The Age of Female Gender Loss

November 8th, 2007

One of the things I’ve grown completely used to, but found odd when I first came to Japan, is that there is some nebulous age at which, apparently, Japanese women just turn into Japanese people.  Somewhere around 50.

It’s not at all unusual for female janitors to clean men’s restrooms while they are in use, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a man hesitate to do take care of business while a female janitor is cleaning the restroom.

Likewise, at public baths (of the cheap town-based variety, not fancy hot springs in the country), there is a wall that separates the men’s side and women’s side, but there is a booth high up on the wall which is manned womanned by the proprietor, who you pay when you come in, or get a towel from, or the like.  From that booth, the proprietor has a clear view of both the men’s and women’s changing rooms and bath rooms (the better to chide children who are splashing hot water on elderly men having a soak).

The converse, though, is never true.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a male janitor or male public bath attendant, not because of some sort of inherent sexism against women (“cleaning is womens’ work”), but instead (and probably deservedly) against men (“Men at any age can be letches.  No way we’re going to hire one to ogle the nude teenage girls.”)

I wonder if there’s some specific hiring cut-off date.  “Ms. Takahashi?  I’m afraid we’re not going to be able to hire you to work the bath counter.  You’re 49, which means you might leer at the butts of fine strapping men.  Come back when you’re 50 and gender-free.”

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