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The jeers started when she began talking about men doing their share
June 20, 2014 12:49 AM   Subscribe

With a vague promise to support more women in the workplace as one of the key points of pushing an economic recovery, the reality is much more bleak for working women in Japan. Yesterday, while delivering a speech on the importance of supporting working mothers, Ayaka Shiomura, a member of the Tokyo government assembly was heckled, with jeers from other lawmakers demanding to know why she hadn't gotten married, and demanding to know if she was able to bear children. The Liberal Democratic Party has so far refused to reprimand the members responsible, and while members of Shiomura's party point out that Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe (with his own history of outright sexism) was evidently laughing as Shiomura at first laughed in disbelief, then was quickly reduced to tears (Japanese link, no English subtitles).
posted by Ghidorah (82 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
Perhaps out of embarrassment, members of parliament and the cabinet, including the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga have called on the Tokyo assembly to clean up its act.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:59 AM on June 20


And there was me thinking Australian Parliamentary culture was about the roughest..
posted by Segundus at 1:06 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


Pigs.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:07 AM on June 20 [4 favorites]


(actually, that's an insult to actual pigs)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:07 AM on June 20 [55 favorites]


My heart breaks for Shiomura reading this - what a fighter. I disagree with the description of "reduced to tears" - you can see her do the laugh of disbelief, and at the total disrespect of her colleagues her voice breaks with emotion for a few syllables, but she keeps going like a champ. Yeah, she's sniffling a bit, but those assholes didn't reduce her to anything. She didn't leave the stage until she was done.

In an interesting twist, it seems to me that most of the YouTube comments are actually less horrible than the actual video - lots of people calling out the shitty old farts for their behaviour. Of course, a lot of it also seems to be linked to the recently raised taxes, but hey. If the lawmakers are behaving this badly, at least not everyone agrees with them, and that's... not much but better than nothing.
posted by harujion at 1:31 AM on June 20 [49 favorites]


Taught in Japan for two years after uni, in a pretty academic high school with a super-high focus on English ability and a technical school. The academic school was pupilled almost entirely by girls, who were determined to leave with a decent handle on the language in order that they could get the fuck out and go abroad where they'd have a decent shot at an actual career.
posted by ominous_paws at 2:04 AM on June 20 [26 favorites]


Yeah, she's sniffling a bit, but those assholes didn't reduce her to anything

Indeed. Elevated, really, not reduced.

And man was I hoping the sign-language woman would flip a double-bird at the end.
posted by chavenet at 2:10 AM on June 20 [10 favorites]


When in the video is the event referenced in the OP?
posted by DeepSeaHaggis at 2:36 AM on June 20


Nevermind, I may be able to read but apparently I can't see when Youtube queues up the video at the exact spot.
posted by DeepSeaHaggis at 2:40 AM on June 20


That woman is a fucking hero, and holy crap is that some truly nakedly despicable behaviour from the assembly. Sad sad state of affairs.
posted by Dysk at 2:45 AM on June 20 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile, here in the UK, a Member of Parliament and the current government has just tweeted that he might punch a female journalist in the throat. His direct twitter apology to the journalist is a classic example of a non-apology.
posted by Wordshore at 3:15 AM on June 20 [3 favorites]


those are some backward-ass motherfuckers.

I had a Japanese roommate and he had a serious loathing for politics in his homeland, saying "nothing will change until that generation is dead and buried." this video puts his feelings into perspective.
posted by young_son at 3:23 AM on June 20 [15 favorites]


Another data point along with ominous_paws: I taught English here in Japan for 7 years (2 at a conversation school, 5 as an assistant language teacher in elementary and junior high) and the number of female students that took English seriously, worked hard at it, and did well far outnumbered the male students. At the conversation school, I taught high-school kids and college kids, and it seemed to me that the girls knew the score here.
posted by snwod at 3:25 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


tweeted that he might punch a female journalist in the throat.
Ah that will be 'Michael punch-her-in-the-throat Fabricant' a charming gentleman I'm sure, how do these people get elected?
posted by Lanark at 4:39 AM on June 20


Politicians in hateful, knuckle-dragging dickhead shocker.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 4:41 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


Segundus: And there was me thinking Australian Parliamentary culture was about the roughest..

Because I watch a considerable amount of educational kids TV, I get various "learning lessons" jingles in my head from time to time. This morning its "in some ways we are different, but in so many ways, we are the same." Sigh.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:58 AM on June 20


Freaking unbelievable...like scenes from an alternate dimension or something...

I'd heard it was bad over there...but jebus...



tweeted that he might punch a female journalist in the throat.

Wow, that's like the perfect form of internet tough guy: tweeted that he might punch a woman ...and in the throat no less...

What an ass-kicking that guy needs
posted by Fists O'Fury at 5:30 AM on June 20 [7 favorites]


What an ass-kicking that guy needs
posted by Fists O'Fury at 5:30 AM on June 20 [+] [!]


Eponysterical!
posted by chavenet at 5:32 AM on June 20 [21 favorites]


As a woman in the US who has participated in this site for many many years, including the goings-on of the past week or so that have involved many many other people from the US, I am amused and saddened by all the people blaming this on Japanese society and acting like this is something specific to them.

It's as though none of you folks from the US have ever watched the way Hillary Clinton is treated in US congressional hearings. It's as though none of you saw the way Wendy Davis was treated during and after her filibuster in the Texas legislature. It's as though none of you have ever listened to the comments made by so-called liberals about Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachman.

