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Gender Role development in Japanese culture

Gender stereotypes are products of cultures. The idea of cultural difference in gender roles has been supported by numerous studies (Basow, 1984; Chia, Moore, Lam, Chuang, & Cheng, 1994; Lara-Cantu & Navarro-Arias, 1987; Moore, 1999; Novakovic & Kidd, 1988; Ward & Sethi, 1986; Williams, Satterwhite, & Best, 1999). For example, a study of the Personal Attitudes Questionnaire (PAQ; Spence & Helmreich 1978) with Fiji high school and college students (Basow, 1984) showed a small percentage of gender-typed individuals and a minimal difference in gender-typing patterns between the sexes. Similar findings were reported in a study done in Yugoslavia in which a high percentage of the undifferentiated types were found among university students (Novakovic & Kidd, 1988).

Gender stereotypes change over the years along with societal changes. Studies of occupational choices by boys and girls have demonstrated that boys selected a greater variety of occupations than did girls in the beginning of the 1970s. Popular occupations for girls in the 1970s were teaching and nursing, whereas boys selected a wide variety of occupations (Looft, 1971; Siegel, 1973). A shift slowly occurred in the late 1970s and 1980s. By then, there was no difference between boys and girls on number of occupations selected (Kriedberg, Butcher, & White, 1978; MacKay & Miller, 1982; O'Keefe & Hyde, 1983). In the 1990s, researchers reported a reversal of the original situation, with girls selecting more occupations than did boys (Phipps, 1995; Trice, Hughes, Odom, Woods, & McClellan, 1995). Changes in occupational choices of girls and boys over the years clearly reflect societal changes as well as changes in gender stereotypes in the American society.

Numerous researchers have investigated gender stereotypes cross-culturally (Chia, Moore, Lam, Chuang, & Cheng, 1994; Lara-Cantu & NavarroArias, 1987; Lobel, Slone, & Winch, 1997; Ward & Sethi, 1986). A limitation of previous studies lay in the scale used to examine gender stereotypes in cultures. A majority of previous cross-cultural studies have used Western-developed scales to measure gender roles in different cultures. Validation of the scales often found limitations of the measures with regard to investigating gender stereotypes in different cultures. In a study of the Bern Sex Role Inventory (BSRI; Bem, 1974) and some other items in Mexico Lara-Cantu and Navarro-Arias (1987) found that limited BSRI items (8 masculine items and 10 feminine items) were significantly endorsed and that additional items were also significantly endorsed, such as mature, rude, lazy, and arrogant as masculine (by men) and spiritual, generous, religious, and hesitant as feminine (by women). Studies conducted in Japan also showed some limitations of Western measures. Sugihara and Katsurada (1999, 2000) found limitations to the use of the BSRI items in the measurement of gender roles in Japan. Only 12 masculine and 7 feminine items were endorsed as gender stereotypes in Japanese people. Men scored significantly higher than women on the Masculinity scale, but there was no significant difference between men and women on the Femininity scale. The findings also showed that both men and women scored slightly higher on the Femininity scale than on the Masculinity scale. Williams and Best (1990a), in their cross-cultural study of gender stereotypes, indicated that Japanese favored masculine stereotypes over feminine stereotypes more than did people in the other 24 countries that they included in their study. They also found that Japanese people saw masculine stereotypes as less active than did people in other countries and that masculine stereotypes were associated with critical parent roles in Japan, whereas they were associated with nurturi ng parent roles in other nations. In their cross-cultural study of gender role orientations and gender stereotypes, Williams and Best (1990b) showed that the scores on gender role orientation were negatively correlated with the scores on gender stereotypes among Japanese men, whereas the correlation was positive among Japanese women, although neither correlation reached significance, which indicated that there was little relationship between gender role orientations and gender role ideology among Japanese. Despite intriguing findings such as these, further investigation has not followed to examine the nature of differences in gender stereotypes or gender-related personalities in cultures. In order to begin to fill this gap, we attempted to examine the culturally specific gender stereotypes in Japanese culture.

Gender Role Development in Japanese Culture

As a relatively remote island country in Asia, Japan has been well protected from outside invasions. Although its history includes some internal wars, people in Japan have generally maintained and enjoyed a peaceful country for over 2,000 years.

Confucianism has had a great influence in Japan's developmental history and on Japanese people's lives. The Confucian ethical system emphasizes a harmonious society in which a hierarchical structure is maintained. It teaches people loyalty, piety, and respect for superiors and authorities; it also emphasizes internal strength such as integrity, righteousness, and warm heartedness. Moreover, Confucianism stresses a hierarchical societal structure, which assumes subordinates' obedience to superiors and men's dominance over women and children. In the process of adopting a Chinese-style legal and political structure based on Confucian ethics, Japan, although it was originally more egalitarian in nature, developed a strongly patriarchal society; patriarchal and Confucian values were strengthened in the feudal system in later years (Reischauer & Craig, 1973).

Ethics in feudal Japan differed significantly from those in feudal Europe. Loyalty in Europe was seen as a contract in a legal and governmental system, whereas loyalty in China and Japan was seen as ethical conduct. Moreover, women in European feudalism were seen as weak and powerless figures who needed protection (Reischauer & Craig, 1973). Women in Japan, although they were subordinate to men, had a right to inherit property and position from their families and were expected to show the same bravery and loyalty as men. Japanese men, even in the warrior era, were expected to be accomplished in literature and the arts (Otake, 1977). Thus, gender expectations in Japan were not as distinct as they were in Western cultures.

In modern Japan, values such as harmony, solidarity, and loyalty have been stressed and encouraged in the process of transforming old Japan to a modern technological country. More and more people, particularly men, became wage earners as the economy developed and the gender division of labor became strict and apparent; men spent more time working outside the home, and women stayed at home to take care of children and household chores (Otake, 1977). Confucian ethics were, thus, transferred and adapted in work settings to achieve high economical prosperity. Companies adapted a life-long employment system, and loyalty and dedication to the company were assumed. Group responsibility and decision making by group consensus were unwritten rules. Meanwhile, women assumed total responsibility for housework and children at home. Women had decision-making power as well as a control of money at home, so that men could be freed from household matters and could be devoted to their work.

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