Gender Trouble in East Asia
Many of the social dynamics we see in the United States are not unique to our country, or even to Western society. For example, East Asian countries (China sphere, Japan, Korea) are also very advanced, in some cases more advanced, in trends like falling marriage rates, declining fertility, and men failing to launch or engaging in other behaviors that are viewed as a problem by many in society.
The exact dynamics vary from country to country, and don’t directly map to what we are seeing in the United States. But looking at global examples can help us to see our own problems in a new way by freeing us from some of our own cultural context so that we can look at these issues from an outsider’s perspective rather than an insider one.
One thing that’s made clear in Western articles about declining East Asian marriage rates, for example, is that it’s heavily driven by female choice. It isn’t unreasonable to assume that’s a primary driver in the US as well, even though that’s not typically how the media tells the story about our own country.
Over the years I’ve linked to a number of article about what’s happening in East Asia. I’m sending a roundup of some of this writing so that you can have it in one place. I won’t claim this is a comprehensive survey, but it will give you an introduction to what’s doing on in various countries.
As an introduction to these trends, you might want to look at Joel Kotkin’s 2012 report for the Civil Service College of Singapore called “The Rise of Post-Familialism: Humanity’s Future?” As he wrote in the introduction:
Today, in the high-income world and even in some developing countries, we are witnessing a shift to a new social model. Increasingly, family no longer serves as the central organizing feature of society. An unprecedented number of individuals — approaching upwards of 30% in some Asian countries — are choosing to eschew child bearing altogether and, often, marriage as well.
A decade later, these trends have if anything accelerated.
Sixth Tone: The AI Girlfriend Seducing China’s Lonely Men
London Review of Books: Husband Shopping in Beijing A quote:
Punishment won’t get more babies from Chinese women. I’m not sure even Scandinavian-style policies on childcare and parental benefits would boost the birth rate. After more than thirty years of the one-child policy, urban women are used to having the same professional opportunities as men, and have proved equal to men in all areas. It’s not likely that these women would willingly give up their careers and become housewives again.
NYT: Marriage Falls in China, Transforming Finances and Families
South China Morning Post: Inside China’s training camps, where boys are learning how to be men
South China Morning Post: China calls for boycott of ‘overly entertaining’ entertainers and ‘sissy idols’ in continued purge of popular culture industry
Revolver News argues that China’s crackdown on popular entertainment is driven by a desire to head off the trends it sees in the US and Korea (see below).
WSJ: China’s Population Stalls With Births in 2021 the Lowest in Modern History
NYT: Japan Goes From Dynamic to Disheartened
The Observer (UK): Japan's 'grass eaters' turn their backs on macho ways
NYT: Craving Freedom, Japan’s Women Opt Out of Marriage - “I would rather do what I want to do right now”
WaPo: Cleaning up after the dead - dying alone in Japan
South Korea has probably the most explicit gender conflict of any of these countries. There’s an emerging battle of the sexes, polarized along political and ideological lines. Women are on the left, men are on the right. And there’s an actual anti-feminist movement among younger men.
Foreign Policy: Why so many young men in Korea hate feminism?
Unherd: Inside South Korea’s “incel election”
The Guardian: South Korean politicians seek to criminalise ‘semen terrorism’
Here’s an interview with an anti-feminist activist who shows up to women’s rallies in a Joker costume with a water gun as a counter-protestor.
That is fascinating what is developing in Korea: "men in their 20s are more conservative than men in their 70s". Have you heard of this shift anywhere else?
Is this the depressing solution to the Fermi Paradox -- any civilization technologically advanced enough to explore space will also have the ability to create simulated realities rendering material pursuits meaningless? So instead of brave space explorers, we have incel failsons in the Metaverse with their waifus?