I chose to interview this individual for my Global Politics Engagement activity as her current gender research studies focus on Turkey and Japan. I thought it would be interesting to hear an expert opinion on why such gender inequality exists in Japanese society and why it is so necessary to change social structures for the progression of Japan.
Upon starting the interview, she immediately explained about some similarities between Turkey and Japan in it’s gender inequal aspects. She explained that in both countries, males tend to have a superior mindset, believing that they are to be more respected simply because they are male. The difference, however, is that Turkey has more income inequality than Japan and income inequality indirectly often causes further gender inequality. This is because while formerly educated wealthier women are allowed to voice their opinions more in the workplace, it becomes increasingly difficult for those in less wealthy positions and who may not have received as much higher education to establish their place in society. She further explained that Japan is, however, facing increasing income inequality issues and could easily become a similar case to Turkey. This was very interesting for me and was a clear point of learning because I had always viewed gender and income inequality as two separate problems in society but upon interviewing, I was able to understand their increasing interconnectedness.
When I asked her further about culture’s roles in forming gender inequal societies, she discussed the importance of understanding culture as not just a reason for inequal societies but something we have to fundamentally change for progression. Oftentimes in many societies when we see male superiority, we are too quick to blame it on just culture. She described this as “culture not really causing gender inequality issues but rather justifying gender inequalities.” For example, when looking at Sumo, women are not allowed to enter the ring because of traditional cultural views on how women will be disrupting the environment if they do so. While this is a cultural belief, rethinking these ideas and changing these ideas is something that is always happening. Even if gender inequal beliefs in culture do exist, we need to look at changing these cultures rather than simply using them as an excuse. This was a really interesting way to consider culture’s involvement in gender inequality issues because I realised how I had often attributed gender inequal issues as simply the consequence of patriarchal culture. Understanding and finding ways to remodel these cultures is definitely something I find very important now.
Lastly, she explained how society needs to change. This would firstly be through removing stereotypes for both women and men to make Japanese society easier to live in. As part of this process, educational systems also need to change. She brought up the example of how the name register in Japan is still separated by gender. She explains that though it is something that is seemingly quite small, creating this distinction implies that women are fundamentally different to men. This is then further reinforced in a recent study that revealed teachers are seen to be paying more attention and answering questions in more depth for male students rather than female ones in Science classes. Understanding how the educational system can be implicitly biased towards a certain gender and redefining an individual’s awareness is fundamental. She explains how the situation is not that simple to just say make women equal to men. It is also about creating a society that is rid of gender roles for BOTH men and women. Her insight was very interesting and I think I also learned a lot more about Japan’s educational system that has had an impact in gender inequality in society.
* The link to the transcript from the meeting can be found here. A picture of the interview was not approved to be shown as the interviewee would like to remain anonymous