The Japanese phenomenal scary movie is known for its spine chilling story depicting a pure evil Japanese lady who comes back to haunt people through a video tape; or something along this line.
But what you don’t know is that behind the legend, the spiritual world and the ghostly atmosphere of the movie, there is a real life drama that lives on in modern day Japan.
Let me tell you the real story of the ring.
Once upon a time, there was a young Japanese girl who worked so diligently in school that she surpassed all her classmates and earned a scholarship to one of Japan’s best universities. Far from taking it easy as her girlfriends did, she worked even harder and ended up among the top ten of her class. At the same time, she met the love of her life. She was the envy of all the girls around her. Her long silky black hair swaying as she moved, she would run after class from the library, holding her books to her chest, and head to the nearby park to meet him. The blossoming cherry trees would rain pink petals on their dreams of a happy life together.
They got married by the end of her fourth year, and while he secured a nice job at one of Japan’s biggest companies, she went on to complete her master’s degree. Her friends would tease her about wasting her time in school while she would better be having kids and caring for her household. But she was determined to break the circle that shaped the lives of women around her; she wanted to prove to her mother that she could have it all, family and career, to her friends that her dreams weren’t to die.
The job hunting season started. Clad in black and white and facing freezing winter and hot humid summer, she went to companies’ events, filled entry sheets and submitted resumes. And interview after interview, she expressed her motivation, presented her credentials and defended her skills. But although on paper everything about her profile seemed right, all the recruiters seemed to see was the Ring. The wedding band around her finger seemed to gather the light in the room and draw a circle around her. And then she became invisible.
The ring that was her happiness for a long time began to eat at her little by little, shrinking the space around her and reducing her to a walking wife and kids’ bearer.
At first she thought there was a misunderstanding somewhere, she refused to give up and persisted approaching even more companies than she did before. She reviewed her ambitions, and the financial analyst positions that she coveted gave place to sales staff openings in garment shops. But it all went to no end. The ring was all any potential recruiter would ever see. They would be interested at first and examine different possibilities until their eyes fell on the ring and they asked the fatal question. She learned to dread the moment she had to state her marital status. She hated the shift in their faces from eager interest in her profile to disappointment and even despise in the look they shot her ring.
It went on for a year after she graduated, the heels of her black shoes were bent from walking from a company to the other, and the hate she had for her ring was only second to the suffocating sense of guilt that never left her. She was feeling guilty for disappointing her teachers that foresaw a bright future for her; guilty for not proving her friends wrong when they told her she shouldn’t try so hard and should just enjoy being a housewife; guilty for resenting her husband at times when all he did was support her endeavors; and guilty for feeling guilty all the time.
She was forced to give up at the end. She had to learn to live inside a house and an empty schedule, had to find activities that take her mind off the rage that boiled inside her.
Her house chores would be done by eleven in the morning, and then she would have nine more hours to get through by her self until her husband came home from his work.
She would sit long hours frozen at her window, looking at the sky.
From here on things only got darker and gloomier; so long story made short, she ends up finding an abandoned well in the backyard of her grandmothers house and while everyone is busy with the funeral of the deceased old lady, she jumps in.
Her restless spirits kept roaming around, angry at times and wailing its misery at others.
To make the story more bearable to viewers, they made it into a scary movie instead of the black tragedy it really is. And thus we got to watch the ring and hate the mean spirit.
I am telling this story because I am living almost the same story. But while I would never ever throw myself in a well, nor into anything higher than a 30 cm jump, I feel at times (more often than I wish to admit actually) like smacking those macho recruiters -who aren’t exclusively men- on the face and scream at them that even in Morocco, a Muslim country with an economy incomparable to the Japanese one and with a strongly patriarchal mindset, all the women I know work and keep on working through marriage, child birth, cold, back ache, family loss…and they actually get to occupy key positions in all fields.
So, what the hell Japan!!! How can such an advanced country put half its population on the bench and reduce them to a passive role of supporting THE husband and wasting years of education in shopping malls and behind the kitchen counter.
I have to admit that there are still outstanding examples of over-achieving ladies in all areas, but they are an exception to an overall male dominated society.
At first I found the enthusiasm of young Japanese girls suspicious when I said I was married, but then as my job search went on I understood their view of the institution as a life boat, an only option in a society where women are generally treated as second grade citizen.
The idea that Arab and Muslim countries are the only ones to oppress their women just proves itself wrong in Japan. While women here have all the freedom to dress as they like and do as they please when it comes to their bodies, they are still submitted to strong archetypes and social unspoken rules that push them to chose to care for their family above anything else.
And while it seems as a free choice, I believe that in many cases it is more of an only issue from a dead end situation. School hours and child care infrastructure just make it impossible for a working mom to conciliate career and family obligations, let alone advancing along the hierarchy ladder. Besides, the mostly macho mentality makes it almost a fantasy to count on the partner’s help at home.
Having stated this, and being the obstinate optimistic that I am, I just believe that I will find a path where I can have it all. Somewhere I can put my knowledge and experience to good use, all while taking good care of my husband and home. Maybe this is just the way the universe is pushing me to examine new horizons.
But that would be a whole different story.