I feel especially bad for young Japanese women who are learning English in an attempt to escape to some better world.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:48 AM on June 20 [115 favorites]


How did I know that the UK MP would be Michael Fabricant. MP for my home town, and utterly appalling example of a human.
posted by arcticseal at 5:53 AM on June 20 [3 favorites]


HP - saying that my students had better career chances in the UK or US is not at all the same as saying that the west is a flawless utopia, or as saying that these problems are unique to Japan.
posted by ominous_paws at 5:56 AM on June 20 [20 favorites]


And I certainly wouldn't patronise them to believe that's what they thought.
posted by ominous_paws at 5:57 AM on June 20 [4 favorites]


In the US misogyny, like racism, is usually expressed in coded ways , or through talk-show proxies. It's no less virulent and present, but it would be unusual to see such a raw expression of it in congress.

But I think we shouldn't just make easy equivalencies, because Japan has it's own history of feminism and misogyny (and outside of movies it's not one that I know well). It seems to have been surprisingly resistant to internal pressure, to the point of anecdotes above about highly motivated and skilled young women considering emigration. The news articles about Japan's workplace culture echo this too, though again that's just one window into a complex situation.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:58 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]


As a woman in the US who has participated in this site for many many years, including the goings-on of the past week or so that have involved many many other people from the US, I am amused and saddened by all the people blaming this on Japanese society and acting like this is something specific to them.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:48 AM on June 20


I don't understand this comment at all. Surely you're not suggesting that the Japanese MPs treated Ms. Shiomura this way because of the misogyny in the US?

You do understand that we can be upset about misogyny in Japan as well as misogyny in the USA and other places, yes?

MeFites reacting with dismay to the way Ms. Shiomura was mistreated is not the same thing as MeFites asserting that everything is peachy-keen for women here in the USA.
posted by magstheaxe at 6:27 AM on June 20 [27 favorites]


It's as though none of you folks from the US have ever watched the way Hillary Clinton is treated in US congressional hearings. It's as though none of you saw the way Wendy Davis was treated during and after her filibuster in the Texas legislature. It's as though none of you have ever listened to the comments made by so-called liberals about Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachman.

Very, very, very large differences in degree.

I've watched all those things, and I absolutely cannot believe that anyone would try to argue that the difference between them and what we see in the OP are insignificant.

We're willing to blame U.S. society when blame is due, so we should be willing to blame Japanese society when blame is due...though personally I was thinking more about the actions of the individuals involved.

As for how HRC is treated in hearings: have you watched how Democrats in general are treated in hearings by Republicans these days? Have you seen how the President is treated, even in the State of the Union speech???

Societies are better than each other in some ways and worse than each other in some ways. There's no reason to try to pretend that the U.S. is on Japan's level in this respect.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 6:28 AM on June 20 [11 favorites]


Apparently, Japanese women are choosing singlehood in droves. Almost a third of thirtysomething Japanese women are unmarried. I note that it's women who don't want to marry. And no wonder - if women can get jobs and support themselves, and travel/socialize without having to marry, then traditional marriage is a raw deal for women.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:40 AM on June 20 [9 favorites]


I've said it before: for all of the remarkableness of the ascendancy of a black man to the White House, the United States gave black men the right to vote fifty years before women.

Hydropsyche used the word virulent. Sometimes, yes. But I see it more like the common cold: so commonplace and widespread that the coughs are not even noticed.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:43 AM on June 20 [5 favorites]


I don't understand this comment at all. Surely you're not suggesting that the Japanese MPs treated Ms. Shiomura this way because of the misogyny in the US?

You do understand that we can be upset about misogyny in Japan as well as misogyny in the USA and other places, yes?

MeFites reacting with dismay to the way Ms. Shiomura was mistreated is not the same thing as MeFites asserting that everything is peachy-keen for women here in the USA.


I was responding to people (mostly US people) who seemed to be asserting that misogyny in Japan is unusually bad, or that events like this are specific to Japan.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:45 AM on June 20 [4 favorites]


First, she is a badass, and gives me hope for Japan's future. I've been hearing for a while about women refusing to get married there (and the panic over the dropping birth rate) and I say good for them. But how stupid of their country to continue to drive them away and waste all that talent.

Hydropsyche used the word virulent. Sometimes, yes. But I see it more like the common cold: so commonplace and widespread that the coughs are not even noticed.

Yes, perhaps "chronic" is more accurate.

Women in the US have made slightly more gains in how they are treated than women in Japan. But maybe not so many that we feel secure in looking down on Japan. (not to mention that it's sort of racist for us to do so).

In the US, women got the vote in 1920. But it wasn't until Reed vs. Reed in 1971 that the Supreme Court ruled that discrimination against women was unconstitutional because women deserved equal protection under the law. There are lots of women alive now older than that, who remember what it was like to try and live and work and be respected (it's not like things changed overnight) in that world.

And if Ms. Clinton runs, as seems likely, we are going to see a lot of old sexist ghosts and stereotypes be taken out of storage, just as Obama's run brought out just how much hidden racism we had.
posted by emjaybee at 7:03 AM on June 20 [7 favorites]


Taken out of storage? Good lord, the luggage has exploded all over the tarmac.
posted by Kokopuff at 7:12 AM on June 20 [7 favorites]


In the US misogyny, like racism, is usually expressed in coded ways , or through talk-show proxies. It's no less virulent and present, but it would be unusual to see such a raw expression of it in congress.

That's exactly what I was thinking as I read the BBC article about Fabricant threatening to punch Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the face, Cameron’s responds with "Let's be clear, it's a completely unacceptable thing to say and it's right that he apologised and he retracted and he apologised fully" when he really should be saying “Let’s be clear, the right wing has spent a lot of time and effort inventing coded ways to belittle women and minorities, whilst maintaining plausible deniability. It’s completely unacceptable that one of our members is spoiling this for the rest of us, and we need him to issue a hollow apology so we can go back to maintaining this facade”.

