Japanese Women in the Workplace
A look at women’s struggle for economic equality in Japan.
This paper examines the struggle to change the accepted division of labor in Japan, and how women have struggled for social and economic choice and equality within the context of the country’s culture and infrastructure. The paper explains women’s current situation with regard to work, the cultural perspective on women working, and what women have done to change the situation.
In a recent article in the women’s magazine Mademoiselle, entitled Gucci Geisha, the anthropologist Liza Dalby stated, If I had to chose between being a typical Japanese wife or a geisha, no question, I’d be a geisha.` (Mademoiselle, March 2001, 76) Dalby is hardly making an uninformed choice. She spent nine months working in the Pontocho district, near Gion, while studying the life of geisha. Her view of the circumscribed nature of the life of a typical Japanese wife is a common one, as is stated even more explicitly in chapter five of the reader Gender, Race, and Ethnicity, ‘Some Interesting Differences in Subjective Culture’: ‘Americans are often impressed by the fact that Japanese wives generally do not participate in the social activities of their husbands, which the Americans consider a clear sign of inferiority. But Japanese wives see it differently: I have to be on my best behavior in front of my husband’s colleagues, and make a good impression on his superiors which is very humiliating for a woman of pride who feels that having to be ingratiating with other people she does not instinctively like is degrading and can be left to professionals like bar hostesses or geisha?`