Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I'm telling you, Japan is leaving the 1950s and heading straight into their sexual revolution...

The Herbivore's Dilemma: Japan panics about the rise of "grass-eating men," who shun sex, don't spend money, and like taking walks

Japanese men have long been expected to live like characters on Mad Men, chasing secretaries, drinking with the boys, and splurging on watches, golf, and new cars....[But] in this age of bromance and metrosexuals, why all the fuss [about grass-eaters]? The short answer is that grass-eating men are alarming because they are the nexus between two of the biggest challenges facing Japanese society: the declining birth rate and anemic consumption. Herbivores represent an unspoken rebellion against many of the masculine, materialist values associated with Japan's 1980s bubble economy.

Interesting that there seems to be a panic around the declining birthrate because these men aren't "Mad Men." As someone close to, as well as fascinated (and sometimes appalled) by Japanese gender structures, I think this article is pure Japanese machismo talking. Remember, this is a country whose former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori advocated limiting pensions to women who had children and where mayor of Tokyo Shintaro Ishihara decreed that "old women who have lost their reproductive function are not worth living."

My Japanese cousin and many of my Japanese friends will not marry because they don't want their lives to center around catering to the every whim of abusive, philandering, drunken, insensitive -- but especially, state-sanctioned -- chauvinist pigs. They know how things can be, and they want partnerships.

Granted, a lot of "grass-eaters" in this article seem to be portrayed as the last thing a woman would want in a partnership -- self-absorbed, whiny, disinterested. But I doubt that is always, and truly, the case. What I do know is that when my husband was seen allowing me to ride my bicycle in front of him because he wanted to protect me from traffic, a friend's dad thought my husband was being a sissy. I also know that blaming egalitarianism for deep societal problems stemming from outdated gender roles often seems to be the last-ditch attempt of desperate constituencies. Again, the Japanese machismo may be shining through in this article.

I am disappointed that Slate is perpetuating the same tired ideas that come straight from the Japanese good ol' boys club. Where are the all-important opinions of the other half in this declining birth rate equation? Where are the single women's voices? I tend to think it is more likely that grass-eaters could be GOOD for the declining birth rate!

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