Photo/IllutrationA woman asks a question at an event on men's child care organized by the Lean In Tokyo group two days before International Men's Day on Nov. 19. (The Asahi Shimbun)

About half of men who took an online poll said they feel pressure to behave in masculine ways because of stereotypes ranging from picking up the tab for a date to working full time until retirement.

The survey, conducted in October by Lean In Tokyo, a group that engages in activities to support women and realize social diversity, received 309 responses to questions about difficulties men face at work, school and home.

The results were released to coincide with International Men's Day on Nov. 19, a day designated to raise awareness about men's health, role models and other issues to promote gender equality.

Asked whether male stereotypes and associated pressure "make life difficult or inconvenient," 51 percent of the respondents said yes. While about 20 percent of those in their 20s to 40s said they feel "frequently" oppressed, just 2 percent of those in their 50s and 8 percent of those aged 60 and older said the same, highlighting a wide generation gap.

Of 240 respondents who regarded the traditional concept of masculinity as problematic, 30 percent said they first found gender stereotypes unpleasant before elementary school age, followed by 26 percent who said they became significantly conscious of sexism after they started working full time.

Asked which stereotypes they find most unpleasant, the largest group of those in their 20s to 30s said, "men should pay more money and take the lead on dates with women." Among those in their 40s to 50s, "men have to work full time until retirement" was considered the most unlikeable notion.

The largest group of people in their 60s and older said they dislike it when they are told to take on manual labor activities simply because they are men.

In a free-answer section about personal circumstances, one respondent said he has "long been told that men should not cry."

Another said he feels "pressure to continue working throughout life to support the livelihood of my family."

Futoshi Taga, a gender studies professor at Kansai University, said about the study results, "One factor behind the difficulties men face is a social structure where they are socially and economically considered superior to women, whether they like it or not."

He also noted problems with social systems, citing parental leave as an example.

"Those who take parental leave can receive an allowance equivalent to up to 67 percent of their income before the leave," he said. "It is often considered preferable for women to take the leave because there is an income gap between men and women."

The study also asked about desired gender roles in child rearing and work on the assumption of a society where "people can freely make decisions in life without shackles."

According to the results, 55 percent of respondents said both partners in a marriage should have jobs and take parental leave to spend equal time on child care and housework.

Noting that women tend to bear a heavier burden for such activities, Risako Ninomiya, head of Lean In Tokyo, said, "Discussing and making visible the difficulties faced by men will lead to a better society for women and other genders as well."

Taga noted that International Men's Day, which was introduced in 1999 in Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean Sea and has spread to dozens of nations including China, the United States and Britain, provides a good opportunity for men to think about gender issues as problems relevant to them.

"Men must be involved in efforts to eliminate the challenges faced by women if they want to resolve difficulties they themselves face in life," Taga said.