I mean, I guess that it’s better than blatant discrimination, but it’s a long way from perfect.
posted by Ned G at 7:12 AM on June 20 [9 favorites]


I was responding to people (mostly US people) who seemed to be asserting that misogyny in Japan is unusually bad, or that events like this are specific to Japan.

It was pretty clear to me that this is what HP meant, folks; I kind of got the impression myself, too, that everyone was tut-tutting over this particular incident in Japan, but when something similar happens in the U.S. we get bogged down in "not all men"-type squabbling and the incident itself gets kind of downplayed and belittled. So I'm left bitterly wondering why it's so scandalous a thing overseas but it feels excusable here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:14 AM on June 20 [26 favorites]


Sadly, Kokopuff, I think we've only seen a fraction of it yet. I would love to be wrong, but I'm bracing myself for an epic storm of misogynist bullshit just the same.
posted by emjaybee at 7:17 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, here in the UK, a Member of Parliament and the current government has just tweeted that he might punch a female journalist in the throat. His direct twitter apology to the journalist is a classic example of a non-apology.

I'm sure that this being taken very seriously by the party leadership, and he will be disciplined acc-ahahahahaahahahahhahaah.

Sorry, just couldn't keep it up.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:19 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


To be fair it's a pretty complicated situation, and they will need to set up an inquiry to determine exactly how much blame should fall on Fabricant vs. that abominable furry Thetan feasting on his brain fluids.
posted by forgetful snow at 7:22 AM on June 20 [3 favorites]


> I was responding to people (mostly US people) who seemed to be asserting that misogyny in Japan is unusually bad

Well, Japan is worse in measurable areas. I suppose one could argue that misogyny is equally bad in both countries, but in different ways. Just as a quick example, Japan has the second highest gender wage gap in the OECD countries, after Korea. 29% in Japan compared to 19% in the USA. Numbers from here (download the Excel spreadsheet for the US percentage).
posted by gilrain at 7:22 AM on June 20 [10 favorites]


Disgraceful.

I am a Japanese American feminist and until fairly recently I would have agreed with the people in this thread saying that it's hypocritical and vaguely racist for us to be condemning this incident while giving ourselves a round of slaps on the back for being so enlightened. People conflate Japanese-Japanese and Japanese American like crazy and it always seemed to be just one or two steps from there to "So why would you date an Asian guy anyway, don't you know how patriarchal they are?" and a whole lot of other really ugly stuff that I fight against whenever I see it.

Then I spent two years in Japan. I am still very much an outsider to the culture and wouldn't presume to know everything about it, but for me as a foreigner it was like living in the 1950s. This gelled for me one day when I was wandering around in the hallway during a free period reading posters outside the nutritionist's office for reading practice, and there was one with a picture of starving children in Africa that literally said "Finish your food, there are starving people in Africa." Suddenly the people who made no mention of a boyfriend or girlfriend up until the day they announced their engagement, the girls who said "I want a rich boyfriend so I don't have to work!", the people who advised me not to tell my coworkers that my boyfriend was visiting from the States and staying in my apartment, the gay friends of mine who knew (without ever being told) that they had to hide their sexuality at all costs (but on the other hand, as one said, they could do anything short of prance across the staffroom in a tutu scattering glitter and people would STILL nag them about getting a girlfriend and ask if they liked Japanese girls)--they all flashed before my eyes and I thought, "Oh my God, I'm living in 1950."

The culture in the U.S. is rife with really ugly misogyny--God, do I know. And a part of me still cringes to say this knowing that yahoos who see us as perpetual foreigners will surely use it against me and the men I love. But man, Japan is really something else.
posted by sunset in snow country at 7:29 AM on June 20 [39 favorites]


Interesting Spreadsheet. It seems that things are moving in the right direction. Is this because the older generation of workers that had a lifetime of accruing wage gap salaries are retiring? As new workers enter the marketplace to replace them are they on an even footing, or is there still a gender gap for twenty somethings?

Would be good to know.
posted by trif at 7:32 AM on June 20


It's interesting how we as humans love to rank ourselves in comparison to others. That's where all this back and forth about wether the US is worse, the same, or better than Japan is coming from.

Let's be clear; This behaviour is disgraceful, full stop. There is no need for any qualification. Wether you believe it would happen in your country, your state, your town, or your house doesn't matter. Where a given behaviour ranks comparatively to some random benchmark is of no consequence as long as the consensus is that THIS PARTICULAR INSTANCE is unacceptable. And it is.
posted by trif at 7:40 AM on June 20 [16 favorites]


Although, that said--here's a Tokyo lawmaker who is a woman advocating for more support for mothers in the workplace. I think we can condemn these heckling douchebags without losing sight of the fact that there is important feminist work being done in Japan.

(Also, what the hell--she's actually talking about helping women have more babies, and gets this. Come on, dudes, get your shit together.)
posted by sunset in snow country at 7:41 AM on June 20 [7 favorites]


I've always wondered why tears were considered a sign of weakness while rage is considered a sign of strength. Not really -- I know that its because one is a stereotypical male response to being overwhelmed and one is stereotypically female. I think the truth of which response betrays weakness is really more the reverse.
posted by klanawa at 7:43 AM on June 20 [16 favorites]


Japan's Abe Is the World's Best Leader (previously)
Japan’s top social problem is the role Iof women. The sexism of corporate Japan is legendary, and many millions of Japanese women are underemployed and out of the labor force; yet instead of pushing women back to traditional child-rearing roles, this has mainly just lowered the fertility rate to sub-European levels. But since taking office, Abe -- whose party is famous for sexist gaffes -- has become the most feminist leader I’ve ever seen.

