Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Genuine Gender Equality and Globalization
ONO Goro / Professor Emeritus at Saitama University

May 17, 2012
Female entrepreneurship is gaining greater recognition today for the way it creates new demand and job opportunities for women based on distinctively female perspectives and ideas. In fact, the lack of respect for the "female perspective" is the true reason that is preventing us from developing a new paradigm that could save mankind from the verge of extinction.
The Women's Liberation movement subsequently led to an elevation in women's social status around the world. Yet, Japan has been criticized as lagging the farthest behind among developed countries in the area of social advancement of women. Japan scores dismally lower on various indicators compared with other countries and gender discrimination remains widespread, requiring fundamental improvements both in its social systems as well as in individual awareness.

Yet, Japan need not follow the precedence of Western countries in all matters. The difference between "equal" and "same" require attention in our consideration of the proposition: "We must treat men and women equally." Gender difference is a biological reality that cannot be discarded, so thoughtless attempts at minimizing this difference may result in denying the very dignity that makes us human.

To begin with, when we speak of the "evidence of sexism" or the "desired direction," we should be aware that most of these ideas are premised on values and systems created by a male-dominated society, where “equal treatment” is synonymous with treating women as "honorary males"”

If genuine equality consists of treating male values and female values as being equal, dismissing the idea of distinctly female values as "antiquated" or "anachronistic" constitutes the most bigoted behavior illustrative of male chauvinism. And yet, the words and actions of "honorary men" who align themselves with male privileges have been treated as representative of all women, and their dominating voice has drowned out the true feelings of women in public.

In Japan and in some Asian countries, local communities have historically been run by women. And as if in payback to the prevailing social trend, retired persons who try to mingle into the community have been denied entry into the social fabric woven by women. The wall of rejection is particularly high against white-collar males with too much pride or women with the status of "honorary men," who are left battling a sense of dejection as a consequence.

In the past, when gender discrimination was widespread, providing women with an opportunity was already a major step forward. However, it may be that Japan has lagged behind because Japanese men have held women in relatively high regard, as seen in the way they have traditionally referred to their wives as "the god of the mountains". If that is the case, we realize that Western countries are not necessarily moving in the right direction in their attempts at resolving gender discrimination.

In Europe too, historically it was the women who braved the streets and successfully talked their men out of a foolish civil war that pitted brother against brother. From that perspective, resolving gender discrimination by sending women to the front line of a battlefield is tantamount to suicide bombing for mankind. The sound solution would be to reserve a certain amount of gender difference, as in sports.

Society operates on the dual ideas of rights and obligations, and freedom and responsibility. The transition to democracy expanded the rights and freedom of citizens. But they were merely recaptured by ending the monopolistic control by autocrats. Basically, citizens must fulfill obligations and responsibilities commensurate with their expanded rights and freedom. Then, in accordance with the Principle of Subsidiarity, where that balance cannot be achieved by an individual, it will be substituted by the family and community, and where it is still found lacking, by the social system as a whole.

This also applies when resolving gender differences. Any expansion in the rights and freedom of women should be balanced by an expansion in their obligations and responsibilities, as well as a reduction in the rights and freedom of men and an expansion in their obligations and responsibilities. Only where this leaves an imbalance should social systems play a substituting role.

Apart from the initial purpose of providing incentives, placing high expectations on social systems from the onset would destroy the overall duality, making it unsustainable. In other words, while the Western idea of giving priority to rights and freedom may be popular with the masses, it could lead to a loss of duality and consequently undermine the very foundations of democracy.

A similar situation has arisen in the area of globalization. Just as we aspire to treat each individual on equal terms regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, etc., we should treat each ethnic group or country along with their values on equal terms provided they bear commensurate obligations and responsibilities. However, as evident in the precedence set by multi-ethnic America, excessive emphasis has been placed on economic aspects where consensus comes easily, leaving behind the more difficult fundamental issues.

It is true that "the poor cannot afford manners" and "poverty breeds greed." However, we have also seen that "greed doesn't stop with satisfaction." In other words, applying economic criteria to countries where starvation has become history is nothing but evil.

Western countries that act as leaders of democracy and market economics have not been able to attain a complete state of democracy or market economy themselves. Even so, under the dogma of Western supremacy, "globalization" has been interpreted as "Westernization," Western values, systems and vested interests have been retained, and the rising class of "non-white," "non-Western" countries has been treated as "honorary Western countries", to their own satisfaction. In this way, alien influences are entirely discarded and their creative potential lost. It is no wonder that, as the entire world remains sapped of vitality and mired in stagnation, only endless conflicts between nations, ethnic groups and social classes, etc. have remained.

This being the state of the world, Japan has a crucial historic role to play as the first non-Western country to become a major developed power. We must part with rootless "pseudo-non-Westerners" and "non-Japanese" who dominate only in their vociferousness. At the same time, we must be wary of convention and narrow-minded, fanatic nationalism. We must develop and transmit to the world a new paradigm that can overcome the polarizing differences in values that is also acceptable to Western standards of objectivity.

The writer is Professor Emeritus at Saitama University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

小野 五郎 /  埼玉大学名誉教授

2012年 5月 17日

小野 五郎   埼玉大学名誉教授







一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Genuine Gender Equality and Globalization