A witness of an alleged incident in which a mother with a young child looking at ready-made dishes at a store was shamed by an older man for not cooking from scratch tweeted about it on July 8, and the tweet had been retweeted 130,000 times over the next two days.
The person who posted the tweet is said to be a mother, too. No one knows if the story is true, but the tweet has prompted many to share similar stories of their own.
Here is the gist of the tweet: An older man who saw a woman with a young child holding a ready-made dish told her, "If you're a mother, why don't you make your own potato salad?" and walked away. The witness, who was with her own daughter, in an attempt to send the message to the woman that it was OK to buy and serve ready-made dishes to one's family, went up and picked up two packages of potato salad in front of the woman, who was standing with her head down, a ready-made dish in her hand.
Many of the responses to the person who posted the tweet were supportive, but what was striking were the posts describing other women's similar experiences.
"When I went on a walk with my child, I was told by a grandpa who was walking by, 'It's not good to put children in jeans from when they are a baby. Because statistically speaking, such children grow up to lack a sense of propriety,'" one person wrote.
Another posted, "When I was reading a picture book to my daughter as we waited for our turn at the hospital, an older man told me, 'Don't mumble when you read. Read more clearly. Parents have to take responsibility for teaching their children the language.'"
It isn't rare for unknown men to stick their noses in mothers' business. The act of men lecturing women on the premise that "women are ignorant" has in recent years been coined into the term "mansplaining." One reason the tweet drew such a big response is likely because many women have had similar experiences.
Yuiko Fujita, a professor of sociology at Meiji University in Tokyo who is raising a school-age child, tweeted, "I saw a comment that asked, 'Is such misogyny a daily occurrence?' And I think it is."
She continued, "Since I was in my teens, I've experienced being yelled at or being verbally abused by men. It happened again last month. I was with my son, when a man said to me, 'Good for you that you had a son.' I was speechless."
Another part of the "potato salad incident" that many people responded to was the part where the older man said, "If you're a mother."
One person tweeted, "'A mother's homemade food' might be one form of love, but it does not constitute a yardstick by which a good mother can be measured."
Another tweeted, "Homemade food and love are not proportional to each other."
Fujita, who has been conducting interviews about mothers' homemade cooking, told the Mainichi Shimbun, "In Japan, there are few fathers who cook dinner on weekdays, and there is a deeply rooted belief that meals must be made properly by mothers. There are a lot of mothers who feel guilty and apologize for not making 'proper meals' when they put frozen pre-made food on the table. But each family has their own set of circumstances, and not all families are able to make homemade meals. 'Homemade meals' are not something mothers should sacrifice their health to make."
Says food writer Atsuhi Hakuo, "Not just with cooking, but in society in general, there is still so much unspoken pressure about how a mother should be. That may be why the tweet garnered so much attention. Potato salad is just the tip of the iceberg."
(Japanese original by Mayumi Yamanouchi, Integrated Digital News Center)