TV & Radio
Japan's Male Crisis May Give The 'Weaker Sex' the Throne
Japan Ponders Letting Women Rule, or Concubines
By CHARLOTTE SECTOR - ABC News
Jan. 23, 2006— - Faced with no male heirs, Japan's boy-only emperor club may have to crack its doors and let women in.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has pledged to submit a bill to change the constitution and let female heirs ascend to the imperial throne. But he gave no specific date for the bill nor said exactly how it would be written.
That means 4-year-old Princess Aiko has a chance of becoming an empress, since she's the only child of Crown Prince Naruhito. She's got some time to prepare, since her father has first dibs on the throne.
Not everyone in Japan agrees with women sitting on the throne, but with no male heir born to the royal family since 1965 and with little chance of getting one (both princes are in their 40s), Koizumi is betting on the future with women.
Naruhito has a younger brother, Akishino, but he and his wife have two daughters.
Women have been barred from succeeding to the throne under a law passed in 1947. That same law also automatically strips female royals of all royal advantages when they get married.
Two months ago, Aiko's aunt, Princess Sayako, married a "commoner" and bid farewell to her family and her royal title.
After 36 years of pampered life, Sayako had no chance to rule the country, so she gave it all up for her 40-year-old hubby. Out went privilege, in came housework.
In his keynote speech to parliament, Koizumi said that changes must be made "in order that the imperial throne be continued into the future in a stable manner."
After all, women have worn the crown before. The last empress ruled the Land of the Rising Sun from 1762 to 1770.
My Favorite Concubine
Some say that maintaining male lineage trumps all, and that the princes should use concubines to pop out male heirs.
The current emperor's cousin, Prince Tomohito of Mikasa, favors male bastards to blue-blooded women.
Japan's priests also oppose letting the "weaker sex" take the reins of the country. The Shinto priest association said the bill would "damage national respect for the throne."
No word on whether they advocate Tomohito's take on the issue with preapproved mothers-to-be, but it may never come to that.
A recent poll revealed that 80 percent of the Japanese public wants Aiko to become empress.
As modernity trumps tradition, maybe Aiko can give everyone a jolt by taking on male concubines when she rules.
Marriage proposal: Why not privatize?
Partnerships could be tailored to fit
- Colin P.A. Jones
San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, January 22, 2006
A fundamental problem with marriage is that it only comes in one size. As a legal relationship, matrimony is a monopoly product supplied by the government.
At the same time, however, as a personal relationship, the institution has unique, personal importance to those who partake of it. To some it even has deeply felt religious significance.
Thus, there is a mismatch between what is demanded of marriage and what is supplied. It is this imbalance that makes the prospect of same-sex unions a seemingly intractable problem.
Because there is only one legally sanctioned version of marriage, those who personally view homosexuality as a mortal sin (rightly or wrongly) are hostile to the prospect of sharing it with gay couples.
As with many things in life, a free-market solution that offers people choice may provide a solution.
Subject to certain statutory constraints, businesspeople have long been free to form whatever sort of partnership they felt appropriate to their needs. Why not make the same possible for marriage, which is a partnership based on one of the oldest types of contractual relationships?
We are already there in some respects -- no-fault divorce states such as California already treat the dissolution of a marriage largely in the same way as the dissolution of a corporate partnership.
Couples entering into marriage should be able to use a partnership agreement that is tailored to their own circumstances and aspirations, one that reflects the values and expectations that they themselves attach to marriage.
Of course, it will be impractical to expect everyone to be able to draft a workable partnership agreement that will govern a (hopefully) lifelong relationship. Off-the-shelf marital partnership kits would be developed by lawyers and other private enterprises to fill this need. Customized products would be available, too.
Even greater participation could be achieved through the establishment of marital corporations (MCs), which could have hundreds or thousands of couples as shareholders, all sharing common values about marriage.
Couples getting married would subscribe to the shares of an existing marital corporation. Its charter documents would set forth the terms of the marriage to which the subscribing couples agree.
Here is where a plethora of choices would become available to prospective newlyweds.
