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Date: June 12, 2012

Subject:  Cultural Views on Gender Roles

Different cultures have imposed different expectations among the women and men living in these cultures. It is the belief of many people that apart from biology, men and women have different functions and capacities. This is reflected in the various types of gender roles that an individual was familiarized to especially during the childhood stage of development. I have to admit that over the years, gender roles have been changing not only at home, but also in the workplace. Both young women and men are challenging the traditional gender roles. Besides, they are expectant that they will carry on co-existing in paid work as well as tending to the children and other household chores.

In China, gender difference is seemingly visual in the male/female aspects of the yin/yang Taoist symbol. Within this symbol is a dark swirl (which is termed to be passive) and represents the feminine yin while on the other hand, the light swirl represents the active and aggressive male yang. According to Taoism, the women were in a position to pursue spiritual fulfillment further than their family responsibilities. While some joined convents, others assembled together with their male counterparts in discussions of issues such as religion and philosophy. Only a few women became Taoist adherents. As can been drawn from the highest goddess of Ancient China, Hsi Huang Mu, as yin, the goddess was compassionate and promising immortality while as yang, she was a force bestowed with power of making disruptions in the interplanetary yin/yang harmony. Such spreading of fear that women were in a position of bringing about chaos which resultantly upset the existent cosmic harmony shunned women from aspiring to occupy the male dominated political leadership positions. Those who sailed through were condemned of going contrary to the laws of nature.

In both Japan and China, Buddhism availed some empowerment to the women in the society. Women attended nunneries, went on pilgrimages to Buddhist temples, led temple groups and at times gave lectures publicly. In contrast however, Confucianism grew to be the most ubiquitous dogma pushing for the belief on a lower place of the women in society. This saw the women being positioned at the considerably lower end of the male-controlled structure of the family. However, the influence of Shintoism in Japan lessened the very preliminary impact of Neo-Confucian on the lives of women. Women, within the provisions of Shintoism, held some power in the capacity of mikos. As the 19th century ended and the 20th century began, serious challenges to supposed gender beliefs were quite heated for both China and Japan. Specifically, liberation of women proved to be a motivating force; with the male nationalist arguing that bettering the women’s status was imperative to their acceptance by other countries which had advanced technologically. However, the conservative nationalists in both countries reacted against these mounting campaigns geared to changing gender roles. The female activists were regarded to be unfeminine, too western and unseemly.

It is my believe that the above outlines the shared grounds as well as the divergences that are evident as regards to gender roles in China and Japan.

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