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Ohitorisama, Singlehood and Agency in Japan

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Abstract

Postwar Japanese society has experienced significant demographic shifts. Of particular note are trends in marriage delay, increased divorce, increased rates of lifelong singlehood and an increased proportion of life spent unmarried. In this context, singlehood is increasingly experienced by women, for at least some period in their adult lives. Nonetheless, while greater numbers of Japanese are living as singles for a greater portion of their lives, marriage and childbearing remain key markers of contemporary Japanese womanhood. Living outside marriage – as a single, divorced or widowed person – suggests divergence from the ideal, even if it is just an unavoidable temporary state. This paper explores singlehood as a contested space of ideals and practices, and presents the notion of ohitorisama as one model of contemporary female singlehood.

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... With the prevalence of singlehood among women in these two countries predicted to remain high, it behooves us to better understand the experiences of single women in the face of significant cultural, societal, and governmental pressures. Undoubtedly, single women experience pervasive ambivalence about their singleness (Sharp & Ganong, 2007) given that any absence of supports such as financial affordance, self-establishment, social supports, career establishment, and its stability will place them in a difficult social position (Dales, 2014). The purpose of this study was to examine the lived experiences of single women. ...
... Nevertheless, as observed by Lesch and Van der Watt (2018) in their study of single women in South Africa, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of similar studies that have been conducted in more geographically diverse locations. These include China (Wang & Abbott, 2013), Indonesia (Situmorang, 2007), Israel (Lahad, 2013), Japan (Dales, 2014), Malaysia (Ibrahim & Hassan, 2009);Nigeria (Ntoimo &Isiugo-Abanihe, 2014), andPoland (Adamcyzk, 2016). This present study seeks to contribute to this diverse and expanding pool of resources by exploring a different context wherein the experience of singles women can be understood and usefully applied. ...
... Overall, our findings corroborate those of similar phenomenological studies on singlehood in other parts of the world. The finding that the participants had equivocal feelings about the reasons for their singlehood which vacillated between internal factors related to their own agency and external factors related to chance and circumstance have been highlighted in a number of other studies (Dales, 2014;Lewis & Moon, 1997;Reynolds, Wetherell, & Taylor, 2007). In contrast to these studies, however, the accounts of these participants appeared to emphasize the role of external circumstances in their reasons for being single. ...
Article
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The aim of this phenomenological study was to gain a better understanding in the lives of single women by exploring their thoughts and experiences of being single. Data were collected from semi-structured interviews of a group of six well-educated, ethnic Chinese single women aged between 30 and 45 living in Beijing and Singapore. Transcribed interviews were analysed through reading and rereading and culling for like phrases and themes that are then grouped to form clusters of meaning. Through this process, we found four salient themes: (a) the women had equivocal feelings over the reasons they were single; (b) they recognized the advantages, disadvantages, and ambivalence of singlehood; (c) they took a pragmatic approach towards their singleness; and (d) they coped singleness with various practical strategies. Implications related to clinical practice and areas of further research are discussed.
... With the prevalence of singlehood among women in these two countries predicted to remain high, it behooves us to better understand the experiences of single women in the face of significant cultural, societal, and governmental pressures. Undoubtedly, single women experience pervasive ambivalence about their singleness (Sharp & Ganong, 2007) given that any absence of supports such as financial affordance, self-establishment, social supports, career establishment, and its stability will place them in a difficult social position (Dales, 2014). The purpose of this study was to examine the lived experiences of single women. ...
... Nevertheless, as observed by Lesch and Van der Watt (2018) in their study of single women in South Africa, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of similar studies that have been conducted in more geographically diverse locations. These include China (Wang & Abbott, 2013), Indonesia (Situmorang, 2007), Israel (Lahad, 2013), Japan (Dales, 2014), Malaysia (Ibrahim & Hassan, 2009);Nigeria (Ntoimo &Isiugo-Abanihe, 2014), andPoland (Adamcyzk, 2016). This present study seeks to contribute to this diverse and expanding pool of resources by exploring a different context wherein the experience of singles women can be understood and usefully applied. ...
... Overall, our findings corroborate those of similar phenomenological studies on singlehood in other parts of the world. The finding that the participants had equivocal feelings about the reasons for their singlehood which vacillated between internal factors related to their own agency and external factors related to chance and circumstance have been highlighted in a number of other studies (Dales, 2014;Lewis & Moon, 1997;Reynolds, Wetherell, & Taylor, 2007). In contrast to these studies, however, the accounts of these participants appeared to emphasize the role of external circumstances in their reasons for being single. ...
Article
The aim of this phenomenological study was to gain a better understanding in the lives of single women by exploring their thoughts and experiences of being single. Data were collected from semi-structured interviews of a group of six well-educated, ethnic Chinese single women aged between 30 and 45 living in Beijing and Singapore. Transcribed interviews were analysed through reading and rereading and culling for like phrases and themes that are then grouped to form clusters of meaning. Through this process, we found four salient themes: (a) the women had equivocal feelings over the reasons they were single; (b) they recognized the advantages, disadvantages, and ambivalence of singlehood; (c) they took a pragmatic approach towards their singleness; and (d) they coped singleness with various practical strategies. Implications related to clinical practice and areas of further research are discussed.
... As the phenomena of extended singlehood and childfreeness expand in contemporary societies, a growing body of research has appeared aiming to address these issues. In studies focusing on societies where they usually present together-e.g., Japan and South Korea-the discussion tends to revolve around singlehood, whereas childfreeness is analyzed only as a consequence (Dales, 2014(Dales, , 2015Mandujano-Salazar, 2017;Nishi & Kan, 2006;Rosenberger, 2007;Song, 2010;Yamada, 2000). On the contrary, researchers studying societies where parenthood and marriage are less relatedfor example, the United States-they tend to focus on people who reject parenthood, regardless of the relationship status of their subjects (Bimha & Chadwick, 2016;Daniluk, 1999;Gillespie, 2003;Ireland, 1993;Laurent-Simpson, 2017;McCabe & Sumerau, 2018;Salyakhieva & Saveleva, 2017). ...
