Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dating in Japan: Feminism and Being the Odd One Out

Dating in Japan as a rather fervent feminist is a constant education in boundaries. 

How far does one bend, to adjust to cultural differences? How to gently make your position crystal clear, when your significant other is trying to be kind, but missing the mark? When to make a stand, and when to save your comments for another time?
Having now been in a relationship with Matcha-kun for two and a half years (whoa!), I can definitely see how he has changed over time, as he has absorbed a great deal of information on issues that are important to me. An understanding of women's issues, accepting my strong views on vegetarianism, better knowledge of non-binary gender and sexuality issues... his willingness to learn about these often uncomfortable subjects is one of the many reasons we are still in a relationship.

Of the two, he is definitely the more easygoing one, a true grace for me, as I am very intense and stubborn. I know that I must drive him absolutely nuts sometimes, but nonetheless he doesn't run.

But surrounding cultural norms, and the opinions I hear from other people, often still make my (metaphorical) hackles rise.

However I look at it the issues seem to boil down to money, or rather economic independence.

When I was pondering a career move, which might mean that I would be without work for a bit, the various reactions I got were highly annoying. Matcha-kun, thinking he was being kind, kept on reiterating that it would be okay, he would support me economically. I tried to gently deflect this line of thought, until eventually I had to take a much firmer stance. 

He is not responsible for supporting me, I am in charge of me. Whatever decisions I make, I will take responsibility for them, and making a living is on the forefront of that list. It is very hard to explain to someone, who is obviously trying to be reassuring, why this ticks me off so much.

From the Greek chorus I live with, the comments seemed to focus on how, should I have any financial or visa issues, I should get married. Again, this bothers me. The concept of using someone for their money disturbs me, as does the idea of giving up all my independence (and hard earned skills) just because I might potentially have a slightly rocky couple of months.

I take great pride in fending for myself, and do not see economic dependence as something to aspire to. Being by myself is not frightening, and in this there is strength. I do not seek someone who will take care of me, but rather someone who will be an equal partner in crime. 

These stances make me (and others who have similar affinities) stand out among many of my circle of acquaintances. A belief in true equality makes one a bit of an outlier here, and sometimes it seems the breaking point is near. And other times you need to restrain yourself from slapping people.

But fortunately at least with Matcha-kun we both bend but do not break, like my neighbor's majestic bamboo during typhoon season.


  1. I think money and practical issues can make or break any relationship, more than we ever talk about, because they can be very difficult to compromise or "agree to disagree" on. As for marrying for a visa, I'd rather be beholden to my employer than my husband.

    1. Thank you!
      It is so true, the idea of marrying for visas is just...ewww.

    2. Marrying for visas is common as muck for women in the East.... it's quite telling the difference in mindset between the two. Is this because of the lack of feminism in the East, or more to do with economic and quality of life disparities?

  2. The issues you talked about in these post are not necessarily related to gender or specific to Japan.
    Many male foreigners get married to Japanese women in order to get a visa (or, when facing visa/financial issues, get help from Japanese women). I know many Japanese ladies earn more than their husbands. Many women here have kids but don't stop working. Many stop working for a while but then return. Many couples don't get married and have kids because they know they can't financially raise a child (meaning that the wife chooses to not have kids). Of course it's not the majority, but things have changed a lot in the past decades. And it's not something specific from Japan. What is interesting and specific here is that women are in charge of the family's finances - she makes all the decisions about how they spend the income. I am not saying I disagree with your post, but gender issues x marriage x visa topics have so many layers to be considered.
    Nice blog!