women and men have natural differences may be valid, but who defines what those differences are, and why should we apply them to everyone? If men are generally thought to be stronger and more aggressive, and women generally weaker and more nurturing, then you get teachers encouraging boys to be good at sports and pursue high-stakes careers, and encouraging girls to play with babies and care for the boys and not challenge themselves physically or mentally. And then when they grow up, people tell them they can be whatever they want, and of course they mostly do what they know. So people say a woman can be a boss or a president, but point to how few women are in those roles as proof that it's not as "natural" as having a man in the role. And the cycle begins again.

They [male nurses] were both highly valued in that role compared to a female nurse, because of what their gender could handle a lot better in that role.

This is interesting. Nursing is traditionally a female-dominated position. What could male nurses handle better that makes them even more highly valued than women in that role? I wonder why it was a female-dominated profession to begin with, then?

Countries like Sweden aren't trying to eliminate gender, and they're certainly not trying to eliminate sex. It seems like what they're doing is trying to dust away all the old social constructs and stereotypes and give individuals a clean slate from the very beginning to decide themselves what they're capable of. I, for one, am all for it - if there are natural differences between the genders, I'd like to see what they are without any of the baggage of bygone societies weighing either side down. I bet the differences are less than we think they are, and that's not a bad thing.

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both parents are on pretty equal footing as far as caring for the kid.

Men can't breastfeed. Putting baby on the bottle just so's Mum can go back to work and Dad can do the feeding is shortchanging the kid.

you must assume that the woman should naturally be in a lower or less important career

I don't get this 'going out to work is better than nurturing your baby' thing. It's going out to work that's the 'lower or less important career' - it's just doing what other people want in order to get money. (Not that money isn't necessary for keeping a family). Looking after your babies trumps any high-flyin' career.

What could male nurses handle better that makes them even more highly valued than women in that role?

Heavy lifting?

I wonder why it was a female-dominated profession to begin with, then?

Because the men all thought they had to be doctors.

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I don't get this 'going out to work is better than nurturing your baby' thing. It's going out to work that's the 'lower or less important career' - it's just doing what other people want in order to get money. (Not that money isn't necessary for keeping a family). Looking after your babies trumps any high-flyin' career.

But again, this stance assumes that women have nothing more important to contribute to the whole of society than staying at home and cranking out babies. Some women want to be, say, doctors, and consider saving lives to be a more important calling than personally contributing to the population. We generally consider that OK today, for a minority of women, but still there's that society-wide stigma of "oh, but you're unfeminine for not wanting to have children" and then "oh, but if you have children you're shortchanging them by not giving up your job."

Heavy lifting?

Women aren't that much more delicate than men by nature, you know. We're all animals and we all have muscular systems capable of improvement. If they're weak it's from being taught that it's cool for girls to hate gym class and whine at any physical activity and not pursue activities that challenge them, and from men being taught that it's masculine to do everything for women that requires any strength. I don't think that men who pursue careers as nurses are generally the strength-training musclehead crowd either - so is the difference so much that male nurses should be valued more? How often in nursing do you have to bench-press 200 pounds, or do more than lift, say, 50-pound equipment or roll someone over?

Men can't breastfeed. Putting baby on the bottle just so's Mum can go back to work and Dad can do the feeding is shortchanging the kid.

They make breast pumps for a reason. I've watched people fall into severe bouts of depression and do serious emotional harm to themselves from having to sit at home alone with their infant/toddler all day, every day while hubby gets to go to work and interact with actual adults and be a functioning member of society. It gets to the point where they NEED to get out and work, even if it's just a little, even if it means putting the kid in daycare or finding a babysitter, just so Mom can stay sane and connected with reality. It's not good for the mother nor the child, to be cooped up like that without any choice, just because "that's what women ought to do." That's why the equal-time parental leave that for example the Scandinavian countries offer is such a good idea - women might be doing good for society by raising their children well, but they also need a chance to be a functioning part of that society and develop physically and mentally. Otherwise you end up with hysterical, uneducated, bored women and men who are incapable of understanding or empathizing with their wives or their children. Which sounds like the last several hundred years of Western history.

