Gender, Family, and New Styles of Fatherhood: Modernization and Globalization in Japan
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractIkumen, meaning fathers with small children who are--or look like they are--actively involved in childrearing are a new phenomenon in contemporary Japan, despite the prevalent images of patriarchic and absent fatherhood. But why and how did yesterday's notorious company soldiers turn into today's ikumen? This dissertation interrogates this supposedly drastic shift in the view and the conduct of fatherhood as a cultural practice on historical, political economic, and linguistic grounds. Drawing on fieldwork, mass media, and historical analysis, I explore how new styles of fatherhood have been constructed and how they embody broader social issues of gender, class, and modernity and globalization. Gender roles in the modern family since the late nineteenth century have been strained, and ikumen will allegedly liberate both men and women to achieve the ideal of "work-life balance" in a "gender-equal society." Examination of various genres of language, from metapragmatic comments to the advertising of nursery items, however, suggests that the ideology of gender roles is naturalized and "male features" are appropriated to lead men into the "female" sphere of the home. I argue that this discourse represents the heteroglossic nature of language, and that our speech, influenced by accustomed thoughts, paradoxically strengthens that discourse despite our intentions. Ikumen are not only connected to concerns about gender, but also are predicated on Japan's historical and ongoing fantasy of modernity and globalization. From the label ikumen, to state and local campaigns for male participation in childcare, to the use of terms of address for parents, the idealized West and its monolithic images of stylish and active fatherhood and romantic couplehood are covertly exploited. As a whole, the ikumen movement ends up creating an "imagined community," in which "globalism" is believed to help one obtain a more authentic and global "self" through childrearing. I argue that the ikumen movement presents the perpetual but concealed power hierarchy of modernity, and that Japan and Japanese people docilely appropriate this historical truth, institutionalizing the counterhegemony as the new hegemony and as a form of cultural capital in the context of a disturbingly low birthrate and a sluggish economy.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
East Asian Studies