... Nevertheless, in patriarchal societies with a highly pronatalist culture, people who do not comply with the social expectations of being in a heterosexual couple and becoming a parent are still prone to suffer social backlash, despite educational, professional, economic, or other personal achievements. They may be perceived as losers for their assumed incapability of finding a partner or having a child (Dales, 2014(Dales, , 2015Ireland, 1993;Mandujano-Salazar, 2017;Song, 2010); or, they may be stigmatized for their decisions and perceived as a threat to society, triggering moral outrage for their assumed egocentrism (Ashburn-Nardo, 2017; Bimha & Chadwick, 2016;Salyakhieva & Saveleva, 2017;Yamada, 2000). But, they also have their ways to negotiate with social expectations and hegemonic discourses. ...
... Informants were residents of urban areas in Mexico or Japan, were economically self-sufficient, and self-defined as belonging to the middle class of their country. I chose to focus on urban middle-class people, because it is where previous studies had found that remaining single and childfree for longer is more common (Arnett, 2000(Arnett, , 2004Bimha & Chadwick, 2016;Dales, 2014Dales, , 2015Salyakhieva & Saveleva, 2017); and, I intended to compare my findings to previous studies focused on such strata. ...
Article
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This article presents the analysis of personal narratives of Mexican and Japanese single and childfree cisgender heterosexual individuals to explore how people who do not comply with heteronormative gender roles related to marriage and parenthood build their gender identities as adults. It draws on in-depth interviews with 24 informants who were raised and lived in these two countries, amid hegemonic discourses on adulthood, masculinity and femininity that emphasize some form of heterosexual partnership and reproduction. It is found that, men interviewed from both countries were able to narratively defend their adulthood and gender identity through other attributes that are part of hegemonic masculinity. On the contrary, women had difficulties constructing themselves congruently; they recurred to external traits of hegemonic femininity to defend their womanhood, but to personality and lifestyle qualities related to hegemonic masculinity to construct their adulthood.
... A smaller number of studies have been conducted in other geographical areas, such as Singapore (Situmorang, 2007), Japan (Maeda, 2008;Rosenberger, 2007), and Australia (Cwikel, Gramotnev, & Lee, 2006). Since 2012, however, many of the published studies have been conducted outside of North American and Northern European contexts, specifically in Japan and other Asian countries (Chung & Kim, 2015;Dales, 2014;Jones, Yanxia, & Zhi, 2012;Wang & Abbott, 2013), Israel (Lahad, 2012(Lahad, , 2013(Lahad, , 2014, India (Dhar, 2015), Palestine (Assaf & Chaban, 2013), Australia (Addie & Brownlow, 2014), Eastern Europe (Adamczyk, 2016), and two in Africa (Frahm-Arp, 2012;Ntoimo & Isiugo-Abanihe, 2013). ...
... Similar to the findings in other studies (Addie & Brownlow, 2014;Dales, 2014;Wang & Abbott, 2013), our participants highlighted and valued the ''freedom'' they experienced in various aspects of their lives, and the autonomy to live their lives the way they pleased. In fact, it was striking how similar their stances and words were in this regard as illustrated by the responses below: However, the freedom seemed to pertain more to the participants' actions within their personal controllable life spaces (e.g. home and work) than the broader social sphere. ...
... sometimes it takes guts to do something on your own. In a similar vein, Dales (2014) and Heimtun (2012) highlight that activities like eating out or taking holidays are ordinary and taken for granted activities for coupled people, but these acts are perceived as unconventional and noteworthy when executed by single people. Although it could be argued that for these exact reasons, single people's solo social activities could function as contesting and advocacy practices, our participants' accounts indicate that they themselves did not experience these acts as agentic due to the discomfort that it generated within them. ...
Article
Worldwide, societies continue to privilege the ideology of couplehood to the detriment of other relationship states, like singlehood, that are steadily increasing in number. Furthermore, according to developmental psychology theory, the formation of a committed romantic relationship is viewed as an important psychosocial developmental task in adulthood. It is therefore not surprising that women’s experience of being single has generally been neglected by psychological theory and research. Situated in a feminist phenomenological perspective, this study explored the experiences of tertiary-educated, child-free, never-married, White, South African women between the ages of 30 and 40. Giorgi’s descriptive-phenomenological method was used to analyse the individual interview data. In this article, we discuss four of the prominent themes that best reflect the collective views and multi-faceted experiences of the participants: singlehood brings both freedom and loneliness; career as both fulfilment and singlehood coping mechanism; committed partners as sources of both restriction and connection; and hoping for a committed relationship. We highlight how the notion of a committed sexual relationship as the ultimate relationship that provides effortless connectedness and companionship underpins all of these themes. We argue that alternative discourses and mechanisms of connection that accommodate people who live as single adults, should be fostered
... Many people insist on favoring marriage despite cohabitation practices having greater acceptance. These views are reflected in studies that report how partnership arrangements (cohabitation, Living Apart Together) are not forever and the intention to marry in the future remains high (Dales, 2014;Iwasawa, 2004). Although cohabitation has become more prevalent in the society than it was believed, the duration of cohabitation usually lasts a short time and dissolves into marriage (Raymo et al., 2009). ...
... Like many other neighboring countries, being single in Japan is prone to attracting a negative stigma. However, in 1999, Kumiko made a big leap in fighting against the use of the term "singlism," which was taken as stigmatizing singles (DePaulo & Morris, 2011), by introducing the term Ohitorisama, which literally means "single individual" (Dales, 2014). Ohitorisama refers to adult women who have an established life, whose philosophy is success in both work and love; it does not refer to egoists, separatists, or those who are against marriage. ...
... Ohitorisama is connected with a single lifestyle that is associated with luxury, comfort, and independence. Not only does it act as a means to fight against the taboo associated with doing solo activities, such as traveling or dining alone, but it also acts as a way of self-expression to educate society that being single is not always a chosen state and often comes as an unanticipated status (Dales, 2014). Although not all single women consider themselves to be in the Ohitorisama category, most of them with high financial and educational status perceive themselves to be less ridiculed by the people around them. ...
