From women-only seats in libraries to female-only university cafes, it would seem that women get a lot of preferential treatment in Japan. Whether it be a restaurant with “ladies’ courses” on the menu or cinemas offering “ladies’ day” discounts, it is difficult to ignore the abundance of cheap deals or special services on offer to women. On the one hand, it all serves to help the struggling Japanese economy, but a lot of men can’t help but feel that they’re being a little discriminated against.
One man comments on how the exclusive women-only seating system in some public libraries can be a real inconvenience:
“It began to rain quite hard so I thought I’d seek refuge in my local library. Everyone had the same idea, so the inside was quite crowded. Just when I thought I’d found a seat, I was told by the librarian that it was for women only. As a result, I was made to stand for a good half hour. I’m really not satisfied with the situation.” (Office worker, 34)
In Taito City Library in Tokyo there is a place to relax and read the latest daily newspapers. However, of the 50 seats available, 10 of them are reserved for women only. Hoping to shed some light on the situation, the manager of the library commented,
“Many of our female customers complained that the men were taking all the seats or that even if a seat were available, the gaze from the men was off-putting.”
It doesn’t stop here. At one coeducational university in Saitama Prefecture, there’s also a female-exclusive cafe. The first floor can be used by either sex, however the second is strictly for female patrons only.
“The second floor isn’t only a cafe but also kind of like a makeup room. There are three full-length mirrors as well five mirrors located on the counters. Compared to the first floor, it is far more luxurious,” commented a member of the public relations department for the same university.
The university asserts that it is entirely co-educational, but the recent introduction of a human society department and courses has resulted in a sudden and welcome increase in the number of female students.
“We wanted to create a space where women can relax. Providing such facilities also provides an incentive for female students to enroll in the university,” comments the same department.
Well, if that’s the case, are there male-only areas as well? According to lawyer Yukata Iwaki, there could be a constitutional problem in giving favor to one sex over another:
“Creating women-only areas actually carries a high risk of breaching the laws of equality. Installing a male-only area would offset this but it really is best to think carefully when it comes to gender exclusivity and public places.”
Japan’s train service is well known for its women-only carriages, where during the morning rush hour only women are allowed on board. The introduction of such measures is proven to be effective in combating sexual harassment or molestation, however some men can’t help but find it to be inconvenient and, to be honest, a little unfair that they should be bunched in with the small percentage of males who can’t keep their hands to themselves.
What do you think about this rather delicate issue? Should men-only spaces also be installed to make the things entirely equal? If you’re reading from outside of Japan, what are the state of affairs where you are? Let us know your thoughts below!