He constantly talks about the need to make women more equal in the workplace -- no small thing in a country where corporations have a reputation for following the government’s wishes. Abe’s detractors dismiss this as empty talk, but talk is never empty, especially when you say things that no one has said before. And Abe is putting his money where his mouth is, with a raft of measures to improve working women’s access to affordable day care.

Already, I can sense a shift. When I lived in Japan 10 years ago, people said that women’s situation would never change, and treated women’s second-class status as an immutable fact of Japanese culture. Nowadays, when I go back, everyone is talking about women’s changing role, and everyone agrees that Abe is the prime mover.
I guess this is a good opportunity for Abe to step up and prove he's for real on feminism. I have to think he could create real consequences for these assholes, and put support for working mothers at the top of his agenda.
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:51 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


Brave lady, you go sister!

In the 80s, I worked in a manufacturing plant that was very progressive both for the rehabbed architecture and state-of-the-art manufacturing processes. Part of my responsibility was arranging & giving tours to various groups - architects, the local community and the like. Our CEO had partnerships with several Japanese companies so we had many tours from Japan. One notable visit was comprised of about 100 Japanese business leaders. Our CEO was scheduled to make a presentation and I made all the logistics and arrangements for tours and hospitality.

When the group arrived, it was, of course, all male. I was much amused to see that about half the men were wearing white socks with the Playboy Bunny insignia on the ankles. Tours progressed apace, nothing unusual. On shepherding the group to the conference room, I got a message that the CEO had an emergency that would prevent his attending and I should take his place in making the presentation. On the drop of a dime, the mood changed. The smiles and warmth were gone and there were several exchanges in Japanese. About a third of the men walked out. I decided to simply proceed, but the body language of those who remained was amazing. They would not acknowledge anything I said, no nodding, no smiles, no responses when I asked questions, just eyes downcast, seemingly pondering the playboy insignias on their ankles. It was very strained and uncomfortable but I continued as I might with any group. At the end of the presentation, I moved on to giving advice on things to do and see while in Boston. The minute I got off business and on to general topics, my audience relaxed and went back to being responsive and friendly asking typical tourist questions. It was like a light switch had been turned.

The organizer met me at the door with abject apologies and many bows. He explained that there were few if any women "of my position" (heh, mid level PR flack) in the manufacturing business in Japan and that many of the men took it as highly insulting and beneath them not only to have the CEO not show up but to have a young woman address them on business matters. The conversation was that if the CEO was unable to attend (bad enough), a suitable man should have been picked to substitute.

Almost every single one of our visitors gave me a small gift on leaving the factory - most were tubes of red lipstick. Male tour guides got clocks. For many years I had those lipsticks in a bowl in my guest bathroom as a novelty, but sadly, lost them once in a move.

Now American manufacturing was no picnic for U.S. women at the time, believe me - no workplaces were. But based on this experience and several others I had at the time with Japanese visitors, I got the idea that Japanese women in the workplace and in society at large were about 15-20 years behind American women, about a generation.

It's a spectrum of slow global progress -- while the U.S. has made some strides, we ain't there yet so shouldn't get our progressive airs on. Many of our own politicians are doing their damnedest to strip women citizens of basic rights. And as for respecting colleagues? Ha. “She was the woman who was standing under the streetlight with her dress pulled all the way up over her knees, and now she says, ‘I’m a nun,’ when it comes to this spying!
posted by madamjujujive at 8:37 AM on June 20 [32 favorites]


Comparing injustices in American society to injustices in societies that are considered "worse" is a common method of delegitimizing injustices in America. Perhaps everyone on MetaFilter is 100% enlightened and lives outside of that paradigm, so they can say "Japan is worse than America" without all the attendant implications, but that doesn't change the fact that engaging in that line of thought perpetuates a device that is usually (or often) used to ignore and normalize everyday sexism.

The upshot for me is that while I would never say "Don't draw comparisons, comparisons are hurtful," I strongly prefer to see an explicit conclusion drawn from the comparison (without one, the implicit conclusion is always going to be "So shut up.")
posted by telegraph at 8:45 AM on June 20


Compare the U.K., 1997:
Don't get me wrong; things have got better. Women don't have to face Tory MPs wiggling their hands under imaginary breasts and mouthing "melons" when they get up to speak – as Labour's Barbara Follett did when she became an MP in 1997. Or Gillian Shephard's experience when she arrived in 1987 to find herself called Betty by an MP who explained he called all the female MPs that "because you're all the same . . . it's easier". These were just a few of the experiences recounted by a major study of women MPs back in 2004, The New Suffragettes by Boni Sones.
Just to repeat, that was 1997.

(h/t Andy Zaltzman and jedicus)
posted by benito.strauss at 8:49 AM on June 20 [12 favorites]


Perhaps everyone on MetaFilter is 100% enlightened and lives outside of that paradigm

Japan routinely comes in last on the UN's assessment of working environments/culture (among "rich" countries, so it's still worse in the developing world perhaps) for women. Japan documentably has a problem, and economists will tell you that their problem is threatening their domestic economy.

It feels incredibly close to being shouted down to be told that feminists in one country cannot identify a shitty situation in another and want it to improve. For as long as I work in the US with companies headed in Japan (which I do), their cultural problem does affect me directly, but even if it didn't I want the world's standard to increase.

I'm not going to ignore sexism or racism or abuse or poverty or war in other countries just because they haven't all been solved in the US yet. It's a global system with a global problem.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:04 AM on June 20 [25 favorites]


No one here was asking anyone to ignore sexism in Japan until we fix the rest of the world. I was just questioning any sort of "Oh my gosh, the Japanese are so awful, aren't we glad we're better than them" that I felt was creeping into the conversation.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:09 AM on June 20 [3 favorites]


It feels incredibly close to being shouted down to be told that feminists in one country cannot identify a shitty situation in another and want it to improve.

