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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How I Helped One Woman Understand Women's Rights

Yesterday I went out on a tremendous limb - something we have all learned is extremely dangerous and deadly the very first time someone crooned Rock-a-bye-Baby to us…

I bared a bit more of my soul yesterday… something I hate doing, but if I can use it to educate, then what the fug, eh?

I also heard the tree branch crack a little as I boldly stated that I would use the next few blogs to relate ways that I might have made a difference in Japan.


... now today… I have to prove I haven't bitten off more than I can chew.

I lived in Japan between July of 1990 and October of 1993. While many things in Japan have changed in the past 20 years, most social aspects of the country have not. They are bending… ever bending… but traditions both good and bad (depending on one's point of view) continue.

I may not have agreed with the way Japan was organized… but it was NEVER my place to tell them that they were wrong and we (foreigners) are right. Because… who the hell am I to say what's right and what's wrong?

All I can do is tell them how things are in MY country (Canada) when asked about it… and let them (the Japanese) form their own opinion.

Let me be clear: I never once forced up my opinion on anyone. Not even if it would have got me laid. 

Allow me to introduce Yukiko. It's not her real name. But… even though I never slept with her - and truthfully never really thought about it - Yukiko was a female Japanese friend and co-worker.

Yes... there were plenty of women in Japan that did not want to sleep with me or even I with them.

Yukiko worked at one of the junior high schools I taught at, as a Japanese Teacher of English (JTE)  - actually… she moved from one school to another… and that one school she moved from allowed my soon-to-be girlfriend Noboko to work in my city and to meet me.

So I guess I owe Yukiko…

Yukiko was tall and attractive, charming and witty, but right from the get-go she had a sarcastic sense of humor and took great joy in putting me down.

For some reason, people see me and believe they can take the mickey out of me. That I can take their sarcastic humor. I'm not sure why that is... and honestly, those people usually piss me off.  

But... because I was a stranger in a stranger land, I didn't want to piss of anyone... so I never showed the hurt… and eventually I gave back as good as I got… but I never ever used my sense of humor as a weapon… I've always said (for decades now), that me for anyone to engage in a battle of wits, t'would be like they were unarmed. In other words - I would slaughter them.

Possessing long, black, straight hair to her shoulder blades, I never detected any sort of shampoo scent on her... Yukiko had a somewhat flat face, and eyes that looked like a bad stereotype, in a constant position of being closed… though I bet they never actually were.

Although soft-spoken, her English language skills were impeccable… and, if she wasn't a woman, she and Noboko could have had a lingerie fight to see who possessed the greater skills to act as my translator at various official Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken functions back in 1990-1993… though my money is on Noboko, because we slept together without sleeping.

Yukiko was a hell of a good English teacher. The students seemed to respect her, and because - sarcasm aside - I showed respect to her… on more than one occasion saying that I thought she was correct over something I said earlier.

A man admitting he was wrong? To a woman? It happens all the time in western society. In fact… I don't know a married man who has ever been right. Divorced men - sure.

And yes... the way a foreigner acts or reacts to a teacher of English DOES make a difference to the students. Believe it.

Anyhow… Yukiko and I eventually became friends. She knew who I was dating - because she asked.

I always - ALWAYS - had a rule in Japan… if a Japanese person ever asked me a question in English, I would - no matter what - answer it. It had to revolve around me, of course…and I didn't care if it was personal, embarrassing or dirty.

So… yes… Yukiko knew I was dating Ashley, had broken up with Ashley, was still broken up with Ashley but still screwing Ashley, had started sleeping with a lot of other women (she knew even though I never told her - she never asked!), and was currently dating Noboko who was now working at Yukiko's former school.

I was always concerned that maybe the ascorbic Yukiko had a crush on me and was ready to pounce the moment I announced I was sex-free (never really was - and that's not the sort of announcement ANYONE makes to anyone), but I needed not have concerned myself… Yukiko HAD a boyfriend.

It's funny how that never came up in our conversations before… I had asked, and Yukiko had lied to me saying she was single.

How strange, I thought. Every person I met in Japan was so honest… or perhaps they were all lying and I was the only honest person in Japan.

Anyhow… Yukiko wanted to know what relationships were like outside of Japan between men and women.

Her questions ranged from what was dating like, to what dating relationships were like, to what marriage was like and even divorce.

This might sound like something I would have almost zero comprehension of… I had only really just started to have a relationship with a woman, and really, I had only dated maybe six women before arriving in Japan. I only knew about marriage from my parents, and next to nothing about divorce.

But… I'm not a stupid guy. I paid attention to the friends whose parents were divorced, or to those who were dating or in a serious relationship - and I observed married couples all the time… not for any reason that I can think of - just that I was and am a curious sort.