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I'm not saying that all women should go out and wear shoulder pads and pound on conference room tables, either. I just want everyone to see and acknowledge that there is a divide between the ideas we have for people and what people may be capable of. Here in the US we're all about individual freedoms, often overly so. Yet even we are fantastically bad at raising children to their full potential as individuals without all these subtle gender stereotypes. I've seen several comments on here asking why it is that women naturally gravitate towards window-shopping or gaggling about with their girlfriends. It's because that's what they see women doing, because that's what those women saw. Because once, women weren't considered able to follow more serious pursuits, and generations of them were mentally and physically stunted by men who thought that their wives and daughters were weak and needed to be "kept" and "cared for." We generally consider all this to be unacceptable rubbish today, but yet there are still stereotypes that women are stupid or shallow and men are somehow less able to care or nurture and should avoid it. Even male nurses are prized for their strength, and not for their kindness or ability to give comfort to their patients.

So why shouldn't we scrape the slate clean, do our best to get rid of the gender stereotypes that are still kicking around (as "PC" as that may seem), and see what really lies underneath? Those people who decry any attempts, claiming that it's an attempt to erase gender entirely - what are they afraid of, really? The world isn't going to collapse if it doesn't work out. So is it that they way they were raised might be determined not to be the absolute best way? That's pretty shallow.

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Throughout the animal kingdom, its the females that tend to do the rearing.

Not the best analogy. By and large, females also do the hunting. With dogs, once the pups are on their feet, mom is out of the den and everyone pulls equal weight. Birds are egalitarian, taking turns nest-sitting and setting out to find food for the chicks. With cats, all the males do is fight and copulate. Primate moms take sole care of their slower-to-mature, more needy young, but the males don't exactly bring home the bacon - they just look out for themselves. Male seahorses carry their young to term. Some fish will eat their own babies if they don't escape quickly enough, whether male or female.

So if we should emulate the animal kingdom, there are some serious mixed signals.

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doombird; Technology and business does not make us equal. Men cannot give birth, most men are stronger tahn women. most women live longer than men. These are facts that we should accept. It seems most moves to equality actulaly equate to certain women being more privilged than men which defeats the object.

A woman who has five children during a twenty five year career is 20% less productive and usefull to the company yet demands equal pay, while the man has to work so much more. Women are allowed to joke about useess men etsc but men cannot about women, they are called sexist. It has gone to far and is damaging modern society.

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this stance assumes that women have nothing more important to contribute to the whole of society than staying at home and cranking out babies

I beg to differ. Wearing shoulderpads and banging on a conference table - or wearing a name badge and stocking shelves - might bring much-needed money into the family and give the person doing it a sense of fulfilment (a sense of self-satisfaction?), but it does not make the contribution to society that a well-rounded, well-raised child has the potential to do. I'm not saying that women should be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen, simply that once a baby is on the scene, then it deserves the undivided attention of one parent for at least the first year of its life, preferably longer.

They make breast pumps for a reason.

I take it you've never actually breastfed. While the nutritional value of the milk may be the same whether it comes in a bottle or 'on tap', the physical comfort a baby takes from snuggling up to Mum and suckling on the nipple cannot be replicated with a bottle. Some mothers cannot breastfeed; they should not berate themselves for that, and if they take the time to snuggle with baby during feeds there's little harm done; but when there is a plentiful flow of milk it seems perverse and self-defeating to pump the stuff out and stick it in a plastic bottle simply for the sake of convenience. And those breast-pumps are instruments of torture.

I've watched people fall into severe bouts of depression and do serious emotional harm to themselves from having to sit at home alone with their infant/toddler all day

If those mothers saw themselves as 'sitting at home all day' I'm not surprised they fell into depression. The most important job they'll ever do in their lives, and they see it as just sitting around in limbo? Such people are of course better off out of the house working, and their babies are better off looked after by someone who wants to look after them, even if it's only for the money. But let's not pretend that it's normal or desirable to want to leave your baby.

hubby gets to go to work and interact with actual adults and be a functioning member of society.

