Saturday, June 24, 2006

Speaking Up Against Antiquated Sexism in Japan

It is not uncommon for me to feel disgust at the way women are treated in this country. I am often amazed not only at how men treat women, but also at how women treat women and how children view women. I am appalled and shocked by women’s subordinate position in Japanese society.

I am well aware that in other “advanced” nations too, there are a handful of problems between the sexes, from domestic violence to child pornography. However, of all affluent nations I have lived in or visited, I have never come across such a display of ignorance and discrimination against women as in Japan—a so-called “advanced” society and a member of the Group of Eight industrialized nations.

The other day, while teaching an English conversational class to a group of junior high students. I caught a glimpse of a pencil case. On it was the brand name “BITCH.” Drawn in stick figures on the pencil case was a man pointing a gun to a woman’s head. I immediately asked my student if she thought this was OK. She passed the buck, stating it was her sister’s.

“How can this be possible?” I thought. Then I was magically struck with the realization that I am in Japan. I am in a country that constantly reminds me that the only reason women were put on this earth was to be at the beck and call of men. Articles in magazines point out that in Japan, men have the money and power, while women serve sex and are only allowed to say “So desu ne…!” (Well…!)

There are many “sick” sex ads everywhere. Junk mail promoting juvenile prostitution are sent to e-mail boxes every day, and many Japanese men (educators, government officials, doctors and lawmakers) jump on the opportunity to buy sex. Under-18 pornographic magazines are in book stores where children can easily see them. Very weird adult videos are in video shops where young people can easily purchase them. What is worse is that many Japanese voters, especially parents and educators, don’t complain about these things to their representatives—they are not even considered problems.

Whenever I ask Japanese women about sexual harassment or why many women in Japan allow men to treat them as “sex objects,” most of them have no answer: they just giggle. A Japanese acquaintance told me she has often seen “decent-looking” guys touching women buttocks in crowded trains, but surprisingly the victims do not complain or react at all. She also told me she is extremely tired of sitting in subways next to, or near men openly gazing at pictures of nude women, reading manga that often includes violent rape, then being stared at from head to foot by these same men.

In the past, Japanese men forced a tremendous number of women to become sex slaves; today, Japanese men gaze hungrily on the subways at pornography. Video rental shops and television senders provide not only lust on film, but worse, violent and aggressive sex toward women; and finally, groups of Japanese men (including educators, diplomats, government officials and even lawmakers), who are married, proudly carry their prostitute guidebooks and parade through Thailand hoping for sex, while their wives and kids stay at home.

Even if not all Japanese men purchase pornographic materials or sex guides, I am unpleasantly shocked that this society continues to condone or at least passively observe as men continue the ancient tradition of classifying women as objects rather than human beings. In Canada, the nation of which I am a citizen, we have a bit of these problems, but Canadians stand up against them. Women, especially, are united in trying to stop sexploitation and sexual inequality.

Acknowledging that there are differences between women and men, they do not determine the superiority of one group over the other. Japanese women must fight for their reputation, rights and dignity. They need to take care of their own children to protect them from the negative influences of this “filthy” society so that they can earn respect and better circumstances. Many Japanese men do not care, as they have treated women like “sex toys” for centuries.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your mention of sexist Japanese porn hits home. I can't even begin to recall the amount of horrid porn I watched for a paper I wrote over it for a psych class. The depictions of women were nearly always subservient, and they rarely showed female pleasure. And the proliferation of "bukkake" and "gokkun" porn also disturbed me, as the girls also sit, looking braindead or unaroused, as they were covered in cum. One even included a woman in a large "toilet". Knowing this is an old Japanese practice to humiliate women made the viewing so much more unbearable. What was the pleasure for these men in watching such smut? I believe many men harbor a resentment of women that stems from rejection, and this resentment and suppressed negative emotion turns into sexual fantasy. Perhaps this is true in that culture as well, as well as the clear sexist indoctrination that occurs.

Mainstream porn is a sexist industry to begin with, but the japanese industry must be worse.