Article
There is a growing number of single people in the population in Asia, with a higher tendency for single people to be found in the East and Southeast Asia regions. Nevertheless, limited studies are available on the sociopsychological aspects of Asian singles. In fact, societies in many Asian countries have a variety of responses and attitudes toward singles. The overarching purpose of this literature review is, thus, to present many profiles of singles in Asia, although societal acceptance toward singles in each country varies. This study also explores several government policies and social acts that have been implemented to control the rising number of singles, and reviews their effectiveness. Directions for future studies are discussed at the end of this study.
... Building on the works of Freedman and Iwata-Weickgenannt (2011) and Dales (2014;, who provide a reading of the discourses of female singlehood offered by the serials Around 40 and Ohitorisama, I extend the analysis to the more recent dramas I won't marry and It is not that I can't. Considering these four serials as a sample of the ideological struggles that are currently taking place in Japan about female singlehood and focusing on the figure of female screenwriters, I argue the possibility of women using trendy dramas as terrain to discursively reclaim female singlehood and childlessness as a decision and not an unintended state, regaining control over how to define femininity and trying to validate alternative models of life courses, success and happiness for women in contemporary Japan. ...
... In other words, they endorse the idea that "older" single women are all professional and financially independent, traits that give them some secure ground to resist pressure from the seken. The promotion of such a stereotype leaves under-represented the singlehood of women in less favourable circumstances (Dales, 2014). In addition, although these dramas seem to endorse the label with the positive connotation of independence and professional success, they also attach a negative layer of meaning to it: the lack of femininity according to social standards. ...
Article
https://doi.org/10.1080/10357823.2017.1371113 This article focuses on single and childless over-30-year-old women in Japan, representations of them, and the discourses surrounding them in female-oriented television dramas. Bearing in mind the active role that screenwriters have in the production of the discourses embedded in these serials, as well as their function as translators of the audience’s perspective, it is argued that by means of the agency of female screenwriters within production teams, Japanese women are slowly redefining how the media portrays female singlehood to resist the pejorative or condescending discourses that media and society have imposed on single women. It is also argued that the scripts of the recent dramas directed to single and childless over-30-year-old women, written by female screenwriters, offer positive alternative models of femininity, democratising discursive devices for Japanese women to reclaim the right to be themselves and decide how to assess their achievements in life.
... En este sentido, desde el cambio de milenio, una tendencia respecto a los personajes protagónicos de los trendy dramas se ha hecho evidente: cada vez son más las historias centradas en personajes mayores de 30 años -principalmente mujeres, pero también algunos varones-renuentes a alcanzar los marcadores normativos de adultez del matrimonio y la maternidad/paternidad (Dales, 2014;Mandujano-Salazar, 2017). Más relevante es que, en el periodo de 2001 a 2019, 13 dramas de horario estelar fueron producidos por alguna de las tres mayores televisoras privadas del país, enfocándose en personajes que rebasaban los 30 años siendo solteros y, luego de pasar por las presiones sociales debido a su estado civil y su edad, al final de la serie reafirman su decisión de permanecer solteros y sin hijos. ...
... Durante la segunda mitad de la década de 2000, conforme la noción de makeinu circulaba en las narrativas mediáticas de entretenimiento, ohitorisama estaba siendo utilizada por diferentes industrias de productos y servicios para explotar el segmento de mercado de personas solteras -principalmente mujeres-que se identificaban a sí mismas con el modelo de solteros independientes. Luego, algunos escritores y académicos comenzaron a adoptar también el término como una alternativa menos despectiva para discutir y referirse particularmente a las mujeres que, teniendo más de 30 años, seguían solteras y sin hijos (Dales, 2014). Los medios siguieron la tendencia y comenzaron a sustituir la noción de makeinu por ohitorisama en la mayoría de sus contenidos. ...
Article
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En este artículo se analizan los discursos hege-mónicos sobre la feminidad y masculinidad, las expectativas sociales y la valoración que se hace de los individuos de acuerdo con su estado civil, centrando la atención en las presiones sociales a las que son expuestas las personas solteras y sin hijos en el Japón contemporáneo. Desde la perspectiva de los estudios culturales, se consideran los discursos sociales que relacionan la feminidad y la masculini-dad con el matrimonio y la maternidad/paternidad, y se realiza un análisis textual interpretativo de una muestra de series televisivas para discutir las ideas dominantes que circulan en la sociedad japonesa acerca del creciente número de personas solteras. Se argumenta la posibilidad de que ellas estén en-contrando en los contenidos televisivos un espacio de negociación con la sociedad para defender sus trayectorias de vida y rechazar las etiquetas que se les han estado imponiendo.
... There are studies focusing on the experience related to voluntary singleness (Dales, 2014;Jones et al., 2012;Simpson, 2015), but there is a paucity of studies providing the reasons for why individuals are involuntarily singles, particularly in Asia. While being single is unwanted, remaining single in such a marriage-obsessed society also entails being socially evaluated as lacking personal attributes necessary to attract partners (Himawan, Bambling, Edirippulige, Underwood, 2019). ...
... Normative gender identity defines the completion of a woman's identity through marriage and, as a result, single women are a marginalized group. The same struggle in challenging normative gender roles has been found in many countries (Dales, 2014;Ibrahim & Hassan, 2009;Lahad, 2013;Simpson, 2015;Yeung & Hu, 2016). It is likely that the study's finding represents an attempt to define a new cultural representation of modern single women: one that is associated with a professional career rather than personal deviance. ...
Article
Singleness emerges as a theme in studies on contemporary relationships across societies, including in Indonesia. While in most Western societies, singleness reflects an individual’s personal preference, marriage is viewed as cultural imperative in Indonesia, and being single is often held involuntarily by most never-married adults. This study outlines the reasons of why Indonesian individuals remain involuntarily single. The interviews of 40 never-married adults aged 27–52 years ( M age = 33.14; SD = 4.04) revealed that gender and religious differences regarding marriage expectation are central themes in understanding involuntary singleness. The study particularly revealed four gender-specific reasons for why individuals remained involuntarily single: obtaining a career, having an incompatible marriage expectation, having dependent family members, and having temporal perspectives of singleness. Two themes emerged regarding the religious perspective of singleness: religious interpretations about singleness and religion-related coping ways of being involuntarily single. The themes suggest that marriage is not a mere personal fulfillment as cultural and religious values determine individuals’ marriage feasibility. While offering a new perspective of involuntary singleness from non-Western perspective, the results inform strategies to cope with unwanted singleness, particularly in the marriage- and religion-preoccupied societies.
