In as what they want to be seen as?

In recent years
Japan’s mass media, including advertising, television shows, and magazines,
have taken off globally. However, do these forms of media only present Japan as
what they want to be seen as? Taking a more thorough look at Japanese mass
media people can see that it represents Japan’s underlying structure on gender
roles and gender inequality. In 2016 Japan ranked 114th out of 144
countries in the gender gap index this is a lower ranking compared to its 111th
position in 2015. This is also the lowest ranking within the G7. *gender gap
index* With such a low position in the gender gap index, why does Japan still
show variety shows that objectify women or advertisement that depict
traditional gender role. Throughout this report, I would like to explore
whether if outdated gender roles and gender inequality are enforced through
Japanese mass media.


History of Japanese Gender Roles

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            In the past, roles of women in Japan
bring out inconsistencies due to different influences that were intergraded at
various time points due to the dominating religion at that time. It begins in
ancient Japan when Shintoism was the dominant religion. In Shinto-dominant
Japan women were the one in power. Women were said to be allowed to rule and
encouraged to do so because it was believed that women had the power to bring
peace and regulation. This was all due to the story of the goddess of the sun,
Amaterasu, to the Japanese people she was the essence of perfection,
demonstrating purity, beauty, and fertility. “From the depictions of female deities
in the myths and the numerous women rulers…it can be assumed that the status
was like that of men.” (look up what
source) However, the matriarchal society that Japan once was ended with the
introduction to Buddhism.

            In the 6th century Buddhism
was introduced to Japan and the form of Buddhism that came was quite anti-feminine.

Men were had to be said the personification of men and women were the “agent of
the devil” to entice men away from the path of Buddha. This idea deterred ancient
Japan away from matriarchal society to a patriarchal society. **

            The next drastic shift in Japanese
gender roles came with the second world war. The laws of 19th century
Japan restricted women’s rights. Women were not able to vote, the could be
divorced and could not divorce, in this time they were still bound by the ways
of the samurai culture which kept them subservient to their husbands. Like many
countries with men joining the fight during the war Japanese women found themselves
taking over the jobs left behind. Working in steel mills, arms factories, and
such. The real change took place Post-WWII, during the occupation of Allied
forces, America introduced reforms to Japanese society. One drastic change was
the rewrite of the Civil Code of 1898 to the Civil Code of 1947, this new civil
code allowed women to own property, inherit family estates, to marry and to
divorce, and much more. This political change became a catalyst to initiate
conversation to create more social equality for women and men further on out. **

            In modern day Japan, despite their
low ranking of the gender inequality index the ideas of gender roles has
shifted in the minds of the Japanese people. Japan is currently an aging (?????) and so the roles of women stay in the house
and men go to work is prevalent today but there is movement against these idea.

People like the prime minister Abe Shinzo realize the need for change. However,
the thoughts of the people are developed by influences such as mass media. The
question is whether if Japanese mass media like television, advertisement, are
helping to lead the change for gender roles and inequality or is it enforcing
the traditional roles that Japan so desperately needs to break free from?


**culture of


Ideas in Japanese Mass Media

            I would like to go through three
different examples of mass media, one print ad, one television, and one
commercial to see whether if Japanese media enforces their traditional or a
more modern take on gender roles.

            Frist, I would like to look at this
advertisement for an energy drink that you can find in most train stations and
on trains. In the ad there is a famous Japanese singer holding an energy drink in
the office with a suit with the tagline “???????in???”** This advertisement can be seen as men need the energy
drink because they are the ones that do all the work in the office. This reinforces
gender role ideas typically found in post war japan where Japanese men are the
breadwinners for the family slaving away at their office job.