This is a very good way to put what was most bothering me about the "don't you dare criticize sexism/racism/systemic problem in another country when your country isn't doing any better/much better/completely better" kinds of sanctimony. Thanks, Lyn Never.

And it's not like anyone here is barging in being the Super European Savior-Feminist. We're mostly at the look-askance and point-out-obvious-issue stage in this comment thread, and I don't expect MetaFilter to subscribe to the SESF-narrative anyway.
posted by seyirci at 9:12 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


I absolutely did not intend to minimize the systemic misogyny in the USA. I apologize that it came off that way.

However, I do think it's a mistake to rule out comparisons as always minimizing, even if it's sometimes used as a derailing tactic. I wouldn't imply that the USA is sitting pretty at a 19% wage gap just because Japan has 29%. Instead, we and most countries should look at Hungary's 6% and wonder how we can do better. If we couldn't compare against one another, even though we are all very far from perfect, it would be hard to suggest avenues of tested improvement.

I'll drop this now, though, because although unintended I can see that it's a derail in this thread. And I recognize that the gender wage gap is not necessarily an accurate measure of overall misogyny anyway.
posted by gilrain at 9:13 AM on June 20 [5 favorites]


I was just questioning any sort of "Oh my gosh, the Japanese are so awful, aren't we glad we're better than them" that I felt was creeping into the conversation.

posted by hydropsyche at 12:09 PM on June 20


Can you point to an example in this thread? 'Cause I apparently scrolled past it.
posted by magstheaxe at 9:19 AM on June 20 [7 favorites]


I do not see a "we are so awesome!' thing going on here. In fact, what I'm reading is more like "christ, it's bad enough in the US/UK/Australia, that's some serious effort to be even worse".
posted by Lyn Never at 9:25 AM on June 20 [4 favorites]


magstheaxe: "Can you point to an example in this thread? 'Cause I apparently scrolled past it."

Is this trip really necessary?
posted by boo_radley at 9:29 AM on June 20 [4 favorites]


Can you point to an example in this thread? 'Cause I apparently scrolled past it.

These are a few quotes that I felt might be headed in that direction:

Taught in Japan for two years after uni, in a pretty academic high school with a super-high focus on English ability and a technical school. The academic school was pupilled almost entirely by girls, who were determined to leave with a decent handle on the language in order that they could get the fuck out and go abroad where they'd have a decent shot at an actual career.

those are some backward-ass motherfuckers.

I had a Japanese roommate and he had a serious loathing for politics in his homeland, saying "nothing will change until that generation is dead and buried." this video puts his feelings into perspective.


Freaking unbelievable...like scenes from an alternate dimension or something...

I'd heard it was bad over there...but jebus...


I of course have no idea whether the posters meant them the way I took them, and I am glad the thread didn't head further that way. But I'm also concerned about in general people recognizing that I as an American feminist did not find this shocking because it did not seem like an alternate dimension and did not seem that different from experiences in my own life.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:30 AM on June 20 [5 favorites]


To be honest, it wasn't my intent to say that things are worse in country A vs. country B, but lord, things are bad here in Japan. 77% of part time workers are women, mostly because women are expected to quit their jobs when they get married (yes, it is the 1950s), and part time work is seen as something housewives can for spending money (or, increasingly, to make up for the shortfalls due to things sucking more).

Saudi Arabia, evidently, has a larger percentage of women in management positions, just for a fun comparison.

The nations top universities (Tokyo University, Waseda, Kyoto) are still seen as places where men to become the future leaders of Japan, and where women go to meet husbands who will become the future leaders of Japan.

As a teacher, I constantly counseled my female students to go on study abroad programs, and with some of them, I was quite blunt, telling them that the world is a big place, and not everywhere is as shitty as Japan.

No, things aren't perfect in the States, but I think you'd be stunned to see what things are like here. New hires at companies, men wear suits. Women wear uniforms. Men learn to run the company, women learn to pour tea. Meanwhile, lawmakers feel free to heckle their peer because she's a woman, and nothing will happen to them, they'll get off scott free.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:30 AM on June 20 [16 favorites]


Is this trip really necessary?
posted by boo_radley at 12:29 PM on June 20


You know what? You're absolutely right. I need to flag it and move on.
posted by magstheaxe at 9:52 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


Let's be clear; This behaviour is disgraceful, full stop. There is no need for any qualification.

QFT
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:54 AM on June 20


Oh, I absolutely feel this behavior should be called out whereever it happens. I was more struck by the reaction such a callout seems to get, depending - "Oh, that's horrible, what a shame" vs. "Wait, are we sure that happened that way?...."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:01 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]


It's as though none of you have ever listened to the comments made by so-called liberals about Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachman.

I tend to go deaf when exposed to such naked idiocracy - regardless of which gender it foams out of.
posted by Twang at 11:56 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]


Coincidentally, I just ran into this article about FOUR YEARS of anti-gay heckling of a San Francisco Bay Area councilwoman. They've just decided that they should do something about it.
posted by wintersweet at 1:50 PM on June 20 [2 favorites]


I totally get what hydropsyche was trying to say. Yeah, sure, Japan is totally stuck in the 1950s in a lot of ways, but it is NOT as if the US is some kind of egalitarian utopia.

Many of my friends in Japan are/were also under the belief that it is. I lost count of my Japanese female students and some friends who would say some variant on, "Oh, I want to marry an American man so my husband will always bring me flowers and treat me like his darling girlfriend!" I thought to myself, "Oh, honey, you might gonna be in for a big disappointment."

