Source: Shantaryna Payne / Unsplash
Like American women, women in many other developed countries marry later and do not rush to have babies. More and more, many are choosing the celibate life without fanfare. In Japan and South Korea, however, women are publicly and very visibly committed to remaining single.
Japanese women buy wedding dresses and hold ungroomed ceremonies to declare that they are committed to living without a traditional marriage. Mari Miura, professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo told a New York Times reporter that when Japanese women “get married, they have to give up so much … so much freedom and so much independence.” Due to the intense and demanding male work culture in Japan, women receive little childcare or household help from their husbands. For single Japanese women, “their married friends with children serve as a warning,” Motoko Rich notes in her New York Times article.
South Korean women have their traditional mothers and grandmothers to remind them of the life they don’t want to lead. In South Korea, less than half of women think marriage is essential. Bloomberg News spoke to Baeck Ha-na, who is one of those women. She’s an accountant and a YouTube star with a lot of women she “promotes life” to “live”.
In an interview with Bloomberg News, Baeck Ha-na’s YouTube co-host Jung Se-young told Bloomberg, “This traditional role [marriage and motherhood] imposed on us from a boys-only football pitch in school, to a boys club in a corporate office already makes us second-class citizens, and I don’t want to be used as a tool just to make babies.
Like the pejorative “spinster” we attach to single American women, the pejorative label for single women in Japan is “Christmas cake,” referring to expired baked goods that cannot be sold after the end of the year. . In South Korea, single women are negatively referred to as “mi-hon,” but the labels don’t seem to affect their resolve to escape what they see as the domestic chore of marriage and motherhood.
The fallout from “life alone”
The fallout from a decrease in the number of marriages is evident in the decline in birth rates. South Korea has one of the lowest birth rates in the developed world with seven babies per thousand people. Japan and Hong Kong, as well as India and other countries, have similarly low birth rates. In contrast, the US birth rate, although low, hovers around the replacement level of 2.1.
Falling birth rates are affecting the economy and worrying governments trying to convince women to marry and have children. In South Korea, the government has started a blind date program, with the intention that these dates lead to marriage and possibly more babies. Speaking to Bloomberg News, Baeck Ha-na said she finds the government’s attempts “to raise birth rates” to be “abusive” and “frustrating” because they fail to address the lack of legal avenues to ensure the career development of mothers or reduce the financial burden in the education of children. “
China, France and other countries have also tried different incentives to increase birth rates, including improving workplace policies and / or paying money to families with more babies, but the most have largely failed.
When Americans decide to go solo
Here in the United States, the trend of non-marriage certainly exists, but it looks different. When American women decide to go solo, they do so without dress-and-veil ceremonies or cult followers on YouTube and Twitter. And although they can rule out marriage, they often keep the option of becoming parents without a partner open.
Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., an expert on celibacy, explains that the number of singles “keeps growing … and a greater proportion of women with children are unmarried.” So while the number of happy singles has quietly increased without any one-on-one promises or public announcements, single women (and married women, too) are more likely to have children than they were 10 years ago, although they did. become mothers later, according to the Pew Research Center.
Are Japanese and Korean women following the American feminist example? Or will we soon see American singles pledge ceremonies and more loyal followers like Baeck Ha-na fans denying marriage and motherhood online and in the media?
Copyright @ 2019 by Susan Newman