My father has always been the type of guy that people call when they need help… whether its been financial, emotional or physical (help me move or paint a wall)… my father, despite appearances, has always been a giving person. I've seen it and I've seen people take advantage of that. But he never complained. Ever.

He was always willing to stick his neck out there to help anyone who requested it - and that's something I have done as well.

There are a few people out there who have borrowed money from me - and truthfully… even though I could use it back right now, I don't expect it back. It was given because they needed it more than I, and I consider it water under the bridge that can be paid if and when people can or remember to do so.

But… Yukiko… what she was really asking about was what the role of a woman was like…

Again… I'm just a guy with little physical experience with women… but… I'm a smart guy with little physical experience with women who, before he arrived in Japan and became a male slut, was always THAT male friend women had that they never slept with BUT told them everything about their relationships with their men.

I have no idea when I became that gay male friend, but that's how I felt.

I used to read the letters to Penthouse magazine (an adult male magazine with sexy, naked photos), and devoured the letters and stories to Xavier Hollander in her Call Me Madam column in that magazine. Hell… I read everything I could in a porno magazine. Yes... I was the punchline in a joke because I actually read the articles.

Here's the thing… I knew it wasn't real life… and that it always seemed to be about the man getting off and the woman being the sperm bank… but I knew that in real life (thanks to being a male phag hag) that women wanted more.

I knew that while every single woman wanted to be treated as an equal socially (equal pay for equal work) they still enjoyed someone holding a door open for them or walking on the outside of the sidewalk with them (that's a holdover from the horse and carriage days when a carriage could splash mud up onto a person… with the woman being farther from the road, and the man closer to the road - the woman was better protected from the dangers of dirty horses).

And I was good with all that.

And I told her that while we in Canada (and subsequently the US)... that while we want to treat women with supreme respect, we don't always do that… but we do do it a damn side better than what the average Joe Suzuki does in Japan.

You'll notice I said the gaijin weren't perfect.

So… I gave Yukiko what sage advice that I could… and this already tough broad of a Japanese woman realized that being a woman in Japan could mean eternal subservience to men… and she did not like it.

Now… I wasn't trying to stir up a sexual or cultural revolution, but I didn't mind pointing out some of the benefits some countries have over others when it comes to sexual equality.

And that's what I did.

I proved my point when at a school... I would frequently help the female teachers prepare the o-cha (green tea) for the men… which confused the HELL out of the male teachers… because I was destroying their way of life… and, you should have seen the tittering from the women when I told them to sit down and served them.

I served them BEFORE the men… and used simple enough English to explain things to everyone: Ladies first.

Holy crap… you'd have thought it was the end of the world! The women ALL understood what I said, and the men - you could hear the word "Nani?" (what?) echoing through their brain as they realized that a stupid gaijin was ruining Japanese society.

Not true...

I wasn't ruining Japanese society or changing. It was an exchange of knowledge. That's all...showing them Canadian manners.

Despite what the JET (the Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme would have you believe - it's NOT really about teaching English to elementary, junior high or senior high kids.

What's the exchange part? What is Japan getting out of us being in Japan? Do they get to send people to our country to learn Japanese? No.

It's a cultural exchange program - where we teach each other things about our different cultures.

Hell's bells! I learned a lot of about the cultures of other people living in Japan who weren't Japanese! About different religions… social and income brackets… I could go on.

So… while Yukiko listened to how the role of the woman was in Canada (and by some association, the US of A), I learned what the role of the woman was in Japan…
I also learned from the female JETs what the expected role of a foreign woman was in Japan… and what their roles were back in their countries…

Yukiko liked what she heard about being a woman outside of Japan… she already had a pretty good idea after having spent a year living in Australia… but she had it confirmed and extended.

Nowadays in 2013 Japan… women are still subservient to men. They still make less than their male counterpart for performing the same duties (and more!)… but nowadays Japanese women seem to have a better understanding of things and are executing shifts in the culture…

I'm not sure if there's going to be a Japanese Gloria Steinem and a couple of years of bra burning in Japan… because there are still far too many women who are embracing being cute rather than brilliant, but there will be a cultural revolution one day… of course… before that happens in Japan, it should probably fully happen in Canada and the U.S.

Anyhow… I didn't mean for this to come across as Andrew Joseph saves women everywhere… because I sure as hell didn't. But I know Yukiko appreciated our talks.

Andrew Joseph
PS: If you are disappointed because I didn't discuss specifics about Japanese women's rights or what exactly I told Yukiko - don't be. That's not the point. The point is about how the foreigner in Japan can effect change without being a complete dick about it. 

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