Japanese Mayor: Men Should Do Shopping Since Women are ‘Indecisive and Take Forever’

The mayor of Japan’s Osaka has come under fire for suggesting men should do grocery shopping during the coronavirus outbreak because women are indecisive and “take a long time”.

Japan is under a state of emergency over the pandemic, and residents in some areas have been asked to shop less frequently and only send one family member out to get supplies to limit contact.

Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui told reporters on Thursday (Apr 23) that men should be entrusted with grocery runs because women “take a long time as they browse around and hesitate about this and that”, Kyodo news agency reported.

“Men can snap up things they are told (to buy) and go, so I think it’s good that they go shopping, avoiding human contact,” the 56-year-old added.

When challenged by a reporter, he acknowledged his remarks might be viewed as out-of-touch, but said they were true in his family.

But online he was roundly condemned, with one Twitter user accusing him of being “disrespectful to women and men”.

Another dubbed his comment “full of prejudice against women”, adding “there are indecisive men and nimble and sharp women”.

“Does he think (shoppers) like to take time?” added a third. “They are thinking about menus and prices.”

But there was some support for the mayor.

“That’s right. Elderly women, in particular, are always chatting away, unconcerned about shopping,” wrote one user.

Despite its highly educated female population, Japan ranked 121 out of 153 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2020 gender gap index, primarily because of its poor showing in political representation.

Traditional gender roles are still deeply rooted in Japanese society and women are often still expected to take primary responsibility for childcare and domestic chores, even while holding down professional jobs.

Source : CNA

Read also at BBC:

Coronavirus: Malaysian men in shopping muddle amid lockdown . . . . .

Taste of freedom: How Coronavirus is Changing Asia’s Relationship to Food

Bhavan Jaipragas and Tashny Sukumaran wrote . . . . . . . . .

Even the simple act of eating out with friends and family may seem a pipe dream at the moment for people in food-crazy Asian nations under Covid-19 lockdowns.

But that does not mean they have given up on their culinary obsessions.

In fact, going by the overnight rise in stress-baking and cooking, food may be occupying more than its usual share of head space among Malaysians, Singaporeans and Thais, as culinary adventures serve as an escape from weeks of being cooped up at home.

Beyond that, initiatives to help food vendors hit by the economic shutdowns show how the crisis may be reshaping – in a positive way – our relationships to food and the people involved in food production.

In Singapore, braised duck and pig offal hawker Melvin Chew points to the success of a Facebook page he created to support fellow food vendors.

His “Hawkers United – Dabao 2020” page has amassed nearly 230,000 followers since he set it up on April 3, hours after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced a partial lockdown of the country to suppress Covid-19 infections.

The so-called circuit breaker came into force on April 7 as cases soared among the city state’s foreign workers, with total infections numbering over 5,000 on Friday, from 266 a month ago.

With dining-in banned as part of the measures, the platform gives the embattled hawkers – especially obscure ones off the radar of food-delivery apps – an opportunity to directly promote their menus to takeaway and delivery customers.

Freelance delivery drivers are also part of the mix, offering fees far cheaper than those of major delivery apps like GrabFood, Deliveroo and Foodpanda.

Singaporeans have so far lapped up the offerings, which include everything from top-grade Mao Shan Wang durians to the traditional kway chap that Chew – a rare second-generation hawker – sells at his stall in the Chinatown district.

“It’s not just that they are food crazy … I think Singaporeans want to preserve this treasure that is the hawkers,” said Chew, 42, who said his revenue was down about 80 per cent without dine-ins.

“They want to save the auntie, uncle who are like family because you buy their food so often. Whether rich or poor, you go to the hawker centre for comfort food.”

Benjamin Yang, a food and beverage profit strategist, said the across-the-board “digitalisation” by hawkers was one silver lining of what was otherwise one of the worst crises faced by the city state’s economy. Yang’s website manyplaces.sg, like Chew’s Facebook page, matches customers with small food businesses.

Yang said his platform had onboarded some 300 small food businesses – for free – after the site was set up last week out of “purely altruistic” intentions to rescue struggling merchants.


Such innovation and industry is by no means confined to Singapore.

