Gender roles in Japan

The U.S. is nowhere close to have achieved gender equality. But Japan is even far behind. Nonetheless, a type of discussions that tries to appear to be gender equal (or probably “gender sensitive” is a better description) goes something like, “As a man/male person/guy, I do not condone X.” I had a friend living in Georgia sharing a story with me the other day. She said her daughter’s athletic coach yelled at the boys while sprinting with the girls, “if you let those girls beat you, it’s 20 push-ups.” Her criticism was correct in arguing that any of the following reasons why the coach might have said anything like that was wrong: 1) girls cannot compete seriously with boys, 2) girls don’t have to train as hard, 3) girls cannot be expected to run fast or hard, or 4) boys should not run “like girls.”

Just today, I heard that a women’s professional soccer team in Japan decided to ban excessive picture taking by fans during practice. There have been instances in which some fans allegedly took pictures of female athletes for sexual reasons. I can totally believe something like this would happen in Japan. But what bothered me was the comment by the head coach of the team (the head coach is a male). He said, “As a man, I cannot allow such a thing to happen.” Is he assuming that males have moral obligations to protect females? Are women so helpless that he needs to protect them “as a man”?

Reportedly, the coach continued to say that if those photographers want to take up-shot pictures, they should do that on him.

A policy instituted by the team to make sure that the soccer players can concentrate on practice and that pictures would not be taken with ulterior motives is good. But a few parts of the comment by the coach didn’t sink well with me.

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