A Catholic marital corporation would forbid its members from divorcing. Progressive marital corporations would allow gay marriage. Islamic or Mormon fundamentalist marital corporations could allow polygamy. Plain vanilla marital corporations would probably be popular among people who just want to get married without thinking about it too much.
Consideration of the wide range of available options might actually encourage people to think about what they want out of their marriage. And once those with strong feelings about homosexuals, divorcees, Republicans or whatever, are able to exclude such people from their own version of marriage by joining a like-minded marital corporation, they are less likely to object to same-sex couples joining more-accepting ones (or even ones that accept only homosexuals).
Exclusivity and the use of choice to define one's identity are at the core of modern consumer society. Extending this to marriage is only logical. Marital corporations would be a huge boost to the multibillion-dollar wedding industry, while opening up a vast range of possible business opportunities throughout society.
Some could be established as nonprofit organizations that also work in furtherance of social or environmental causes about which some couples have strong feelings.
Others might become investment vehicles, whose assets form the marital nest egg. Still others might charge a subscription fee that would then be invested to pay dividends to lasting marriages upon significant anniversaries.
Very exclusive branded MCs could charge extravagant membership fees; getting married through say, the Tiffany Marriage Corp., could be a huge status symbol for which some people might pay a hefty premium.
Some might become social clubs through which like-minded couples can develop friendships or business contacts. With incentives to develop marital corporations that cater to all sectors of society, marriage would turn into an even bigger business than it already is. This is usually what happens when you offer consumers more choice.
Numerous issues would have to be worked out, of course. Just as with any contractual relationship, minors below a certain age would be excluded from joining a marital corporation.
Exemptions to securities laws would be needed to free marital corporations from having to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Marital corporation shares would not be freely transferable, except perhaps to children (as precious family assets, like Mom's wedding ring).
The messy issues that arise in a divorce would still be there, just as they are in any bankruptcy or corporate dissolution.
And what do you do if you want to get divorced and remarry but have done your first marriage through a marital corporation that does not permit it?
Subscribe to a marital corporation that allows polygamy, perhaps, or at least be willing to assume whatever financial liabilities a breach of the shareholder terms of your first marital corporation requires.
Freedom of choice means freedom of contract, and freedom of contract includes the freedom to breach a contract if you are willing to accept the consequences.
But because the marital corporation charter would also be a perfect place to include prenuptial terms, divorce might actually be simplified, as more people would be likely to have at least some terms in place clarifying their rights and obligations when the union goes bad.
The reproductive aspects of marriage will also cause issues. Not because marital corporations will change the way the law deals with children in divorce situations (and I am not suggesting we incorporate the parent-child relationship), but because allowing same-sex unions (either through a marital corporation regime or the ad hoc approach some states are already following) will eliminate the presumption of reproduction that underlies traditional marriage.
Big deal, respond gay marriage proponents, who will point out that nobody looks at the reproductive capabilities of male-female couples before allowing them to marry, even after child-bearing age.
However, this argument ignores the fact that reproduction is only a presumption of marriage, but a very useful one, just like the presumption that minors (no matter how precocious) are incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse. If the presumption of reproduction is no longer needed, then there is no real reason to prevent incestuous marriages.
This too may sound like a typical alarmist "slippery-slope, where will it end?" argument against gay marriage, but that is not the intent. Marriage may be about a lifelong loving relationship, but in today's world, it is also about benefits.
I have an unabashedly heterosexual friend who works for a major corporation. Because she lives in Massachusetts, where gay marriage was recently legalized by judicial fiat, she has started talking about marrying one of her best girlfriends for the sole purpose of giving her friend access to her company's health care benefits.
Fraudulent, some might say, but why not? Does anyone want to get into the business of determining who is really gay and who isn't?
And once gays can get married in same-sex unions, why can't heterosexuals? And if my friend can marry her friend to get spousal benefits, why can't I do the same thing for my widowed mother? Or my sick, unemployed brother?
If marriage is not at least presumptively about reproduction anymore, there is no real reason to disallow any of these things. This is not an endorsement of incest, but if marriage is no longer about sex (hetero, reproductive or otherwise), intra-family marriages cease to be a problem.
