Do you want to marry a feminist or feminist?

May Endo
I am not a feminist!

Japan is a country where it is difficult for married people to be feminist. A civil marriage is associated with various inequalities: the spouses have to assume roughly the same family name, have a mutual obligation to be faithful to one another, and a prohibition on remarrying. The reasons for getting married are very individual, but the foggy field between marriage and the inequalities it brings is a burden for many people.

Hello, my name is Mai Endo. I work as an actress and an artist. I am one of those who chose to marry. As an ironic comment to myself, we performed our wedding ceremony at the Goethe-Institut Tokyo with the title “I am not a feminist”. It was also part of the festival program / Tokyo 17. The ceremony was held in front of relatives, friends and the general public. We signed a self-written marriage contract in front of these people.

The Japanese Civil Code stipulates that a married couple must have the same family name (with the exception of international marriages, where double names are also allowed, Article 750 of the Civil Code). More than 90 percent of women change their surname. In addition, the couple is obliged to live together (Article 752 of the Civil Code) and the note “Breach of fidelity as a reason for divorce” (Article 770) indicates the mutual fiduciary duty of a married couple. In addition, after a divorce women have a blocking period of 100 days before they can enter into a new marriage (to exclude a previous pregnancy / paternity, Article 733 of the Civil Code).

These regulations go back to remnants of the Confucian family system, the so-called "IE system", which gradually replaced the former matriarchal social structure in Japan in the 5th century and was further institutionalized. To this day, new patriarchal concepts are regularly devised in order to find plausible reasons for this long outdated system.

The quail, a Japanese pet

By the way, I have a quail. The quail is said to be the only successfully domesticated animal in Japan. It is kept both as a domestic animal and as a domestic animal and is a common motif in ancient Japanese paintings. I have also used it as a motif and made a music video with the title "Quail Rap":
It's not that easy to keep a quail in your apartment because it goes everywhere. She never even thinks about going to the bathroom before walking around the apartment, so all you can do is wipe everything off afterwards. When she puts on rugs, it's worst! She whizzes around the furniture, so it's seldom possible to keep an eye on her. When I lie down relaxed on a pillow, sometimes something sticks to my butt without noticing it. I think my inattentiveness will bring me to the grave again.

As a result of poultry farming, quail's laying eggs have increased massively and their instinct to hatch the eggs has disappeared. So breeding is impossible without human help. Assuming we release the quail from human care, is there a place where they could be themselves? Well, if, for example, we threw our quail out of the house and left it to its own devices, it would most likely immediately become prey for cats. It is worrying to observe that, with the exception of naturally wild quail, these animals cannot survive on their own.

The quail that cannot be what it is

The thought "to free oneself to be who one is" is purely human. The expression implies the release from a cramped situation. People can shout it out, stand up to the system with an iron will, build a DIY castle and theirs Maintain a position.
For a quail, on the other hand, choosing freedom means certain death. The quail lacks the means to reject the system. From the corrugated cardboard to the house, fate always ends on your plate and today your life is subject to my whim. Regardless of whether she accepts or rejects her environment, she lives from one day to the next. I would like to be like this quail that accepts its fate so calmly.

Between unlimited possibilities and real restrictions

I want to live like a quail! ... but I have a choice in life. Although the quail is sitting right next to me, I live in a completely different world from them. I am free to choose what I like and the environment in which I live. However, my choice is limited by social norms. What I can and cannot choose are basically two sides of the same coin. That is, the possibilities of unlimited choice are limited by realistic restrictions. In every choice, society demands personal responsibility. The more unusual or smaller the minority that I choose, the greater the weight given to personal responsibility. In the case of couples, a legal distinction is made between: unmarried, married and registered civil partnerships. The majority of Japanese couples choose marriage here. But if you decide to marry, you end up in the unequal system described above. Germans have pointed out to me that for them feminism and marriage are not related, so this has to be seen as a Japanese problem above all. Because the inequality associated with getting married is not only anchored as a system, but also a major problem of social norms. Japanese society demands obedience, chastity, and docility from women.

Alternatives to the marriage contract

In “I am not a Feminist” we tried in the form of a marriage contract to show alternative ways of marriage that do not fit into the categories of “unmarried, married and registered civil partnership”. Since there are many categories depending on the position of feminism, it makes sense that there are also different types of marriage. However, problems also arise here. Article 754 of the Civil Code provides that marital contracts can be terminated at any time by either partner. In order to conclude a legally secure contract between two people, they must therefore not be married to each other when they conclude the contract. In order for the new marriage contract to be legally effective, it was therefore necessary to dissolve our existing marriage.
That is why we divorced before our wedding at the Goethe-Institut Tokyo in order to be able to conclude an alternative, legally secure marriage contract. The new contract term is three years. This period is extended by one year after each renewal. Before each renewal, we will divorce once and have our marriage registered again.
In addition, we have decided to change our surname after each conclusion of a contract when we issue a marriage notice. Since we used to have my husband's last name, we will switch to my last name, Endo, for the next three in the new contract.
With regard to conjugal fiduciary duty, we have agreed that unless our relationship is contrary to public order and morals, we will eliminate the inconveniences of marriage and not punish ourselves for infidelity. Or, more specifically, that a partner is exempt from paying pain and suffering after a proven adultery. In addition, we have stipulated in the contract that our common property, the works of art that we produce, should benefit the general public. We want to open the conjugal community to society.

Think about the rules of the game

Which family name a married couple chooses, whether they want to live together and how to deal with adultery - the various questions that a marriage entails should not be decided according to traditional laws, but according to the couple's autonomous ethical norms.

As men and women, we have chosen a playful approach to the marriage system. A “role reversal” by changing the family name, a “ventilation shaft” in monogamy, the distribution of our common property - we simply derived the rules from our moral convictions and tried to transform our future married life into a playground. This is another way of improving the existing system by expanding rights and reducing inequalities. We have made the system the theme of our game, not to “live it out”, but to show other ways of life, because, unlike the quail, we can change our circumstances.
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