It always surprises me when people come out with stuff like this, as if the husband gets the better part of the deal. The way I see it, poor hubby has to go to work to support the family he's made; he has to interact with adults when there's a beautiful child at home, quickly growing and learning to walk and talk - and he isn't there to see it. Poor hubby. And the idea that sahms are not functioning members of society is ignorant and insulting.

Like you, I do not believe that women should be stuck in any particular role dictated to them by society. I was brought up to believe that I can do anything I turn my mind to, and we've raised our kids the same way - no 'because you're a girl' or 'because you're a boy' in our house. All I'm saying is that this idea that being in the workforce no matter what, with all the inconveniences and sacrifices that entails, is somehow superior to and a better deal than the opportunity to spend the first year or so of your baby's life actually enjoying your own baby, is an idea that I find puzzling. There's plenty of time to work later, when baby is no longer a baby (and by that time you'll probably need to work, to cover education costs...)

you end up with hysterical, uneducated, bored women and men who are incapable of understanding or empathizing with their wives or their children

I don't think I'm hysterical. I'm certainly not uneducated or bored, nor do I feel my husband is unable to empathise with me. On the contrary, I feel it was very understanding of him to selflessly work to support the family during the time I was looking after our babies and without income. I know I got the better deal, and I'm grateful to him for it. I started working when the younger kid went to kindergarten, and now earn more than (semi-retired) hubby. But all the money and 'job satisfaction' in the world isn't worth anything compared to watching your babies grow and helping them learn about the world.

While I was writing all that the page has renewed and I see even steve coming out with stuff like, 'most moves to equality actulaly equate to certain women being more privilged than men' - so even he's suggesting that being in the rat-race is more 'privileged'. Sheesh.

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cleo; Great post from a real strong woman.

I don't think teh rat race is more priviliged but some women want to be, in other words have theircake and eat it. It is ok to have subsidised day care (In UK average 5K a year), and expect hard working men to work more hours for the same pay and expect unreasonable demands for employers. It is also ok to belittle men and joke about them in real life or adverts or tv programmes. But if a man did he is a sexist pig etc. Double standards not equality.

I pay good tax money to pay fo women to work while children are sent t profit driven day care centres which do harm to teh childs developement. Now, look at teh abuse i get for telling the truth.

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I've seen families where the husband looks after the kids and the wife works and, of course, vice versa, families where one or other partner is hardly ever there, posted abroad or getting home really late. I've seen great women bosses and lousy ones, wonderful men bosses and hopeless ones.

If the people concerned are in agreement with it, they are happy with it and the situation contributes to the survival of all, what does it matter what we think of it?

Why do we need to make comments about the way other people run their lives?

Steve, please try to have a little more tolerance.

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So Cleo, based on your comments about bottle feeding, women who can't breastfeed are worse off mothers than those who can? There is nothing wrong with using a bottle!! In YOUR opinion does looking after a kid trump looking after a kid and going to work. Again, your age is showing. For a women who goes on about supporting other women, you are very judgmental towards those who work and don;t want to stay home and be Betty Crocker.

Orcale, when I start seeing dolls and firetrucks grown on trees and the little male tigers go for the firetruck, I will give you the "nature" debate. Until then, nope. "Account" for tomboys? Ever thought it was their environment? I grew up in a neighbourhood full of boys - my sister and I were the only girls. I am sure you can guess what type of kid I was - and still am. I prefer "boys" things over "girlie" things. Environment. Had I grown up with a bunch of girls, I probably would like shopping and all the other BS some women seem to enjoy.

And as another post has already pointed out, female do a lot of the hunging in the wild - dogs was given as an example. I would also look at the cat family - and dolphins and whales that work together as a family unit. Shame humans seem to think it is a male vs female thing instead of doing what is best for everyone - be it mom working and dad staying home.

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Women are differnet. Where are the world champion women boxers, footballers or wrestlers? They are in a differnet league because they are different. Women are better at some things and can do things a man cannot do, so we are naturally different. Equality for pay is fine if teh owman does not burden the company with maternity leave and them hiring temp staff, As i said before is it equal for a women to have lots of kids in her career and expect the same wage as someone, male or female who has worked many more years?

Cake and eat it come to mind, and when an intelligent woman like Cleo makes a point the guilty point fingers and hurl abuse.