While people would be free to use a marital corporation to enter into whatever type of marriage they wish for, governments and corporations would be able to limit the types of marital corporations they will recognize for benefits purposes.
Marital corporations that wish to be eligible for federal spousal benefits might be required to have mandatory provisions in their corporate charters that, for example, prohibit gay unions but permit interracial ones.
Such limitations may reflect public policies, economic realities or both, but at least it will enable us to get the government out of the business of deciding who can and who can't get married.
Just as corporations will be able to "choose" marital corporations for benefits purposes, employees will be able to choose, too. Businesses that are too restrictive in the range of spouses they offer benefits to will find themselves having trouble attracting qualified employees. The marital corporation regime will not satisfy everyone. But more people will be at least partially satisfied, which is a sign of a good compromise, and will surely be an improvement over the simplistic "marriage/not marriage" dichotomy that currently defines the institution.
More important still, people will be able to exercise some choice in how their marriage is treated, rather than having the result imposed by the government. Yes, you can have a polygamous marriage, but you do so on the understanding that you may sacrifice your access to spousal benefits.
There are, after all, as many types of marriage as there are marriages. Recognizing this reality in the law would doubtless save us all from endless strife among those who would seek to turn the institution into something that they control through defining what it is.
The tremendous business opportunities that privatizing marriage would create would be a happy side benefit.
Colin P.A. Jones is a U.S. lawyer and professor at Doshisha University Law School in Kyoto, Japan. A longer version of this article will appear in the Summer 2006 issue of The Independent Review. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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La propuesta matrimonial: ¿Por qué no privatizarla?
Colin P.A. Jones
San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, Jan. 22, 2006
Making a Man of Her
A woman puts on stubble and pants and spends a year living, bowling and dating as a guy
By LEV GROSSMAN
God gave Norah Vincent A gift: huge feet. She wears a size 11 1/2. Men's 11 1/2. That is not something she has necessarily always felt grateful for. "A lot of times I have to buy men's shoes," she says. But those big dogs wound up coming in handy when she spent 18 months dressing, talking, working and dating as a man.
Vincent didn't cross the great gender divide for the sheer fun of it. In fact, she found the experience extremely painful. "Looking back on it now," she says, "I never would have done it if I had known what it really was. I had no idea that it would take this big a toll." She did it in order to write a book, Self-Made Man (Viking; 290 pages), about how the other half lives. Kind of like Maureen Dowd but with research.
In person, Vincent is affable and articulate. She is neither an avenging feminist valkyrie nor a Coulteresque apologist for the patriarchy. She's more like a neutral anthropologist, genuinely curious about what on earth could possibly make men act the way they do. Vincent doesn't look especially masculine, although she is on the tall side--5 ft. 10 in. and lanky--and her voice is somewhat south of the alto range. (And there's the feet.) So she created an alter ego whom she named Ned.
Ned looked a lot like Norah but with accessories: a sports bra to keep her breasts under wraps, a manly new flat-top haircut, a weight-lifting routine to bulk out Norah's girly shoulders, and a prosthetic penis to fill out his/her crotch. And Vincent hired a voice coach to teach her to talk like a guy--slowly, with as little expression as humanly possible, keeping those emotions under wraps and the hand gestures to a minimum.
Ned also came with a dusting of fake stubble for Vincent's smooth, pink, ladylike cheeks--"I was always thinking, Is it coming off? I always had this little hanky. I'm sure people thought it was really affected. I was always going to the bathroom to check it." Plus, Ned had a brand-new manly attitude. "One of the things I picked up as a man was projecting a certain confidence and authority and entitlement," Vincent says. "As a woman, you're often apologizing for things."
For Vincent, putting on Ned's costume almost every morning was like descending into the ocean in a bathysphere or hacking her way into the interior of the Amazon jungle, only that jungle is all around us every day. Ned took her places most women don't go, or can't, or wouldn't if you paid them. She joined an all-male bowling league. She ordered lap dances at strip clubs. She went on an Iron John--style men's retreat. She even spent three weeks in a Catholic monastery, in which she found that the ancient question "Ginger or Mary Ann?" was still being debated.
