Salaryman masculinity

The masculine stereotype of Japan, the salaryman, is an interesting concept; from the perspective of corporations it looks incredibly valiant and humane, while from a personal, family, or even an outsider perspective it appears to be machine-like, devoid of personality and happiness. The salaryman concept rationalizes not spending time with the family because the man has to provide for the family, so they rarely interact with them because the company they work for is the salaryman’s “actual family” and should be their main priority. This will lead to the salaryman feeling like he has led an unfulfilled life because the he will miss out on the human experience of meaningful relationships with others, instead devoting himself to a world where he can easily be discarded and replaced.

Along with the grueling nonstop work day, salaryman don’t make that much, some being “classified as ‘working poor’” and only 3.5% of men between 20 and  34” making more the $72,000 a year. This is one reason why the salaryman masculinity is flawed, the business man in reality can barely support his family. In today’s world of working women having the expectation of the man being the sole provider of the family is an extremely outdated concept. If masculinity is everything not “feminine” how is  working or having a career  masculine when women are capable of working and having careers. This paradox proves how preposterous the salaryman masculinity is in today’s society.

Another reason for this is that Japan’s economy is not as good as it was when the idea of salaryman masculinity was at its prime. Companies no longer hire as many people as they used to and frequently those who do get hired are temp workers. A huge part of the salaryman masculinity is that the man is supposed to devote himself to the company he works for or the “actual family” of the salaryman. Here masculinity is measured by how long a man has been with his company, therefore being a temp worker is lesser or more feminine, making the a great deal of men working today question their masculinity and sense of selves because society can’t produce the long term jobs. If a society can not even produce the means to achieve its own standards for masculinity, then is should change those standards to something more attainable. Because this is the case for Japanese society, Japanese society needs to change its standards of masculinity. It is beginning to change these standards with the disconnect between today’s generation and the older generations of the idea that the salaryman is the picture of masculinity.

One thought on “Salaryman masculinity

  1. Hi Julia,

    This is a strong exploration of the conflicts inherent in salaryman masculinity. I think that one might even question whether the salaryman every truly existed, or if he was always just a hegemonic ideal of masculinity that is impossible to attain. If that is the case, is the salaryman just an empty symbol of postwar Japan to stimulate economic growth/control the masses? I would also like to see you apply this analysis to media or articles we’ve seen in the future, i.e., to engage with some of the other ideas we’ve been discussing in class.


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