Princess Masako (wife of the crown prince of Japan) was once a leading Japanese diplomat is now reduced to the shadow of her former self. The Princess is multi-lingual, educated at both Harvard and Oxford Universities, and before her marriage to the Prince, on the fast track to an exciting career.
As a child she was head-strong and willing to argue against perceived injustices. She would stand up for herself. At school she excelled at sport as well as academia and adored animals. She graduated from Harvard with magna cum laude (Honor’s) in Economics. She went to the Tokyo University law school and studied for the Diplomat Services Examination (DSE). Now, let me give you some background. The DSE takes the average person two years to prepare for. Even after two years of intense study most people fail. For the Princess, it took 12 months and she passed on her first attempt. In 1987, she was accepted into the Japanse Diplomatic Service (JDS) and went to work in the Foreign Ministry. It was in her diplomatic role that she met the crown prince whom (apparently) became enamoured with her. The Princess originally rejected the Prince’s advances as she enjoyed her independence and work. It has been speculated that she knew if she married into the conservative royal house, the first thing to go, would be her independence. She relented after the Princes’ third proposal and on the 9th of June, 1993 she married the Prince.
Some parts of the Japanese media were disappointed that she accepted the Prince’s proposal as she was seen as a beacon of the new Japanese woman. Educated, liberated, and independent and the Princess, their poster child. Once the engagement was accepted by this section of the media, the pressure was on for the Princess to reform the Imperial Family. No pressure or anything. Just bring down over 2,000 years of social law. Of course, after the marriage, none of this hope or promise was fulfilled. The Princess walks three steps behind her husband and refers to him as “His Imperial Highness” in public. When I first read this, I blamed the Prince. Thankfully my first judgement was wrong. It seems that Prince believe’s that his wife’s abilities and career have been wasted. That the ever secretive Imperial Household Agency (IHA) is actually behind the restriction of his wife and to himself. The Princess gave birth to a healthy baby girl but this wasn’t the desired outcome for the IHA and the pressure to produce a male heir to the dynasty continued until the birth of her nephew. After the birth of her daughter, the Princess withdrew from public life. I would hazard a guess that she suffered Post Partum Depression (PPD) and the pressure to produce a male heir would have had a profound impact on her level of PPD.
I’m not really hear to postulate on the Princess’ diagnosis. I’m here to talk about the tragic outcome for this woman and the sufferance of women everywhere. An incredibly brilliant and by all accounts articulate women, broken by law’s set 2,000 years ago. She had everything anyone would have wanted. An amazing career, an amazing education, and an opportunity to travel and change the course of her country in diplomatic relations. The “decision” to marry dramatically changed that. I think that is a universal truth for all women. When we decided to marry*, that your choices for your career are now filtered through your relationship. (I’m not sure that this filter is as strong in men as it is in women, and I would love to proven wrong). Once children are involved the filter is even stronger. On this point, I speak from personal experience. While I am raising my children, my “ideal” career, is on hold. I make this choice with lots of regret. I admit it. I can only speculate that the Princess must feel the same deep regret. Which of course is loaded with guilt, because a mother should make sacrifices for the greater good of their family…Shouldn’t they?
Social pressure, in my opinion is the worst kind of pressure. You can’t escape it. If you break with social norm’s, you go against everything and everyone, the isolation would be intolerable. Had the Princess continued to reject the Prince’ proposal’s what would have happened to her career? Think about that for a minute.
As woman, she was screwed either way. If she didn’t accept the marriage, it was more than likely her career would have been over anyway and what about the disgrace on her family? What would happen to her and her family? Remember that in Japanese families, the family honour is of significant traditional importance. Traditionally for a woman to say “No” to a Prince could leave her family disgraced and poor for generations. In many ways this is true. These ideal’s aren’t going to disappear in just a few generations. Even in 2012, this is true.
I’m a white educated western woman and I can relate to how she feels. This isn’t something that happen’s in Japan or the Middle East or the Sub-Continent. It happens in the so called liberated west. This is a socio-political attack on women. Even women themselves divide themselves into sub culture’s.
1. Full time mum
2. Working Mum (Part-time work)
3. Working Mum (Full-time work)
These thee sub-culture’s bitch about each other. So much for the solidarity of women. Full time Mum’s and Working Mum’s (F/Time) in particular. I wont give oxygen to what they say about it each other, because it’s bullshit. I sit in the, “I don’t care what you do, as long as it works for you”. Ladies, we need to be better than this. Bitching between ourselves isn’t productive. Unless you know, for absolute sure that your accusations are true, just shut up. You no right to judge why a woman has chosen to make the decisions she has. You just accept that she has and support her in that. We still live in a time where women are second best. The weaker sex. We need to support each other not degrade each other.
I was often criticised for working full time with two small children. It would make me so angry. I was a single mother. I didn’t “choose” to work full-time. I HAD to work full time. If I stayed home full time, we would remain poor. Living off the generosity of my parents and always one payment away from the lights being turned off. Again. I couldn’t live like that anymore. Both of my children had started school and I took the chance to get a job.
Not that I ever took time to explain to the idiots who said things like this:
“You should be at home, with your children, Pinky”
<insert polite smile>
“In an ideal world yes, but, sadly I live in this world.”
The truth of is, for the 4 years I was a full time mum, I was criticised for “sitting on the pension”. You see? I’ve sat on both sides of this great divide and both sides are wrong. Often for women, they don’t have a “real” choice. Do they? Don’t get me wrong, I like working. I enjoy it. The more stressful, the more I thrive. But as a mother, I hate that it takes me from my kids. I like being home too, but feel invisible socially. I have nothing but the kids to talk about. No work gossip. Just kids. This is no one’s fault.
My point is that it doesn’t matter where you go. In one form or another women are treated like second class. I just want it to be acknowledged.
As for the Princess, my heart goes out to her and I wish I could talk to her. Reach out to her, woman to woman. Princess to Peasant. She’s the kind of woman I look up too. She started a change in her country. The crown Prince believes that his wife should be allowed to work. The Princess began a revolution for her fellow Japanese women. So to all the commentator’s who are bitching about her not doing something or being mental or whatever, shut up. She started something powerful and before you know it, you’ll have an Empress on the Imperial Throne.
I’m a feminist because it’s 2012 and women haven’t progressed very far. Men manage to silence us or turn something positive like, feminism, and turn it into something “ugly”. They did it to Queen Elizabeth I. They did it to the Suffragette’s They did it to the feminists of the 1960’s and 1970’s. They continue to under mine us because feminism and educated women are a threat. Educated women are a force they don’t want to face on an even playing field.
Think about it.
*by marriage I mean both defacto and formal.