            Second, I would like to look a
segment from a popular Friday night show called “?????????.” In this game segment, the show creates
two teams of celebrity girls under two different comedians calling them “Production
A” and “Production B.” They have a question they ask people on the streets such
as “Top 25 celebrity girls they want to sleep with”, “Top 25 celebrity girls
they want to make their girlfriend”, and so on. The point of the segment is
each leader of the Production team to select a member from their team to go against
the opposing team to see if their chosen member is ranked higher on the ranking
than the opposing teams chosen member. This is one of the times where mass
media is pushing the opposite agenda of what Japan as a country is trying to
achieve. As Abe Shinzo is trying to push for his “Womenomics” reforms Japanese
prime time television is airing a segment objectifying women and pitting them
against each other. This clearly enforces ideas that men have the right to see
women as only things for beauty and sex and not as intellectuals who can create

            Lastly, I’d like to look at this
commercial for Panasonic. * reference the video* Compared to my last two examples
this is the most forward thinking of the three. In this commercial the viewer
is shown a family with both the wife and the husband working to support the
family while both the wife and husband are seen taking care of the kids. They
lessen the burden of house chores with using Panasonic products. The beauty of
this advertisement is that although both adults are working it does not fall in
to the trap of still just the women ends up taking care of the kids. This “??? series” has many commercials and shows the new dynamics of a
Japanese modern family. It breaks the mold of traditional roles and shows the
future that both the Prime Minister and the modern Japan hopes to achieve.


Comparison to the United States

            Similarly, to Japan, the United States
of America is taking initiatives to become more gender equal within their
media. In the past years, the feminist movement has almost become a trend
within young America and because of this a lot of commercials and tv roles put
women in empowering positions to inspire younger viewers. This can be seen in television
roles such as Olivia Pope in Scandal and commercials such as the “Like a Girl”
series form Always. However, regarding breaking gender roles and bringing
awareness to inequality Japan and America are going at it from different directions.

Whereas Japan is trying to change the image of the traditional family dynamic
America is just trying to bring confidence to women whether it be in the work
place or in beauty. This can be seen in the “Stress Test” series from Secret. They
test their deodorant with women put in different stressful scenarios like
asking for a higher wage.

            Like said in the second part of this
paper, major reforms to Japan’s laws on gender equality came with the
occupation of America. This means that the current ideas of gender roles and equality
in japan is based on the ideas of America. During the occupation in the 1940’s
talks about the reformation of the Civil Codes began from the Americans. This
allows us to assume that America was already moving down the past of gender equality
years before Japan. This translates to why there is an immense gap between them
in the gender inequality index (114th vs. 46th.) America’s
feminism movement began in the 1840s whereas Japan just began around the 1940s.*source
about American feminism* Despite the gap between the two and the two-different
starting points this does not mean that Japan is behind America in its fight
for gender equality. They are two different countries tackling this social
issue from two different angles.  



            Japan started out as an almost
matriarchal society on it’s own terms until other countries such as China,
Korea, and American came in to introduce their own ideas. Buddhism began the
end of the matriarchal society and brought in misogynist views to women through
religion. As the years go on the fight to break this woman hating barriers led
to the confinement of women in the house only to care for their appearance and
take care of the man. Only after the war, has it become relevant for Japan to
try to completely break these molds and catch up to the rest of the world. The
culture of mass media is the basis of a nations opinion. * find a book that
supports this saying * A consumer of Japanese media can see that in commercials
such as the Panasonic commercial that Japan is moving towards a new dynamic in
ways of having double income households and men also participating in daily
chores and taking care of children. On the other hand, they will be able to
also see the sexist ideas enforced through variety shows with their unconventional
antics and love for all things sexual. Objectifying women through ranking games
and pitting themselves with each other not only allow men to do and think the
same in their own lives but push back the agenda of what the leaders of Japan
are trying to do. Japanese television shows have the power to say that men want
more than boobs, beer, and sports and women are more than their boobs and
looks. Japan has the nature of following in the footsteps of other countries. *
I think that they will only further their advancement towards gender equality
first through legislation and then through changes with their media. More commercials
will come out breaking the boundaries of gender roles and empowering both men
and women. I will hope that the television shows do not fall too far behind and
that the people of Japan can be rise above it.