Shuhei Matsuo Post, a 35-year-old Tokyo businessman, was always ignorant about the patriarchal mindset existent in society and how it impacted women and girls.
Shuhei Matsuo spent most of his adolescent years in the United States. After returning to Japan, the identity crisis hit him, as he felt that it was important to fit in the stereotypical image of a Japanese man which is deeply rooted in chauvinism.
When he took up a job in 2014 in Hong Kong, he met Tina Post, who changed his perspective towards stereotypical gendered notions. She discussed with him how men had been socially conditioned to behave in a certain way and the inherent bias that exists in society.
"The more I learned about gender bias, the more I saw it in everyday life," said Shu adding that gender discrimination exists everywhere and harms everyone.
When Shu and Tina decided to get married in 2017, neither of them wanted to give up their family names. Both of them believed that surnames were an integral part of personal and family identities. They decided that they would adopt each other's surnames post their marriage.
Tina adopted the non-hyphenated double-barrelled name first, then Shu followed the same. This gave both of them the opportunity to retain their birth names as well as acknowledge their new marital status.
Tina Post changed her name to Tina Matsuo Post in the US. It hardly took her and it hardly took her 15 minutes. But it was not the same for her husband. It took eight months to get his name legally changed from Shuhei Matsuo to Shuhei Matsuo Post in Japan.
At present, Japanese law requires that married couples should take one of the spouses' family names. However, in case of marriages between a Japanese national and a foreign national, this law is not applicable.
If you are a Japanese male-female couple getting married, there are no in-between options available such as hyphenating your last names, keeping your family name as your middle name or combining both of your last names into a new name.
It has been a trend in Japan where women take up their husband's surname. According to South China Morning Post, 96 per cent of Japanese women assume their husband's name.
Shu was not ready for the work that followed. After he changed his surname, he had to update his passport, driving licence, credit card, airline mileage card, email account, business card, etc.
Eventually, after following all the procedures, Shu's activity logs turned into a self-published book, named I Took Her Name, which was released in December.
At present, Shu is on seven months of paternity leave, and he is now using social media to share his story about turning into a male feminist. But, Tina holds a different opinion.
"I don't really think that he's representing women, I feel more that he's representing men and showing that it's possible for us to be in it together," she said.
According to Tina, Shu is highlighting the flawed thinking in Japanese society.
Tina teaches gender and linguistics to high school students and mentions that they are not perfect feminists. She adds that they are working hard on their critical thinking and open-mindedness.
Leading An Example For Others
Shu mentions that heterosexual men must begin to acknowledge the privileges that they enjoy in their daily life. He acknowledges that it is not easy to get Japan's men to follow him, especially the older generation. "It's impossible to call out every sexist behaviour you see. I sometimes miss the opportunity to educate others. Start with whatever you're comfortable with, with your circle of friends or family members," Shu said.
In Japanese society is discrimination against women is tolerated and accepted as part of daily life.
To end discrimination Shu said men can do two things to help fix this-taking part in housework more actively, and taking extended childcare leave.
Shu said gender equality benefits everyone, men and women. In Japan, traditional norms of masculinity prevent them from asking for help on mental health issues despite being at higher risk of dying by suicide. As per data, in 2019, men accounted for 69.8 per cent of total suicides in Japan.
While one could observe sexism prevalent across many aspects of life, Shu thinks gender equality starts at home, and families are at the front line.
"I truly believe in leading by example," Shu said. "I know I'm just one person, but I can make a difference in my community. When I recently heard that my colleague, who is becoming a father next month, saw what I did and decided to take time off to look after his newborn, that makes me happy."
Shu explains that by talking to the younger generation about pushing for equality between the sexes, they could be set for a better future for all.
Shu wants to spend more of his time educating young adults than dealing with stubborn old men. He says that the present-day high school and college students have received the education that he didn't get and this gives him I hope for the future.
"I imagine my children or grandchildren laughing about the time when gender inequality existed because their world will be much more equal," he said.
He hopes that day will come and imagines a future free from any gender-bias.