With rapid social changes post WWII, women in Japan have become more active outside the domestic environment. This leads to several policy and attitude changes within the society. This, however, is not to say Japan is now a society in which men and women are equal.
Japan ranks 104th out of 142 assessed countries in 2014 on the ranking of gender equality in the developed world, according to a study released by the World Economic Forum.1
The Japanese government has been making active policy changes to deal with gender discrimination. Some of these active measures manifested as progressive feminist-themed TV dramas in recent years, that deal with issues ranging from sexual harassment in the workplace to misogyny on a daily basis.
I could go on and on about how great these shows are, but today I want to focus on something else, a term called misandry.
Misandry is a term that appears less frequent comparing to its counterpart, misogyny. I came across this term when I was researching on the portrayal of women in Japanese TV dramas for my thesis. Chiebukuro is the name for Yahoo Answers in Japan, a site where users can ask questions and others answer – a quick source for public opinion. One thread asks the question, “why there are so many female-oriented TV dramas these days?” Two top answers write, “because Japan is a society that hates men” and “feminism is just misandry.”2
After some further research, it seems that many Japanese netizens (net citizens) draw an equal sign between feminism and misandry. I was not surprised by this finding since similar circumstances exist in the U.S. as well. For instance, Shailene Woodley, who often plays strong female roles one the big screen, shared with TIME in 2015 that she is not a feminist because she loves men.3 I was, however, amazed by the Wikipedia page on misandry I discovered by accident.
It is necessary to clarify that there is a Wikipedia page on the term “misandry” available in 29 different languages including Japanese. When you click on the Japanese option, the link takes you to a new page with three sentences about the basic explanation of the term. What’s interesting is the first linked item in the “See Also” section. This page is titled Dansei Sabetsu, which can be translated as “discrimination against men.”
There are two interesting things about this page. First is that it is only available in two languages, Korean and Japanese. Second is that it comprises a considerably larger quantity of content compares to the page on Josei Sabetsu, which translates as “discrimination against women.”
The male discrimination page features examples on how men have been mistreated and how male issues have been overlooked. Some issues on this page are laughable. For example, the page lists the quota system for women in politics as an act of discrimination against men. Some issues are serious – such as male rape victims are not protected by the law.
This page made me think, is misandry a real social problem in Japan or just a sign of fragile male pride?
There are a lot of social and financial incentives for women in Japan to become active members of society.
Some like the quota system are great for encouraging women to become more politically engaged, though female politicians are often attacked more frequently compared to their male counterparts. Others like the female-only train to prevent sexual harassment are more like temporary solutions and at the same time generated unintended consequences such as outcry from men due to the rising number of mistrials for sexual harassment. It seems that whenever a feminist policy is introduced in Japan, some men will cry for “fairness.”
I have no idea on what policy specifically lead men in Japan to feel they are discriminated, but I can see how some Japanese men see themselves as members of the new silenced group. With policies solely focus on mending the wrongs done to women, policymakers failed to see that men are also victims of traditional expectations of gender roles. Expecting women to be “womanly” is equally toxic as expecting men to be “manly.” Many issues listed in the Dansei Sabetsu page such as laws that prevent male nurse to get certified to deliver babies and policies that disqualify single father for monetary aid are just as sexist as laws that prohibit women from voting. The assumption that men cannot do women’s job is still a form of misogyny. If a society truly aims to push gender equality, it must reevaluate the meaning of femininity and masculinity.
In a lot of ways, feminism does not mean misandry, in fact, it is the best remedy for it.
 “Japan Remains near Bottom of Gender Gap Ranking.” The Japan Times Online, October 29, 2014. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/10/29/national/japan-remains-near-bottom-of-gender-gap-ranking/.
 See the Yahoo Answers page in Japanese here: http://detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1151854166
 Dockterman, Eliana. “Shailene Woodley On Why She’s Not A Feminist.” Time, May 5, 2014. http://time.com/87967/shailene-woodley-feminism-fault-in-our-stars/.