Unmarried Women in Japan

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Akiko YOSHIDA, University of Wisconsin - Whitewater, USA
  1. Name and affiliation of the author: Akiko Yoshida, University of Wisconsin – Whitewater
  2. Book title: Unmarried Women in Japan: The Drift into Singlehood
  3. Publication date: 2017
  4. Publisher: Routledge
  5. This book, based on my qualitative interview research, attempts to identify the cause of increased singlehood among women in Japan. Increased singlehood is often explained theoretically from a “developmental” perspective, which interprets it as a reflection of women’s empowerment (e.g., economic independence, resistance to traditional marriage). My research, however, finds that many women in Japan were unable to form intimate relationships and drifted into singlehood against their wishes. The fundamental cause of this drift is persistent gender inequality embedded in social structure and culture. Further, far from being empowered, women are stigmatized and economically disadvantaged for remaining unmarried. As single populations continue to surge in other patriarchal countries in Asia and other areas, it is important to critically examine this phenomenon, as well as the current sociological paradigm on singlehood, from feminist perspectives. Additionally, the developmental paradigm, which comes from Western scholarship, often excludes Japan in its theorization, treating it as an “exception.” Voices of women from non-Western societies – doubly-subordinated groups – need to be heard and considered.
  6. As stated above, increased singlehood is a world-wide phenomenon that cannot be explained away simply by pointing to economic development and women’s empowerment. It is also a relatively understudied area, and my research is limited only to women in an urban area of Japan. Further research that investigates other regions and countries is highly desired. This book provides a good starting point for promoting dialogues on singlehood phenomena across the globe. Inclusion of this book in the session should help connect researchers and encourage collaboration internationally, improve our understanding and theorization, and elevate our awareness of gender inequality and women’s rights.