Similarly, the Japanese men I dated tried their hardest NOT to be like the "typical" Japanese man, to the point where they would do the dishes after I cooked a meal for them, jump to open the door for me, etc. It was unsettling.
posted by jfwlucy at 2:43 PM on June 20 [1 favorite]


Women in the US have made slightly more gains in how they are treated than women in Japan. But maybe not so many that we feel secure in looking down on Japan.

Let's end it with that word, secure, full stop. Anywhere in the world, can women actually feel secure that their rights won't be taken away? I start to think as an American woman how much better things are for me than for my mother/grandmother, and then I listen to fundie Republican rant, and I'm damn scared what the future holds for my granddaughters if that shit comes true. And hearing about treatment of women in other countries....

I would say Ayaka Shiomura is one impressive woman.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:08 PM on June 20 [4 favorites]


A smart dude once said 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere' in a newspaper comment thread once, and it seems apropos here.
posted by pwnguin at 9:40 PM on June 20 [1 favorite]


It's a little bit aggravating that a conversation about Japan got so quickly derailed into a conversation about America, by Americans, who haven't really voiced any particular insight into or knowledge of Japan, Japanese culture, and expression s of misogyny in Japan.

Of course misogyny is different in Japan; it's coming from a completely different history, into a totally different cultural context. And, so far as it pertains to the workplace, I would say it definitely is worse. Anyone who has spent time in Japan, or with Japanese people, or worked with Japanese orgs would struggle to refute this, I feel, and it's disappointing that people are in such a hurry to ignore the Japanese-experienced mefites talking about their experiences in the thread.

As difficult as gender issues can be in the west, it's even more contradictory and, well a little crazy Japan, I feel. You have this culture on the one hand that's very focussed on form and roles and social expectation, and then you have this... free trade zone in regards to sex (in some ways only!), and really mixed up messaging for younger women especially. I would hate to be a teenage girl anywhere, but especially in Japan. Would be depressing, contemplating options.
posted by smoke at 4:03 AM on June 21 [11 favorites]


I tell my high school students the same thing. The girls already know, but the boys have no idea, or any idea why they should care. I give them reading assignments comparing women's opportunities in Japan and Finland, and ask them if they would like to live in a more equal society like Finland or if Japan should change to be more like Finland, and their only response is, "Why should we care? We're not women. It has nothing to do with us." The guys seem to think there is equal opportunity because girls can just join AKB48 and earn the adulation of millions. The girls, it seems, are split approximately 2-1, with the greater part learning English to escape the country, or just get into a good enough university so they can get a job good enough to not get married. I tell them to give up on this fantasy, at least in Japan, but I suppose it's just as likely as all the boys who think they are going to be professional baseball players. The only encouraging thing is the remaining 1/3 of the girls, who are studying their asses off (while ignoring English) intent on changing Japan from the inside. I tell them that a combination of demographics, economics, and geology will most likely destroy Japan before they get a chance to fix it. I guess I'm a little too pessimistic to be a teacher.
posted by donkeymon at 4:34 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


Aaand, there you go. Shiomura's request to the head of the assembly to identify the hecklers/harassers was rejected because, you'll love this, she couldn't identify the people she was asking to be identified.

The bullshit continues.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:16 AM on June 21 [6 favorites]


Ghidorah, thanks for sharing the news, shitty as it may be.

At least there seems to be a bit of public outrage, but those in the system clearly don't give a damn about it. Which is going to come back and bite them - the whole point of what Shiomura is saying being that everyone has to pitch in for women to be able to have and care for their children, and not having enough children is a huge social and economical problem so... yeah. Enjoy your right to free heckling while the women you so desperately need to have more babies decide the downsides to motherhood are so great they're not going to put themselves through that, and those working for change have to do this in this kind of environment. See where that gets you in the long run.
posted by harujion at 8:47 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


Mrs. Ghidorah, having the language ability I sorely lack, said to me that, given the approaching Olympics, and how widespread this has gotten, it looks like people are going to keep pushing until names are named, and the hecklers are forced to apologize.

Personally, even if they name names, it'll just end in halfhearted apologies and further bullshit. The thing is, saying who said the thing is meaningless, given the amount of laughter. All the fuckers that laughed, all the people who are currently sitting on their hands not coming forward to say who actually said it, the fact that the governor of Tokyo thought it was funny, the fact that, as mentioned up thread by people who teach here that the response by most men (and boys) is that it's not about them, so it doesn't bother them, all the assholes who think it's perfectly normal to expect a woman to pour tea at meetings, no matter her status or seniority, they're the problem, and as was mentioned, there's little hope until this current generation of seventy year old politicians fucking die, and even then, the people they've trained and groomed to take over, the boys who've grown up knowing that mom's job is laundry and dad's job is important...

God, I can't even finish this. It's sickening.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:16 AM on June 21 [5 favorites]


I've written and deleted so many comments in this thread it's amazing. So I'm trying to curb my anger as best I can.

First off, MeFites posting from America: Understand that America is not always number one. I know American rightists like to believe that America is always the best in everything, and American leftists like to believe that America is always the worst in everything, but that's just not the case. There are developed countries which have aspects which are shittier than America. This is not a "method of delegitimizing injustices in America". Sometimes, believe it or not, things are actually not always about America.

Moving on, people have said that Japan is in the 1950's, but honestly I don't think that's quite the case anymore. I think it's more like the 1980s now. By which I mean: this situation is blowing up. It's the lead story on the week-in-review news and discussion shows. It's caused blogs to crash from too much viewership. When I first came to Japan, 20 years ago, I suspect this would barely have caused the batting of an eye. Those were the 1950s. Now it's more like the 1980s, a mix of progressivism and conservativism. On the one hand, things like this have become major news. On the other hand, SkyMark changed its uniform for stewardesses to miniskirts, and while its been all over the news, its been on the news as a "quirky fun corporate business tactic", not as fucking gross.

