Women as “Child-Bearing Machines”

Politicians the world around often put on the most brazen displays of stupidity in what they say, and those in Japan are no exception.

Japan's Minister of Health, Hakuo Yanagisawa
Today's Moron
Japan's Minister of Health
Hakuo Yanagisawa

Today's example from Japanese politics, long a juicy source for mind-numbingly stupid political speech, is from a talk given the other day by the Japanese Minister of Health, Hakuo Yanagisawa, about Japan's long-declining birthrate:

The number of females aged 15 to 50 is fixed. The number of child-bearing machines, apparatus, is fixed, so... (saying “child-bearing machines” is.... how shall I say.... well, anyway), so in the end, all we can ask is for each to do their best.

It's bad enough that a person would even consider referring to women as devices like this, but it might not be unexpected from a 71-year-old pig like this man apparently is, but it's so shocking that someone that's risen to the cabinet level of national politics wouldn't be smart enough to keep his mouth shut. It's just amazing.

Of course, he's getting roasted for it, with many calling for his resignation. I asked Fumie what she thought about it, to which she said “I'm just glad I'm not married to him” 🙂

One thing I do find a bit odd about the coverage I've seen is that the parenthetical part of my translation above, where he apparently realizes that perhaps he's made a mistake by voicing his “machine” opinion, is one sometimes not included in Japanese news reports covering his quote, or in any of the English translations I've seen. However, I do believe that this is the Japanese original (with the parenthetic part in my colloquial translation above shown in bold below):

「15から50歳の女性の数は決まっている。産むむ機械、装置の数は決まっているから、機械と言うのは何だけど、あとは一人頭頑張ってもらうしかないと思う」

In any case, it's pathetic.


All 5 comments so far, oldest first...

Hmmmm. Perhaps the birthrate would increase a bit if a number of the child bearing machines *WEREN’T* fixed. I mean, my dog is fixed, and there haven’t been any signs of puppies yet.

— comment by Marcina on February 3rd, 2007 at 11:12am JST (10 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Is it somehow *bad* that the birthrate is decreasing? Since the amount of space here on earth is limited, it seems that we actually want it to decrease less we become overcrowed.

I mean — lets say there are 1,000,000 individuals (pulling number from midair). If the birthrate is 1.4 or so, that would give us 1,400,000 individuals in the next generation. Given a 1.4 birthrate again would almost double our original million people.

A decreasing birthrate would lead to a consistent population — much easier on the environment than say doubling our population every 2 generations… But than again, I like my space…

— comment by Anonymous on February 4th, 2007 at 4:33am JST (10 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Anonymous,
This is not really the place for this discussion, but FWIW, your calculations seem to have forgotten about “death.”

However, as for why a decreasing birthrate is of a concern, they need a larger younger generation to support the large baby-boomer clump of aging older generations.

— comment by Jeffrey Friedl on February 4th, 2007 at 10:28am JST (10 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

I feel a bit sorry for him. Certainly it was foolish to make, but I don’t think it was intended in a chauvanistic manner.

Replacement rate is about 1.8 children per couple, from what I understand.

— comment by Sam on February 5th, 2007 at 7:00pm JST (10 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Maybe a touch harsh on Hakuo Yanagisawa, Japan is in an impossible situation, very similar to what Italy is going through at the moment. Declining population and increasing internal migration to the big city. So smaller towns are rapidly dying. Traditional customs, arts and trades are dying out in both countries. Italy’s problem is a bit worse because of being the home to 2nd largest immigrant population after the US as well as the 2nd largest illegal alien population after the US. So not only are traditions being lost but the culture is being usurped by outsiders who have no respect or appreciation for the generous nation they live in. I think Italy is past the breaking point but there is still hope for Japan if the nation pulls together and there are some signs of it here and there. I think more than anything Yanagisawa was caught in a moment of exacerbated frustration.

— comment by Michael on July 19th, 2007 at 6:09pm JST (10 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink
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