Some 1,800km away in Bangkok, Thailand, Peangploy Jitpiyatham, the owner of a hostel, has converted the premises into a hub for his newly created food-delivery platform “Locall”. Customers who use the platform will be able to order from 30 restaurants – including the hostel’s kitchen.

Unlike the bigger players, the innkeeper’s app – developed by his staff – allows users to order from different establishments at one go. “We aim to support our community and we want to help small places that cannot adapt during this time,” Peangploy said.

Others in the country – home to ubiquitous street food stalls – see a glimmer of opportunity in food retail as their own industries come under pressure.

Sasimon Chamnansarn, a flight attendant who remains employed with her airline even though flights have dried up, is one such individual. Recently Sasimon, 38, began selling sun-dried pork – based on a special recipe devised by her mother and grandmother – to friends in Bangkok, and was pleasantly surprised by rising demand.

The idea came to her after flights were suspended and she returned to her hometown of Udon Thani in the country’s northeast.

“If I go back to work, I’ll continue this business. I have contacted a local factory which can help me produce and package.

“Nothing is certain. I’m always ready for change. Who would have thought a pilot or an aircrew would one day find their job unstable?”


In Malaysia, a different kind of food revolution is brewing – one that does not necessarily involve food vendors.

On social media, many have been posting about their “food swaps” – where delivery drivers are utilised to send family and friends parcels of home-cooked food.

Human rights activist Firdaus Husni said her undergraduate brother – who must remain on campus while the country’s “movement control order” is in force – was among the recipients of the parcels of love she had been dishing out.

“I worry about him often. It was nice to be able to surprise him by having food delivered to his hotel,” she said.

Swapping food has become part of Malaysia’s “new normal”, said Firdaus.

One of Firdaus’ friends saw her post on social media about having a grocery delivery cancelled, and quickly picked up a selection of essentials for her, while others have sent cooked food.

“I mentioned to friends that I missed having crab rasam [a tamarind-based soupy Tamil dish], and one made and delivered it still nice and warm,” said the activist, 34, adding that she had also received home-made curry laksa and nasi lemak – traditional Malaysian dishes.

“The thoughtful gestures and effort they must have put into preparing and making the delivery make me feel very thankful … Social distancing does not mean that we shouldn’t stay in contact with our family and friends,” she said.

Yudistra Darma Dorai, a Kuala Lumpur-based lawyer, said food had become a “form of communicating” in his circles while the lockdown – scheduled to end on April 28 – was in force. The lawyer said his friends, made aware of his decision to bring his elderly mother to stay with him during the lockdown, sent him home-cooked food so that he was not overtaxed working and preparing meals.

Redzuawan Ismail, a celebrity chef also known as “Chef Wan” who has an Anthony Bourdain-type of reputation in Malaysia and Singapore, said he expected sweeping changes in eating habits when lockdowns were lifted.

While people would probably slowly go back to eating out, many would come out of the experience having a more favourable view of home-cooked food and dining at home, the chef said.

“A lot of people’s usual eating habits are going to change for sure,” Ismail said.

“People are going to be more careful now – what goes on the plate, who sits next to them – and they will take some time to regain confidence,” he said. “Many will likely become more ready to entertain in their own homes, eat with their families, and allow those they’re comfortable with to visit for meals. Home delivery and takeaway will become more popular.”

Source: SCMP

Opinion: Chinese Food Practices will Affect Spread of Pandemics

David Fickling wrote . . . . . . . . .

With the world’s largest high-speed rail network, a payments system that’s largely conducted via phone apps, and half the world’s solar-power plants, China often looks like a country at the technological frontier. When you consider how it feeds itself, though, it’s still just catching up.

About 44 per cent of the country’s livestock in 2010 were still raised in backyards and traditional mixed farms, where they mingle with crops and other animals. While that’s a dramatic fall from a generation ago, when about 97 per cent of livestock were raised in traditional conditions, it trails countries like the U.S. and Europe, where 95 per cent or more of pigs and poultry are raised in socalled “intensive systems” — in common parlance, factory farms.

That transition is likely to be a major factor in the spread of new diseases such as the coronavirus, which, as of Monday, has killed 361 people since it was first detected last month in Wuhan. Chinese cities with a combined population of 56 million were put on lockdown to contain the virus. How China handles the changes taking place in its food industry will determine the future of infections for everyone on the planet.