The amount of internalization, though, is causing so much dragback. I can't count the number of times I've gotten angry about some company policy, or politician's comment, or the like, which turned into a debate with female colleagues/friends/SOs where I was arguing for more equal rights for women and they were arguing against them.
posted by Bugbread at 7:25 PM on June 21 [17 favorites]


I think I have a pretty unique opportunity to speak on this because I, like several others, spent a number of years in education of all levels, and more recently transitioned into a career as a headhunter (cliche I know, but making awesome money is fun too).

The things that have been said about girls in jr/sr high looking at English as a way to escape not a financial situation but a social situation is a stark and profound thing; I somewhat doubt there are as many American junior high school students who are studying French so they can get to a more perceived equal society. They're there, I'm sure, but when I was teaching for almost five years, these girls made up about 2/3rds of the good female students.

In addition, I've had a very close relationship with many Keio (number one private school) female students because of my old roomie getting her masters there under the government scholarship. The majority of those who were Japanese women were planning to GTFO, which is actually kind of sad because a degree from Keio means about Jack and Shit outside this country.

One of my good friends spent five years translating for Hitachi. He married a Japanese woman, had two daughters, and promptly moved back to America after the second was old enough to do the travel. It was his wife's idea, not his; he said no, America is violent, she said no, Japan is sexist and full of chikans and pedophiles. My first Japanese girlfriend had been sexually assaulted while riding the train eight times by the time she was 22.

On to the situation adult females face, I've seen truly astounding inequality in my work as a headhunter. At one FOREIGN major telecom company, I found one woman making 12 million yen per year while her far less qualified coworker was making 16. As the company has been failing for several years and is on the verge of getting bought out, pretty much everyone from that company is dying to talk to me lately; I've seen a large swathe of their salaries and these trends are very real and very noticeable. It's obvious that this problem exists everywhere, but as most people have been saying, it's particularly naked and egregious in this one given the "developed" nature of the society and economy.

Yes, sexism is a horrible reality in every country, but this thread isn't about every country, it's about Japan. And Japan really sucks for women. It actually also sucks for men. And for poor people. And for non-Japanese. That's one thing you'll learn after living in a foreign land as an ex-pat for ten years, is that every country is at least as bad as your home country, sometimes more depending on what you're passionate about. My wife is Japanese, and I love living here, but there's no way I'd raise a daughter in this country, not at least for another ten years when the previously-mentioned generation of shitbags has died or been removed from power. Things are changing, yes, for example possession of child pornography has just been made illegal, but they're not changing quickly and thoroughly enough for my liberal tastes.
posted by GoingToShopping at 11:58 PM on June 21 [13 favorites]


there's no way I'd raise a daughter in this country

Heh. I'd say that about America, so there you go, perceptions about relative danger are definitely variable. Anyway, the wife and I are 14 years in to raising a daughter in Japan and I'm happy to report that all is essentially well so far. And that's only partly because, for example, she had a condition as an infant which required surgery, a procedure that we would never finish paying for in the US. We'd be old and gray and still paying for it. The complete absence of guns among the populace is another plus for Japan. In a country (ahem, the US) where between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner than the total number of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined, the issue of women's safety is certainly not inarguably better than Japan's, by a long shot*.

As far as the last point, forgive me for bringing America back into the discussion (I fully agree with Bugbread's point above: not every gaddam thing is ABOUT AMERICA), but I am, naturally enough, inclined to make comparisons between the two nations I'd be likeliest to legally live in with my family.

*no pun intended
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:19 AM on June 22 [3 favorites]


I personally like how the post about sexism in Japan is flooded with comments about the United States, because everyone here is totally posting from the States and USA number one!
posted by Reversible Diamond-Encrusted Ermine Codpiece at 8:22 AM on June 22 [2 favorites]


It's the second lead story on today's morning news show, too. Plus they pointed out how much the story is being reported overseas.
posted by Bugbread at 4:21 PM on June 22


It's just being reported that Akihiro Suzuki has stepped forward admitting to the first outburst, but denies having said anything else. (The link is in Japanese, sorry, but English news moves slowly in Japan, and it'll probably be up sometime tomorrow). He's a 51 year old member of the Liberal Democratic Party, and, aside from admitting to saying it, evidently he's being very defensive, and is claiming that the use of the word "yaji" or heckling is unfair to him.

To be blunt, and going off of my own feelings and experience living here, it's entirely likely that he's enough of an ass to have done it, and to feel no remorse. On the other hand, he seems young enough to have been pushed forward as a patsy for someone older and more important. I've got absolutely nothing to back that up, but I wouldn't be shocked.

The thing is, as they're showing the video of reporters questioning him, he isn't apologetic in the least. His body language and style of speech are incredibly hostile, and I seriously doubt he feels there was anything wrong with what was said.

Honestly, if any other Mefites managed to catch the news just now, they might be able to explain what was said more accurately than I can.

Oh, lord, Shiomura has just been set upon by a ton of reporters asking for her response, and it seems she wasn't actually aware that Suzuki had stepped forward. If I was walking down the hall and suddenly had twenty cameras and reporters with microphones in my face, demanding my reaction to something I haven't heard, I'd probably flee the scene. Shiomura stood her ground and kept saying, I, sorry, I hadn't heard, I can't comment at this time. Damn. Like a freaking ambush.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:36 PM on June 22 [1 favorite]


There's a live press conference with Suzuki right now, and Mrs. Ghidorah is t really watching it, but she can hear it, and she thinks it's ridiculous that he's essentially just saying the same thing over and over again, that he made a mistake, and will work hard from here on out, and hopes everyone will forgive him. He repeated that to the point where a member of the press (notorious for being lapdogs to the government) actually said "do you really expect people to be that forgiving?!"

