Can New Concept of Father Change Gender? | Ikuman and Masculinity in Japan

Thursday, 14 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Mariko TATSUMI, Osaka Prefecture University, Japan
Ikuman is the contemporary Japanese concept of father who would like to actively take care of their children. Childcare has been seen as a part of women’s gender role. Can Ikuman change gender order?

In the 20th century, especially after the economic growth period, most Japanese fathers were not at home; they worked for long hours as Salaryman. Salaryman are protected by career-long employment and a seniority system, and take on the role of the breadwinner leaving domestic duties to their wives.

Salaryman who only works and does not care for their families is the hegemonic masculinity in Japan. Salaryman was father who took on the role of the breadwinner, but not parenting. Starting in the 21st century, Japanese government policies and media began to encourage fathers to adopt the concept of Ikuman due to falling birth rates.

Japanese parenting magazines contain three images of fathers: “the breadwinner,” “men not good at caring for children,” “men taking care of children.” The last father exemplifies Ikuman, and he cares for his children differently from his wife due to the Salaryman masculinity. Then, fathers can become Ikuman and mold their parenting styles to fit Salaryman masculinity. Ikuman possess Salaryman masculinity, and is the different parent from mothers. However, childcare is the important care for inevitable dependency relationships, regardless of gender. There is a paradox that the more Ikuman takes care of his children, the more he enhances notions of gender. However, we cannot recognize that paradox  in the magazines because nobody asks what constitutes fathers’ parenting styles, especially regarding the difference from mothers’.

We recognize that an image of men taking on women’s traditional role can change notions of gender. However, if the concept of father has some paradox about notions of gender, it would not be able to change gender order.