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tmarie - No, mothers who cannot breastfeed are not 'worse off mothers' than those who can. I was unable to breastfeed my first, doesn't mean I didn't do everything I could for her. And I definitely did not appreciate the well-meaning but judgemental district nurses who told me I 'should have tried harder'. The nipples were so cracked and sore, the child was drinking as much blood as milk, and it was the doctor who warned me to stop, for the baby's sake. There is nothing at all wrong with using a bottle if that's the best you have. But to choose to syphon the stuff off and present it in a bottle, because you have better things to do at feeding time? I don't see the point.

Again, your age is showing.

lol back at you, kid. Your no-experience-of-being-a-mother-yet status is showing. :-)

In YOUR opinion does looking after a kid trump looking after a kid and going to work.

If you're going out to work you are not 'looking after a kid and going to work'. You are 'getting someone else to look after the kid while you go out to work'. If that's what your circumstances dictate, or what the family chooses as the best plan for you and yours, that's fine. I'm not saying that's bad, I'm just glad I didn't have to do it. Lots of my friends did do it, and their kids turned out fine. Working parents (mums and dads) can be wonderful devoted parents when they get home, but let's not pretend that they're looking after the kids during office hours. They're not. Someone else is doing it.

I'm not being judgemental towards women who don't want to stay home. I'm being judgemental towards those who want to make women feel guilty about doing what they feel is best for them and their families - whether that means staying home, or going out to work.

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PS, didn't know who Betty Crocker was, had to look her up - turns out she didn't exist.

http://chnm.gmu.edu/sidelights/who-was-betty-crocker/

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As i said before is it equal for a women to have lots of kids in her career and expect the same wage as someone, male or female who has worked many more years?

It depends on the work and the woman, steve. I spent years out of the loop as it were, but now I command fees at the top end of the industry, because I'm good at my job. Not all industries work that way, of course; I hope large companies at least, and the public sector, would be generous with maternity leave and time off for child-care/flexible hours while kids are young, etc., because as a society we do want women in the workforce, and it's a waste to spend resources training a woman up and then sidelining her just because she had a baby. Employers should make it easier for women to take those years off and come back on an equal footing - the lack of that at the moment is what has women like tmarie afraid of taking time off, they think their careers are going to suffer if they don't keep up with the men all the way.

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A woman who has five children during a twenty five year career is 20% less productive and usefull to the company yet demands equal pay, while the man has to work so much more.

Where do you get these stats? Sorry, but most women working full-time today do not have five children. I don't have stats to support this either, but if the average fertility rate in Japan is about 1.3 (and around 2 for the US and UK), I don't think there are a lot of women who have five children headed back to work because there aren't so many of them at all. Also, most women who are career-focused do make some choices regarding how many children they can have and still be able to work (before you go into the subject of abortion, I'm speaking purely at a level of family planning where non-abortative measures may be practiced to discourage the birth of more children than they are able to financially support).

Is your measurement of being less useful to the company based on their time away on maternity leave, the use of their time while they are actually at work, or having to leave early to drive the school bus to pick up her numerous children from school and activities? Does the man work so much more because he doesn't take paternity leave or just stays later hours?

Women are allowed to joke about useess men etsc but men cannot about women, they are called sexist. It has gone to far and is damaging modern society.

Actually, no, they're not. At least where I work (in California), sexism is sexism and is not tolerated in the workplace. Anyone who insists that women have the right to trash men based on their gender in the workplace is wrong.

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cleo; Ok, but the point is we are no longer in the 70's where Butler made jokes about clippies and women had less rights under the law then men. We are now at a stage where some women, not all, want a higher footing. They want to have as many kid s as they like subsidised by tax payers (In UK average 5K a year until five for care subsidies) and have lots of time off when another worker is working. At theame time they expect equal pay as the worker who has not had time off and been subsidised by the taxpayer.

Many small firms are reluctant to employ women on afull time basis because of the laws. You have to decide to either have a child and look after the child or work and be childless. The law in most countries is now against men and working women who decide not to have children.

The old ways worked, we had lower unemployment, lower debt, lower crime, higher educational standards and more social mobility this is true for almost all develped nations.

