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Role Of Japanese Women: Traditional And Contemporary

2151 words - 9 pages

Gender equality in Asia has long been an interesting but challenging study of many researchers. The developed and prosperous country Japan also holds a rich history of gender revolution led by women. Regarding the changing roles of Japanese women in family and the society discussed by many researchers, this essay analyses and compares traditional and modern Japanese women through two popular cultural texts: the television drama Oshin (1983-1984) and the talk show “Culture shift in Japan” (2007) of Everywoman program by AIJazeera English.
Traditional Japanese women have long been considered subservient, dedicated and loyal to their families. They endured miserable lives in silence as their lots but still maintained perseverance and resilience. The Japanese television drama Oshin, aired in Japan in 1983-1984 and overseas broadcasted since 1984, describes in details those traditional characteristics through the life of hardship of a girl named Oshin since age seven to age eighty-three. She was sold two times by her poor father to work as a babysitter. Her childhood was full of housework and abuses from her employers. In this part of the drama, her father seemed to be unsentimental when he sends Oshin away many times to work as a maid though she was only seven years old. Oshin’s mother loved her but could not oppose her husband. Then, when Oshin grew up and married a person from different social class without approval of her in-law family, she suffered persecution of her malicious mother in-law. One of the scripts of Oshin to her husband is like this: “Every single day I work until I become too exhausted to speak… I am poorly fed but endure in silence because I am told that every wife must endure her lot…” (Mulhern, 1994) Like her mother, Oshin accepts the unfair traditional role of women as that is common sense. However, after she suffered a miscarriage because of hard labour, she left her in-law family without her husband and attempted to rebuild her life. She tried many jobs until she reunited with her husband then became the owner of a supermarket chain and raised her own children. Oshin represents traditional Japanese women who always sacrifice for the family and be resilient towards life’s obstacles. Oshin’s eventful life sets against a backdrop of three important periods of Japanese history: Meiji (1868-1912), Taisho (1912-1925) and Showa (1925-1988) (Mulhern, 1994, p.98). Mulhern also commented that Oshin drama is an ambitious attempt to learn about problems of contemporary Japanese women in socio-historical perspectives.
Traditional Japanese women have experienced injustice in many aspects of life, from family to the society. Marriage used to be a strong social pressure on Japanese women, rather than their personal decisions. According to Fanselow and Kameda (1995), Japanese women were urged to marry within the “marriageable age”; otherwise they would be considered “unsold goods”. They explained that it was difficult for Japanese women...

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