In my research life, I am planning to pursue the study of historical demography. This is the study of the lives of ordinary citizens in the aspect of both history and demography. Hence, from this point of view, it was the most important thing I have learned in the United States that we should observe even popular culture more carefully than ever before in order to capture the substance of people’s lives and to eliminate gender inequality. This is because popular culture reflects people’s unconscious thoughts of gender and coding. I would like to point out two instances in both the U.S. and Japan below in order to explain the detail.
The first example of popular culture in the United States is “Beautiful Love”, Jazz masterpiece in the 1930s. The song of this music starts as follows:” Beautiful love, you are all mistery. Beautiful love, what have you done to me? Reaching for heaven depending on you. Beautiful love will my dream come true”. In the context, “beautiful love” is the closest meaning to ” beautiful lover”. Listening to the music, it is almost obvious that this “lover” is a female one. Then I suppose that this song implies the gender code that “charming” woman should be mysterious and elegant existence, realizing pleasures for males. In this point of view, this masterpiece of Jazz may be full of sexual discrimination and may be offensive to some of the female listeners.
However, let us reconsider why this has been called one of the greatest masterpieces of Jazz. The reason is clear; this song has been loved by many people. Namely, the images of “beautiful love” sung in the song correspond what has been generated by the majority of components in the society and therefore, easy to accept. At the same time, it should be the fact that this music will be still a masterpiece in the future. This example clearly illustrates that popular culture reflects the common perception of gender code and that it is difficult to be changed.
The second instance in Japan is the people’s stereotype of “charming” girls. “Charming” females in Japan are not educated enough. Here are good examples. Kafu Nagai, one of the prominent novelists in Japan wrote a large number of masterpieces, describing the romance of gypsy and students. “Sumidagawa” is one of his well-known novels. There, a junior high school (former academic system in Japan) student falls in love with a gypsy girl in Tokyo. In these days, junior high schools in Tokyo were famous for thier difficulty of entrance and thus highly regarded. So, the students in “Sumidagawa” is a typical elite male. On the contrary, gypsies were at the bottom of social hierarchy. Another instance of Kafu Nagai is “Bokuto-Kitan” in the 1930s. This novel too describes the romance of a wealthy male character and a gypsy woman. This example clearly illustrates that Japanese people have been seeking the beauty within the gender stereotype mentioned above. It seems to me that so-called “cute” females are anything but wisdom. Rather, they should be non-educated ones.
I suppose that this kind of stereotype toward females in Japan is the most important factor of gender inequality in the educational scene in Japan. In 2018, it became a severe social problem that some of the schools of medicine in Japan had been discriminating female students at their entrance exams. They controlled test scores of female students and made male students easier to enter the school. The motivation they did so was, as reported in mass media, “males have more potential to be active in the future than female students and thus, can contribute to the schools’ fame”. I think that at the background of the incident was the racial idea that women do not need to be equally educated as male students.
To sum up, both in the United States and Japan, popular culture reflects people’s stereotypes of gender and code, which has been connected to severe sexual discrimination. However, from what I could gather in the United States, in the U.S., researches of the popular culture (in the aspect of gender and code) seem to be more active than in Japan. This should be a significant difference between the United States and Japan. Therefore, in order to capture the substance of gender inequality and eliminate inequality, I think Japanese people should be more enthusiastic in the researches on popular culture.