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Well, its women’s history month, and in honor of that OWLS is celebrating by making our theme this month “Feminine”
In honor of Women’s History Month, the OWLS bloggers will explore the concepts of femininity and feminism. We each have our own definition of these two terms and we will explore our definitions using “feminine” characters from various pop culture fandoms. We will discuss how these characters are “feminine” or show signs of a feminist agenda. We will also share our personal stories about the amazing women that supported us in our lives as well as sharing experiences involving women’s rights, oppression within the patriarchy, and/or issues of growing up as a woman or having a feminine persona.
Now, without further ado, here is the post.
This may or may not come as a surprise but in many places around the world, women deal with a lot of unequal treatment. For many places, like Saudi Arabia, this inequality is quite famous, as the country just recently lifted its ban on female drivers. Even the U.S. has largely lagged behind other developed nations in this category, with the makeup of Congress still largely under representing women. However, one country that also deals with a lot of inequality is Japan. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, Japan remains in the bottom third, at 110 of 149 countries. For reference, Saudi Arabia sits at 141 and the U.S. actually sits at a 51.
Aggretsuko can be seen as somewhat of a microcosm of the problem with Japan’s inequality. The show follows Retsuko, as she deals with the problems of being both a woman and a salaried worker in Japan. Her boss is probably the worst person to ever live and constantly makes her life miserable by giving her more and more work. Each day is a new problem, but at the end of it she goes out for Karaoke and sings her favorite genre: Heavy Metal. However, despite her temporary relief, she still has to go back to her job each day. and deal with more work and more harassment.
This is also the experience of a lot of Japanese working women. According to a Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare study that was conducted in 2016, a little over 32 percent of women have experienced Sexual Harassment. That includes 30 percent of part-time workers and 35 percent of full-time workers. There is, however, no law that specifically criminalizes Sexual Harassment, only laws that help identify companies that fail to prevent it, and no such company has been identified since 2015, according to the U.S. Human Rights Report.
There is also another layer to this problem. In Aggretsuko, one of Retsuko’s coworkers, Fenneko, provides the perfect example of how females must act in order to get by. Fenneko is always agreeable, always has a welcoming smile on her face, is always giggling at her male coworkers jokes even when they are not funny. Fenneko always takes the path of least resistance, and for most Japanese women, this is what is encouraged.
In his article for the Daily Beast, Writer Jake Adelstein goes into a large amount of detail about a few distinct cases that highlight the massive amount of misogyny that exists and is directed at female workers. In one instance, a weekly news magazine called Shukan Shincho reported on a story about Vice Finance Minister Junichi Fukada verbal harassing a female reporting while attempting to ask him questions. Adelstein also quoted an anonymous female reporter as saying that “In Japanese society, any woman working outside the office is expected to be like a mama-san [manager] at a bar in Ginza—to laugh off lewd comments and unwanted touches, while using their female wiles and cuteness to squeeze as much money out of the customer as possible.”
However, the lack of attention on these problems also speaks to another problem: The unconditional veneration of Japanese culture. Its seems as though, for the many fans of anime and other forms of Japanese culture that recognize and understand the problems with said culture, there are just as many who would just rather be in love with the idea of Japan rather than the sociocultural reality.
Aggretsuko is a show that highlights many of the problems not only with harassment but also with Japanese work life in general, and the increasingly large amount of stress that comes with it. However, for working women, that stress is then multiplied by the justified fear that someone may at their workplace try and use the power they have over them to get whatever it is they want, with little in the way for recourse.
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