Mike the Mad Biologist

Marriage Versus Servitude

A new divorce policy in Japan highlights the different outcomes when women are not dependent on men but interdependent with men. It’s scaring the hell out of Japanese men:

A change in Japanese law this year allows a wife who is filing for divorce to claim as much as half her husband’s company pension. When the new law went into effect in April, divorce filings across Japan spiked 6.1 percent. Many more split-ups are in the pipeline, marriage counselors predict. They say wives — hearts gone cold after decades of marital neglect — are using calculators to ponder pension tables, the new law and the big D….

“The fact that a wife can now get 50 percent has ignited guys to think about their fragile marriages,” said Shuichi Amano, 55, founder of the association and a magazine publisher in this city of 1.3 million in western Japan. The word chauvinist in the group’s name, Amano says, is not intended to refer to bossy men. Instead, it invokes the original meaning of the Japanese word that today translates as chauvinist, kanpaku, a top assistant to the emperor.

Men near the end of their corporate lives, he said, are especially edgy. “To be divorced is the equivalent of being declared dead — because we can’t take care of ourselves,” Amano said.

When his wife told him eight years ago that she was “99 percent” certain she was going to dump him, Amano said, the only things he then knew how to do in the kitchen were to fry eggs and pour boiled water over noodles.

Since then, in addition to learning how to listen and talk to a wife he had ignored for two decades, Amano said, he has learned how to take out the trash, clean the house and cook.

I think this explains a lot (italics mine):

He is Yoshimichi Itahashi, 66, president of a concrete company here in Fukuoka. He has been married for 38 years and has two daughters and a son.

For almost all of that time, he behaved coldly and selfishly toward his wife and children.

I think my generation especially has grown up in a very feudalistic era,” he said. “I never said I was sorry. When I came home from work, I would say I want to eat dinner, I want a bath and I want to go to bed. I had no time to talk to my wife.”

While Itahashi is trying to change his ways, some of the younger ones aren’t doing so well:

Motoharu Kitajima, 30, married over the summer. He runs a local beauty college and said his work requires that he spend a lot of nights out drinking with colleagues. He joined the association as a preventive measure, he said, to help alert him to strains in his marriage.

He is going to try to leave boozy dinners early and get home, he declared. Asked whether he has yet mastered the art of telling his wife that he loves her, he replied: “I can say, ‘I love you,’ if I am drunk.”

Mrs. Kitajima, run. Seriously, when men can’t treat women as maids and flesh-and-blood blowup sex dolls, we, women and men, are better off.

Comments

  1. #1 writerdd
    November 26, 2007

    >his work requires that he spend a lot of nights out drinking with colleagues

    HahhahHAHHAHAHHhahahhaha. Yeah right. Who’s buying that line?

  2. #2 Three-Fitty
    November 26, 2007

    A ‘salaryman’ who puts in 16-hour days is putting in 8 hours at home, most of that spent sleeping. His long workday includes meals out, work, and partying — which is where he does his serious drinking and recreation. The wife is the only responsible adult, stuck with taking care of her husband, their children, and their home.

    Now, if Japan will initiate some ‘palimony’ laws, then mistresses can get in on the benefits.

  3. #3 Karen
    November 26, 2007

    writerdd, I believe that line. In Japan, most networking is done over drinks in the evening. (If nothing else, it’s a way of keeping women out of the good ‘ol boys club, since women generally have families to care for in the evening. Managers of all fields need to do that networking to succeed in their jobs.

    That doesn’t mean the whole system doesn’t suck. This law has clearly provided a wake-up call, and I hope most of these husbands can rise to the challenge and learn to treat their wives as real thinking, feeling human beings.

  4. #4 Janne
    November 26, 2007

    writerdd, as Karen says, if you’re a career worker then those drinking parties are not voluntary and they’re frequently not much fun; it’s the place and time for informal work planning and discussion, with the alcohol serving as cover of sorts (for older workers especially) for talking frankly about bad results, poor performance or people not managing their work.

    It’s as much a part of your work duties as showing up in the morning or working long overtime hours, and shirking it too often can have you demoted or fired.

    System sucks, big time, but that’s not really the fault of the individual career office worker either. How many of those house-wifes would accept the family income cut in half for a job without those onerous terms? Some, I’m sure – and the proportion of younger people willingly in no-career temp or part-time jobs have increased – but others, not so much.

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