The ' Good Wife, Wise Mother ' Ideology

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The ‘good wife, wise mother’ ideology, also known as the ‘ryōsai kenbo’ ideology, is one that finds its historic origins in the Meiji period and has dominated Japan ever-since. It is dynamic and changes its form (or rather, its form is tweaked and determined by the Government) according to current socioeconomic needs – usually to the detriment and subordination of women. In today’s Japan the ideology’s ‘male breadwinner’ form is undergoing attempts of legal erosion with democratization, specifically the push towards gender equality, but that is not to say the ideology is no longer relevant in today’s Japan. In reality the ideology still exists as it is culturally valued. This essay argues that although today’s Japan’s socioeconomic state no longer sits well with the ‘male breadwinner model’ founded upon this ideology, the ideology itself continues to exist – manifesting itself in various ways – and can be considered ‘relevant in today’s Japan’.

The ‘good wife, wise mother’ ideology is a continually evolving ideology first emerged in the Meiji restoration period of Japan as an institutionalised female educational ideal. This ideology did not always exist in Japan. In the Edo period the dominating Confucianism ideology taught the inferiority of women who were considered “stupid”. Females only existed to served the families they married into and to fulfill their expected duties as ‘good wives’ – limited to childbearing and most importantly did not include the upbringing,
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