Men belong in the workplace and women belong at home. That is the stereotype that has remained popular around the world. Embraced or accepted by some while hated and rejected by others, this idea is one that is dying but still prevalent in Japan. The character of the Japanese housewife is so defined that many young women aspire to become one when they finish school, rather than dream of a career that they are passionate about.
She does not work. She raises the children almost entirely by herself. She wears an apron around the house. She takes her mama-chari (a special type of electric bicycle with child seats in the front or back) to the grocery store to shop. She makes all the meals in the house, does the cleaning, and takes care of the bills. She undoubtedly works hard, but she doesn’t get paid for it. Her reward is the husband that comes home everyday after a long day at work and the paycheck that he brings.
Many conservative thinkers still believe that this is the most appropriate role for women, and at the very least wish their wives retire after giving birth to children. BUT, this is not always the case, and the times are gradually changing.
Women can work full-time, but they are usually not placed in a career track the same way men are. Their salaries will remain the same and they will never be promoted. There is a lot of sexism in the workplace, and women are normally required to wear uniforms that include only a pencil skirt. Mandatory heels are not uncommon either. Sexual harassment can be subtle, like a crude joke or slightly sexual comment, and it is usually not severe enough to warrant reporting, but it is what it is.
Due to Japan’s labor shortage, more and more women are being given vital positions in the workforce, and the term “salary woman” is also being used more frequently. Women are choosing work over marriage and family and making careers and lives for themselves.They no longer have to financially rely on a man. They can make enough money to compete with their male counterparts and then some.
The expectations for women to be feminine though, regardless of their job, are high. Women are expected to behave in a composed, feminine manner, and there are certain words and phrases that are strictly for women to use. A woman is considered attractive if she keeps herself tidy, wears nice, feminine clothes, and speaks in a low voice in a polite manner. There are habits such as clicking the tongue that are considered very unfeminine, and unfortunately it is this side of Japan’s sexism that may take longer to change, as it is more subtle and hard to detect.