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The Japanese university club and the hierarchical notion of gender role reproduction Vincenti, James J.


Although traditional depictions of gender in ancient Japanese mythology continue to help define gender in Japanese culture, such recent litigation as the Equal Employment Opportunity Act and the Childcare Leave Act signal change in these roles. This study explores the relationship between the Japanese hierarchical social structure and the parameters of the gender territories of women and men in a university club. Employing a single case (embedded) design, this study utilized the networks of former members (students who began their studies from 1953 to 1989) of Oendan (the "Cheering Club") at a private university in central Japan. Oendan's two sections, Leader-bu for men and Cheerleader-bu for women, have utterly different atmospheres. Leader-bu stresses daily rigorous and physically punishing practices in a highly disciplined atmosphere, whereas Cheerleader-bu more closely resembles its North American counterpart. To fully examine the differences between the two sections, I divided the case into three stages: (a) an historical analysis, (b) a survey, and (c) personal interviews. The results reflect an attitude that a perceived difference in physical strength and a strong sense of "tradition" inhibit true equality between the genders. Although most men may acquiesce in gender equality in an abstract sense, they also understand that, in reality, this is impossible because of the physical differences between the sexes. Leader-bu members continue to reinforce the importance of tradition year after year because they believe that they are benefiting, both personally and socially, from traditional beliefs and customs. Although victims of this belief system, they feel compelled to reproduce it. In reproducing it, however, they also must suffer from the lack of freedom that accompanies it.

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