Heterosexism and Women's Situations

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

Ayako HATTORI



Part 1

What is heterosexuality for women in Japan?


Are you a heterosexual woman?
Do you choose your heterosexuality?

You may know that heterosexism is the ideology that only heterosexuality is good, normal and absolute, and other forms of sexuality are bad, abnormal and impossible. Then what is heterosexuality?
If I asked a woman on the street in Japan, "Are you a heterosexual woman?" perhaps she wouldn't understand what I mean. Because she doesn't know the word "heterosexual". If she likes men sexually, it is too ordinal for her to need name for it.
And if I explained her the word "heterosexual" and asked her, "Do you choose your heterosexuality?" again, perhaps she couldn't understand what I'd be asking. Because it is too ordinary for her to choose.
Of course sexuality is constructed socially. So we can make and choose and change our sexuality in our lives. But in Japan heterosexuality is so natural, ordinal and common that heterosexual people don't need an identity and the word "heterosexuality".
Then why they think so?


The system compelled socially, economically and not consciously

Through our lives, we have gotten many messages from our society to compel us into heterosexuality. Of course we can see some Lesbians and gay men on TV shows or movies from the USA. But most of Japanese media say such a lifestyle is the only good one for us. Young man and woman love each other, they are married at the right age, they make two children, and they live together to the end of their lives. Of course recently many women and men aren't married or don't have any children in Japan. But the ideology and system that compels heterosexuality are not broken yet.
For example in comics for girls (Japanese shojo-manga), the heroines often still say, "My dream is to be someone's new bride", and many girls like and buy them. In the comics the heroines dream of a husband who is strong, gentle and good at cooking and cleaning.
But in women's real lives, they can't get such good husbands. Most wives in Japan have to do almost every household chore, have part time jobs at low wages and take care of children, and their husbands don't help at all. To get women to join such a bad marriage system of their own accords, media needs to embellish it as "love" and cover compulsion.
Then what happen if women refuse marriage? It is difficult because Japanese social and economic systems compel women to marry. It is still difficult for women to get good jobs and wages. And not-married women are bothered by every neighbor, relative and co-worker. They think not-married women are strange and unhappy, so they often asked them "Why aren't you married?" or "Aren't you interested in having your family?" and persuade them to be married.
In Japan marriage and heterosexuality compelled and embellished together are supposed to be common women's lifestyle.


Internalized orientation to men

In Japanese we translate the word "heterosexuality" into "i-sei-ai" (different-sex-love) and "homosexuality" into "do-sei-ai" (same-sex-love). But English word "sexuality" doesn't include the word "love". Of course sexual love is important part of sexuality, but Japanese words "i-sei-ai" and "do-sei-ai" embellish reality of sexuality. And I think most heterosexuality in Japan is compulsory. It is not love. So we should translate the word "heterosexuality" into not "i-sei-ai" but "i-sei-sikou" (different-sex-orientation) into Japanese.
For women "another sex" is men, so for women "i-sei-sikou" is "dansei-sikou" (men-orientation). But because of sexism, it is not just orientation to men, but also orientation to men's power. I think it is a big problem for women.
Recently in Japan, on TV and newspapers some men talk about women's issues. Some of their opinions are good, but others are so bad for women. But some heterosexual feminists like all of them without considering their opinions. I know minority or people oppressed socially often welcome and worship majority or oppressor, because of expectance of interest and help from majority or oppressor. But for women in Japan, heterosexuality and men worship join together.
I sometimes see some men talk about women's issues on stage, and many heterosexual women are fascinated by them. I think it is one kind of women's heterosexuality in Japan. Their heterosexual love includes men worship. They accept men's power so they like men. I think that their orientation to men and men's power affirms sexism around them without consciousness.


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