The Northrop Frye Centre Presents:

Nick Feinig Poster - The Ikumen Backlash


Wednesday, March 20, 2019 at 4:00pm

Nick Feinig, 2018-2019 NFC Doctoral Fellow 
Northrop Frye Centre, VC102, Old Vic, 91 Charles st. West

In 2016, a Japanese politician championing paternity leave was embroiled in a sex scandal. This case drew attention to simmering resent directed towards "ikumen". Derived from the Japanese term “ikuji” (child rearing) and the English term “men”, ikumen invert the hegemonic gendered division of labour in Japan: they play with children, help with homework, organize events at school, and assist with cooking and cleaning. Held in contrast with the absentee salary men of the nation's boom years, ikumen once appeared as champions of a radical shift towards gender equality in the home. However, much has changed since the term was first popularized in 2006. From talk show panels and mommy blogs to the National Diet, men and women are increasingly vocal in their criticism of these fathers. Drawing on data collected over 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Tokyo, this talk attends to an important question: why has public opinion turned against ikumen? Against the backdrop of this conflict, Feinig sketches out an emerging ideal of fatherhood in Japan organized around the slippery concept of "common sense". 

Nicholas Feinig is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology. Against the backdrop of Japan's rapidly aging society and falling birthrate, his research examines non-profit organizations dedicated to promoting active and engaged fathering. His fieldwork was conducted in Tokyo alongside members of these groups, and incorporates translations of parenting textbooks and management training material.

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