Japanese Gender Relations In Haruko's World

1562 Words 7 Pages
In Haruko’s World, Gail Bernstein illustrates the paradigm shift in post-war Japanese gender relations through the anthropological accounts of Uwa residents. Bernstein investigates, in depth, the results of the American Occupation on Japanese life. Through her studies, readers can gain an understanding of how everything from modern farming practices to access to birth control affected Japanese daily life and gender relations. There was change in the dynamics of Japanese culture, post-war; antiquated traditions were broken, and old Japanese values became obsolete, replaced with modern American values. As a result of Western influences, especially the introduction of contemporary American farming practices and technology, Japanese education …show more content…
The idea of a housewife is something that is distinctly Western, only garnering attention in Japan after the American Occupation. Of pre-war Japan, Bernstein states, “all rural women born before the end of the war farmed, raised silkworms, made their own clothes, and, as they frequently say, endured.” The ability to be a housewife signified financial stability and, therefore, freedom for Japanese women. Bernstein states, “for the Japanese farm women, the idea of women’s liberation…means free from the economic uncertainties and physical drudgery of farming, more time to spend cooking, cleaning, and sewing, and the opportunity to help the children with their homework. The Japanese farm woman, in short, yearns for a strictly domestic role.” The Western idea of a housewife is something that resonated with Japanese women, who typically struggled with grueling farm labor and minimal income. Due to the fact that many women were forced to work to stay afloat, mothers in law were often left to take care of their grandchildren during working hours. For many young wives, financial stability represented freedom from over-bearing mothers in law, and the ability to make decisions for one’s family. Bernstein says, “Haruko did not view her income as a passport to independence…but for younger women still living in the shadow of their mothers-in-law, possession of one’s own money implied something more.” While housewifery is an attractive profession, it is a luxury that most Japanese women could not afford. Many women worked in factories and on construction sites to supplement the family farm income. However, men and women were not paid equally for doing the same work. Bernstein learned, “in most other wage-paying jobs women and men worked apart, at distinct kinds of work, but on the construction teams they worked side by side. The women were paid about $6.65 a

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