Of course, the chapter you flip to first is the one about dating. Vincent speed-dated. She hit on chicks in singles bars. (Vincent is gay, so it's not so big a stretch as you may think.) She went on dozens of Internet dates. Looking out from behind Ned's stubble, she was surprised at how much sexual power women have over men, even when women may feel disempowered in other ways, and how icily they wield it. She was also surprised how tough it was to keep up the façade of bluff, jocular arrogance that both sexes demand from men at all times. "Every man's armor is borrowed and 10 sizes too big," she writes in Self-Made Man, "and beneath it, he's naked and insecure and hoping you won't see."
If you're picking up on an undertone of empathy with the hairier sex, you're right. This isn't a we-are-the-world book in which Vincent rejoices in our common humanity. It's too subtle for that, too smart and too honest. If anything, she found the gender gap to be even more unleapable than she had expected. But she did come to believe that some feminist sniping at men is just too easy, that if women tried harder to understand men, they'd realize that men too are trapped by patriarchal prejudices in their own way. "I think men have been sort of forced to learn women's language, through the feminist movement," she says, "but women haven't seemed to evince a curiosity in learning men's language. Men have ways of communicating that women don't understand. And we think, because it's not our way, that nothing is being said." Ned would probably agree. Even though he's way too manly to say so.
'Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey Into Manhood and Back Again,' by Norah Vincent
The New York Times
'Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey Into Manhood and Back Again,' by Norah Vincent
Male Like Me
Review by DAVID KAMP
Published: January 22, 2006
Don't judge this book by its cover. It features two photographs of the author, Norah Vincent. In the first, she's a brassy, attractive woman with short, upswept hair and a confident smirk on her face. In the second, she's done up in man drag, with poindexter eyeglasses, a day's worth of stubble and a necktie. There's your premise in a nutshell: assertive, opinionated Vincent, best known as a contrarian columnist for The Los Angeles Times, goes undercover as a man to learn how the fellas think and act when them pesky broads ain't around. Flip the book open, and the first thing you come to is its dedication: "To my beloved wife, Lisa McNulty, who saves my life on a daily basis." Yes, ladies and gents, the author is a self-proclaimed "dyke."
But "Self-Made Man" turns out not to be what it threatens to be, a men-are-scum diatribe destined for best-seller status in the more militant alternative bookstores of Berkeley and Ann Arbor. Rather, it's a thoughtful, diligent, entertaining piece of first-person investigative journalism. Though there's plenty of humor in "Self-Made Man," Vincent - like her spiritual forebear John Howard Griffin, the white journalist who colored his skin and lived as a black man in the South for his 1961 book "Black Like Me" - treats her self-imposed assignment seriously, not as a stunt.
All that said, it was a stunt that led to Vincent's undertaking her journey into Testostoland. One night a few years ago, she explains in the first chapter, a "drag king" friend of hers dared her to dress as a man and go for a walk in New York's East Village. Vincent pasted on some false facial hair, threw on some loose jeans and a baseball cap, and spent a few hours wandering the neighborhood. With the help of the evening darkness, which concealed the shoddiness of her disguise, Vincent didn't get found out, though she admits she barely interacted with anyone. But the very fact that no one paid her any mind was a small revelation. Vincent had lived in the East Village for years. "As a woman," she writes, "you couldn't walk down those streets invisibly. You were an object of desire or at least semiprurient interest to the men who waited there, even if you weren't pretty." But in her makeshift man drag, she found that the same stoop-sitters and bodega loiterers didn't stare at her. "On the contrary," she says, "when they met my eyes they looked away immediately and concertedly and never looked back. It was astounding, the difference, the respect they showed me by not looking at me, by purposely not staring." If this halfhearted attempt at gender switching could provide such insight, imagine what a year-plus immersion in manhood might yield.
And so Norah transforms herself into Ned. Ned comes into being via a flat-top haircut, a new wardrobe of sports jackets and rugby shirts, a pair of rectangular glasses, workouts to build up the shoulders and add 15 pounds of bulk, a cupless sports bra to flatten the breasts, a convincing layer of facial stubble (made of something called wool crepe hair and applied with an adhesive called stoppelpaste) and some lessons in male speech patterns with a Juilliard voice coach. For verisimilitude, Vincent also acquires a prosthetic member from a sex shop - though, the author takes pains to explain, it's a flaccid version designed specifically for cross-dressers, not an outsize toy for bedroom kicks.
