Japanese Woman; Traditional Image and Changing Reality

Overview

Japan is a country in which gender roles have appeared to be clearly circumscribed and stable. Both Westerners and many Japanese men have a vivid mental image of Japanese women as dependent, deferential, devoted to their families, and anything but ambitious. In this surprising new look at women in Japan, Sumiko Iwao shows that they are anything but the submissive female typically portrayed; rather, they hold positions equal to and sometimes more powerful than those of men in many spheres. Focusing particularly on...
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Overview

Japan is a country in which gender roles have appeared to be clearly circumscribed and stable. Both Westerners and many Japanese men have a vivid mental image of Japanese women as dependent, deferential, devoted to their families, and anything but ambitious. In this surprising new look at women in Japan, Sumiko Iwao shows that they are anything but the submissive female typically portrayed; rather, they hold positions equal to and sometimes more powerful than those of men in many spheres. Focusing particularly on the first post-World War II generation, the author explores the psychology and current circumstances of Japanese women. She examines their dominance in the family, revealing their intense involvement in their children's development - an involvement which, she argues, accounts for Japanese children's noted excellence in school. The author also explains the nature of the Japanese woman's control over her husband and, in the process, gives a fascinating account of the differences in male/female relationships in Japan and the United States. American women, Iwao maintains, have much to learn from Japanese women on this count. Iwao also explains how the shortage of Japanese workers is drawing more women into the job force, and she charts the changes we can expect in the workplace and in family life as a result of this shortage. Finally, she shows how as the Japanese population continues to decrease, women will gain ever greater control both in and out of the home. Fascinating profiles of contemporary Japanese, women illustrate the changes currently taking place in work and family structures in Japan. These changes will undoubtedly have a major impact on the Japanese economy. The Japanese Woman shows how the fate of the United States' most energetic competitor may well be found in the changes taking place among Japanese women today.

Westerners and Japanese men have a vivid mental image of Japanese women as dependent, deferential, and devoted to their families--anything but ambitious. In fact, the author shows, Japanese women hold equal and sometimes even more powerful positions than men in many spheres.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Japanese women, according to Iwao, a professor of psychology in Tokyo, ``often feel that living according to principle forces human beings into unnatural behavior'' and is ``confining as far as the attainment of happiness for the individual is concerned.'' She compares this attitude favorably with that of American women's ``persistent'' demands for an ideal of equality. Iwao argues that ``contrary to the image of subjugation outsiders seem to associate with Japanese women,'' they have more freedom than Japanese men, who are mere worker bees; they have more time for friends, family and personal interests, and control the purse strings. While there is widespread dissatisfaction with exhausted and uncompanionable husbands, one in six women compensates, guiltlessly, with a lover. Sixty-five percent of Japanese women with school-age children have jobs, and although they ``believe in equal pay for equal work, equal opportunity and so on,'' they are generally not expected to contribute to household expenses. The study is densely packed with invaluable data about generational changes in Japanese women's lives, and is intriguing for its insights into the differences between Japanese and American value systems, but it is sometimes unduly provocative in tone and ambiguous in its assessments of Japanese women's recent progress. (Dec.)
Library Journal
Written by a female psychology professor in Tokyo, this work aims to describe the modern Japanese woman. She is a mixture of tradition and ``new attitude.'' She is often viewed as passive, demure, and self-sacrificing--but at the same time she can be formidable, ruling her family with unspoken power. Iwao recalls her own grandmother, who could ``make two fine grown men cringe before her.'' The book explores many topics about womanhood--myths, motherhood, marriage, financial power, divorce, sex, politics, the workplace. American and Japanese women have very different expectations about marriage: in one survey, more Japanese than U.S. women rated having children as very important. While Japanese women are still expected to serve the tea in the workplace, more of them are having extramarital affairs. This is a revealing look at the changing roles of women in today's Japan. Recommended for all women's studies and international studies collections.-- Lisa K. Miller, American Graduate Sch. of International Management Lib., Glendale, Ariz.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780029323151
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 6/15/1992
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.55 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
1 Myths and Realities 1
2 The Story of Akiko 31
3 Marriage and the Family 59
4 Communication and Crisis 94
5 Motherhood and the Home 125
6 Work as Option 153
7 Work as Profession 189
8 Politics and No Power 214
9 Fulfillment Through Activism 242
10 Directions of Change 265
Notes 283
Index 295
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