... Laura Dales (2014) addresses the possibilities of agency in singlehood for Japanese women. Within the context of demographic changes, discourses of singlehood such as the ohitorisama (the single woman or "singleton") remain tied to the ideal of marriage. ...
Article
This issue of Asian Studies Review includes a themed section that addresses agency in relation to women's everyday lives and experiences in Asia. Four papers follow this Introduction: Siti Aisyah and Lyn Parker (2014) study domestic violence in Makassar, Sulawesi, Indonesia; Laura Dales (2014) explores singlehood for women in Japan; Tamara Jacka (2014) challenges stereotypes around older rural women in China; and Wanning Sun (2014) examines literary representations of rural migrant women in southern China. Building on a discussion begun in the edited collection, The Agency of Women in Asia (Parker, 2005), this collection revisits theoretical questions and explores some of the issues posed in that volume, but with a special focus on ordinary, everyday social practice in contexts of work, marriage, singlehood and maternity. In particular the papers in this collection contribute to the theorisation of agency, exploring not only the ways in which women express agency, but also feminist expectations of agency, the repercussions of the exercise of agency, the effect of negative representations of women on women's agency, and the ways in which scholars can understand and assess agency. Acknowledging the important theoretical work that already exists on agency (e.g. Comaroff and Comaroff, 1997; Mahmood, 2001 and 2005; Ortner, 2001 and 2006), and the minor spate of edited books on women's public activism in Asia recently (e.g. Burghoorn et al., 2008; Iwanaga, 2008; Roces and Edwards, 2010), this collection takes a different tack. Women's everyday lives, on the ground in lived situations, have been neglected in this new scholarship. In this collection, we focus on women's relational and emotional lives, their experience of domestic practices and daily social and sexual interactions, on the way they build relationships, and their involvement in forms of interdependence and mutual aid. Some pictures are intimate and intensely personal; oth- ers are of public behaviour - of women shouting out, or publishing on the internet. Some agency is transient, as when women are carried along with the ebb and flow of family relationships or economic ups-and-downs; some is more permanent in its effects,
... It is not just in the Western world that the numbers of singles and unmarried individuals are growing. In Japan, marriage delay, higher divorce rates, greater occurrence of lifelong singlehood, and greater time spent single have been observed in recent decades (Dales, 2014). ...
Research
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With marriage continuing to be widely upheld as the ideal relationship status, single adults are often viewed as being at a disadvantage. Indeed, past research has identified many negative effects of singlehood, among them loneliness, low self-esteem, mental health problems, social discrimination, economic stress, and ill health. The rising rates of singlehood and marriage delay in many countries globally necessitate an examination of the factors that promote positive life outcomes among single young adults. From a review of related research, this study discussed five common themes that emerged as buffering the negative effects of singlehood: social support, socioeconomic status, liberal values, seeing singlehood as a satisfying personal choice, and secure attachment style.
... A similar situation is also present in Japan, where marriage-like arrangements have become more acceptable options within society (Iwasawa, 2004). The negative connotations of being single in Japan, while still existing-particularly among older generations-are not applicable to some never-married individuals who identify themselves according to the ohitorisama definition of singleness, which emphasizes the luxury, independence, and convenience of a single lifestyle (Dales, 2014;Himawan et al., 2018a). In contrast to the situation in Singapore and Japan are the societies of China, Malaysia and Indonesia which appear to regard singleness as a transitional and temporary period, implying a social undervaluation of those who remain single past marriageable age Ibrahim & Hassan, 2009;Yeung & Hu, 2016). ...
Article
Despite the increasing proportion of never-married adults worldwide, there is a marked difference between Asian and Western societies regarding attitudes to both marriage and singleness. While marriage is generally accepted as a personal choice in the West, people in many Asian countries–particularly in Indonesia–still have firm beliefs about the universality of marriage. Singles face social pressure due to their status, so their attitude toward marriage is still understudied. This study thus aims to describe singles’ attitudes toward marriage through the interaction of three indicators: the intention to marry, the perceived social pressure to marry, and underlying reasons to marry. A survey of 107 never-married adults (Mage = 26.98 ± 5.79) was conducted which employed both open-ended and closed questions. Its findings confirm that, despite the considerable pressure singles experience due to their singleness, they still have a favourable attitude toward marriage.
Article
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Background/objectives: Commensality, eating together with others, is a major representation of human sociality. In recent time, environments around commensality have changed significantly due to rapid social changes, and the decline of commensality is perceived as a serious concern in many modern societies. This study employs a cross-cultural analysis of university students in two East Asian countries, and examines cross-cultural variations of perceptions and actual practices of commensality and solo-eating. Subjects/methods: The analysis was drawn from a free-list survey and a self-administrative questionnaires of university students in urban Korea and Japan. The free-listing survey was conducted with a small cohort to explore common images and meanings of commensality and solo-eating. The self-administrative questionnaire was developed based on the result of the free-list survey, and conducted with a larger cohort to examine reasons and problems of practices and associated behaviors and food intake. Results: We found that Korean subjects tended to show stronger associations between solo-eating and negative emotions while the Japanese subjects expressed mixed emotions towards the practice of solo-eating. In the questionnaire, more Korean students reported they prefer commensality and tend to eat more quantities when they eat commensally. In contrast, more Japanese reported that they do not have preference on commensality and there is no notable difference in food quantities when they eat commensally and alone. Compared to the general Korean cohort finding, more proportion of overweight and obese groups of Korean subjects reported that they tend to eat more when they are alone than normal and underweight groups. This difference was not found in the overweight Japanese subjects. Conclusion: Our study revealed cross-cultural variations of perceptions and practices of commensality and solo-eating in a non-western setting.
