Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 May 2020

Women are slow shoppers? That's a stereotype I'm happy to take advantage of

Osaka's mayor believes men should be entrusted with the weekly grocery shop, in a comment that might have done a disservice to husbands around the world

According to Osaka's mayor, women are too indecisive when it comes to grocery shopping. Getty Images
According to Osaka's mayor, women are too indecisive when it comes to grocery shopping. Getty Images

Ichiro Matsui might just have waved goodbye to his Saturday afternoons.

The mayor of Osaka, Japan's third-largest city, has landed himself in hot water with critics – and, perhaps, his own wife – after suggesting women should no longer do the grocery shopping.

And thus potentially signing himself up to a lifetime of weekends spent at his local supermarket.

The politician made the incendiary comments on Thursday, as part of a press conference discussing the city's coronavirus response.

As part of social distancing measures, Matsui appealed for couples to refrain from grocery shopping together, suggesting that only one member of the household need pick up the essentials.

That member, he sagely asserted, should be a man.

“When a woman goes ... it will take a long time,” Matsui said. "They browse around and hesitate about this and that.

“Men can snap up things they are told [to buy] and go ... that avoids close contact with others,” he added.

His sweeping, gender-biased comments have, understandably, resulted in a widespread backlash.

Among Matsui's critics is Japanese journalist Shoko Egawa, who subsequently tweeted that "people who know nothing about daily life shouldn't make comments".

Indeed, suggesting women would be more likely to perpetuate the spread of Covid-19 through stereotypical, sexist assumptions is out of touch, out of date, and out of line.

As of Friday morning, Osaka has recorded more than 1,400 confirmed cases of coronavirus. To infer that a rise could be spurred by women keeping their families fed, particularly single mothers with no other option, is belligerent, derogatory and a worrying example of scare-mongering by a figure in power.

FILE PHOTO: Mayor of Osaka and leader of the Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) Ichiro Matsui attends a debate session at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, Japan July 3, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo
Mayor of Osaka, Ichiro Matsui. Reuters

However, before we all get too up in arms about Matsui's blatant lack of chauvinism and discrimination, how about we let this one slide?

After all, according to the Japan Times in July 2019, "women do five times more unpaid tasks such as housework, household care and other activities than men".

Furthermore, according to the EU’s Gender Equality Index, 79 per cent of European women do housework or cook for at least one hour every day, compared to 34 per cent of men.

In the US, Pew Research Centre released a survey in 2019 in which 80 per cent of female respondents said they did the majority of meal preparations and grocery shopping.

Could Matsui's self-sabotaging comments be the fuel that fires a rise in women deservedly putting their feet up more often? Handing over the weekly food shop to their husbands and getting those percentages closer to 50 / 50?

If the mayor wants to pedal obsolete viewpoints, why waste time and energy getting riled up when we can try to use them to our advantage.

I, for one, will happily let my husband contend with the frantic aisles of my local Carrefour. If he believes I dawdle hanging out the laundry, or dither scrubbing down the shower, he can also take those tasks off my hands.

To wit, when challenged by a reporter, the 56-year-old mayor acknowledged that his remarks might be archaic, according to AFP, but said they rang true in his household.

Well played, Mrs Matsui.

Updated: April 24, 2020 04:46 PM

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