Masculinities of Child-Caring Men “Ikumen”: An Analysis of the Father Figures in Japanese Government Project

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Mariko TATSUMI, Osaka Prefecture University, Japan
This study unveils masculinities of child-caring men “Ikumen” in contemporary Japan.
Salarymen masculinity is the hegemonic masculinity since around 1955 (the economic growth period). Salarymen take the breadwinner role leaving domestic duties to their wives. That is, Salarymen are the person who only work in their companies and do not care for their families.
In contrast, fathering has become quite popular in Japan as shown by Ikumen phenomenon. The Ikumen Project started in 2010 as a Japanese government project. It was aimed to increase the rate of fathers taking child care leaves, and was expected to be able to change gender expectations. This study examines Ikumen figures shown in the posters used by this project from 2010 to 2015.
In these posters, fathers are seen taking care of their children, however, they seem to give priority to work as Salarymen over child-caring, and their child-caring appears different from that of their wives. For example, the 2014 poster contains a picture of only a shirt collar and necktie which is the symbol of Salarymen, but no children, and a sentence stating “The working father is cool, but the father can both work and child-caring is cooler.” It ends up recommending fathers’ child-caring but states that their work is the first priority.
In summary, Ikumen are the father figures who work long hours and cannot take care of their children like their wives. They seem to use child-caring for building their careers, because Ikumen Project appeals to companies to increase fathers taking childcare leaves. However, fathers childcare leave is meant for children but not for fathers’ work.
Thus, it may be difficult for Ikumen to change gender expectations in Japan which keeps inequalities between married men and women. We need a multiple role models for fathers other than Ikumen.