Article
In Japan the average age of first marriage continues to rise steadily, and people are spending a greater proportion of their adult life single. This is despite the fact that the vast majority of singles express desire to marry one day. The reasons for the rise in late and non-marriage are varied and complex, but difficulty in finding an appropriate or compatible partner has emerged as one of the key issues. Against this backdrop, the konkatsu (‘marriage-partner hunting’) industry has emerged, ostensibly to assist singles to find marriage partners. In this paper, we examine konkatsu popular literature, online matchmaking sites and the perceptions of single women and konkatsu workers to consider the ways that contemporary discourses of gender and marriage are reflected, (re)produced or challenged. The ‘male-breadwinner family’ model, based on the functional roles of ‘supportive wife’ and ‘provider husband’, is increasingly both undesirable and untenable for single Japanese women and men. However, values and norms pertaining to gender and marriage as portrayed in matchmaking sites and in some konkatsu literature remain remarkably unchanged. In this context, single women’s ambivalence towards konkatsu may reflect both ambivalence to marriage as a goal per se, and uneasiness with the gendered roles in marriage purveyed by konkatsu discourse.
Chapter
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Chapter 7 “Do Polish never-married singles feel stigmatized?” by Dominika Ochnik and Eugenia Mandal underlines the meaning of stigmatisation from psychological perspective. Singlehood is a very important social phenomenon. However the dissemination of single lifestyle is clearly noticeable, it is still related to stigmatisation. Stigmatisation can be described in two basic dimensions: external (public and structural stigma) and internal (self-stigma). There are given examples of public stigmatisation (negative stereotypisation) and strategic stigmatisation (legitimisation) of single people. In the chapter authors are analyzing the individual’s perspective on stigmatisation. The authors are proposing a new method “The Feeling of Stigmatisation of Singles Questionnaire” , that turn out to be highly reliably tool. The results show that Polish never-married singles feel stigmatized. The feeling of stigmatisation is related to certain stigma conditions. Polish never-married singles after 30 years old who have had one or none previous long-term relationships, have been single for more than 2 years, have primary education, have lower self-esteem and do not perceive their singlehood as their own choice are exposed to the feeling of stigmatisation the most.
Chapter
This chapter draws attention to the intersections and collisions between discourses of work, masculinity, and sexuality in the context of Japanese corporate culture. Despite significant socio-cultural shifts over recent decades, the discourse of the middle-class, white-collar heterosexual “salaryman” continues to be a signifier for Japanese corporate masculinity, and indeed, for Japanese masculinity as a whole. Yet, the reality is that there are salarymen who may not be heterosexual, but nevertheless need to engage on a day-to-day basis with the heteronormative ideological expectations of corporate masculinity. This chapter, drawing on interviews with individual salarymen who identify as non-heterosexual, explores the complex relationship between the publicly articulated heteronormative ideology of the workplace and the day-to-day micro-negotiations with the expectations of this ideology by non-heterosexual individuals.
Thesis
Cette recherche propose de mener une réflexion autour des pratiques sociales genrées qualifiables comme « contraintes patriarcales » auprès des migrants/expatriés japonais installés en France. Quoique la migration japonaise est aujourd’hui caractérisée comme une mobilité internationale privilégiée « Nord-Nord » ou « Nord-Sud », un déplacement d’un pays développé vers un autre pays industrialisé ou en cours de développement, leur mobilité a des particularités bien spécifiques par rapport aux autres mobilités privilégiées, notamment en matière du genre. Le Japon, « mauvais élève » sur l’égalité femme-homme, connaît encore aujourd’hui des pratiques et coutumes fortement patriarcales. Et avec la mobilité accrue des ressortissants japonais dans le monde ces dernières décennies, cette structure genrée des rapports femme-homme est « exportée » dans le pays d’arrivée, qui dessine une forte asymétrie genrée au sein des familles de migrants japonais. Cette recherche reposant essentiellement sur des enquêtes ethnographiques menées dans des localités différentes dans l’hexagone essaie d’interroger comment les migrants/expatriés exposés à d’autres cultures et modes de vie, notamment à la place différenciée des femmes et la pluralité des modèles familiaux appréhendent une autre réalité qu’ils observent dans le pays d’arrivée, et s’approprient de nouvelles identités féminines-masculines, ou au contraire, conservent la culture de domination masculine.
Chapter
Japanese women and men are marrying later and less, and marriage is no longer the universal norm it once was. This chapter will consider the construction of marriage in social, economic and political terms, with relation to ideals of the family, employment, and marriage roles. The links between marriage, fertility, labour and population decline are central to this discussion: Japan is regarded as one of the more extreme examples of an ageing, low-fertility society (Traphagan and Knight 2003, Jones 2007).
Chapter
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This introductory chapter opens with a historical account of single womanhood and creative work in China, followed by theoretical discussions on the two unique trajectories of our globalizing times that the subjects of this book straddle: single womanhood and creative work. While these Chinese women deal with the multiple demands of singlehood and creative jobs, what are their everyday struggles and pleasures? How do they take care of themselves in the midst of everyday precarity? The chapter explicates local modes of precarity implicated in global ideologies and imaginaries pertaining to womanhood and its intersection with creative labour. Ultimately, it holds up the case study of single women in Shanghai to argue for the limits of the politics of precarity, and proposes an ethics of care. The chapter introduces the 25 women who are the subjects of this book, and the methods used to converse with them. It ends by presenting the organizational logic of the book, and the gist of the subsequent chapters.
