Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Not quite the Last Word

I keep meaning to write about this article on overbearing Japanese mothers and their sons that was published in Metropolis magazine a few weeks ago but I kept forgetting until I read some letter to the editor responses in this week's issue. In the article entitled The Mother of all Mothers: For Japanese men, dysfunction starts in the cradle, the author C.B. Liddell claims that sexism in Japan and the unrelatability of Japanese men to women is all attributed to their fucked up mothers.

When I got to the end of the article expecting at least a punchy ending, it just sort of fizzled out . I will be the first one to rant about messed up male-female relationships in Japan and the cult of the Japanese housewife, but this article was over the top and completely out of touch. Yes, there are mama's boys in Japan but who doesn't know at least one in countries other than Japan?! Not only that but Liddell fails to even touch on the fact that part of Japan's population problem is attributed to more women working, marrying later and deciding not to have children, if not much later in life than earlier generations. So where are all these crazy housewives? He doesn't even qualify what generation he is making these sweeping generalizations about either, so he's still not off the hook.

Even if Liddell is drawing his examples from the countryside, I don't think there is even a dividing line between city and country anymore. Take for example, the beau's mom. She is of the baby boomer generation and definitely lives in the country, has worked full time her whole adult life and raised three boys at the same time. (This is however, vastly different to her and her husband's parents who both had 9 or 10 kids!!!) The beau and his brothers were taught to pitch in around the house, folding laundry and getting the rice cooked before she got home from work, and none of them appear to have strange residual mommy issues. So his mom wasn't a housewife, but I really don't think that's the only factor contributing to socially inept men here. I could be reading too much into it, but how convenient is it to blame the problems of these grown men on women? Why look at these problems as the product of a particular society when you can blame them on the women, many of whom are housewives because society dictates that is what they should aspire to?!

For Liddell to say "This whole unbalanced society-from the drunks on the last train to the ridiculous caricatures of women called hostesses to the lonely housewives slowly going dotty over their morose, 'fatherless' kids-all goes back to one source: the Japanese mother" is not only a stretch but makes me think maybe Liddell has a personal vendetta against not only Japanese mothers and women, but Japanese men too. Why not also talk about how women contribute to messed up male-female relationships in Japan? Liddell lists the rigorous schedule the hypothetical Japanese boy embarks on from the age of 2 but what about the hypothetical Japanese girl? She gets music lessons and is sent to juku cram schools too, so why all the mother bashing when it only relates to Japanese men?

In his off-the-mark article Liddell launches a two-pronged attack on both Japanese mothers and Japanese men which not only incensed me but many other readers, judging by the letters to the editor. What he writes offends both Japanese men and women, who are shown to be respectively meek and tyrannical. The writer really cocked up what could have been an interesting and insightful article and instead of shedding light on the issue, simply reinforced some much traversed cultural stereotypes. I vote him off the island!

1 comment:

lea said...

I second that vote.