In an earlier blog, I mentioned that I wanted to do some research on the issue of shame in Japan and why Japanese women were so reluctant to report domestic violence. This has been by far the most interesting aspect of the case study. Based on the discussions we have had in class regarding where one begins when trying to promote the rights of women, I came to the conclusion that it is the deeply rooted cultural traditions that are the most difficult to change and are often the primary source of perpetuating the problem. What’s more, they remain mainly unaffected by the legal and economic gains made by women. I knew that Japan was a patriarchal society, run by men with women having limited, if any power, but I wanted to know what it was in their culture that gave the men all of the power. Fortunately, I was able to find an article that gave a bit more information about the reasons why Japan is a patriarchal society and what the issue of shame has to do with the lives of both men and women in Japan. This is a more scientific approach towards looking at social and health ills (no pun intended), and one that I am more accustomed to based on my work in a neurobiology research lab.
Decisions Not to Report Sexual Assault: A Comparative Study Among Women Living in Japan Who Are Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and English-Speaking by John P. J. Dussich which was published in the International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 45(3), 20018.
Japan is a country dominated by male attitudes and decisions. Many of the male traditions existing in Japan today are feudal in origin. One of the time-honored practices that can be traced back to the early eras of Japanese history is that of female deference to males. This includes a significant amount of making allowances for male misbehaviors…(page 278).
I found the words “allowances for male misbehaviors” to be quite offensive to me personally. The author seems to be minimizing the impact of DV. Domestic violence is far more serious and far-reaching than simply calling it “misbehavior”. As we have discussed in class, just because a behavior is culturally acceptable, does not mean that it is right.
A highly regarded value in most East Asian cultures is accepting one’s plight in life; this is especially true in Japan. A well-known psychiatrist and victimologist, Akira Yamagami (1964), notes that the tendency not to complain and to endure with resignation in silence comes from meditative Buddhist teachings, which pervade Japan. He says that these qualities are often identified with the Buddhist path to liberation (p. 9). In The Teaching of Buddha, a book found in many Japanese hotel rooms alongside the Christian Bible, in the section called “The Way of Practice” (1966), it states that people would learn to be patient when abused and scorned (p. 230). It expresses that accepting victimization in silence is a virtue (page 279).
Silence is a virtue; or rather, silence is golden – how long have we heard that statement in our own culture?
A silence reinforced by the threat of personal and family shame and the risk of being shunned by neighbors and relatives. Rather than report a sexual assault and reveal that they were associated with such taboo behavior, many victims would rater suffer in silence or in some cases even commit suicide. Usually, not only do these victimizations not get reported to the police, but also they rarely get reported to even close friends or relatives (page 281).
Japan is a country with a culture deeply vested in the idea of harmony. Their world must be harmonious and they will do whatever is necessary to maintain that harmony even if it means suffering in silence and forcing themselves to endure hardships for the sake of harmony and to avoid shame. They desire to avoid shame on themselves (the victims) and shame on others (the perpetrators of DV as well as others). Well, shame on them for maintaining this idea for so long that it is acceptable for women to beat beaten into submission and controlled by fear by the man of the house. Thankfully, this is slowly starting to change with education and awareness of the fact that DV is a violation of one’s human rights.