Treat equal ok, but by the length of time at work. I don't like picking up the tab so some women can have kids sent to care places to buy more material things. It is meaningless and wrong.

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they expect equal pay as the worker who has not had time off and been subsidised by the taxpayer

Granted experience is important, and in the general run of things a worker with 10 years' experience will be more valuable than a worker with only 5 years' experience. If a woman has had 5 of the last ten years off to raise a family, then she surely should have the same pay as a man with 5 years' experience, if they're doing the same job. For many jobs though, experience is not reflected in pay; you get paid today for the work you did today. The fact that you worked yesterday and the lady next to you didn't, shouldn't affect today's pay for either of you. (I know people get paid by the week/month - but you know what I mean.)

I agree that the maternity-leave burden on small firms can be quite heavy. The solution would be for maternity leave to be supported from taxes for smaller companies, but then you have the problem of where to draw the line between what is and isn't a small company, as well as people complaining about paying taxes to support women having babies. BUT if as a society we want to boost the birthrate and accept that our children are our future, then something has got to give somewhere. I would like to see something like extra pension credits for parents regardless of income - a kind of bonus for contributing taxpayers to the system?

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cleo; something should but won't be done, non PC you see. Like i said in this world you cannot have your cake and eat it. I am paying for womens equality by paying tax for their child care while they making themselves wealthier. In every country that has started the nonsense the gap between rich and poor has grown by decade.

It is in big businesess interest to promote this. More consumers in society equals better profits. In most countries the day care industry makes massive payments to political parties.

I don't know about Japan as i cannot find figures but in the UK they do not force single mums to work, why? because tax credits and subsidised day care cost the country more than paying them benefits. These are facts, and the fact is emn and women are different. No laws can change that fact.

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The old ways worked, we had lower unemployment, lower debt, lower crime, higher educational standards and more social mobility this is true for almost all develped nations.

Steve-0, so we should head back to the barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen mentality?

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genji; Were the 60's barefoot and in the kitchen. Surely they had shoes then or are you talking about a small tribe in some remote country. Emotive subject and those who disagree straight away and come out with this braefoot in the kitchen cobblers..

BTW, in todays terms in the west the average 60's and 70's family had more disposable income, higher savings and less debt than now. And most women stayed at home, not all but the majority did whne their children were young.

After this equality "progress" we have more crime, poorer educational standarsd, higher taxes, higher unemployment, highest prison population, Does anyone else see a trend here?

No, to those who cannot undertsand, i am not blaming women but governments..

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I do not see a trend at all. I see population changes, and non-assimilation. That is what is causing problems.

And being barefoot is good. I do not wear shoes in my place.

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Not assimilating to what Jgal?

besides that I enjoy reading all the comments. To answer one question that was posed; I dont see why women cant have a carrer after raising children. By example suggesting a woman has 5 children, from the age of 25-35. Then spent 10years getting into a career, that was started up to the age of 25, and establishing experience and so on. Surely that would give a income that is comparable.(Or do we want to say that 25-30 year olds should be earning less? In my opinion Im not worried at the suggestion, but dont really think that's where people want to head) The age would then be 45-now tell me if Im wrong- but from comments on this board it would seem that that is already having one foot in the grave age. Personally, if thats how you see it, by all means, who am I to suggest you handle your life differently, but personally I plan on living a long life. 45 probably being about the the beginning of prime time. Now Ive just based that on 5 children over 10years, as was suggested a lot of women only have 1-2, and obviously these people would have a lot more time to establish experience.

Now Im not sure what Jgal is suggesting with population changes and non-assimilation, but instead of throwing those words around making some sense would be a good idea. Population changes, big concept, still very very small in totally being understood by most, but give it a try.

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No, to those who cannot undertsand, i am not blaming women but governments..

Blaming governments for allowing women to move toward equality? Wow...

