Gender equality has been the talk of Japan for the past decade as women become more vocal about fighting for their rights. So it’s no wonder that a pamphlet from a city in Japan caused social media to erupt in outrage when it told new moms what was most important…to dads.
Just keep cooking and cleaning like you always do, honey
The city of Onomichi in Hiroshima Prefecture wanted to advertise support options for new mothers. So, for some reason, it produced a pamphlet entitled 先輩パパからあなたへ (sempai papa kara anata e) – “From experienced dads to you.”
The entire construction of the pamphlet is, to say the least, weird. Instead of focusing on how new dads can best help new moms, the pamphlet interviewed 100 “experienced fathers” to convey “the feelings of dads before and after birth.”
Now, there might have been a right way to do this. Onomichi, however, failed to find it.
The first two questions Onomichi asked men were what words/attitudes from their wives give them joy – and what words cause them grief. For example, under the column “attitudes (words) from my wife that grate on me,” we have winners like “I was busy caring for the baby and couldn’t do housework” and “you never look after our kid”.
It gets worse. Under the column “what my wife does that gives me joy,” the number one answer was “housework”. Survey subtext explicitly calls out that husbands want their wives to keep making their lunches and “cooking after birth like always.”
The number three answer? “A massage.”
Finally, under the column “Things I want my wife to do,” the top answer is, “If there’s something you need, use your words and tell me exactly what it is.”
In other words, the entire pamphlet is geared around the feelings of men – and the worst men in Japan, at that.
“What’s the point of this?”
Sadly for whatever city employees decided this was a good idea, the pamphlet didn’t stay confined to tbe bounds of Onomichi, a town of around 125,000 located in the southeast of Hiroshima Prefecture. X (formerly Twitter) user @tamapiyoko90 posted pictures of the pamphlet they say their pregnant friend received in the mail. “I don’t get the point of doing this survey or distributing this,” they said.
Most X users in Japan seems to agree. The post drew 50,000 likes and well over 25,000 retweets. As one angry user put it, “The message of this is, ‘After childbirth, get the housework done and make by lunch and cook my meals….When I get home, say ‘Welcome home’ and ‘you must be tired’, and sympathize with me and gimme a massage. If there’s something you want done, give me detailed orders!'”
Reporters asked Onomichi city officials what the hell they were thinking. A representative said that the city has produced the survey since 2017, and that the pamphlet is aimed at expectant mothers at around the seventh month of labor. They said they produce an equivalent pamphlet for new dads from moms with roughly the same questions.
Based on the social media feedback, it seems like they won’t be doing that anymore. The city says that, as of today, it’ll no longer send out the controversial pamphlets. “The way the survey results and other information were presented may have encouraged a stereotypical perception of gender roles.”
A continuing press for equality – especially at home
Obviously, this survey flew under the radar for years before going viral. So why did it cause such a fuss now?
Besides the growth of social media, one reason is the growing awareness in Japan of gender imbalances, not just at the office, but within the home. Surveys show that Japan has one of the worst gender imbalances in home life, with women in heterosexual marriages carrying five times the housework and childrearing loads of their husbands.
This imbalance exists even in households where both couples work. A recent survey by a real estate company showed that, outside of taking out the trash, most women are primarily responsible for all the chores in their homes.
The housework imbalance is just one sad sign of the state of affairs of gender equality in Japan. In the most recent World Economic Forum (WEF) report on the World Gender Gap, Japan fells to 125th place out of 146 countries. The main contributors to the country’s poor performance were the lack of women in elected office and workplace inequality.
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妊婦向けに「妻のこういう態度が嫌」 尾道市「先輩パパから」チラシに批判続出→配布中止「真摯に反省・謝罪」. JCast News