Friday, September 28, 2018

Why is there a need to mention whether the wife is pregnant when Japanese celebrities make marriage announcements?

Have you ever wondered about this: why do Japanese celebrities have to indicate whether their wives or they themselves are pregnant when making marriage announcements?

Recently, this topic has come up for discussion again following Shida Mirai's marriage announcement. This article from J-CAST News takes a look at this phenomenon with some research into the past so as to explain why and how this started to become the norm.

I am not translating the entire article but will just highlight the key points so that it's easier to read and understand. Do share your comments here or via the Facebook or Twitter posts:

- When Shida announced her marriage on 14 Sep, the similarity among various publications was that they all reported the fact that she is not pregnant yet, albeit in slightly different ways:
Daily Sports: 志田は妊娠しておらず、今後も仕事を続ける (Shida is not pregnant and will continue working)
Sanspo: 挙式・披露宴は未定で、妊娠はしておらず、仕事は続ける (There are no plans yet for a wedding, she is not pregnant and will continue working)
Yomiuri Hochi: 妊娠はしておらず、仕事は続けていく (She is not working and will continue working)
Nikkansports: 志田は妊娠はしておらず、仕事は続けるという (It is said that Shida is not pregnant and will continue working)
Sponichi: 志田は妊娠しておらず、仕事は続けるという (It is said that Shida is not pregnant and will continue working)
This has sort of become a standard phrase for marriage announcements unless the couple in question is actually having a shotgun marriage.

- Although many readers would be keen to know whether the couple is getting married because a baby is on the way, there are some people who have expressed a different view. For example, Wada Akiko said on her show "Akko ni omakase!" on 29 July that she didn't see why it was necessary for this to be mentioned with reference to Miura Shohei and Kiritani Mirei's marriage announcement. She also said that Shida having to say this seemed to be like a form of sexual harassment towards the latter.

- The writer of this article went to search for articles in the past to see who "started" this trend. The oldest article which mentioned this standard phrase was back in 1998 when actress Suzuki Anju got married to a doctor who was more than 10 years older than her. At that time, nobody in the media had ever reported that Suzuki was seeing someone so there were some reports claiming that this was a shotgun marriage due to the "sudden nature" of the marriage announcement. However, a report in Nikkansports dated 7 June 1998 clearly indicated that Suzuki was not pregnant then so this statement was probably meant to quash rumours at that time.

- As it got to the early 2000s, this phrase became the norm when female TV announcers got married. It was common for them to leave their jobs and TV programmes then if they were pregnant unlike now so there was probably a need to say it if they were going to quit soon.

- However, the situation started to change again from around 2003 when this phrase became common among celebrities again, starting with Esumi Makiko who got married in 2003. It was indicated in a Nikkansports article on 28 Jan 2003 that Esumi was not pregnant, scheduled to appear in a spring drama that year and her wedding was supposed to be held in autumn.

- By the time it was 2005, the dailies joined the sports/entertainment newspapers in using this phrase. When it was 2007, this became a standard for all types of newspapers.

- The changing social trends from the 2000s probably contributed to this being specifically mentioned in the media reports as well. In the past, idols dating one another was considered scandalous and any suggestion of them engaging in sexual activities was a taboo which could kill off their careers. As such, reporters were keen to jump on anyone who was having a shotgun marriage.

- However, the last 20 years have seen a change especially with anti-social behaviour such as extramarital affairs and drug scandals being very common in showbiz. This has somehow led to people being more accepting about celebrities dating and getting pregnant before marriage because this is comparatively "milder" than those who get caught for criminal behaviour. As such, a shotgun marriage may have been scandalous in the past but now, stating the opposite has become the trend to specify that there is no baby on the way. The phrase used to indicate a shotgun marriage has also changed from できちゃった婚 (dekichatta-kon) to 授かり婚 (sazukari-kon) which sounds more positive. In fact, statistics show that about one quarter of the marriages in Japan since 2000 were shotgun ones so this probably brought about the people's change in mindset as well.

- However, there are concerns that this phrase is not suitable to be used in this era especially since there are many types of relationships where marriage is not the only option for couples. Besides, there are suggestions that this may come across as offensive to those who actually want children but cannot e.g. LGBT couples and those who are having trouble conceiving. Last but not least, even celebrities deserve to have their privacy so they should not be required to state this if they don't wish to.

What do you think about this? Does it really matter whether you know if a married couple is having a baby on the way? Will it affect your perception of them if you know this information?

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