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Human as a social being throughout his life comes into various mutual relations – social, family, professional. Therefore human functions in specific relations – temporary or constant – with friends, acquaintances, spouse, children, colleagues, boss. The results of these relations – both individual and social – are very important. The best example is marriage. A successful wedlock is not solely a realization of own expectations and a fulfillment of the need for love and appreciation, but also raising children, the future citizens of the country. The attitudes learned during childhood are realized in adult life. Still, sole creation of a successful relationship and family is not an easy task, because it requires a lot of effort and commitment. The first step in order to achieve this task is finding the right person on the partnership market. Partnership market is a place where matrimonial transactions are performed. The term market is used intentionally to show that it comprises of a certain social space, in which people living alone can meet a potential partner and decided, whether to create a lasting relationship or not, as well as to what kind of relationship it will be – formal or informal. Therefore there is a resemblance to shopping – when we go to a market, we choose what pleases us and we decide to buy those things at the best price. Partner selection is based on the same rules, because everybody has a specific list of characteristics that the partner should have and knows exactly what, or rather who, he is looking for. Naturally, there exist some general characteristics, which classify the candidates at the very beginning, without the need for thorough getting to know each other, such as: age or sex. The quoted here Becker’s economic theory of marriage, family and fertility will be a benchmark for a strategy of searching for a partner, singles’ matrimonial and procreational plans, as wells as whether and when the marriage is profitable and what conditions decide about it, therefore how does the economic calculation of gains and losses arise in reference to aforementioned issues. The results of personal research realized in 2012 through an internet survey on a research sample of 898 individuals living alone in category “never married”, who overstepped the average age of getting married in Poland – that is 26 years old in case of women and 28 years old in case of men – will also be presented in the further part of the chapter (see more Such-Pyrgiel 2015, pp.11–32). The manner the singles’ decisions in the aspects of marriage and motherhood shape and what conditions them has also been analyzed. The benchmark for consideration were the main postulates of G. S. Becker’s economic theory of human behaviors, particularly about the maximizing character of human activities, market and economic equilibrium and the consistency of human preferences.
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In the context of a vast body of research on the role and function of conceptual metaphor in linguistic representation of non-dominant or non-normative social groups, the present paper deals with metaphorical blending found in a number of expressions used to describe deliberately single people forming part of the Japanese society. Expressions such as parasaito shinguru (“parasite singles”), sōshoku-kei danshi (“herbivorous men”), and himono onna (“dried-fish women”) are used as labels designating particular groups of people who do not conform to conventional societal roles because of, for example, failing to marry and establish a family in, what is considered, due time. The Japanese language often reflects very conservative, conformist, and ritual-abiding attitudes and mindsets of its speakers and hence, is rife with derogatory expressions which serve to denigrate non-conforming elements of a society. The expressions analysed here are culturally-determined and mirror, at least partially, the mindsets and opinions of some of the Japanese speakers. The present paper is maintained within the methodological framework of cognitive semantics. We conduct a conceptual blending analysis of selected metaphorical expressions found in the Japanese discourse. We find a strong trend towards employing conceptual blends based on dehumanising, often animalising, metaphors in order to linguistically denigrate groups non-conforming to expected societal norms.
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El presente artículo explora la elección childfree en México e indaga particularmente el impacto de los estigmas sociales hacia las personas que deciden rechazar para sí la maternidad/paternidad. Luego de extraer las cualidades y roles normativos de la masculinidad y feminidad de los discursos hegemónicos en la sociedad mexicana, a partir del análisis interpretativo de encuestas en línea y entrevistas en profundidad, se develan las narrativas que emplearon las personas que se identifican a sí mismas como childfree para negociar con los estigmas sociales y defender su decisión. El alcance de este estudio exploratorio es limitado, pero sienta bases para la construcción de un panorama del fenómeno en México y visibiliza diversas problemáticas que requieren analizarse en profundidad. Asimismo, a diferencia de la tendencia de estudios sobre childfree alrededor del mundo, en este se incluyeron no sólo a mujeres, sino también a varones, buscando las similitudes y diferencias entre los estigmas que perciben y sus implicaciones en círculos privados y laborales. Los hallazgos nutren el debate relacionado con identidades de género en América Latina.
Chapter
As in all postindustrial societies, the structure of personal relationships in Japan has been subject to fundamental changes: more and more people are getting married at a later age or not at all. Though marriage and changes in marriage behaviors have been examined intensively from various perspectives in the last decades, there has been almost no research on romantic relationships beyond marriage— romantic relationships before or outside of marriage—and their meaning for individuals and their lives in contemporary Japanese society. Given the existing statistical data, it seems that young adults are increasingly considered to be tired of couple relationships and therefore prone to renounce them. Against this backdrop, the article draws on theoretical approaches from subject-related family sociology to analyze individual romantic relationship-worlds. The central questions here are: what do, or could, romantic relationship-worlds look like in the Japanese context; which role does, or could, the absence of relationships play in this context; and how are relationships and the absence thereof “done” and talked about by the interviewees. The first section is based on qualitative data collected from 2010 onwards and offers anecdotal insight into individual romantic relationships. The variance and diversity of the relationship-worlds presented in the first section are discussed in the second section—also with regard to the (possible) influences of these relationship-worlds on marriage decisions and life plans. Finally, in the third section, further research questions are raised in the form of an outlook. Here, the focus is on integrating the category of “space” into the analysis, which proves to be central for follow-up investigations.
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This article explores what happens to understandings of social change in the realm of personal life when an empirical investigation is carried out that begins from rather different ontological and epistemological premises from those that have underpinned recent debates. It draws on UK-based research that was framed by an engagement with sociological theories of individualization, psychoanalytically informed psycho-social studies and queer theory, and that was designed to explore the psychic and affective dimensions, and the unconventional, counter-heteronormative practices, of contemporary personal life. The study used the free association narrative interview method to examine the practices and ethics of personal life of people living outside conventional couples. It found considerable levels of psychic conflict and emotional distress, and some mental illness, amongst the people interviewed. Many interviewees told stories of experiencing a fracturing of self as they faced lives in which they felt alone and in which they were expected to be self-responsible. These experiences, it is suggested, can be understood as tied up with losses contingent upon processes of individualization. However, the research also found evidence of a set of interrelated, counter-heteronormative relationship practices that served reparatively to suture the selves undone by these processes of individualization: the prioritizing of friendship, the decentring of sexual/love relationships, and the forming of non-conventional partnerships. The article proposes the notion of queer individualization to capture this set of transformations in the organization and experience of personal life, and suggests the necessity of understanding contemporary personal life as involving both the pain of loss, and new, reparative non-conventional connections.