Vincent's status as a "masculine woman" abets this transformation, but the subject of her lesbianism falls away, more or less, once her adventures as Ned begin. Indeed, one of the great attributes of "Self-Made Man" is its lack of agenda or presuppositions. To be sure, Vincent's status as a woman is what makes her observations of male behavior fresh - introducing herself to some guys in a bowling league, she's touched by the ritual howyadoin', man-to-man handshake, which, "from the outside . . . had always seemed overdone to me," but from the inside strikes her as remarkably warm and inclusive, worlds away from the "fake and cold" air kisses and limp handshakes exchanged by women. But in its best moments, "Self-Made Man" transcends its premise altogether, offering not an undercover woman's take on male experience, but simply a fascinating, fly-on-the-wall look at various unglamorous male milieus that are well off the radar of most journalists and book authors.
That bowling league, for example. Norah-as-Ned commits to it for eight months, becoming the weak link on a four-man team of working-class white men. (Vincent has changed the names of the characters and obscured the locations to protect the identities of her subjects.) The resultant chapter is as tender and unpatronizing a portrait of America's "white trash" underclass as I've ever read. "They took people at face value," writes Vincent of Ned's teammates, a plumber, an appliance repairman and a construction worker. "If you did your job or held up your end, and treated them with the passing respect they accorded you, you were all right." Neither dumb lugs nor proletarian saints, Ned's bowling buddies are wont to make homophobic cracks and pay an occasional visit to a strip club, but they surprise Vincent with their lack of rage and racism, their unflagging efforts to improve Ned's atrocious bowling technique and "the absolute reverence with which they spoke about their wives," one of whom is wasting away from cancer.
Compelling in a rather different way is Vincent's account of working as a salesman for one of those shady, Mamet-ready outfits that advertise in the classifieds, offering $$$ to "high-powered" prospects, no experience necessary. Answering such an ad, Ned lands a thankless job going door-to-door selling "entertainment books" filled with coupons for discounts at local businesses. The raw, malevolent arrogance of Ned's fellow salesmen, who actually psych themselves up by shouting out such idiotic motivational acronyms as Juice (for Join Us In Creating Excitement), can't hide their desperation. Vincent scares herself when, dressed up in one of Ned's power blazers, she submits to the Juice mentality and actually succeeds at being a feral-jerk saleswolf, earning her boss's praise as "a highly motivated type a guy."
Ned's whistle-stop tour of modern manhood also takes him to a Roman Catholic monastery, a lap-dance club, a men's consciousness-raising group and on a series of awkward dates with women. (Amusingly, Vincent is utterly astounded by the amount of rejection and hauteur that heterosexual men put up with.) Conspicuously absent from "Self-Made Man," though, are men leading full, contented lives. Perhaps this is a function of the limitations of Vincent's experiment - after all, a "man" created out of thin air and stoppelpaste can't very well insinuate himself into an elegant country club or a loving nuclear family.
But the pervasive melancholy of the milieus that Ned inhabits colors Vincent's conclusions too much. She is, I dare say, too respectful of the "men's movement" instigated by the publication of Robert Bly's "Iron John" in 1990. Attending a retreat with her men's group, she's detached enough to ridicule the tribal drums and plastic swords wielded at the retreat's climactic "spirit dance," but she still buys into the movement's victimography and faux-purgatory nonsense. "I passed in a man's world not because my mask was so real, but because the world of men was a masked ball," Vincent writes. "Only in my men's group did I see these masks removed and scrutinized."
After 200-odd pages of honest and often sympathetic but never mawkish portraiture of the men in Ned's life, this folie à twaddle is a tad disappointing. But what comes before is so rich and so audacious that I'm compelled to remove my critic's mask and reveal to you the supine, unshaven male reader, hooked from Page 1.
David Kamp, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, is at work on a book about the American food world, to be published later this year.
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Debate Over Gay Marriage
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