Saturday, May 1, 2010

Wedding dresses are white - to match the kitchen appliances.

Japan is an Asian country which you could almost mistake for a western one. You walk down the street and you will find a KFC or McDonalds, you see posters advertising Hollywood movies all around the place, and things everywhere are plastered with Disney characters or look-alikes. But despite the appearance that western business has dragged Japan in line with western culture, things start to nag at you after a while. You realize that something is different, but its hard to put a finger on exactly what.

One of the first things that I noticed was the fact that since I've been staying at this guesthouse, even though the people here are all guests, it is mostly the girls that volunteer to do the cooking. They even volunteer to do the dishes. And when one day I volunteered to help out one of the girls doing the dishes because she'd gotten the job of doing them 3 days in a row, everybody thought it was the best thing ever. It was almost like a guy had never done the dishes before, or at least never helped out. It may well be that its not that big a deal - guys in Australia can be lazy as well, but its hard to put words to the attitude here. It seemed, at least at first, like Japanese people agree that women are better in the Kitchen than men are.

It so happened one day that we actually got to test this out, albeit completely on accident. I'm not exactly sure on how it happened, but we ended up having a bunch of guys and girls sitting around the kotatsu (which is becoming a theme), eating a meal made by the guys. The guy who cooked the meal mentioned how he was sorry it was inadequate, at which point I decided to try and make a bad joke, and said that it was because he wasn't a girl. At which point the girls all nodded their head in agreement, completely seriously. Its almost like feminism got girls into the workplace here, then decided it had done its job for the day and went home.

I've heard before that Japan is one of the most chauvinist cultures in the world, especially amongst the developed countries. But I wonder if its not so much that Japan is chauvinist, but more that western people take themselves way too seriously. Sure, women here probably don't get treated quite as equally as those in western countries - guys don't do the whole chivalry thing, and guys aren't expected to know how to cook either. But the thing is, guys don't get treated equally to girls either. Joking that a guy's food isn't as good as a girls is a joke at his expense, not at all the girls in the room. I guess the key is that girls and guys are not equal - they're different. And even if girls don't get it as good here, they still complain less than their counterparts in Australia.

My guess is that the reason for the cultural difference comes down to the inability to understand English - and the corresponding inability of Japanese people to understand the western media blitzkreig. If you can't here what American companies think you really "deserve", you don't think you deserve it. Of course, the Japanese media has its own set of unfortunate priorities, but they don't consist of telling women they should be men, and they also don't tell kids they should be openly abusive to their elders. In the end, the major cultural import seems to be the idea that every girl is a princess. And even then, that import seems pretty much limited to the girls.

1 comment:

  1. That's an interesting way of looking at it. It seems to hold with what I've watched of anime, now that I think about it. I have to say, it must be great to see it from the other side of this.