AAS Annual Meeting

Japan Session 366

[ Japan Sessions, Table of Contents | Panels by World Area Main Menu ]

Session 366: Women in Asia II

Affective Attachments to Japanese Women’s Language:Language, Gender and Emotion in Colonialism
Momoko Nakamura, Independent Scholar, Japan

Japanese people have strong affective attachments to Japanese women’s language. This paper argues that such a strong emotional commitment to women’s language has emerged through two opposite colonization experiences during and after WWII. The post-structural perspective to regard women’s language as a language ideology (Blommaert 1999, Kroskrity 2000, Schieffelin et al. 1998) fomented historical and discursive studies of the genealogy of Japanese women’s language (Inoue 2006; Nakamura 2007; Okamoto & Smith 2004). Although studies of language ideologies have been concerned with political interests given to languages, how affective values are assigned to language has not been fully investigated. Based on the theories of affect proposed by Ahmed (2004), Clough (2007) and Richard and Rudnyckyj (2009), this paper describes the process in which Japanese came to possess affective attachments to women’s language by analyzing metapragmatic comments about women’s speech. During WWII, women’s language was suddenly elevated to an imperial tradition and a symbol of patriarchy (Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983). This change was mediated by the desire to imagine a superior imperial language to legitimate linguistic colonization of the East Asian countries. During the American Occupation after the war, women’s language was both separated from the emperor system and associated with natural sex differentiation. Being de-politicized and naturalized, women’s language became the symbol of Japanese tradition, pride, and order, which Japanese intellectuals had lost in the demise in the war. The analysis demonstrates that emotional attachments to language, far from being naturally inherent in the language, are historically situated (Mitchell 2009).

Advancing Women's Political Representation: A Comparative Analysis of Japan and South Korea
Atsuko Sato, California State University, Los Angeles, USA

Recently, Japan and South Korea have shown notable strides in women’s participation in politics. Japan’s female political representation in the national legislature increased from 3% (1995) to 11% (2009), while Korea’s female political representation increased from 2% (1995) to 14% (2009). Although both countries still lag behind other democracies, their belated progress in gender inequality in the political arena is worth examining. The present study examines two cases of (1) recent progress in women’s political representation and (2) persistent obstacles in maximizing gender equality in electoral politics. The key question is this: What is responsible for the significant numerical increases in Korea and Japan? The study reveals Japan and South Korea took different paths to achieve this progress. Korea, in 2004, adopted an electoral gender quota system. In Japan, political parties, as well as society have altered the image of women in politics. Further, this study discusses where these countries will go from this point to further increases in gender equality in politics.

Japanese husband’s participation in housework and childcare before and during pregnancy - the persistence of gender roles in Japan
Haruko Shinkawa, Independent Scholar, Japan

As the fertility rate continues to hover at 1.37 the Japanese government is implementing a new Child and Family Care Leave Law (2009) which aims to assist working mothers return to employment after maternity leave. The law targets men's work-life balance and increases child-rearing leave to promote increased involvement in family work (housework and child rearing) as its unequal distribution particularly affects the chances of having a second child. This study investigates changes in Japanese men's participation in family work before and during their wife's pregnancy, an important time for changes in family member roles, and compares husbands’ participation by age. The participants were 157 husbands (mean age 30.7) whose wives were outpatients at maternity clinics or were in hospital due to high-risk pregnancy. The questionnaire assessed family work (18 items), age, and the amount of time spouses spent together. Results show that husbands increase housework and child rearing by 1.0 and 0.5 items, respectively, after pregnancy begins, and increase housework by 0.5 items if wives are hospitalized for high-risk pregnancy. There was no significant difference in husband’s housework participation when wives are employed or non-employed. Husbands who spend more time with their wives participate less in child rearing, and younger husbands participate in less housework than older husbands. Results show that traditional gender roles persist in the home, even among younger men and even during high-risk pregnancies. Studies of the new policies to encourage men’s participation in family work will be needed to assess their long-term effectiveness.

The not-so forgotten asset of the Japanese economy: How women are shaping labour and consumer markets.
Ana M. Goy Yamamoto, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Spain

During the last two decades there has been a substantial shift in the economic participation of women that has led to the increasingly reshaping of distribution practices, financial and communication services, among others. The challenge of balancing a work life and a family life comes through some social and regulatory framework changes. In this paper I would like to shed light on the role of women in the Japanese labour and consumer markets. First, I would like to discuss the evolution of the female participation in the labour force in the last 20 years. As a second point I would argue about the official policies that have been put into practice as well as the challenges that lie ahead. I will conclude by discussing the effects of these changes on the consumer market, focusing on services that have been created to target female customers. Partial results of an ongoing fieldwork will be presented for this purpose.

The expansion of women's education and its effect on family values: a comparative study based on East Asian Social Survey in 2006
Hachiro Iwai, Kyoto University, Japan

Women’s educational opportunities have been rapidly expanding in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and China in recent years. More and more women attain higher levels of education and pursue better occupational careers in those societies. Under East Asian family-oriented value system, women were expected to stay at home and take care of other family members after marriage. However, it is considered that improving women’s educational and occupational chances are incompatible with traditional family formations. East Asian Social survey in 2006, which have nationally representative samples in four societies, investigates wide rages of family values such as filial piety, intergenerational support, desirability of marriage, using the same format of questionnaire. Based on this data set, this paper attempts to examine whether highly educated women support the traditional family values or not, and clarify the similarities and differences among four societies. For example, EASS 2006 asks respondents how much you agree about “to continue the family line, one must have at least one son.” This paper will show that college-educated women in Taiwan least support this value among four societies. The opportunities of higher education for women expand more rapidly in South Korea and Taiwan and their educational attainments are more closely related to occupational chances than in Japan. It is expected that college educated young women in Korea and Taiwan are more likely to support individualized values. Using the results of analysis, this paper will also discuss family changes in East Asia.

Politics of Childbirth and Maternal Health Policy in Postwar Japan
Kayo Onishi, University of Tokyo, Japan

Why has epidural anesthesia in childbirth been so unpopular in Japan? While more than eighty percent of mothers in advanced industrialized countries such as the United States or France use anesthesia in childbirth to relief pain during their labors, only 2.6 percent of Japanese mothers is estimated to use epidural anesthesia during their labors. The percentage is surprisingly low considering that Japanese medical technologies are far advanced in average. Why did countries pursue such divergent paths with regard to methods of childbirth? By treating Japan as a crucial case, this paper explores political forces to explain divergent paths in methods of childbirths and argues that path-dependent political institutions are the best explanation for the unpopularity of epidural anesthesia in childbirth. Put differently, the unpopularity of using epidural anesthesia in Japan sprang from clientelistic politics between the Ministry of Health and the Japanese Medical Associations, who had long been important players in medical politics in postwar Japan. This paper thus argues that the choice of childbirth methods by mothers in advanced industrialized countries have been institutionally but not culturally constrained.