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Female Your Party member interrupted by sexist heckles

Remarks fly in the face of Abe's push for women-friendly Japan

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

A member of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly said Thursday she was hurt by sexist remarks made by male politicians during a session the previous day in which she was ridiculed for being unmarried and lacking children.

The remarks, allegedly uttered by members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, come at a time when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed to make corporate Japan more women-friendly.

The comments were made when assembly member Ayaka Shiomura of Your Party took the stage Wednesday to raise the issue of increasingly delayed marriage and childbirth among women in Tokyo.

Noting that more women are struggling to cope with pregnancy and child-rearing due to a lack of public support, Shiomura said the metropolitan government should beef up its efforts to make society more amenable to women.

As she was doing so, a man said, “before you make accusations like that, you should hurry and get married yourself.”

Shocked by the comment, Shiomura stopped in midsentence, managing only a wry smile as the assembly erupted in fits of male laughter.

“I grew sadder and sadder as I continued my questions,” she told reporters Thursday.

According to Shun Otokita — a Your Party-endorsed member who was present at the session — a second voice then chimed in with: “Hey, why don’t you give birth to a baby yourself?”

“Underlying such comments, I think, is their belief that a woman can only stand up and speak for (prospective mothers) after she has experienced childbirth herself. Without that experience, a woman has only half the human value that mothers have, they seem to imply,” he said, adding that those who made the remarks have yet to be tracked down.

After the session, Otokita and several other members went to speak to an LDP representative, suspecting the comments had come from that party and intending to protest the issue. But they were rebuffed after being told that no immediate action would be taken without clear evidence the remarks were made by LDP members.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly has yet to identity the politicians who made the remarks. But the issue may be raised in an assemblywide meeting slated for next week, when they will have a chance to discuss whether to take further action.

Since no official record of the audience remarks exists, there are no set guidelines on how they should be dealt with, according to Yuki Fukui, a spokesman for the assembly’s secretariat.

Abe’s push to persuade companies to hire and promote businesswomen is a key part of the revamped “third arrow” of “Abenomics,” a package of stimulus steps and structural reform vows designed to halt deflation and boost Japan’s competitiveness.

  • Carmen Sterba

    Takako Doi, the famous politician who was once expected to become Prime Minister, was often ridiculed for not being married or having children as chair of her opposition party. It is sad that women in high places have to put up with jeers accusing them to be a half-woman. It sounds like there are a lot of misogynists in the Japanese parliament. Who will stand up for Ayaka Shiomura?

    • Roan Suda

      There was indeed so much more that was wrong with that silly, North-Korea-appeasing socialist, Doi…

  • Peter White

    It’s not just the men who made the remark, but all the men who laughed along with them.

    These little idiot children have no place running a sophisticated society; they need to go back to pre-school and remember who cared for them and nurtured them back then.

    Perhaps then, they’ll grow up and stop acting like middle-aged teenagers.

    • otisdelevator

      Another fine example of bullying in Japan.

      When will it stop?

      • http://getironic.blogspot.com/ getironic

        You know where else I see bullying? In someone advocating that Tokyo residents should be forced to use their own money to finance someone else’s life choices — at the point of a gun.

        Then to top that off, those receiving this thieved money will be trumpeted around by media and people such as Miss Shiomura as examples of “independence” and “equality”.

      • abctefg

        Did you build that road you walked along on your way home to your rock tonight?

      • http://getironic.blogspot.com/ getironic

        That is a straw man: the presumption that a road would not exist save for someone bullying everyone else to build it.

        The only thing that proves for sure is that the state has taken away the incentive to build that road by building it itself.

        Do you really believe that if not for governments there would be no infrastructure?

  • http://www.an-chan.net/ Antoine B.

    Unfortunately, the representatives of the people also mirror the flaws of their voters… Nothing can improve while such behavior is tolerated. Poor Japan and poor Japanese women…

    • Carmen Sterba

      The voters often mirror the flaws of their politicians, too. The awareness of women’s rights began in the late 1800s in Japan by some of the male leaders who had visited many countries, plud young women writers. Both Mori Arinori and Fukuzawa Yukichi were for women’s rights when Japan entered the modern era. Women such as Yosano Akiko, Hiratsuka Raicho and Tsuda Umeko have inspired women for over 100 years.

      Despite the view of Japanese women as meek and mild, I found that the typical woman in Japan does not feel like a victim, for they are strong. However, men and women often do things separately. The men in the parliament is an ‘old boys club,’ so they’re not used to be with women in those circumstances. It doesn’t make it right, but traditional

      Confucianism is still very much alive when it comes to the places of men and women. We see gender inequality in all countries to some extent with the way women often earn lower wages. And yet, a greater percentage of Japanese and American women graduate from colleges or universities, than men.

  • Mona

    Dirty old men

  • Andy Klyen

    Women are not taken seriously in Japan – I know – I live here.. Stupid, stupid – short sighted men… there’s no hope with them in power

    • disqus_4NsfhsQIBv

      That’s because they can’t handle a
      little adversity. You don’t see men crying like this when they get heckled or jeered. If she doesn’t have a tough enough skin to handle a flippant remark, how can she be trusted to handle an actual crisis situation?

      • Andy Klyen

        It was not a flippant remark, it was a sign of the deep cultural bias against women. Women have to be especially tough to get to where this woman has got to. You may not understand this. People who feel a similar bias would be, black people, gay people. People who know they have to fight very hard to just be accepted regardless of skills, talents, abilities. Japan is still in the 60′s when it comes to imancipation. Your comment shows you are unaware of the lack of a level playing field..

  • blimp

    Not certain this is the official recording of the session, but there is indeed a partial video recording of the incident.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xZDIRYECHM

    Unfortunately I am not very surprised. It is despicable though. I am disgusted not only by the remark or the accompanied laughter, but also that no one stood up and told them to shut up.

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  • http://getironic.blogspot.com/ getironic

    Indeed. And according to Ms. Shiomura it is men who are the third class citizens, as they are expected by her to subsidize women’s personal life choices.

    • abctefg

      This is false. Sad that your worldview is so small.

      Why is it that you claim men will subsidise the choices of women?

      Oh, right. Men work. Women have a lifestyle.

      • http://getironic.blogspot.com/ getironic

        Seems you have answered your own question.

      • disqus_4NsfhsQIBv

        Simple. A woman opens her legs and gets knocked up. Now society, who did not impregnate her, must pay for her decision.

      • abctefg

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