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This article argues that systematic comparative analyses of women's strategies and coping mechanisms lead to a more culturally and temporally grounded understanding of patriarchal systems than the unqualified, abstract notion of patriarchy encountered in contemporary feminist theory. Women strategize within a set of concrete constraints, which I identify as patriarchal bargains. Different forms of patriarchy present women with distinct “rules of the game” and call for different strategies to maximize security and optimize life options with varying potential for active or passive resistance in the face of oppression. Two systems of male dominance are contrasted: the sub-Saharan African pattern, in which the insecurities of polygyny are matched with areas of relative autonomy for women, and classic patriarchy, which is characteristic of South and East Asia as well as the Muslim Middle East. The article ends with an analysis of the conditions leading to the breakdown and transformation of patriarchal bargains and their implications for women's consciousness and struggles.
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Social drinking is an accepted aspect of working life in Japan, and women are left to manage their drunken husbands when the men return home, restoring them to sobriety for the next day of work. In attempting to cope with their husbands' alcoholism, the women face a profound cultural dilemma: when does the nurturing behavior expected of a good wife and mother become part of a pattern of behavior that is actually destructive? How does the celebration of nurturance and dependency mask the exploitative aspects not just of family life but also of public life in Japan? The Too-Good Wife follows the experiences of a group of middle-class women in Tokyo who participated in a weekly support meeting for families of substance abusers at a public mental-health clinic. Amy Borovoy deftly analyzes the dilemmas of being female in modern Japan and the grace with which women struggle within a system that supports wives and mothers but thwarts their attempts to find fulfillment outside the family. The central concerns of the book reach beyond the problem of alcoholism to examine the women's own processes of self-reflection and criticism and the deeper fissures and asymmetries that undergird Japanese productivity and social order.
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It is often asserted that the declining fertility rate in Japan is closely associated with the increasing number of women who receive a higher education. This study investigates that relationship from the theoretical perspective of social stratification. Specifically, I incorporate the outlook of social stratification with demographic approaches by analyzing the decline in fertility in relation to increasing levels of educational attainment. The discussion is divided into two major parts. The first part considers the marital and reproductive behavior associated with family background, educational credentials, and first job as social stratification variables. The second part takes up changes in values as a consequence of increased education and examines the relationship between views on the sexual division of labor and men's participation in housework. One of the most important findings of this study is the effect of age on fertility. Whereas we have confirmed that educational background is of great importance in reaching the life stage of marriage, the decision of whether to give birth or not, which is directly reflected in the declining birthrate, is strongly influenced by age at marriage. Moreover, although it has been proposed that men's participation in housework be promoted to confront the declining birthrate, it appears that the crucial issue of involvement in child rearing is more strongly associated with age than with either values or education. It can be argued that the presence of a tightly and hierarchically ordered timetable based on age is weakening the influence of socioeconomic factors such as education and work in Japan.
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Heterosexuality is simply rarely examined nowadays in Gender/Sexuality scholarship. It is largely taken to be of little critical interest, as simply to be equated with heteronormativity. The present conflation of heterosexuality with heteronormativity presents dominant practices as monolithic, as all of a piece, and unchanging. In other words, the conflation over-determines this sexual mode as a source of domination and under-theorises it as a site for social dissonance or even a potential source of subversion. This paper, by contrast, considers the term transgression in relation to heterosexuality and in particular to heterosex. It is asserted that transgression might be intrinsic within dominant practices like heterosexuality (rather than necessarily always external to them). In the process the potential of the term transgression is compared with other terms like subversion/dissent/protest. The term is explored in the context of heterosexuality by drawing upon a range of resources such as analyses arising from environmental politics, Deleuze's conception of 'becoming', accounts which foreground ethical considerations (Carmody; Jenkins; White) and the notion of 'social flesh'. This discussion leads to the question of what might transgression in the realm of the dominant look like; how might a transgressive heterosexuality be conceptualised? Such an account complicates our understandings of self and social change and thus opens up hopeful possibilities.
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This review describes and critiques some of the many ways agency has been conceptualized in the academy over the past few decades, focusing in particular on practice theorists such as Giddens, Bourdieu, de Certeau, Sahlins, and Ortner. For scholars interested in agency, it demonstrates the importance of looking closely at language and argues that the issues surrounding linguistic form and agency are relevant to anthropologists with widely divergent research agendas. Linguistic anthropologists have made significant contributions to the understanding of agency as it emerges in discourse, and the final sections of this essay describe some of the most promising research in the study of language and gender, literacy practices, and the dialogic construction of meaning and agency.
In contemporary Japan, the family remains a strong social and legal entity. The right to make decisions on behalf of another in emergency situations lies with the immediate family. Similarly, immediate family members are legally entitled to claim from deceased family member's estates. One way to ensure that property and inheritance rights are passed on to same-sex partners is for the older partner to adopt the younger, thereby becoming family in the eyes of the law. An alternative that has recently been proposed is for partners to draw up legal agreements and register them with a local notary office. Neither of these options are problem free—the former introduces a parent/child relationship to a domestic partnership; the latter is yet to be tested in a court of law. Both rely on surreptitiously accessing (or appropriating) the existing civil code. This article briefly outlines the current situation in Japan regarding same-sex partnership rights and the alternatives available.
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1. The domain of methodology 2. Science and anthropology 3. Operationalism in anthropological research 4. Units of observation: emic and etic approaches 5. Tools of research - I 6. Tools of research - II: nonverbal techniques 7. Counting and sampling 8. Measurement, scales, and statistics 9. Art and science in field work 10. Research methods, relevance, and applied anthropology 11. Building anthropological theory: methods and models Appendixes Bibliography Index.
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Voted top new Japanese word of 2008, “arafô”, abbreviated from the English “around forty”, has been used in various media to describe women born between 1964 and 1973, who came of age during Japan's Bubble Era, and who entered the workforce as the country's Equal Employment Opportunity Lawwas being implemented in 1986. Arafô, or “forty-something women”, theoretically have more choices in relation to work and family than previous generations. During a time when society is ageing, their choices in employment, marriage and childbirth have been judged in journalistic and government discourses to be both progressive and problematic. At the same time, arafô have been associated with difficulties regarding individual freedom in the spate of television programs, books and magazines for and about them. The term and the gender trends it encapsulates were brought to national attention by the critically acclaimed 2008 television drama Araundo 40: Chûmon no ôi onnatachi (trans. Around 40: Demanding Women). We situate Around 40 in discussions about Japan's demographic crisis to argue that the series presents a wide array of life courses available for women near age 40 but ultimately recasts postwar gender roles for the 21-century sociopolitical climate. Around 40 shows how the diversification of life courses is interpreted in the influential medium of television drama.
