Japanese women have made themselves an important part of society, one that allows them to have equal representation with men. Throughout Japanese history, women have had an ever-changing role in society. They have overcome hardships while soaring through the good, yet one thing has not changed; women are an integral part of society. Their opportunities have grown in areas of education, family values, and work. They are now looked upon as the roots of Japanese culture and families.
The hardships of Japanese women began at the very beginning of their lives. A boy born into a Japanese family was highly desirable, but a female Japanese baby was not looked upon as an asset to the family. Some female babies were put up for adoption, and sometimes the extreme of killing the newborn baby happened. The reason why male Japanese babies were preferred over females was because the male child could grow up and carry on the family name, while the female would cause nothing but a hassle for the family. She had to be married off for a certain dowry that would benefit her family.
As a Japanese girl grew up, there were many duties which she was to uphold. She followed in the footsteps of her mother and learned the duties of a growing woman. She was to clean the house, learn to cook, make clothing, and wait on her superiors, which included all the males in her family. Young girls were not allowed to go to school, so what they learned was what their mother and the women around them taught them. Girls would learn to write in a flowing Japanese style, not regular Chinese calligraphy, and read classic Japanese poetry and novels. The mother?s job was to help her child understand the large separation in social status between men and women.
Through the transition from adolescence to adulthood, Japanese girls become familiarize with the separation between men and women. Throughout all of this, they still have the ability and strength to carry out their roles as women in the Japanese society. ?A girl?s upbringing could be thought of as a preparation for marriage for it taught her how to fit in with the new household when she left home? (Dunn 173). This especially included sexual techniques to make sure she was able to please her husband. As they reached their early teens, Japanese girls would be engaged to marry without regard for their thoughts about it. The parents of the bride would sell their daughter to a male who they thought was fit and would give him the highest exchange in dowry. In most cases, the daughter would be very unhappy because the marriage was arranged out of money and not love. The husband could easily divorce a wife if he chose to; there did not have to be a reason. In many cases though, it was because the wife would not become pregnant. The husband then could go to another wife and try to have a child with her. To divorce, the husband would write a letter telling the wife telling her she was able to leave and was free to form any other connections. ?An official divorce document consisted of three and a half lines called, mikudari-han? (Dunn 174). If there was a case where the wife was pregnant, within three months of leaving, the husband had to take care of the child. Though Japanese women felt very used by their husbands and their male superiors, they still performed to the best of their ability to be successful in the males? eye.
Japanese women were not allowed to leave their husbands. If they decided to go against the rules, they had to run away to a temple where they could stay for three years, if not found by the husband and their marriage would be dissolved my the government. She would then be free from her marriage. The death penalty was the most serious punishment that the Japanese people faced. Either murder, robbery, or some type of adultery could put them to death. Many Japanese women would be punished by having their hair shaved. Women would not be imprisoned as a final punishment, only for a detention while a decision was taken about.
Today, Japan has changed a great deal regarding women, but some things have still stayed the same. ?With millions of men removed from the industry because of World War II, women found themselves working in coal mines, steel mills, and arms factories? (Friedman 3). This past experience that Japanese women went through made it possible for them to gain independence through working and a sense of success in providing for their families.. ?Japanese wives sometimes found themselves doing double and even triple duties? (Friedman 3). Women were now in control of the home.
Many women have drifted from a group-oriented thinking to a more individualistic approach to life. For example, women have waited to marry, been living at home for a longer period of time, taking vacations, and have taken paid employment in order to find a husband on their own. Also, ?Japanese women have taken control over finances and decisions regarding the children? (Friedman 4). Though they took on a great deal of responsibility, they still do not have the freedom to divorce or be guaranteed to women?s rights.
On the other hand, women who are still unmarried passed the age of thirty can be considered the topic of gossip assuming something must be wrong with them to explain their marital status. It wasn?t until the 1950?s where women would be able to provide for themselves with a sense of well being.
Education has changed significantly for Japanese women. They are now able to receive equal pay for equal work, as well as being guaranteed work after marriage or childbirth. Boys and girls are able to attend school together, and receive an education on the same level.
In conclusion, Japanese women have struggled greatly in their society in order to succeed and be recognized today. Though Japanese women still do not feel as though they are on the exact same level as men, they have come a long way in order to get some- what equal rights and recognition similar to Japanese men. They will continue to rise on the socioeconomic ladder in spite of the battles they may have to face.
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