Machine language

So, as various blogs have reported, Japan's minister of labor, health and welfare (厚生労働) YANAGISAWA Hakuo referred to women as "birth-giving machines". It always bugs me in cases like this when no-one bothers to reproduce his actual words, so here they are for the record... though they don't improve matters much:

15−50歳の女性の数は決まっている。産む機械、装置の数は決まっているから、あとは一人頭で頑張ってもらうしかない。 (Source)

"The number of 15-50-year-old women is fixed. The number of birth-giving machines, [the amount of] equipment, is fixed, so all we can do is have each [person] do their best." Yep, there it is. Plus, qualifiers like "機械って言っちゃ申し訳ないけど" ("Sorry for using the word 'machines', but...") only dig the hole deeper: they suggest that he knows his phrasing is inappropriate, but expects a token pseudo-apology to get him off the hook.

But wink-wink PC theater of that kind works only on people who wouldn't have been offended anyway. All Yanagisawa accomplished, in the end, was a demonstration of his staggering inability to relate to the women of Japan -- or, indeed, any women, anywhere, ever. And it isn't like these are "Was will das Weib?"-type mysteries, either. Consider a hypothetical 13-year-old boy who got kicked out of his LARP club for being too dorky. Even he could tell you that calling women baby machines is a one-way to ticket to Greater Asskickings. I wouldn't be surprised if the birth rate drops even lower now, purely out of spite.

Popularity factor: 4


More gauche than the language, of course, is the fact that he assumes women need to stop messing around with all this late-marrying and designer shopping crap and set about turning around the population trend, and hey presto, all will be well. What about, y'know, the families who are holding off having kids due to economic unease and the fact that the government doesn't provide any incentives to them? They insist on characterising the birth rate decline as purely a social problem, when in reality it's partly economic. (Not that separating the two is ever anything but a fallacy, anyway.)

I think he should have got into almost as much trouble without the machine comments, frankly.


Indeed! It is inappropriate in my view too for the minister responsible for labor and welfare to start talking about how women need to "ganbaru" more without bothering to, oh, say, initiate labor- or welfare-related reforms that would make having kids realistic for them. ("Labor" pun unintended but left in.)


Gah! More Powindah hubbub!

Turn 'em all into axlotl tanks and be done with it, I says!

(Can you figure what kind of reading I've been dune lately?)


Funny to see this post.

When the news hit a Dutch news site I was the only one to also post the literal quote and a tentative Dutch translation (hope to take the yonkyuu JLPT this year).

Of course, most Japanese women I talk with were really thinking 'baka' when this statement came out. Heh, out of touch indeed!

Comment season is closed.