The Kaji-Hara (Housework Harassment) Debates: The Gendering of Housework in Contemporary Japan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Japan’s gender gap in housework—the second largest in the OECD countries—has come sharp focus with its female employment on the rise. Why are women and men in Japan still struggling to share housework? This article examines this question, analysing relatively newly emerged representations of ‘kaji-hara’. The Japanese neologism ‘kaji-hara’—a shortened form of the phrase ‘housework harassment’—has garnered much public attention, since Japan’s leading home builder Asahi Kasei Homes Corporation (AKHC) launched its ‘Wives’ Housework Harassment’ campaign in 2014. The campaign conveyed a contentious message—that is, it is not husbands, but actually wives, who act as a bottleneck to gender equality in housework. This received a negative backlash, ultimately leading to the phenomenon of what I label here as the ‘kaji-hara debates’. Based upon analysis of AKHC’s campaign ads, its online survey results, literature and media coverage that inform the kaji-hara debates, this article shows the operation of the ‘gendering of housework’, by which housework is gendered and produces gender itself, thereby perpetuating the housework gender gap in the society. It argues that AKHC’s campaign constitutes the gendering of housework, as it represents, assumes and commercialises housework as ‘women’s primary responsibility’ while simultaneously promoting men’s domesticity.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJapan Forum
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2019

Keywords

  • unpaid domestic labour
  • housework allocation
  • Gender equality
  • dual-income households
  • family roles
  • social norms
  • media representation
  • Japan

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