Landing : Athabascau University

Feminism for a new decade

I'm finally back from my holiday internet hiatus, and I spent some time today browsing my favorite blogs. The one post that really struck me was the one by Grant McCracken talking about feminism in Japan. The whole post is at:


In the post, McCracken talks about how the Japanese birthrate is at less than 2 children per woman, and dropping, not because of a "one child" policy like China, but because more and more women are not marrying and having children, or not doing so until much later in life. A couple of "eminent" and very male scholars have apparently decided that the main cause of this issue in Japan, is that young Japanese women are being selfish.


Because of course, it has nothing to do with the fact that being a wife and mother is an all-consuming occupation in Japan, which is still a deeply patriarchal society with little opportunity for careers for women and those opportunities that are available are only accessible for single, childless women. It has nothing to do with the fact that Japanese men still take their role as the centre of the lives of their wives, mothers and daughters completely for granted, and it cannot possibly be because refusing to get married and have children is the only way a young woman can opt out, even a little bit, of the patriarchal box women are shoved into.


It couldn't possibly be that. Because Japanese young women are simply being selfish. So sayeth the Japanese male scholars.


Ok, yes, it got under my skin. More than a little bit.


On a completely different topic, tomorrow is my first day of teaching at the Yellowhead Tribal College, a First Nations College here in Edmonton. I'm teaching Math 10 and 20 for their high school upgrading program (a woman math teacher? gasp!). I'm a bit jittery about it, because I've never taught formally like this before (though I've taught informally and in articles and speeches plenty), so this will be an adventure. So I expect many of my future blog posts will have to do with teaching in general, and math (and science?) teaching in particular.


So cheers to a New Year and new adventures.


  • An anecdote: I took my Galpal to a very traditional and conservative xmas party over the holidays. Our feminisms aren't exactly separatist - we do know and love quite a few men - but they're definitely a bit insular: we know and love only Good Feminist Men. It is a myopic view of our own culture that allowed us to be completely stunned, when we were playing a party game (each guest had trivia about another guest hidden under their plate, and had to guess who it was about), and the fellow who received a fact about the ludicrously overlong name of Galpal's degree asked every man at the table if he had a masters degree, then looked at our host and said "I don't know who it could be." Our jaws hit the floor a second time, after dinner, when all the men handed their dirty plates to their female partners and retired to the living room, and nobody said a word because it was just normal.

    I feel like feminism is always playing catch-up. We leap out of one patriarchal box, where gendered oppression is normal and natural, and into another one - often also racialized and divided by colonization and class war - where it's somebody else's daily collective struggle, not our own. Feminism for a new decade is a beautiful idea; I'd love to find that feeling that we're acting in the present and actually determining a few realities of our own.

    That said, young women in Japan dropping out of the heterosexual agenda = fabulous, good for them!! 

    sarah beth January 3, 2011 - 3:41pm

  • Hi Sarah,


    That is fairly just didn't occur to them that a woman might have a graduate degree? Where have they been for the last few decades?


    But with that said, the last statistics that I saw was that women have outnumbered men in earning undergraduate degrees for about ten years now - about three years ago the split was about 55-45 in favor of women and rising. But the number of women earning graduate degrees was still significantly lower than that of men, with fewer than 40% of graduate degrees going to women each year, if I recall correctly.


    Since graduate degrees have a fairly tight link to higher earning power and higher social power, women in general have a way to go. Especially since I've also heard stats saying that women are much more likely to drop out of a graduate program than men, because other life demands (such as much higher expectations for caregiving of children and elderly parents) take too much time and they can't get the school work done.


    I'm also not sure whether to laugh or cry when I see Sarah Palin, a "career" woman, promoting a party and platform that says that a proper woman's role is at home, with her life centered around her husband and children. If the women involved with the Tea Party in the US aren't an example of the oppressed internalizing the oppressor and oppressing themselves, I don't know what is.


    I wouldn't say that young women in Japan are opting out of the heterosexual agenda so much as the patriarchal agenda, but yes, I'm cheering them on, too. I wonder how long it will be before the patriarchs actually notice what they're doing and why...

    Heather von Stackelberg January 4, 2011 - 4:31pm

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