Epidemics are a product of urbanization. Only when humans started to pack themselves into densely populated cities around 5,000 years ago were infections able to attain the critical mass needed to kill us in large numbers. The worldwide disease outbreaks we call pandemics started to emerge only when our urban civilization went global.

Think about that in terms of the livestock industry and the implications are concerning. In the space of 50 years or so, factory farming has “urbanized” an animal population that was previously scattered across small and midsize holdings. Epidemic conditions that once only affected humans can increasingly pose threats to our food animals, too.

Then consider each animal as a potential laboratory for the mutations that can cause new epidemics to emerge. Globally, the population of farm animals is about three times that of humans. Some of the most serious disease outbreaks in recent decades have resulted from infections crossing the species barrier from intensively farmed livestock to people.

H5N1 avian flu may have started to spread when migratory birds wound up in close proximity to the new intensive poultry farms that sprang up across eastern China in the 1990s. The origins of the H1N1 swine flu

pandemic are harder to unpack, but several studies have suggested diverse origins relating to global movements of pigs and poultry between Europe, Asia and North America.

The Wuhan virus, similarly, was first found among people linked to the city’s wet market. As my colleague Adam Minter has written, the conditions in these open-air stalls — where many animals are slaughtered to order or taken home alive — are a major factor in the spread of disease in China in recent years.

It’s not all bad news. Precisely because they’re such potent sources of infection, biosecurity measures and surveillance on intensive farms are generally much tighter than they are on traditional holdings. China’s bureaucracy has often been characterized by secrecy and indecision in the face of epidemics and food safety problems. It seems to take strong direction from the top for this stasis to be reversed, so it’s good that President Xi Jinping has called for action around the latest outbreak.

Even so, the devastating spread of African swine fever over the past year suggests that food safety is still weaker than it should be.

The changing nature of the retail grocery trade may improve matters. As amazing as the persistence of China’s wet markets may seem to outsiders, it’s easy to overlook how quickly they’re fading. Until the 1990s, supermarkets didn’t exist, rationing was common, and meat in many areas was a treat reserved for rare occasions like the Lunar New Year festival.

Nowadays, the market share of modern grocery stores is about 65 per cent, according to Euromonitor International. That puts far more of the meat supply chain into large-scale facilities with better biosecurity procedures.

The bigger problem is likely to be a political one. Food-safety measures work best where there’s a high degree of trust in society. Farmers are most likely to pay the personal costs of following hygiene rules when they think they can benefit more from the integrity of the system than from smuggling infected livestock. As even Beijing acknowledges, trust is one commodity that’s in short supply in China these days.

Source : Winnipeg Free Press newspaper

Opinion: We Don’t Control Our Weight

Dayna Lee-Baggley wrote . . . . . . . . .

If you’re willing, let’s try an experiment. I’m going to offer you two options, and I’d like you to pick the option that you think sounds more likely to be successful.

Option 1: Tomorrow’s weight will be 301 pounds, the day after that it will be 195 pounds, and the following day it will be 255 pounds.

Option 2: Tomorrow, go for a 10-minute walk, the day after that eat two servings of fruit, and the following day drink three glasses of water.

Which option would you be more likely to succeed with? Which option would anyone be more likely to succeed with? If you picked Option 2, you win!

Why would most of us pick Option 2 over Option 1? Option 1 involves an outcome (weight) and Option 2 involves a behavior (doing something). And as humans, we have much more control over our behavior than we do outcomes like weight. In fact, there’s mounting and convincing evidence that we don’t control our weight.

Now, this may seem hard to believe. Everything you’ve ever heard from the media, from your healthcare providers, from others in your life is that if you just work hard enough, if you just try long enough, you will be able to have a skinny body. But science tells us something different. We can influence our weight but we don’t have direct control.

Weight is actually influenced by more than 50 different processes, many of which we have no control over.

The figure in the top illustrates the factors that influence weight.

For example, weight is influenced by how much sleep you get, the cortisol (stress hormone) levels in your body, how many McDonald’s locations are in your neighborhood, the walkability of your city, your genetics, and your access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Most of these we have no direct control over. How much you eat and how much you exercise are only two small factors in weight.

