A simple act leads to a deep discussion on important cultural values within Japan vs. outside countries and traditional gender roles.
Who does the dishes in your household? Is it an expectation, or do they volunteer? Would they behave any differently at someone else’s house? As one Japanese net user found out, the answers to these questions may reveal more than they initially seem.
A little over a week ago, a single instance of doing something that was completely natural to her at an American friend’s party and the ensuing reaction prompted Twitter user @montserrat5 to post a series of four tweets in total on her thoughts about the experience. Japanese people from around the country have since chimed in with their opinions and observations as well, leading to a net-wide discussion on the subject.
Let’s take a look at the original tweet and scenario that sparked the debate:
“I went to a drinking party at my American male friend’s place. As it was wrapping up, I started doing the dishes. He rushed over to me and asked, ‘What are you doing?’ to which I answered, ‘Huh? Cleaning up…’ He continued while laughing, ‘You’re not someone who actually enjoys doing the dishes as a hobby, are you? If someone’s gonna do them then everyone needs to play rock-paper-scissors first,’ which caused me to stop. Somehow I was taken aback.”
It’s important to note for the purposes of this exchange that the writer of the post is a Japanese female, who later clarified that the party took place in Japan and the attendees were almost all non-Japanese people. She continued in a second tweet:
“Men view women naturally cleaning up after eating and drinking as completely normal. That idea is so deeply ingrained. If it were a party with Japanese people only, they would probably say, ‘It’s a woman’s job.’ But from the standpoint of my American friend who doesn’t harbor such an idea, I probably looked like a strange person to take over something bothersome even though I wasn’t asked to, so he got me to stop. Habits are scary…haha.”
Is she reading too much into this situation, or is she making a valid point? While it’s true that even individuals from the same country of origin and of the same gender have different notions on how to delegate household tasks, @monserrat5 further went on to share another intercultural anecdote:
“I have an American uncle. When he came to his Japanese relatives’ gathering, he got flustered when I tried to pour him some alcohol and said, ‘You don’t have to do that for me,’ and took the beer bottle. That was when I was in my twenties, and I think it was probably the moment when questions were born about exactly what things are ingrained inside of me regarding femininity.”
She finished the dialogue with one more summary tweet:
“This tweet is about my thoughts on those moments when I have questions such as ‘If I stop and think about it, what exactly does this mean?’ regarding the customs, culture, upbringing, manners, national characteristics, and the climate that I’ve been submerged in my whole life. After having those questions, there are various ideas about how to think moving forward, but the one thing I can say is that I can’t return to a time when I didn’t have any questions.”
▼ (NOT part of the discussion agenda: questions about interspecies dishwashing)
Japanese net users weighed in on her postings with mixed opinions:
“Every country has a different culture and manners. If there are people who are using this tweet to prove that Japan is a little behind the times, I think that’s not quite right.”
“In the case of my relatives’ house, it seems that in more cases than not the women are in charge of managing things inside the house. I have a feeling that it’s most common in Japan for men to be in charge of the house itself. In terms of my relatives, the women do the cleaning up in the kitchen while the men are delegated more manual labor tasks such as cleaning the barbecue grill, yard, and pond maintenance.”
“At private establishments in Japan (especially in the lower parts of town), when a man and women enter a restaurant together, the beer bottle, sake bottle, or cup is left on the woman’s side. There are even some older women who forcefully return a bottle moved near the drinking person back to the woman’s side while saying, ‘You’re not being thoughtful. You should pour it.’ It has nothing to do with culture or the like–I just wish somebody would kick out the older people who force young women to behave this way.”
“I would begin cleaning up any fallen trash, dirty tables, or used plates normally. Just leaving those things as they are is neither virtuous nor immoral. It’s just customary. I prefer the people in countries that take the self-initiative to tidy those things without worrying about differences in how others might view them rather than those from countries who would just let them sit there.”
Truth be told, as an American female, my immediate reaction to @montserrat5’s original anecdote was not related to traditional gender roles at all, as most of the other net users and she herself seemed to interpret it, but to the host vs. guest dynamic. If I were hosting a party at my place, I would never expect my guests to do the dishes for me. Furthermore, if one of them automatically began to clean, I would absolutely intervene just as the American male friend did in this case. From my own time in Japan, I have witnessed Japanese friends trying to stop me from cleaning up as well, so I’m not convinced that it’s necessarily a cultural difference, either. We’d be curious to hear from readers all over the world what your reactions to the tweet series were, and judging by @montserrat5’s interest in the topic, she’d be keen to hear your thoughts too!
Source: Twitter/@montserrat5 via My Games News Flash
Featured image: SoraNews24