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This article addresses the debate over whether or not the Of Revelation and Revolution (RR) project has, compared to earlier Comaroff ethnography, adequately addressed issues of Tswana 'agency.' I argue that the idea of agency encompasses several dimensions, that the RR project largely addresses one of them – cultural reworking of missionary ideas and projects – at the expense of others, especially Tswana projects and agendas that are not primarily reactive to missionary endeavors.
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Unmarried female migrants, travelling overseas for work, form a small proportion of Bangladeshi overseas migrants. Their situation is anomalous and suspect, since unmarried women should remain at home under male protection and control. The stories of Dipti, a single woman who migrated to Australia in the 1980s, and of two other single women from her native village, demonstrate clearly some of the contradictions of these women's lives. Like other single female migrants I knew, Dipti retained close links to kin in Bangladesh, contributing significantly to the income of parents and siblings back home. Indeed, her constant and generous gift-giving can be understood as an attempt to counter her anomalous position and remain part of the moral economy of the village. However, Dipti's longing to remain part of an ‘ideal’ extended family conflicted with her relatives' desire for autonomy. This is because families in Bangladesh were themselves changing over this period, due to the intersection of the developmental cycles of domestic groups, dispositions towards the autonomy of children from their parents and each other, and through the economic pressures of contemporary Bangladeshi society, which provide a strong further impetus towards the financial autonomy of the nuclear family. These changes within the structure of their families result in alienating further these single female migrants. Thus, ultimately, both Dipti's attempts to maintain her extended family in Bangladesh and her efforts to recreate it in Australia were doomed to failure. The brief stories of the other two single women I use in the article are parallel to that of Dipti's.
Article
The five articles in this Special Issue are introduced by contextualising them broadly within feminist poststructuralist, postcolonial and anthropological approaches. After a brief exploration of methodologies that link ethnography with poetics and historical analysis, a general theoretical critique of modern Western forms of agency, especially liberal notions of autonomous rational choice, is offered. Western philosophy and theory, argues the author, have implications well beyond social formations in the West and she outlines their impacts on the agency of women in Asian societies. While cautioning against the pitfalls of both under and overvaluing agency, the author then offers a reconsideration of its analytical utility. Agency needs to address the gaps between everyday reflection and practices and hegemonic discourses or symbolic structures. In this gap, where women who fall outside the parameters of dominant notions of womanhood are considered ‘unstable’, both resistance and constraint are possible. Dominant discourses certainly have durable effects but their tools and symbols have been reinscribed to produce agency in hybrid forms. Agency is thus thought to arise from within existing societal discourses and symbolic structures rather than in opposition to them. In this process multiple positionings for women, all of which are performative, are created. These reconsiderations of agency are mirrored in the articles which follow. Agency in its modern forms is deemed inadequate by these authors to explain the agency of women in Asia. Rather than proposing a hierarchy of agency in its significant and insignificant forms, the authors in this Issue provide much needed accounts of socially and culturally situated agency, significant in both their breadth and depth.
Article
In the last two decades one of the key questions that has occupied many feminist theorists is how should issues of historical and cultural specificity inform both the analytics and politics of any feminist project. Although this questioning has resulted in serious attempts at integrating issues of sexual, racial, class, and national difference within feminist theory, questions of religious difference have remained relatively unexplored in this scholarship. The vexed relationship between feminism and religious traditions is perhaps most manifest in discussions on Islam. This is due in part to the historically contentious relationship that Islamic societies have had with what has come to be called "the West," but in part to the challenges contemporary Islamic movements pose to secular-liberal politics of which feminism has been an integral (if critical) part. In particular, women's active support for a movement that seems to be inimical to their own interests and agendas, at a historical moment when more emancipatory possibilities would appear to be available to women, raises fresh dilemmas for feminists.' In this essay, I will probe some of the conceptual challenges that women's participation in the Islamic movement poses to feminist theorists and gender analysts through an ethnographic account of an urban women's mosque movement that is part of the larger Islamic revival in Cairo, Egypt. In this movement women from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds provide lessons to each other that focus on the teaching and studying of Islamic scriptures, social practices, and forms of bodily comportment considered germane to the cultivation of the ideal virtuous self.2 Even though Egyptian Muslim women have always had some measure of informal training in piety, the mosque movement represents an unprecedented engagement with scholarly materials and theological reasoning that had to date been the purview of learned men. Movements such as this one, if they do not provoke a yawning boredom among secular intellectuals, certainly conjure up a whole host of uneasy associations such as fundamentalism, the subjugation of women, social conservatism, reactionary atavism,
But ohitorisama is not just for singles – being married or single is irrelevant. Ohitorisama is for all women
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Haishi notes " But ohitorisama is not just for singles – being married or single is irrelevant. Ohitorisama is for all women " (Haishi, 2004, p. 15).
The agency of women in Asia
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Parker, Lyn, ed. (2005a) The agency of women in Asia (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish).
Makeinu no toboe (Tokyo: Kodansha)
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Sakai Junko (2003) Makeinu no toboe (Tokyo: Kodansha).
Better left on the shelf than a downtrodden wife? Japan Times
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Shoji, Kaori (2005) Better left on the shelf than a downtrodden wife? Japan Times. Available at http:// www.japantimes.co.jp/text/ek20050602ks.html#.T-gWue3gwRk, accessed 4 March 2014.
The new single woman
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Trimberger, E. Kay (2005) The new single woman (Boston: Beacon Press).
Ohitorisama no rōgo (Tokyo: Hōken)
  • Ueno Chizuko
Ueno Chizuko (2007) Ohitorisama no rōgo (Tokyo: Hōken).