This also has important implications for how to manage weight. If we focus on weight as the goal, at some point, we will feel like our efforts aren’t getting us to our goal. This is inevitable because we don’t control all the factors that influence weight. And when we feel like our efforts aren’t getting us to our goals, the most normal response is to give up trying and to not bother to try again.

This is an effect called “learned helplessness,” first described by Dr. Martin Seligman and his colleagues: when we feel we have no control, we just stop trying. Many of my patients living with obesity will describe trying over and over and over again to lose weight only to find themselves heavier than when they started. And often I will hear them say “and then I just gave up.” That’s learned helplessness. And once learned helplessness sets in it’s hard to undo.

But there is a way we can avoid learned helplessness: by focusing on behavior as a goal instead of weight as a goal. If you try harder to go for a walk, you’re much more likely to go for a walk, but if you try harder to “lose weight” you don’t necessarily lose more weight. In fact, the stress of trying to lose weight may increase the cortisol levels in your body and make it harder to lose weight.

So, if you’re working to manage your weight, think about setting behavioral goals: things that other people can see you do. Examples include going for a walk, eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking more water, eating more whole foods, eating at regular intervals during the day, or tracking your food intake. You’ll be more likely to feel successful and to want to keep going.

Source: Psychology Today

Opinion: Against Cheerfulness

Mariana Alessandri wrote . . . . . . . . .

I once ended up at a Boy Scout ceremony in the northeast United States, where I inhaled the American spirit unfiltered. The boys’ uniforms had Stars-and-Stripes patches sewn on next to their badges. We recited the Pledge of Allegiance in front of an oversize US flag, and we prayed to America’s vague God, giving thanks for this and that, and asking for some strength or protection. The boys recited their Scout Law: to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, and… cheerful.

As a philosopher influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche, I’d always imagined cheerfulness was a sickly child, born nine months after a Tinder date between Stoicism and Christianity. But that night I learned that cheerfulness was a British orphan smuggled into the US in the early 20th century, and was now making a living spreading itself all over contemporary American kitsch: throw pillows, coffee mugs and slippers. Cheerfulness has planted deep roots in US soil, and the poor Boy Scouts are made to believe she’s a virtue.

The Ancient Greeks named four virtues: temperance, wisdom, courage and justice. Aristotle added more, but cheerfulness wasn’t one of them. The Greek philosophers didn’t seem to care about how we felt compared with how we acted. Aristotle said that we would ideally feel good while acting good, but he didn’t consider pleasure necessary for beautiful action. Acting virtuously meant steering clear of excess and deficiency. But in order to reach his ‘mean’, we need to jettison every action that misses the mark. Most of the time, the mean is incredibly tough to find, but if it came down to a choice between feeling good while acting badly or feeling badly while acting good, Aristotle said to choose good behaviour. He understood that feelings are hard to control, sometimes impossible, but he also knew that positive feelings like to hang around virtuous actions. While we’re waiting for the good feelings to show up, he asked us to get to work on temperance, wisdom, courage and justice. But he never said anything about smiling through it.

The Roman Stoics inched closer to prescribing cheerfulness when they decided that we should pay attention to our feelings. They believed that we could control our attitudes. But even they didn’t champion cheerfulness, despite the American translators who try to poison them with it. For example, Marcus Aurelius, in his Meditations, advised himself to be εὔνους, literally ‘good-minded’. This was translated into English as ‘good-natured’ by Francis Hutcheson and James Moore in 1742 in Scotland, and then as ‘benevolence’ by the British translator George Long in 1862, before returning to ‘good-natured’ in 1916 under the influence of another British translator, C R Haines. In 2003, Gregory Hays, from Indianapolis, translated εὔνους as ‘cheerfulness’. Maybe Hays was a boy scout. Or Christian. Or both.

To the Stoic list of virtues, the Christians added faith, hope and love. These are a gift from God, unlike patience and justice, which can be achieved on our own. Faith is the belief that with God all things are possible; hope is risking that belief in real time; and love is willing to be wrong about it. These three add an undeniably emotional element to the mix of virtues, but even Jesus didn’t ask for cheer. The closest he got was telling the disciples not to look depressed when they fasted. Paul got even closer when he declared that ‘God loves a cheerful giver’. But the original Greek still sounds more like ‘God loves it when you give without needing to be persuaded’ than like the Boy Scout definition of cheerfulness. But Paul also said that Christians should ‘do everything without grumbling and arguing’. The pivot from action to attitude started by the Stoics and egged on by the Christians set the historical stage for Scout Law in the US.