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oh and about men nursing-yes heavy lifting, in my fathers case he got to work in the morgue. Also night shifts for some reason worked better for men in nursing. I agree about those that presume that pumping breast milk is possible, they havent tried it, or denying that you still have to sit down with a machine attached to your breasts for a certain time-you might as well sit with your baby. And despite that you can bottle feed, if being equal, then we would be understanding that breastfeeding is normal and considered part of a womans gender and continuing to deny that and state things like stay at home, about a wife, in itself reduces the status of woman. And again I would add that only in certain circumstances can a man be a father who stays at home and doesnt work-and in fact I would wonder doesnt work is entirely the case, or if it is more a case of earns less. I think it was Johninnaha who stated that it works both ways, but please give me an example where the father who stays home, does only housework and child-minding/rearing activities, and what exactly does the wife work at??? Like I said, the only examples I have had experience with I stated and I would say mostly the ones that weigh heavily are the ones where the wife works as a english teacher. Maybe Ive been in Japan too long:) And about Sweeden, surely the example given in this article, whereby denying any sex in order to create gender equality, is actually saying less about being a girl or a boy. WHy cant you say what sex you are, or your child is? How silly is that!

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genji-what???? How is stating that women and men are the same, equal and fair? Acknowledging differences is a lot better attempt at equality, imo.

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Cleo, a lot of women don't "have" to go out and work. They chose to do. Shame you can't be supportive on them. You really are patronizing about the subject and I am thankful my MIL and my parents support my choice to continue working. I hope you would do the same for your daughter but I wonder if you would.

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Oh and you seem to try and make working mothers feel guilty. At least that is how I view it. Why work when you SHOULD be home with the kids? You aren't looking after your kids, someone else is... bad mother, bad mother is all is seems to suggest to me.

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genji17; I said a few times that we should all be equal under the law but i blame governments for the state of society.

tmarie; Yes women choose to work and constantly tell us about their rights. What about the childs right to be with the mother? Working mothers of children under five cost more to the taxpayer than single unemployed mothers.

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Working toward gender equality in language and society.

So just because they started saying stay at home father, it was fair to say stay at home mother?? That doesnt seem like gender language equality, that seems like economic equality. Might as well say that the garbage man and the president be on equal wages.

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a lot of women don't "have" to go out and work. They chose to do. Shame you can't be supportive on them.

Which bit of being against 'those who want to make women feel guilty about doing what they feel is best for them and their families - whether that means staying home, or going out to work' is so difficult to understand?

You aren't looking after your kids, someone else is... bad mother, bad mother is all is seems to suggest to me.

The suggestion must be coming from your own psyche, not from me. I don't think it's non-supportive to point out that it's a physical impossibility for a parent who is in the workplace to at the same time be actively looking after a child who may be miles away. Not 'bad mother, bad mother' at all - but not 'supermother', either.

I am thankful my MIL and my parents support my choice to continue working.

I thought you told us you had no kids? Why shouldn't they support your choice to continue working?

I hope you would do the same for your daughter but I wonder if you would

Wonder no more. She took a year off and devoted herself to caring for her little girl, now she's back at work with reasonably flexible hours and my beautiful granddaughter spends 3 or 4 days a week at day care. I support my daughter 100%, and her little girl is a very happy, well-cared for child.

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@stevie wonder

What about the childs right to be with the mother?

What about the child's rights to be with the father?

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If those mothers saw themselves as 'sitting at home all day' I'm not surprised they fell into depression. The most important job they'll ever do in their lives, and they see it as just sitting around in limbo? Such people are of course better off out of the house working, and their babies are better off looked after by someone who wants to look after them, even if it's only for the money. But let's not pretend that it's normal or desirable to want to leave your baby.

Cleo, I'm not disputing that raising a child is an important and worthwhile job, but it can also be very demanding especially for a first-time mother, and just because you are the mom and dad is the dad doesn't mean it isn't inhumane to have to sit at home all day, every day with no one to talk to but an infant child. Few new parents have the extended family or social support they need, and mothers suffer especially because dads continue to be expected not to be as invested in the care of their children. It is emotionally and physically draining, and I don't see why it's such a horrible thing to expect dad to take some time off to actually bond with his child too - and give Mom a few hours or a day off here and there. I refuse to pretend that it's abnormal for a mother who absolutely loves her child, and even misses him/her when they have to be apart for any length of time, to still need some time to be her own person as well. Parental leave is designed to last for the first few months after a child is born, and I agree that someone should be home with the baby for at least the first year. But if daycare is undesirable, and one can't afford preschool - which on a single income is likely - then that means someone has to be home all the time with the kid until he's what, 5? And they're weaned by what, 2? I'm glad you didn't personally have any problems with sometimes feeling trapped or unable to get enough help, but what was your arrangement for those intervening years?

