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In these interviews with Japanese families, Lebra found that girls were assigned helping tasks while boys were more inclined to be left to schoolwork.Although Japan remains a socially conservative society, with relatively pronounced gender roles, Japanese women and Japanese society are quite different from the strong stereotypes that exist in foreign media or travel guides, which paint the women in Japan as 'submissive' and devoid of any self-determination.Tidiness included personal appearance and a clean home.Courtesy, another trait, was called upon from women in domestic roles and in entertaining guests, extended to activities such as preparing and serving tea.By 1898, cruelty was added to the grounds for a woman to divorce; the law also allowed divorce through mutual agreement of the husband and wife.
With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes.
This established several changes to women’s roles in the family, such as the right to inherit the family home or land, and the right of women (over the age of 20) to marry without the consent of the house patriarch.
In the Tokugawa period, men could divorce their wives simply through stating their intention to do so in a letter.
While Japanese women's status has improved in the last decades, traditional expectations for married women and mothers are cited as a barrier to full economic equality.
Late 19th/early 20th century depictions of Japanese women, Woman in Red Clothing (1912) and Under the Shade of a Tree (1898) by Kuroda Seiki.
Wives could not legally arrange for a divorce, but options included joining convents, such as at Kamakura, where men were not permitted to go, thus assuring a permanent separation.