Japanese language is becoming more open-minded...well, mostly for women

Good morning everyone,

It's still raining out there, but it should stop soon and then we'll have to settle for mostly cloudy weather today before turning mostly sunny tomorrow and continuing that way through the weekend and into the new year. Highs all week are expected to be between 10C and 13C, which is normal for this time of year.

On the whole, in spite of all that happened in the rest of the world, 2016 has been a year when the Japanese became a little more liberal, open and tolerant in their thinking. Evidence to that can be seen in the way certain words slowly disappeared from the collective conscience, while others were ushered in.

Most notable is the way “LGBT” is now a widely accepted and quite familiar term — even my 75-year-old aunt uses it. Meanwhile, words such as オカマ (okama, gay men), オナベ (onabe, lesbians), and おコゲ (okoge, women who tend to hang out with gay men) have all gone out of style. Diversity is, to some extent, trending and companies like IBM Japan have in-house departments to promote diversity awareness, compliance and tolerance.

Being a woman in Japan has never been more ラク (raku, relaxing) actually, as terms like 結婚適齢期 (kekkontekireiki, marriage eligibility) and クリスマスケーキ (Christmas cake, a term that refers to women over 25 as being past the age of marriage desirability) have gone out the window. In fact, referring to a woman’s age in this way is now considered downright offensive. エイジハラスメント (Age harassment) is officially a thing and is taught in compliance classes in Japanese companies, mainly to educate the older generation of male 管理職 (kanrishoku, managers) who see nothing wrong about tapping the shoulders of female employees, and saying: そろそろ君も年だから (sorosoro kimi mo toshi dakara, you’re getting old, so you may want to think about quitting), which was a time-honored ritual known as 肩たたき (katatataki, shoulder tapping).

寿退社 (Kotobukitaisha, celebratory resignation, or quitting one’s job after marriage) is also a term that has gathered dust, since fewer women equate marriage with joblessness anymore, and not a whole lot of them are getting married anyway.

Many more women are referring to themselves as 女子 (joshi), which perhaps, can best be translated as female individual, and reveling in the fact that perhaps for the first time ever, Japanese women over the age of 25 (more commonly in the big cities) are liberated from having to be one out of just three things: 母 (haha, mother), 妻 (tsuma, wife) or ママさん (mamasan, bar hostess, sexual object or equivalent). They can own cars, have careers, buy their own condos with their own mortgages and look after themselves without having to pander and cater to, the dictates of 男 (otoko, men) and often far worse — the 家 (ie, families).

女のくせに (Onna no kuse ni, you’re only a lowly woman) is also a phrase that has gone out of style, as Japanese society and the corporate world slowly wake up to the fact that 女の方が使える (onna no hō ga tsukaeru, women are more useful [than men]), with their 柔軟性 (jūnansei, flexibility), 我慢強さ (gaman-zuyosa, strong endurance levels) and general positive outlook on life.

But the downside to being a joshi nowadays is that the average Japanese male tends to respect them too much or take them too seriously, to think about dating them. Which is why キャバクラ (kyabakura, cabaret clubs) and other 風俗店 (fūzokuten, sex shops) will always be around — men go to these places to meet and get cozy with 女のこ (onnanoko, girls) who are deemed totally different creatures from the joshi. The onnanoko trade is only lucrative for a couple years however, as the life of a Japanese “girl” comes with an expiration date. As any AKB48 卒業生 (sotsugyōsei, graduate) will tell you, there comes a time in every girl’s life when she must dig out the joshi within her and face life with a new perspective.

Not to be outdone, a growing number of millennial males now prefer to describe themselves as 男子 (danshi, male individuals) instead of 男 (otoko, men), and are just as adept at pursuing personal happiness as the joshi. Like jyoshi, danshi have no truck with the traditional triple duties imposed on Japanese males: 就職 (shūshoku, job hunting) 結婚 (kekkon, marriage) and 出世 (shusse, getting ahead in life).

Many men have figured out by now that going through the daily grind can really take a toll on your mental and spiritual faculties. By the time a man has reached 定年 (teinen, retirement age), he may be too burnt out to enjoy it.

Can you blame the danshi for not wanting to take this path? A lot of them are reinventing themselves to avoid the fate of becoming a lonely Japanese おじさん (ojisan, middle-aged and older man) by becoming 料理男子 (ryōri-danshi, the guy who cooks), DIY 男子 (DIY-danshi, the guy who “does it himself”) or the guy known as 素敵男子 (suteki-danshi, imagine a younger Takuya Kimura).

I'd like to think that I'm a suteki-ryori-DIY danshi, because I hate being pigeon-holed...ha ha!

Have a great day!

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