He seems very, very much like someone who regrets that he was caught, not what he did.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:14 PM on June 22 [1 favorite]


Ghidorah: "he isn't apologetic in the least. His body language and style of speech are incredibly hostile, and I seriously doubt he feels there was anything wrong with what was said. "

I dunno, I can't exactly fault him for that. I can fault him for everything else, mind you. But it's not like wearing a Native American headdress and then being told it's offensive, where you are like, "What? I didn't know that. I'm so sorry!" When you heckle someone saying "Shouldn't you get married soon," you know exactly what you're doing, and it's not the kind of thing you're going to feel sorry for, because if it were the kind of thing you would feel sorry for, you wouldn't have done it in the first place.

Honestly, ideally, I'd rather he sticks to his guns and gets completely fucking raked over the coals than for him to suddenly act all contrite, apologize, and have the issue rapidly fade out of consciousness.

As for the Shiomura ambush, that's just standard マスゴミ.
posted by Bugbread at 11:14 PM on June 22 [1 favorite]


I guess the best outcome I can imagine, at this point, seeing the little picture in picture of the cast of the afternoon news show, and their reactions, is that, at some point, it sinks to all the celebrities, comedians, and assorted talentless hacks that appear on tv constantly, that this sort of bullshit isn't acceptable. I mean, at this point, no one is going to risk their popularity by coming out to support Suzuki, but the sudden rush to condemn him is going to have a lot of people who would privately think it was just a harmless joke.

If this makes it so that this kind of heckling is finally seen as unacceptable, so much so that it disappears from wide-shows and talk shows, that's something. When I taught, so many of my students would parrot whatever phrase was popular. More so than guys like Suzuki, the people joking on talk shows have a more immediate presence in the life of most of the young people I've known. Even if they're biting their tongue and toeing the new company line, I'd like to believe that is at least a start.

Then again, the rapidly fading out of consciousness is more likely. That, and a circling of the wagons in response to the amount of coverage overseas. It's not uncommon for things like that to cause Japanese people to feel like the guy receiving all the negative overseas press is actually the bullied victim.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:33 PM on June 22


Ghidorah: "That, and a circling of the wagons in response to the amount of coverage overseas. It's not uncommon for things like that to cause Japanese people to feel like the guy receiving all the negative overseas press is actually the bullied victim."

Really? I usually get the reverse impression. When something is not seen as an issue in Japan, but then the foreign press jumps over it (like foreigners getting upset at Japanese whiteface), then I see that phenomenon, but when something is seen as an issue in Japan, and then the foreign press picks it up, too, it is seen as additional evidence that an issue is not a little issue, but something of note and importance.
posted by Bugbread at 11:58 PM on June 22


I guess it all depends on who sees it as 'not an issue' and the thing is, up until just now, clearly the people in power in the Tokyo Assembly didn't. The stuff about the whiteface, or the prosthetic noses, or Bob Sapp depicted as a gorilla on his own chocolate bar, they're not seen as an issue because they're all about the 'other.' This is most definitely an issue here, but seeing as, when it comes down to deciding whether it's going to be an important issue or not is usually in the hands of the old men in charge. To them, by and large, women are just another other they don't have to concern themselves with all that much.

Again, not that this isn't a legitimate issue. The problem is that it's a legitimate issue to a part of the culture that, time and again gets ignored. In terms of impact, hell, remember the protests over nuclear power a couple years back? When there were tens of thousands of people protesting in front of, what was it, the Diet? The prime minister's residence? That went on for weeks, every Friday, more and more people demanding that Japan move away from nuclear power. For a society like this, to have such clear and outspoken protest, that's rare as hell. And it went no where. It was seen by the people as a legitimate issue. By the LDP and Keidanren, not so much, so nothing happened.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:04 AM on June 23


Well, you said "it's not uncommon for things like that to cause Japanese people to feel like the guy receiving all the negative overseas press is actually the bullied victim", so I thought you were talking about the people in general. If you're just talking lawmakers...well, I think when they do something shitty and it gets reported on, they think they're being bullied. Whether or not the people reporting are the foreign press or the domestic press doesn't matter.
posted by Bugbread at 1:57 AM on June 23


Here's a short English article about Akihiro "Douchebag" Suzuki. Actually, I just made up that nickname.
posted by zardoz at 2:21 AM on June 23


Top of today's morning news, too. And Shiomura, instead of taking the usual policy of accepting the apology and talking about moving on and focusing on city issues or the like, said she accepted the apology but doesn't want the issue to end there, which was great.
posted by Bugbread at 4:49 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Kind of a derail I guess so I'm not sure if I should comment, but about the nuclear power protests, I wouldn't say nothing has happened. Yes, Abe (LDP) and Keidanren are trying their darndest to restart the plants, but I'm pretty sure they would have gone ahead with it much sooner if not for the visible protests. And just the other day the court ordered that the Fukui Oi plant not be restarted, and Japan is (albeit very slowly) moving towards breaking up the monopoly on electricity. Change doesn't happen overnight. As with women's rights in Japan. The heckling was gross and it would have been best if it hadn't happened at all, but the media attention it's getting is awesome, which, like Bugbread pointed out somewhere above, wouldn't have been the case before. So, slow but steady change for improvement. I feel like an idiot sometimes for thinking like this, but I don't want to lose hope, if only for my son who has to live here after I'm gone.
posted by misozaki at 4:51 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


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