Coronavirus

Coronavirus And A Call For Gender Equality In Confinement

With the pandemic forcing entire families to stay at home, men need to make sure they're shouldering their fair share of the responsibility.

Home is where parity is
Home is where parity is
Aylin Joo*

-OpEd-

CHICAGO — In addition to being mothers, women are often heads of households and employees. And in social terms — whether single or married, working at home or outside — the spread of the coronavirus is affecting us in different ways than men.

Right now, so many of us are working remotely at home with our children and husband in a similar position, and that means exercising the above roles in addition to meeting the health requirements quarantine conditions have imposed on us. Add to these the emotional weight of having our children and spouse at home.

What does all this mean? It means that in addition to our paid work, the situation is forcing us to do the shopping, attend to the children, check that we have the right Internet connection and ensure we have enough emotional empathy to face down this time of uncertainty and social transformation with resilience. I hope you are lucky enough to have a husband or partner who is a real ally in this forced, health adventure.

Women also need the support of their partners in terms of empathy and romance.

While this reflection could be taken as a cry of desperation, my words are meant to highlight some concepts in the debate on the need for greater gender equality. These are issues men and women are now facing together in the home: reconciling work and home life, the role of women as agents of social peace and stability, the value of unremunerated work, and the time women devote to household chores and to caring for older adults, among other things.

Women have an innate capacity for empathy and solidarity. It's in our DNA. Our strength is not just in our reproductive capacity and ability to safeguard our species, but in our leadership inside the home and command of the children. But at this time, women here and elsewhere in the world need the support of their partners, not just in domestic work and in caring for children and the elderly, but also in terms of empathy and romance.

This pandemic will definitively change society beyond its impact on how we interact, the economy or the ways we engage in politics. This should also be an opportunity for the male gender to value, recognize and understand that family life is built by two, not one. Men should see that sharing responsibilities at home is one of the most potent examples that our children can learn from and replicate, both in their future families and working lives.



*Aylin Joo is Chile's consul in Chicago.


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Geopolitics

A Dove From Hiroshima: Is Fumio Kishida Tough Enough To Lead Japan?

Japan's new prime minister is facing the twin challenges of COVID-19 and regional tensions, and some wonder whether he can even last as long as his predecessor, who was forced out after barely one year.

Japan's new PM Fumio Kishida in Tokyo on Sept. 29

Daisuke Kondo

-Analysis-

TOKYO — When Fumio Kishida, Japan's new prime minister. introduced himself earlier this month, he announced that the three major projects of his premiership will be the control of the ongoing pandemic; a new type of capitalism; and national security.

Kishida also pledged to deal with China "as its neighbor, biggest trade partner and an important nation which Japan should continue to dialogue with."

Nothing too surprising. Still, it was a rapid turn of events that brought him to the top job, taking over for highly unpopular predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, who had suddenly announced his resignation from office.


After a fierce race, Kishida defeated Taro Kono to become the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and pave the way for the prime minister's job.

Born into politics

A key reason for Kishida's victory is the improving health situation, following Japan's fifth wave of the COVID pandemic that coincided with this summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The best way to describe Kishida is to compare him to a sponge: not the most interesting item in a kitchen, yet it can absorb problems and clean up muck. His slogan ("Leaders exist to make other people shine") reflects well his political philosophy.

He is an excellent actor.

Kishida was born into a political family: His grandfather and father were both parliament members. Between the ages of six to nine, he studied in New York because of his father's work at the time. He attended the most prestigious private secondary school — the Kaisei Academy, of which about half of its graduates go to the University of Tokyo.

However, after failing three times the entrance exam to , Kishida finally settled for Waseda University. Coming from a family where virtually all the men went to UTokyo, this was Kishida's first great failure in life.

An invitation for Obama

After he graduated from college, Kishida worked for five years in a bank before serving as secretary for his father, Fumitake Kishida. In 1992, his father suddenly died at the age of 65. The following year, Kishida inherited his father's legacy to be elected as a member of the House of Representatives for the Hiroshima constituency. Since then, he has been elected successfully nine straight times, and served as Shinzo Abe's foreign minister for four years, beginning in December 2012. A former subordinate of his from that time commented on Kishida:

"If we are to sum him up in one sentence, he is an excellent actor. Whenever he was meeting his peers from other countries, we would remind him what should be emphasized, or when a firm, unyielding 'No' was necessary, and so on ... At the meetings, he would then put on his best show, just like an actor."

According to some insiders, during this period as foreign minister, his toughest stance was on nuclear weapons. This is due to the fact that his family hails from Hiroshima.

In 2016, following his suggestion, the G7 Ise-Shima Summit was held in Hiroshima, which meant that President Barack Obama visited the city — the first visit by a U.S. president to Hiroshima, where 118,661 lives were annihilated by the U.S. atomic bomb.

Photo of Shinzo Abe, Barack Obama and Fumio Kishida with their backs to the camera, in Hiroshima in 2016

Shinzo Abe, Barack Obama and Fumio Kishida in Hiroshima in 2016

commons.wikimedia.org

Japanese cynics

In September, 2020 when Shinzo Abe stepped down as prime minister, Kishida put out his candidacy for the first time for LDP's presidency. He didn't even get close. This was his second great failure.

But reading his biography, Kishida Vision, I must say that besides the two aforementioned hiccups, Kishida's life has been smooth sailing over the past 64 years

When one has had a happy and easy life, one tends to think that human nature is fundamentally good. Yet, the world doesn't work like that. And Japanese tend to believe that "human nature is vice," and have always felt a bit uneasy with the dovish Kishida diplomacy when he was foreign minister.

Leftist traditions from Hiroshima

Hiroshima has always been a city with a leftist political tradition. Kishida's character, coupled with the fact that he belongs to the moderate Kochikai faction within the LDP, inevitably means that he won't be a right-wing prime minister.

How long will a Fumio Kishida government last?

Kishida would never have the courage to be engaged in any military action alongside Japan's ally, the United States, nor will he set off to rewrite the country's constitution.

So after barely a year of Yoshihide Suga in office, how long will a Fumio Kishida government last? If Japan can maintain its relatively stable health situation for some time, it could be a while. But if COVID comes roaring back, and the winter brings a sixth wave of the pandemic as virtually all Japanese experts in infectious diseases have predicted, then Kishida may just end up like Suga. No sponge can clean up that mess.

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