In 1908, the British Lieutenant-General Robert Baden-Powell created (what would become) the worldwide Boy Scouts movement. He intended to instil good old Christian values into good old British boys. Cheerfulness and other newborn virtues soon circled the globe, hitting the US in 1916. Eventually, the Boy Scouts Association in the UK dropped it: they don’t need to be cheerful any more, according to their Scout Law, even though it was their idea. The lifting of mandatory cheerfulness reflects contemporary British culture, just as the policing of cheerfulness in the US reflects ours.

The Boy Scouts of America associate cheerfulness with positivity: a Scout should ‘look for the bright side of life. Cheerfully do tasks that come your way. Try to help others be happy.’ Instead of grumbling while he toils, a cheerful Boy Scout will cultivate a joyful attitude. He will ‘jump at opportunities’ that others won’t, and is more likely to find difficult tasks more enjoyable than others. Finally, a good Boy Scout believes that cheerfulness is infectious and can spread to those around him.

It’s no surprise that cheerfulness was embraced not only by Boy Scouts but by the greater American culture too: the US is a melting pot of Christianity, Stoicism, cognitive behavioural therapy, capitalism and Buddhism, all of which hold, to varying degrees, that we are responsible for our attitudes and, ultimately, for our happiness. A quick browse through the self-help section of any US bookstore announces that lots of Americans are desperate to bootstrap their way to the bright side. Texts on embracing life’s miserable condition don’t exactly fly off the shelves. However, books on how optimism can be learned make millionaires out of their authors. They tell us that the key to happiness is positivity, and that the key to positivity is cheerfulness. The aorta of the US economy pumps out optimism, positivity and cheerfulness while various veins carry back US dollars naively invested in schemes designed to get rich quick, emotionally speaking.

Socrates was right in the Symposium when he said that we are attracted to what we are not, and the psychologists behind production and marketing know better than we do the ubiquity of US anxiety, depression and restlessness. Many of us who might not be cheerful by nature get pressured to smile by the reigning notion that we alone are responsible for our happiness. Window-shop in any middle-class city and you will discover a consumer culture desperate to live up to the adage ‘Think like a proton: always positive!’ Homeware stores are filled with reminders of how happy we could be if only we’d listen to our kitschy teacups with printed pseudo-philosophical adages such as ‘Continuous cheerfulness is a sign of wisdom,’ except that teacups don’t know the first thing about cheerfulness or wisdom, or whether they relate to happiness. Look at Denmark: the Danish are not particularly cheerful but, if the statistics are to be believed, they are happier than most. I’ve been to Denmark, and it’s not defiled with messages to ‘Keep calm and focus on cheerfulness.’

If you have to tell someone to be cheerful, they aren’t feeling it. Cheerfulness spontaneously felt and freely given is brilliant, but it is no more virtuous than acting courageously when one isn’t scared. Aristotle insisted that virtuous action be independent of, and sometimes contrary to, our feelings. In other words, virtuous action must be deliberate to count as virtue.

Baden-Powell knew this, and in 1908 he reminded his Boy Scouts that, when something annoying happens:

you should force yourself to smile at once and then whistle a tune, and you will be all right. A scout goes about with a smile on and whistling. It cheers him and cheers other people, especially in time of danger, for he keeps it up then all the same.
Baden-Powell’s words had the power to coerce a generation of boys to pretend that life is good when it isn’t. Cheerfulness advocates still find virtue in this charade. America’s unchecked faith in cheer abounds in our proverbs: ‘You catch more flies with honey,’ ‘Think happy thoughts,’ ‘Life is good,’ ‘Don’t worry, be happy,’ and ‘Laughter is the best medicine’ are all cheer-filled variations on Baden-Powell’s theme of forced bright-sidedness. ‘Minnesota nice’ captures the twisted Midwestern dedication to white-knuckling a positive attitude.

