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  • haru

being seen as an individual



I often have doubts when I feel like some roles are taken for granted in society because someone is “a man” or “a woman”. I go deep into thought when I come across a negative problem that is rooted in gender difference. This topic has been something I have long wanted to talk about in my articles.


* イクメン = 日本語で子育てを楽しみ、自分自身も成長する男性を指す造語。

There is something I often question. It’s about “Ikumen” -- I feel strange about fathers are called “Ikumen” and are praised for actively helping their wives with childcare. I believe it is natural that husbands take part in child-rearing, and I even find it weird that we have coined that word. If a man is working and his spouse is a housewife, physically speaking, she spends more time with their children. Still, I can’t help but feel strange that husbands take an inactive stance on child-rearing. Everybody has their own opinions on it, but it doesn’t feel right to me that we take for granted that child-rearing is a women’s job. Also, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare disclosed that only 7.48% of men took paternity leave in 2019. This number proves that even if fathers want to get involved in child-rearing, there are a lot of companies that have a shallow understanding and don't take positive actions for paternity leave as well as maternity leave.

* Ikumen =a Japanese coined word for men who enjoy getting involved in child-rearing, and improve themselves through the experience.


Also, I think there needs to be more understanding and concessions to sexual minority couples in Japan today. Same-sex couples are not excluded from Japan’s foster program stipulated by the laws. There was, however, an issue where the Tokyo Metropolitan Government set a requirement that practically didn’t certify same-sex couples as foster parents. They aren’t deemed unqualified because they are same-sex couples anymore, but I still feel the lack of consideration for sexual minorities in Japanese society. One of the main reasons for that is because the legalization of same-sex marriage has not yet been realized in Japan. At a trial that fought for the legalization of same-sex marriage on October 16, 2019, the Japanese government asserted that “marriage is for procreation and child-rearing”, and that “since the Meiji era up until now, Japanese laws have lain in the assumption that marriage exists between a man and a woman, so the existence of same-sex marriage has not been expected. And it has not changed yet”. This assertion does not only prove that the government doesn’t believe same-sex couples can have children, but it also shows the lack of consideration for opposite-sex couples who chose not to have children at all, and those who can’t give birth. It is gender bias and discrimination that should not be taken lightly. As long as leaders in this country make claims like that, the elimination of gender discrimination and the legalization of same-sex marriage seems difficult in this society. “Children should be raised by their mother and father”, “child-rearing is a women’s job” ー until these stereotypes disappear and we accept the idea that “child-rearing and marriage have nothing to do with gender”, it is difficult to live in a society where we can enjoy actively getting involved in childcare regardless of gender.


There is something else that I feel is taken for granted “ because you are a guy” or “because you are a girl” ー It is about fashion. I don't think women need to dress feminine because they are women, nor do I think that men need to dress masculine because they are men if that's against their will. Some of my friends wear what they want and I think they shine the brightest and are the coolest regardless of their sex. When I was in junior high and high school, I liked and would often wear clothes that didn't fall into what society saw as “feminine” such as black and leopard print. My mother and friends would tell me that “you should wear something more feminine, you would look better with that”, or “you wouldn’t get a boyfriend if you wear that”. No matter how much they tried to convince me, It didn’t make me want to wear what they said I should. For that reason, I thought I was not girly enough, and wondered “who decides what dressing feminine is like?”. Don’t get me wrong, I do think feminine clothes are wonderful, but I don’t understand the notion that “it is ideal that women dress feminine”. Stopping yourself from wearing what you want and choosing what aligns with society’s gender roles seems like a sad thing. It applies not only to fashion but also to occupations, hairstyles and everything. I don’t want an ideal which is defined by society’s gender roles to limit my opportunities, and I hope for the elimination of judgemental comments and gender discrimination.


Furthermore, there are other situations where I feel the presence of gender roles. Those are, for example, situations where taking the lead is considered as “a manly thing to do” such as men taking the initiative in planning out a date, and holding a door open and escorting a woman, as well as situations where putting on makeup and shaving body hair are considered as “girly things to do”. There is still so much pressure thrust on us by perceived ideal womanhood and manhood.


* ノンバイナリ― = 自身のジェンダーを男性、女性のどちらかに限定しない

In my opinion, the existence of these stereotyped gender roles could expect and demand people of a certain gender to do certain things. Sometimes, you find it pleasing when they live up to your expectations and demands. I will keep trying to notice, think about, and speak on gender-based inequality and prejudice so that we, as a society, will have a broader idea of more than two genders such as male, female, transgender, and non-binary. I believe we have to work on creating a society where everyone is respected for who they are without being categorized by their gender.


I’m sure there will be times when I face or experience gender discrimination, but I would like to contribute to this society as one human being and live free from my sex, as well as to actively promote those trends.


Manager Life - 『男性の育児休暇取得について!知っておきたいメリット・デメリット・事例集

イクメンプロジェクト - 『イクメンプロジェクトとは

毎日新聞 - 『里親認定 東京都、同性カップルは除外 69自治体調査

JobRainbow - 『LGBTは子どもを持てる? 子どもが当事者のときの育て方は?

HuffPost Japan - 『「結婚は子を作って育てるため」。国の主張に同性婚訴訟の原告が反発「こういう時代を終わらせたい」

Vogue Girl Japan - 『ジェンダーとは女性と男性の二択ではない! 「ノンバイナリージェンダー」について知っておこう。

Images by Haru, Yumi and Rina Amagaya

English Translated by Mao

English Edited by Karin

Edited by Hikari Sawada and Hikari

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