Saturday, November 19, 2011

It's A Guy Thing

So last night I watched a Japanese special on why women lie about their age at dating events (dating sites, speed dating etc.) in Japan. (At least as far as I could gather it was about that) and they actually demonstrated one of the 'meeting parties' that I guess are like speed dating, with 4 guys and 4 girls.

I'm not sure how staged the segment was, but basically they had 4 japanese guys eat dinner and have some drinks in a private dining room with 4 Japanese girls. The men were aged 22~32 or something, and the women were 22, 36, 36 and 49 respectively.

After some chitchat the women leave and the men are asked who they are interested in. 3 out of 4 picked the 49 year old woman. Then the women come in one by one and reveal their ages on a card. The men's reaction to the 49 year old reveal, was, palpable.

At this stage I was thinking, that it was kind of cruel to the female participants in this experiment. Then there was a bit more mixing, and then the men were asked who they were interested in now. All 4 picked the 22 year old.

Then the experiment was repeated with foreigners, aka whities. Who speak japanese, replacing the Japanes men. Ages ranged from 22 to 34 or something again.

I remarked to my host mother that the guys were all ugly. I will elaborate on this later. Here's the thing though.

When the Japanese guys were dining with the japanese women, they had this unfortunately L-shaped table. The men all sat together on one arm, and the women on the other of the 'L' meaning only one guy sat next to a girl, and two were distinctly seperated.

The whitey's instantly had the group sitting one girl one guy alternating. All the foreigners were clearly fluentish in Japanese and even from that snippet, you could see conversation flowed more easily.

The experimented proceeded the same way, the ladies leave, the guys cast their vote. The foreigners votes were all over the place.

Then they did the age reveal, and then more intermingling. In the first run through the Japanese guys basically socially cast aside the eldest woman, and one made some comment comparing her to his mother.

The foreigners just proceeded as business as usual. Except (and here's where you don't know how staged it was) they showed an increased interest in the eldest woman, the 49 year old. Then afterwards, the men cast their votes and 3 out of 4 voted for the 49 year old.

End story. Now originally I had thought the experiment cruel to the elder women participants. In hindsight it was cruel to the Japanese men.

Whenever I come to Japan I am inevitably asked specifically if 'I will marry a Japanese girl'. and then, less directly what I think of Japanese women, or am told that Japanese women are 'yasashi' literally 'easy' but the cultural nuance here is more in line with 'easy going/gentle' and this is infact precicely my problem with Japanese women, as far as any women or cultures can be generalised.

The issue being that the social contract here is still very much Stepford wives. The men here still work in the office of Madmen, perhaps with smoking now increasingly disallowed.

The marriage contract remains, man provides income, women presumably provide housekeeping, cooking and childrearing services in return. Except women here watch friends and Sex & the City and expect more. But there is no 'womens movement' as such.

What played out in this tv special, staged or not, was women voting with their feet. Japan has been described as 'homo-social' and weekends aside it is true. The city is populated by Women hanging out with women and elderly couples (and me).

The men and women are out of touch, that special illustrated that it is the Japanese man's problem.

I have been culturally conditioned, and otherwise self conditioned to like 'tough-vajajay' women, not ones that exemplify male priveledge as the 'yasashi' Japanese women do. And Japanese men are the big winners of male priveledge, except... except they really aren't competitive anymore.

Again generalising the Japanese men on the program out to the population at large, this is what they have going for them over pretty much any foreigner:

- cultural identity.

And that's it. Now recall I mentioned the foreigners were ugly, I must confess. As I did to my friend Nick shortly before leaving for Japan, that whenever I say a white guy with an Asian/Japanese girlfriend I usually think less of both of them. The man for being a misogenist after the yasashi-japanese girlfriend, and the woman for not having the sense to do better for herself. When I dated a japanese girl, I became highly conscious that other people were probably having this exact reaction to me when we held hands down the street.

The thing is those ugly foreigners, and pretty much everyone I have seen with a Japanese girl on or off camera has this going for them over the Japanese men:

- conversation skills.
- social awareness.
- empathy.
- tact.
- generosity.
- interests.
- travel experience.
- confidence.
- independence.
- kindness.
- body language.
- forethought.
- compassion.

And by that last one I don't even mean that they were nice to say they were interested in the 49 year old, but that they made an effort to rotate around and include everyone, and sit in alternating manners.

Even if the outcome was staged, it also reveals that the white men had the presence of mind to lie on national television and look much much better than the honestly superficial Japanese participants.

If you even on an instinctual level know that kindness is attractive to people (male or female) then appearing on national television as a guy that appreciates wisdom over beauty is going to pay off, off screen by impressing your colleagues and friends watching the show.

The fact this doesn't occur to the men, who answered at face value indicates how divided society must be here, staged or not, the experiment would indicate that the men participating don't socialise with women anywhere.

The problem and the cruelty is all on the men. Japanese men, in the dating game are becoming obsolete, like the Sony Walkman, they need to Wiinvent themselves and quickly. But alas, by and large the culture that stifles them in the dating game also deprives them of time and opportunity.

The workplace still expects them to leave home at 6am and get home at 8pm and work 6 days a week. The office is still male dominated here, the only thing dissappearing are the 'OL' or office-ladies, previously shipped into the workforce to serve tea and basically give workers the opportunity to meet a potential marriage partner.

None of this is new, and there are far better researched and far less partial accounts than I could give, try 'Shutting Out the Sun' for a good overview.

I just saw it played out for me, on screen, in a special that was probably closer to reality than most reality tv.

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