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Tokyo: What should be done about sexist heckling in the capital’s assembly?

by Reina Kikkawa

Special To The Japan Times

The sexist jeering of Your Party lawmaker Ayaka Shiomura, apparently by male Liberal Democratic Party members, in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly on June 18 made headlines around the world, So far only one of the men, Akihiro Suzuki, has admitted to the heckling and apologized for his actions. Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Taro Yamashita has said that he shouted words of support for Shiomura in response to the hecklers as Shiomura was speaking about child-rearing policy. No lawmakers have been punished for the incident. Reina Kikkawa sought opinions on the furor on the streets of the capital.

Ayako Higashikawa, 26
Hair stylist (Japanese)
I think the reports of this incident will change the attitude toward sexist heckling in Japanese society as a whole. People — both men and women — are now more aware of this kind of jeering. I understand that treating people equally is difficult and that in some areas men could be superior to women, but the hecklers’ words went too far.

Shu-ling Chang, 46
Diplomat (Taiwanese)
Only two have confessed [counting Yamashita, who says he shouted in support of Shiomura] and there are still hecklers who are hiding. They should come out. People in Tokyo should not forget about this incident until all the hecklers apologize and take responsibility for what they have done. We should all be aware of and be responsible for what we say.

Armando Margzrido, 29
French teacher (Swiss/ Portuguese)
I think it was a good start for Suzuki to apologize. His words were offensive and he had to apologize. But it seemed to me that demanding his dismissal is asking too much. Here in Japan, and in other countries in Asia in general, people care too much about image. In order to move forward, they should get rid of that kind of consideration.

Hiromi Arai, 55
University official (Japanese)
Suzuki, Yamashita and all the other hecklers in the assembly must quit. I am filled with anger that the Tokyo assembly closed for the summer without clearing up the incident. Recently, I have seen a bit of gossip about Ms. Shiomura’s personal life. This is a completely different issue that we should not mix up with this problem.

Ann-Mary Dizanadzo, 21
Student (British)
I think they should have a more serious punishment, especially because they are politicians. Politicians are representatives. They represent the behavior that we aim for. If they are doing sexist behavior towards their colleague, then many men will think it’s fine because the members of Parliament are doing it. Nothing will change until we take a serious stance on this.

Koji Yamaguchi, 39
Occupational therapist (Japanese)
What we say as a joke could be regarded as sexist heckling. It could be taken as an insult even though we did not intend it as such. From this incident, I personally learned that I have to be really careful of what I say.

Interested in collecting vox pops in your local area? If so, please email community@japantimes.co.jp. Send comments to the same address.

  • Charlie Sommers

    Your words will come back to haunt you, especially if you’re a politician. These men should be ashamed of their conduct and they should apologize to all the women of Japan for their sexist behavior. They should remember that women also vote in elections.

    • gokyo

      Sadly enough though is that when the next elections roll around this will be forgotten.

  • Mark Makino

    “I understand that treating people equally is difficult and that in some areas men could be superior to women” Now this is a disturbing quote.

  • http://www.sheldonthinks.com/ Andrew Sheldon

    Isn’t it kinda sexist to do anything about it? Aren’t we saying that ‘women can’t handle it’? Is this the first time that parliament has engaged in poor conduct? No. I imagine all of them are engaged in smear of some type. But because a woman is targeted, or the ‘protective’ media see a problem, we have to legislate. This issue highlights not the problem of sexism; but the bigger problem of poor governance. We don’t elect sexists; we elect strangers. Knowing what they are like, we don’t care, because we are so disempowered to think that we are worthy of any better. this is the era of no importance. The ‘separation of powers’ provisions which were supposed to protect us, have in fact, undermined the importance of everyone. After all, that poor sexist ‘rep’ was clearly struggling to articulate his grand vision. He was overwhelmed by the moment or the system, and just failed. Attacking his female counterparty was all he had in him. It says more about the system than this specific context in which he acted.

  • disqus_78r6IPfptX

    Why all this lame talk about apologizing and quitting? Come on! Sexual equality is the law. These assemblymen and other politicians ought immediately to be arrested and prosecuted for a constitutional violation, not just criticized for bad manners. Like bullying in schools, address the problem with the police and a public prosecutor.