These students object to the unconscious sexism of the name.

As you probably know by now, Japanese society, like many others in the world, is still working on attaining gender equality. In Japanese homes, for example, married women continue to feel like they are shouldering the burden of cooking and cleaning of a household alone, even when both partners work full time.

With the issue repeatedly coming to light in various surveys and television programs, it’s become a hot enough topic in society that even Japanese youth seem to be taking notice, and they’re not letting it slide. In a recent petition, Japanese high school students asked convenience store giant Family Mart to change the name of their ready-made food line “Mom’s Diner”.

(To clarify, “Mom’s Diner” is written as “お母さん食堂 (Okaasan Shokudo)” in Japanese, in case there are any linguists among us. For those who can’t speak Japanese, “お母さん (okaasan)” is the casual way to refer to one’s own mother, while, “食堂 (shokudo)” can range in meaning from restaurant to cafeteria, dining hall, diner, and a few other similar translations. Since there does not appear to be an official English name for the line, we’ll translate it as the more-or-less neutral “Mom’s Diner”.)

▼ Former SMAP member Shingo Katori stars as the line’s mascot…which is a further irony we won’t get into right now.

The “Mom’s Diner” line includes prepared meals like gratin, oden, and soup; meal sides like salads and cooked vegetables; and fully cooked meats and fish, all either frozen or refrigerated for easy consumption. The concept behind it is that they make “home-cooked food”, presumably like that made by your mother, easy to eat at any time, without having to cook it yourself.

But the name of the line has an inherent gender bias in it, which high school students from Hyogo, Kyoto, and Okayama prefectures in western Japan took issue with. That’s why they created a petition titled, “We want to change the name of Family Mart’s ‘Mom’s Diner’!!!”. In the description of the petition, the students wrote that they recently had an opportunity to learn about gender and gender equality, and learned that the idea that “Men should work, and women do the housework” is still prevalent in Japan, despite more women working today than ever before.

▼ The quintessential image of a wife having breakfast or dinner ready for her husband in a pristine kitchen

“In order to change these stereotypes and values based on sex, so that we can create a society where everyone thrives, we’d like to ask for your help,” they wrote. The students lined up a logical and clear argument against the name, supported with facts and statistics. Their main argument was that the title “Mom’s Diner” has the connotation that it’s the mom’s job to do the cooking and housework, and that this could contribute to a deepening of society’s unconscious bias that men should work and women should do housework. With product names like this, they argue, unconscious bias could be passed on to children, who will grow to follow the same patterns in an endless cycle of divided gender roles.

At the end of their explanation, the students penned an open letter directly to Family Mart:

“…We are aware that there are many brands in the world besides ‘Mom’s Diner’ that promote this kind of unconscious bias. 

However, we feel that if such a large company were to change such a problematic name, it would be very influential, and that’s why we created this project…

…If you consider the great influence that a product name like this has on people’s values, you might be able to fix one of the reasons why we can’t achieve gender equality. We would be happy if you would consider changing the name of ‘Mom’s Diner’, in order to make our society better for everyone. 

Rather than coming up with our own ideas of what the new name should be, we decided it would be better to tell you why the current name is wrong. Please give us the opportunity to explain our thoughts to you.

Thank you for your consideration.”

According to the Girl Scouts of Japan, who helped organize the petition, the students involved started their activism in the summer of 2019, after participating in a Girl Scouts program that sparked their interest in the cause. The students started the petition in October, and by the time it closed on December 31, it had collected 7,576 signatures. However, most of the signatures happened within the last week, indicating that the movement only gained momentum at the end and could have acquired many more. Many comments on the petition were supportive, and shared further reasons why the name of the line is damaging, including lack of consideration for children without mothers, and that men who cook are ignored by this kind of gendered naming.

▼ Normalize men cooking, too!

As of yet, there hasn’t been any news about a response from Family Mart, though that might be understandable given that most of their corporate employees are likely only just now going back to work after the New Year holidays. Hopefully the petition resonates with the executives at the major convenience store chain, and we’ll see the name change to something a little more gender-neutral in the future!

Source: via OVO via Yahoo! News via My Game News Flash
Top image: Pakutaso

Insert images: Family Mart, Pakutaso (1, 2, 3)
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