Sister – rage against sister
I went home for Christmas in 2015. By then, I had been living overseas for ten years. On Christmas morning, my sister and two nieces (9 and 7 years old), and I were watching a morning TV show.
A reporter visited a women-only pilates studio in Tokyo on Christmas Eve to ask women why they were there that evening. The young woman who was interviewed looked slightly annoyed that the reporter assumed the only reason she was doing pilates that evening was that she didn’t have a boyfriend and had nothing better to do. She answered that she had a boyfriend, but there was no reason why she had to spend Christmas eve with him. The reporter moved on to the next woman, seeming like he was looking for a perfect target. This woman answered she did not have a boyfriend, and, being a good sport, humored the reporter by saying she wanted to get fit so she could find a boyfriend. The reporter excitedly asked her, “then you must be a LONELY WOMAN?” to which she seemed compelled to agree. Then, the word “LONELY WOMAN” was displayed across her face on the TV screen in a large blood-red font.
Christmas Eve in Japan has been commercially marketed as the day you spend romantically with your partner. The custom has nothing to do with Christianity, which consists merely 1.5% of the country’s religion. Due to the influx of Western culture in post-war Japan, enhanced by economic growth, the Western festivity was associated with peak happiness and romantic bliss. But by 2015, the country had been in depression for three decades, and I thought the capitalistic notion of romanticism had already lost its appeal. Many people voiced that romanticizing Christmas was an outdated and shameless appropriation of a foreign religion. But what I found particularly disturbing about the TV show was the shaming of single women, especially in the morning TV show that even children might watch and absorb the misogynistic narrative.
I faced the direction of my sister and uttered how appalling it was that the Japanese media humiliated women in such a way. I waited for my sister’s agreement, but her response came in a shout that made me jump. “This is nothing, completely normal. You are looking down on us because you live in the West, and you think everything in the West is superior!!” Dumbfounded by an explosion, I said I didn’t think that way, and it was just my opinion because I didn’t want my nieces to grow up to think less of themselves, just because they were single. I also said I’d apologize if I offended her so much. She said, “You did. Shut your mouth and don’t you dare criticizing us like that again.” The two nieces kept their eyes on the TV screen. I stared at their expressionless profiles. I thought they were undeterred by our row, but I later wondered if they feared their mother’s rage.