Lately life has been especially busy with end-of-term and about-to-move-across-the-world things as well as quite a few other exciting outings; however, at the moment I’m still too busy writing final reports and research papers to give adequate descriptions to everything that has been going on in my life. So in the meantime, I thought I’d use this blog as a platform to share some recent articles that I think raise extremely important issues about current happenings and trends in Japanese society, which also happen to be directly related to my research on feminism.
Firstly, a few weeks ago there was an awful occurrence during a meeting of the Tokyo assembly when a female assembly member (one of the very small percentage of women holding political positions in Japan) was attempting to give a speech about the need to offer more assistance to working pregnant women and mothers, and was interpreted by sexist remarks from male assembly members from the ruling party (making statements such as “Before you say things like that, you’re the one who needs to get married quickly!”「そんなことを言う前に、おまえが早く結婚しないのかっ!」 and “Can you even bear children?!”「子どもは産めないのかっ！！」.
This event received harsh criticism from people in Japan and internationally, leading one of the hecklers to end up apologizing at a later date. All of my Japanese and international friends with whom I discussed this occurrence had similar attitudes of anger and disappointment; however, on a social media site I observed and interacted with some ex-pats living in Japan who both explicitly and implicitly supported the sexism being espoused by the assemblymen in their jeering comments.
On Facebook, one such acquaintance of an acquaintance asserted that while he agreed that the assemblymen were “wrong to make those comments,” he thinks that criticizing the assembly men and arguing for the necessity of gender equality in Japan is “just the same type of thinking that has fucked up Afghanistan, Iraq, etc…. Go in there with guns blazing, and expect them to pick up our own values overnight.” Further, he states, “And…. this may get me in trouble, but… It is nice to live in a country where women look like women, and politcal correctness isn’t always at the top of the agenda when it somes to the sexes[sic]”. Of course, I think that this analogy between the U.S. military involvement in the Middle East and international criticism of sexism in Japanese politics could not be more absurd. And I was just as troubled by his mocking of those who have spoken up against this act of sexism as merely being obsessed with “political correctness,” which is a common tactic to try to belittle those who are working for social change.
However, the unfortunate fact remains that there still are many people in Japan, both native residents and otherwise, (and in other contexts around the world of course) who agree with this notion that “women ought to look like women” and that sexual discrimination is acceptable. To me, such responses to occurrences like this one only further underscore the need for feminism in Japan, and serious dialogue about these issues everywhere. To that end, I’m going to share some articles about the assembly heckling, as well as some other feminism-related articles that I’ve come across recently:
If these articles happen to spark anyone’s interest about current feminism in Japan, I’d love to have a conversation with you about what I’ve been learning from my research lately. Alternatively, I think these books are excellent introductions:
Feminism in Modern Japan– Vera Mackie
Transforming Japan: How Feminism and Diversity are Making a Difference– Ed. Kumiko Fujimura-Fanselow