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JapanGal; I have made clear the Fathers responsibilities to his child on similar topics on many occasions.

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I'm not disputing that raising a child is an important and worthwhile job, but it can also be very demanding

Preaching to the choir, doombird....or are we learning to suck eggs? :-)

to have to sit at home all day, every day with no one to talk to but an infant child.

Once you're healed from the actual birth there's no reason for anyone to be sitting at home. You've got a baby to care for, that involves quite a bit of running around. The kid needs taking out in the fresh air, you get to meet other mothers doing the same. If you're literally 'sitting at home with no one to talk to' you're not doing a very good job and, PPD aside, it's your own fault. Both sahms and gotwms can suffer from PPD, in either case they need help.

I don't see why it's such a horrible thing to expect dad to take some time off to actually bond with his child too - and give Mom a few hours or a day off here and there

I'm sorry, I don't know why you're addressing this to me. When did I ever say Dad cannot take time off to bond with his child, or that Mum can't have a few hours off now and then?

I agree that someone should be home with the baby for at least the first year.

Then we're in total agreement.

someone has to be home all the time with the kid until he's what, 5? And they're weaned by what, 2? I'm glad you didn't personally have any problems with sometimes feeling trapped or unable to get enough help, but what was your arrangement for those intervening years?

Kindergarten in Japan starts at 3 or 4. If by 'weaned' you mean 'off the breast', that happens before the first birthday.

Again, who says I never had any problems? I'm no more supermum than the go-out-to-work mums are. You get round the problems. Do you imagine that the ladies who put their children in daycare and go to work never have any problems with fatigue, juggling schedules, sudden illnesses (to which young children are prone), bosses and colleagues who are bitchy about them going home early/taking time off when their kids need them, and all the other stuff that goes on in a normal life? Whichever lifestyle you choose, you're going to have problems.

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It makes you wonder how women just 100years ago handled motherhood without washing machines, dishwashers or a car.Not to mention no tvs or air-conditioners. And how many people owned a pram? The new generation can sweat it at the gym, or how many calories theyve taken, but a 2yo scares them so much youd think theyd learn about God?!

But Japangal good point! asking about a fathers right to be with a child, really goes to show how women ought to be thankful for the chance to watch over their child. Cleo, youve argued your points so nicely, but Im fed up with all those who continue to bad-mouth the role of mother, and would make it difficult for new mothers, who like us all have to start somewhere, and with such negative society have a mountain to climb. Though my guess is that the next generation have caught on to their ways, and have a tougher shell much like those women of a hundred years ago. The hardest part is to watch those women who had to deal with the naysayers while they were going through it at the same generational level; the confusion was not fair at all. And it's time for the doom and gloom lot to back off, or go find yourself some mental sickness that you can claim (instead of laying mental illness onto new mothers at a time when they should be rejoicing.)

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I wonder if a language learning setting is really the place to be introducing gender issues. I think most people are not in that mindset when they're talking about language. When I was an English teacher my attempts to use the forum to talk about culture and gender issues almost always fell on deaf ears.

I think the Japanese have a hard time with English and like focusing on shortcuts to reach conversational level, rather than complete language integration. I could not for the life of me convince my students to stop using the word "foreigner" no matter how much I told them the polite and worldly thing to do is to learn what country or at least what general region your subject is from. They just wanted to use "foreigner" because it's easy to associate with "gaikokujin". The same goes for the myriad "nihongo eigo" phrases they can't stop using no matter how many times you tell them it's not real english.

I actually got in big trouble a few times at the private school I worked at for attempting to educate students on culture issues. I think it's generally frowned upon and I don't think there's anything a teacher can do until students are willing to learn about it and schools are willing to let teachers teach it, which I don't foresee happening any time soon.

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