From Japan comes news that Princess Kiko, wife of second-in-line Prince Akishino, is pregnant. If a boy results, he will be the first born to the Japanese royal family in forty years. He will become third in line to the throne, leap-frogging two older sisters and his cousin Princess Aiko.
The issue of the Japanese succession has been labelled a constitutional ‘crisis’, with the public divided over whether a female should succeed to the Imperial Throne (The Chrysanthemum Throne). It has caused a personal crisis for the Crown Princess Masako, who is said to have become withdrawn due to the pressue inside the Imperial Court, to produce a male heir.
It should be stated that is is entirely incorrect and irrational to pressurise a woman (princess or otherwise) to produce a male heir. The sex of a baby is determined by whether the sperm that fertilizes it carries an X (female) or Y (male) chromosone. It is entirely random which of these genetic codes gets through… but if it were not, then only the testicles of the man who produced the sperm could be held responsible for a lack of Y’s in the bag.
That a group of people can be allowed to pressurise a woman in this manner is bad enough. Worse is the underlying desire for a male heir which causes such pressure. Clearly this attitude is one which runs deep through the entire society – opinion polls see the country divided on the issue of whether a female heir should be allowed, and fierce debates have surrounded the proposal by Junichiro Koizumi, that a woman be allowed to ascend to the throne. It was even suggested that the Crown Prince be allowed to adopt a boy to ensure that his daughter would not succeed!
The message to Princess Aiko is simple: We wish you were not a girl. And the message to the country: boys are better than girls.
We could list examples where the sexes are not equal. Mothers have a different bond with their children than fathers. Men are (usually) physically stronger. These inequalities are always rooted in biology, or psychologies on the most inate level. Many will also argue that the traditional nuclear family is the optimal social arrangment to promote human flourishing (whatever that may be). A family or tribal unit is something that may evolve, with the structure adapting over time and due to environmental considerations. We may not be conscious of it, and we may not be able to break out of the structure we find ourselves within. Misogyny may continue, and parents will still secretly wish that they have a son, and not a daughter.
Conversely, a State is an entirely political entity. It exists only in the conscious human mind – no more, no less. The idea behind a democratic state is that people consciously endorse (and usually codify) the way their political system – their mutal concerns – are arranged. It is about taking responsibility for how you live. Let no-one say that the political rules, handed down from previous generations, are not open to consideration. Let no-one say they cannot be changed.
In fact, breaking away from the tyranny of previous generations is part of the point of democracy. The nature of the system almost demands that laws be changed, for they must always reflect the views of the populous.
When a law becomes outdated, when it no longer reflects the values of the people it governs, it must be scrapped. As the news of this royal pregnancy reminds us, sexism is institutionalised in Japan at the highest and most symbolic level. The people of Japan must now decide whether they wish their Head of State to be determined by these values, or whether a new millenium should herald a change.
Volume II will be posted later today, in which we will (of course) return to Blighty.