Obligatory Choc-preciation?

Graphic of a box of Valentine's Day chocolate.

According to an article by CNBC, posted in honor of Valentine’s Day, women in Japan are being encouraged to purchase chocolates for themselves, rather than their male co-workers; a practise known as ‘giri choco‘ which literally translates to obligation chocolates. Boyfriends and crushes would receive ‘honmei choco‘; ”chocolate of love”.

The favor is usually returned during White Day which is held a month after February 14th whereby males, be it boyfriends or platonic peers alike, purchase gifts for their female counterparts.

These presents can range from confectionary edibles, to perfume, flowers and lingerie. If they refuse to partake in this tradition, males are thought to be placing themselves in a position of superiority. For the exchange to be considered complete, a man must conclude it.

Before delving into the obvious in-equilibrium of gender roles in Japan, I can’t help but embrace the persistent cynicism, setting up shop in the back of my mind, since advertisers and the confectionary industry as whole, have played a pivotal role in these practises; taking delight in the fact that their sales would see a significant spike.

The knock-on effect of this, would take the form of peer pressure since Japan houses a society that is required to conform to social norms.

The double standards that still plague Japanese society, rear their ugly heads as I learned that 40% of Japanese women stated that they feel a tremendous pressure to present gifts to their male colleagues and bosses, for fear of harassment and abuse.

In a country where patriarchy is still alive and kicking, with a language that possesses no original term for sexual harassment (sekuhara-derived from English), it gives me great joy to finally witness a shifting paradigm; one that empowers women for their self-motivated decisions, as opposed to shaming them.