The XX Factor

More on Herbivores

The Washington Post yesterday had a story on the generation of mild Japanese men who call themselves “herbivores.” These are the young men who are more into hair gels than girlfriends, who make American slackers look like Gordon Gekko. Astoundingly, almost half of Japanese men ages 20 to 34 identify as “gentle and cautious” herbivores. They are in part a product of Japan’s long economic stagnation, and in part a reaction against their hard-driving “salarymen” fathers-the generation who essentially lived at the office then spent late evenings at bars. I did find something hopeful in the portrait, and that was the incredible ability of human beings, of culture, to change. The grandfathers and great-grandfathers of these herbivores in their own youth were among the fiercest, most martial men on the planet. Japanese soldiers of World War II, raped, tortured, occupied-kamikaze pilots were the original suicide bombers. So perhaps it’s possible to envision a day when the male offspring of the Taliban, of al-Qaeda, of the other jihadi militants who say they love death more than life, who oppress and beat women, will turn away from all that and instead take up pedicures and dessert parties.