There is a fundamental difference between practising the Greek virtues of patience, justice or courage, and practising the American virtue of cheerfulness, which borders on psychosis. Patience asks us to change our behaviour, but it neither asks us to feel differently nor to pretend to feel differently. Granted, Aristotle believed that practising patience over a length of time would naturally make us more patient, but pretence was never part of the deal. You can act patient while feeling impatient, and it’s no lie. But when you fake cheerfulness, you are telling someone else that you feel fine when you don’t. This encourages the most maddening American T-shirts and aprons that say: ‘Smile! Happiness looks gorgeous on you!’

Cheerfulness conceived as a virtue – à la Boy Scout Law – instead of a spontaneous feeling is a pretence. It’s not an action but it is an act. Whistling while you work might be worth defending, but forcing yourself to smile when you don’t feel like it amounts to lying to the people around you. ‘Fake it till you make it’ has brutal consequences when applied to the emotions. When conceived as the attempt to trick others into thinking that you feel cheery, cheerfulness is far from a virtue. It’s a vice. It falls on the deficiency end of the spectrum of trust. Too much trust is called naïveté, and is a vice of excess. But cheerfulness is just as bad. It confesses: I don’t trust you with my darkest feelings; I don’t think you are responsible enough to handle my inner life. Forced cheerfulness is a denial of life. All experiences taste different, and if we force a smile through the sour ones, we are not living honestly. We might want to lock out certain people from our fragile hearts, but cheerfulness is an equal-opportunity vice; it keeps even my loved ones out of reach. Whoever gets our cheery selves does not get our true selves.

Cheerfulness also unwittingly cancels out the Christian virtue of faith. It says: you can’t handle the expression of my feelings, and I deny you the chance to prove me right. Since it is built on the certainty that others will disappoint, cheerfulness lacks faith. It denies possibility. In real life, others probably will disappoint us. If we show them what we are really feeling, they will probably screw it up. But given the emphasis on cheerfulness in the US, as etched into Boy Scout Law, it’s no wonder that they screw it up. Still, a botched attempt at compassion is better than being denied the chance to fail. Here’s an anti-cheerful but virtuous attitude: expect others to fail but give them the chance. Also, recognise when someone is giving you a chance to fail them. Vulnerability is a risk and a gift.

This newest virtue could be given the old name of honesty. Instead of a smile, if we could find it in ourselves to wear our natural expression – the one that the US TV personality Mister Fred Rogers called the ‘best kind of expression’ – we would be better for it. Wearing our natural expression would be a sign that we are saying yes instead of no to life’s kumquats, to sadness, anxiety, illness, grief, depression, loneliness and anger, among other so-called ‘negative’ emotions. These affirmations of life’s sourness might just make frowning – or wincing, or crying – easier. In turn, these newly sanctioned expressions of negativity might make talking easier, honestly discussing hardships. Our newly vulnerable selves would get to see the corresponding vulnerabilities of our close and distant neighbours. This exchange of fragility could possibly be the key to empathy. If we agreed to stop wasting emotional energy masking our disappointments with cheer, then we’d be free to cue into other people’s sadness. The Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno saw expressions of pain exchanged between two people as the great equaliser of humankind. He believed that deeper connections could be made in wreckage than prosperity.

But deep connections come at a cost. Cheerfulness isn’t just an American phenomenon, but it is uniquely built into the nation’s identity as invincible, and it’s not clear that we are ready to part with it yet. To become flesh-and-bone, Americans would first have to give up the idea that happiness is a matter of attitude. This challenges not only the history of the Boy Scouts but, more broadly, the reigning image of the self-made American, the single individual who keeps his chin up and never lets them see him sweat. This narrative was vital in birthing the US and then making it the superpower it is today.

Giving up a commitment to cheerfulness would mean risking judgment for being ordinary, human, mortal. If, however, we could learn to share in the misery of others without trying to cheer them up and send them packing, and if they could do the same for us, then we’d have a shot at true fraternity, the kind that Aristotle prescribed when he said we should live with our friends. The kind that the Boy Scouts crave, and that Baden-Powell thought he was cultivating when he prescribed cheerfulness. Profound human connection and communion – in other words, love – has no use for forced cheer, and is often sabotaged by false faces. If we want to love better and seek true happiness and friendship, it’s time to cultivate honesty instead of cheer.

Source: aeon