Heterosexism and Women's Situations

......What is Heterosexism for Women in Japan?

Ayako HATTORI



Part 3

Choice of sexual orientation and Women's economic situations


Payment and marriage system in Japan and Lesbian

At first I should explain Japanese labor and payment system. We have a peculiar system in Japan.
Generally when big companies employ men, they aren't fired until decided retirement age (60 or 65). And most of them get positions at these companies. They can get allowances for their wives and children, and sometimes they and their families can use hotels and amusement facilities that the companies own or lease. And at retirement age they get big retiring allowances and pensions. So they pledge their loyalty to the companies and work hard.
But some of the men are lazy or not good at their work. But the companies seldom fire them because of this system. So this system costs a lot of money. So the big companies exploit women and worker of affiliated small companies.
Even at big companies women seldom get posts. And when they get married the companies give pressure them to quit their jobs. Most husbands work hard for their own companies, and they don't help their wives with household matters and childcare. So most of women quit their jobs when they get married or have children.
And when their children grow up and go to school, women get part time jobs at factories or small companies. Sometimes such "part time jobs" are as long as full time jobs. But their wages are hourly wages without any guarantees or pensions. When the economic situation is good, the companies employ many such part time workers, but when economic situation become bad, the companies can fire them easily.
Big companies exploit part time women workers and give men positions and good money, and women give up their careers and help their husbands at home to let them get good posts. This system discriminates against married women, but Lesbians are also influenced badly by this system.
Because of this system, even if women, single or married, they can't get good positions and payments. And when a woman gets married and quits her job, it is difficult for her get a divorce. Middle-aged women can get only part time jobs with low wages. They can't live independently and rise their children.
In Japan it is still hard for Lesbians to live as Lesbians. I know some Lesbians who can't get good jobs and so have to be married to men. I think that for men to be gay men is to lose privilege as men. But sometimes Lesbian can't live as Lesbians because they are women, although only women can be Lesbians. In Japan it is so hard for us to choose our sexuality.


Oppressions against "pre-married women"

In Japanese we have 2 words for single women. One is "mi-kon" women (pre-married women, women who are supposed to be married someday but aren't married now) and the other is "hi-kon" women (anti-married women, women who decide not to be married). But Japanese society considers all single women are "pre-married," and "pre-married" women are not full-fledged persons.
When a Lesbian couple who are my friends went to a real estate agent and wanted to rent a room (they didn't come out as Lesbians), the real estate agent said they had no room for 2 girls. So they went to another real estate agent and said they were cousins, so they could lent a room.
I wrote that Japanese society seems tolerance physical contacts between women. But when two girls help each other to live independently, our society doesn't tolerate them. Sometimes even middle-aged or elder women can't rent rooms independently. Deposit for rooms are often very expensive and single women often can't get much money. And they are often required to have male family members as guarantors.
Japanese society considers "pre-married" women don't need to decide their own lives. They should live with their parents. Of course some women leave their families in countryside and move to and live in big cities for their colleges or jobs. But they depend on their fathers' thinking. Many women can't leave their families until their marriage.
When I organized Lesbian retreat in my local area, parents of one of Lesbian couple found out she was a Lesbian. Her mother opened every letter addressed to her, and found our invitation paper. The mother confined the daughter and checked every phone call and letter to her. And she called one of organizers and the youth hostel we reserved and slandered us.(My experience at Tokai Lesbian WeekEnd)
The Lesbian was in her 20's (considered legally an adult in Japan), and had her job. But her parents didn't think she had the right to decide her own life. And they didn't consider she had decides on her lifestyle by herself. So they attacked "bad friends" who seduced their daughter, and separated her from them, to get her back on the right track.
Mostly it is mothers who bother "pre-married" daughters. The ideology that women can't and must not decide their own lives controls the mothers, forcing them to be married. And they internalize the ideology, and oppress her daughters.


What is marriage system in Japan?

In Japan if women get married, they seem be able to get some privileges.
It is still hard for women to get good jobs and wages, but if they are married they don't need to get full time jobs. They can depend on their husbands' incomes. When they depend on their husbands' incomes, their husbands can get a tax deduction. We have an official pension system in Japan. Most Japanese people have to pay a lot of money for the national pension. But when married women get less than 1,300,000 yen (about 12,000 dollars) a year, they don't have to pay. So most married women are careful to earn less than 1,300,000 yen. It is economical for them. Even if their husband die, they can get some of their husbands' pensions and half of the inheritance. And of course society considers married women "normal."
But if women divorce, they lose all privileges. When a married woman's husband dies, she can get welfare for her children. But single mothers who divorced or who are anti-marriage get less than widows. Social welfare that women can get depends on their submissions.
In the '80s "women's independence" became a topic in Japanese society. So some of the women who can get good jobs don't want to be married. So to get women to be married, society gives some privileges to married women. But if they are married, they have to do all household chores and part time jobs with low wages. And the situation of women who are outside marriage system is still bad.
The marriage system blocks women's independence and keeps them in their families' or husbands' house. I think society wants women to take care of elder persons in their house, in the society composed largely of elderly people, to save social welfare money.
Marriage system is still a big problem for women and it bothers we decide our lifestyles including sexual orientations.


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