To that list you can add "the Japanese monarchy." Without disputing its rich and intriguing history, I've never paid much attention to the lives of those around the Chrysanthemum Throne. However, noodling through the Times this morning, this article about the Crown Prince and his family caught my eye:
When an official at the Imperial Household Agency suddenly announced
last week that 8-year-old Princess Aiko was refusing to go to school because of bullying, he did more than just disclose a mundane problem facing a member of Japan’s ancient and secretive monarchy.
He also added a new twist to one of the most riveting but mysterious dramas in Japan, the seven-year depression and seclusion of Aiko’s mother, Crown Princess Masako, the Harvard-trained former diplomat. Aiko is the only child of Princess Masako and her husband, Crown Prince Naruhito, and is widely known to be one of the few sources of joy for the troubled crown princess.
Frankly, I suspect Princess Masako has a pretty damn crappy life. I can't imagine that the secluded, tightly monitored life of a member of a royal family in a highly traditional culture holds much opportunity for joy of any kind for a woman who went to the trouble of becoming a Harvard-educated diplomat in the first place. It's the sort of life certain women went to a lot of trouble to leave.
But the next paragraph leaves me completely baffled:
The episode has once again put Princess Masako’s unhappy story into the harsh glare of Japan’s tabloid press. The news media here portrayed her 1993 wedding as the fairy-tale marriage of a commoner to a prince but then grew increasingly critical of her inability to bear a male heir for the Chrysanthemum Throne. The mounting pressure is widely seen as contributing to what appears to have been a breakdown. [emphasis added]
I will leave aside the questions about the value of heredity monarchies in modern democratic societies or the baffling insistence that only bearers of Y chromosomes are fit to ascend the throne. (One might note that some countries ended up doing quite well when women took over.) But can I really believe my eyes? Is the press in a highly-educated, scientifically-advanced society like Japan actually blaming a woman (any woman) for her "inability to bear a male heir"? Seriously?!?!?!?
Because, as even the most basic genetics textbook will tell you, women are not responsible for the gender of their children. The X or Y chromosome comes from the father. One may as well blame Princess Masako for inclement weather as for whether she bears girls or boys. If the Japanese press is somehow ignorant of this long-established bit of science then it is shockingly incompetent, and has no business offering commentary on the subject.
I know next to nothing about Japanese society, so perhaps there is some nuance I am missing. But to compound the misery of an unhappy woman by blaming her for something utterly out of control seems to say something very, very ugly about the country.