Role of Japanese Women: Traditional and Contemporary

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Gender equality in Asia has long been an interesting but challenging study of many researchers. The developed and prosperous country Japan also holds a rich history of gender revolution led by women. Regarding the changing roles of Japanese women in family and the society discussed by many researchers, this essay analyses and compares traditional and modern Japanese women through two popular cultural texts: the television drama Oshin (1983-1984) and the talk show “Culture shift in Japan” (2007) of Everywoman program by AIJazeera English.

Traditional Japanese women have long been considered subservient, dedicated and loyal to their families. They endured miserable lives in silence as their lots but still maintained perseverance and resilience. The Japanese television drama Oshin, aired in Japan in 1983-1984 and overseas broadcasted since 1984, describes in details those traditional characteristics through the life of hardship of a girl named Oshin since age seven to age eighty-three. She was sold two times by her poor father to work as a babysitter. Her childhood was full of housework and abuses from her employers. In this part of the drama, her father seemed to be unsentimental when he sends Oshin away many times to work as a maid though she was only seven years old. Oshin’s mother loved her but could not oppose her husband. Then, when Oshin grew up and married a person from different social class without approval of her in-law family, she suffered persecution of her malicious mother in-law. One of the scripts of Oshin to her husband is like this: “Every single day I work until I become too exhausted to speak… I am poorly fed but endure in silence because I am told that every wife must endure her lot…” (Mulhern, 1994) Like her m...

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...ucceed. The television drama Oshin reflects the miserable lives of traditional Japanese women in three historical periods and to some extent underlines the evolution of women in attaining justice and success. In contrast, the talk show of Everywoman “Culture shift in Japan” looks at the new trends of delaying marriage of young women and choosing to divorce of mid-age women in modern society. Through these two examples of popular culture text and references of many researchers towards the topic, this essay analyses and compares the changing roles of Japanese women in family and society from the past to present. Nowadays most Japanese women have obtained equality and respect from the society and no longer been subservient to their husbands. It is important for Japanese women and men to understand their equitable roles and maintain this peaceful gender relationship.
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