A Japanese poll compiled for International Men’s Day on 19 November has reported widespread pressure on men ‘to behave in masculine ways.’
The survey was put together by Lean In Tokyo – an organisation that seeks to empower women.
However, the focus of this survey was to explore attitudes to male stereotypes and the challenges men face at work, school and home. The survey asked Japanese men if they ever felt like their lives were tsurai – a Japanese term meaning difficult or painful – as a result of long-held beliefs and expectations about how they should behave.
Half of the 309 men interviewed said they felt a pressure to act in ‘masculine’ ways, such as working full time until retirement and paying for meals on a date. They said these expectations made life difficult or inconvenient. 17% answered that they frequently felt life was hard as a result of being a man; a further 34% said they often felt that way.
While older men in their 50s and 60s expressed lower levels of feeling burdened, 20% of men in their 20s and 40s said they ‘frequently’ felt oppressed.
Asked which stereotype they found most unpleasant, blokes aged in their 20s and 30s called out ‘men should pay more money and take the lead on dates with women’.
Respondents aged in their 40s and 50s said, ‘men have to work full time until retirement’ was the most difficult stereotype.
Older men in their 60s struggled with the idea that they should take on manual labor tasks because they were male.
Both men in their 20s and those in their 60s expressed the pain of 'It’s thought to be shameful and embarrassing for a man to sound weak or talk openly about his worries.'
Kansai University gender studies professor Futoshi Taga said the study highlighted issues with the social system and entrenched views that men were socially and economically superior to women whether they liked it or not.
"Those who take parental leave can receive an allowance equivalent to up to 67 percent of their income before the leave," he said. "It is often considered preferable for women to take the leave because there is an income gap between men and women."
Over half of respondents in the survey said both parents should take leave to spend equal time on child care and housework.
Taga said International Men’s Day was a great opportunity for men to think about gender issues while the head of Lean In Tokyo, Risako Ninomiya, hoped the conversation would improve outcomes for both men and women.
"Discussing and making visible the difficulties faced by men will lead to a better society for women and other genders as well,” she said.
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