Last week, the head of the Tokyo Olympics committee (and former Prime Minister) Yoshiro Mori made the news after saying that women talked too much during meetings and that if the number of female board members of the committee were to increase, their speaking time would have to be restricted.
Understandably, Mr Mori’s views, expressed in an interview with the Asahi Shimbun, were not received well. Mr Mori has since apologised, but almost 60% of Japanese think that he is still unfit to continue to hold his position.
The international media has described his comments as a “gaffe”, something he has been known for during his political career. However, is it actually more indicative of much broader issues of sexism in Japan? Japan ranks 19th on the UN’s Gender Inequality Index (for comparison, the UK ranks 13th) and 110th in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index. Japan has the second largest gender wage gap among OECD nations at 24.5%, and in spite of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe launching his “Womenomics” policy 8 years ago, there are still comparatively few women in high ranking positions. You may recall in 2018 it was reported that Japanese medical schools were discovered to be manipulating entrance examination grades in order to favour men.
That being said, is Japan at least moving in the right direction? This week and next there are a number of online lectures you may be interested in joining to learn more about gender and other social issues in Japan:
- 11th February: “Intimate Disconnections: Divorce and the Romance of Independence in Contemporary Japan”, Dr Allison Alexy, Assistant Professor in the Departments of Asian Languages and Cultures, and Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Michigan, 12:00 EST (17:00 GMT), register here
- 12th February: “Technologies of Motherhood: Women’s Social Networks in Contemporary Low-Fertility Japan”, Dr Michaela Kelly, Reischauer Institute Postdoctoral Fellow, 16:00 – 17:00 EST (21:00 – 22:00 GMT), register here
- 16th February: “Why Women Leaders? Fostering Tomorrow’s Leaders in Japan”, Professor Mariko Bando, Chancellor of Showa Women’s University, 09:00 – 10:00 GMT, register here
Also, be sure to check out our podcast series Beyond Japan, where we explore various issues in Japan. In one recent episode, Ollie Moxham sat down with Dr Marta Fanasca to talk about Dansō crossdressing and gender in Japan.
Featured Image: Yoshiro Mori. Copyright: Kim Kyung-hoon/Pool Photo via AP