By Orie Endo

This article was in The Asahi Shimbun newspaper, February 22nd, on page 7 of the Tokyo edition. The headline reads: College Enrollment Will Drop by 120 Thousand by 2040.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has announced that, although college enrollment rates will grow by 2040, the number of students is projected to decline by 20% because the entire 18-year-old population will shrink.

The subheading of the same article is: MEXT’s First Detailed Estimation: Girls’ College Enrollment Rate Will be Over 50% Too. Below that it says: Girls' college enrollment rate is also expected to increase from 49.1% to 56.3%, and as a whole, from 52.6% to 57.4%.

I understand that fewer students are going to college due to the declining birth rate. I also think that it is a good thing that the enrollment rates are increasing, but why was it written that girls’ enrollment will be “50% too?” Why not simply "50%?"

I don’t wish to be a grammar-nerd, but let me double-check the particle mo, which means too or also in Japanese. When I look it up in the latest version (7th edition) of Kojien, which is widely regarded as the most authoritative dictionary of Japanese, it defines mo as:

The particle mo is a word comparable with the particle wa: wa is a particle that picks up one word as a topic while dismissing other options, whereas
indicates that the word is a topic in addition to others.

So, if you pick “girls” as a topic, the subheading should just be “Girls’ College Enrollment Rate Will be Over 50%,” and if you see girls as an addition to boys it will be “Over 50% Too.”

In short, this headline means that the boys' enrollment rate will increase and the girls’ case is just an additional mentioning to it. This conveys the social understanding behind it, that is to say, boys/men are the absolute center/core/subject [of society], and girls are supplementary entities to them. At best, "girls, too" might have just slipped out of the mouth of the author without giving deeper thought to who are the main or centre.

Nevertheless, amongst the enthusiastic live coverage of the PyeongChang Olympic Games, for example, have we ever heard mo phrases such as "Female speed skaters also won the gold," or "the Women's team was also a huge success in curling?” Well, when reporting ongoing games live we would never say “girls, too” or “women, too.” No, we couldn’t. It was those very women who were the subject of these activities; therefore, we cannot say too. As central figures of actions, in sentences such as "Kodaira wins at 500-meter ice run," or "Takagi won two gold medals" as well as in the aforementioned ones, subjects have to be indicated with the particle wa or ga.

To return from this digression, the journalist or the editor who has given the aforementioned headline to the article must have a subliminal understanding to think that boys are predominant when it comes to a topic such as college enrollment rates and the like. Androcentric, patriarchic biases underlie his consciousness. Thus, he has written “girls, too” as if they are additions to boys. That might have been just one person’s prejudice, but the fact that it has bypassed the editorial process and managed to be printed means that this has also become Asahi’s own bias.

At least, obvious sexism such as “women do not need to go to college” or “women are not appropriate for management positions” is no longer seen in newspapers; however, casual sexism such as the use of mo shows that discrimination still exists in men’s mind. Furthermore, it could be said that such innocent words are signs of deeply rooted sexism, rather than more obvious bigotry.

By the way, on the same page of the paper, there happened to be a similar heading, which is: Men, Let’s Go Home Too. There is another too/mo in here. This is an interview with Mr. Toshiyuki Tanaka, a sociologist specialized in Men’s Studies, who claims, from the Men’s Studies’ point of view, that “men should also go home” to neutralize the gender gap.

I greatly agree with the sentiment that men shouldn’t leave all the household chores to women, but here I still see this little mo problem. The train of thought of this tag line is: women go home – men do not go home – then the gap will never be neutralized – so men should go home as well.

Here, unlike I have previously pointed out, the subjects who go home are women, and men are additions to them. So we are the center, which is good, isn’t it? No, because the assumption that “women should go home” was not what we had decided on our own to begin with. It was the social and economic norm and expectation and not something that women had chosen spontaneously. To take care of the house and children and the elderly we go home, because we have no other choice. Without considering these premises, I kind of feel like this Men, Let’s Go Home Too line is lame.

To be honest, I just wanted him to say “Men, let’s go home” not as the addition to women who go home, without using mo!

Translated by Yoko Morgenstern

Original article in Japanese