Lawmaker apologizes for sexist jibe

Suzuki regrets making remark mocking fellow Tokyo legislator

by and

Staff Writer

A Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker apologized on Monday for shouting a sexist remark last week at a female colleague from Your Party during a plenary session of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly.

Akihiro Suzuki, 51, apologized at a news conference at City Hall five days after the sexist taunting incident, which allegedly involved at least one other male lawmaker.

“I apologize from the bottom of my heart for inflicting heavy heartache and causing trouble to assembly member fellow lawmaker Ayaka Shiomura, the assembly and the public, caused by my remark, ‘Why don’t you get married soon?’ ” the nationalist lawmaker said.

Suzuki, part of a cadre of like-minded nationalists who landed on the Senkaku Islands in 2012, elicited jeers and laughter from his male colleagues in the assembly that have raised doubts about the LDP’s commitment to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s stated policy of promoting women in the workplace.

Abe is also president of the LDP.

The Tokyo assembly’s evident sexism has done nothing to burnish the image of the capital as it gears up to host the 2020 Olympics.

Suzuki acknowledged the remark was inconsiderate.

“I uttered the remark with a philosophy that I’d like people to get married soon amid the falling birthrate and delayed marriage,” he claimed. “I profoundly regret my lack of consideration for people who find it hard to get married even though they hope to do so,” he said, adding that he didn’t intend to defame Shiomura.

The married father of three, who represents Ota Ward, said he should have come clean sooner. He said he has left the LDP to take responsibility for the incident but repeatedly insisted that he would not quit the legislature.

Earlier Monday, Suzuki denied making the remark when asked by reporters. His own website claims he stands behind the policy of “realizing a society with a better working environment for women” and promotes the idea of work-life balance and reflecting the voices of Tokyo women in the city’s politics.

Suzuki also purports to want to improve support for families with children by creating more small child care centers.

Shiomura, a member of Your Party, said her fellow lawmakers yelled out remarks like “You should give birth first” and “Can’t you give birth to a baby?” while she was raising questions about policies related to the nation’s declining birth rate and other demographic problems.

Minoru Morozumi, secretary-general of Your Party’s contingent in the assembly, told reporters later Monday that his party will call on the other individuals involved in the sexist jeers to come forward as well.

“If that turns out to be difficult, we will urge other parties at the metropolitan assembly to conduct an investigation to identify who made those remarks,” he said.

He also said the party will propose setting up a panel to discuss parliamentary reform in the wake of the incident.

Before his news conference, Suzuki apologized in person to Shiomura at the metropolitan assembly building.

“I feel it marked an end to the incident after (Suzuki) admitted it,” Shiomura said after the meeting with Suzuki. “For the past couple of days, I feared it would turn out such a remark wasn’t uttered.”

Shiomura said she asked Suzuki to help her find out who else was involved in the sexist jeers.

Earlier on the day, Osamu Yoshiwara, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party’s contingent in the assembly, said Suzuki came to Yoshiwara in the morning to admit he was responsible for one of the remarks.

The heckling drew media attention at home and abroad, to say nothing of criticism.

“Marriage and childbirth are matters for each individual, and these heckles are sexual harassment based on a conscious desire to discriminate against women, and they are insulting to the Assembly member herself (Shiomura) and to all women,” the Japan Federation of Women’s Organizations said in a statement issued Saturday.

The heckling shows that “the idea of gender equality has not spread to the people of Japan, and the discrimination against women is still deeply rooted,” said Emiko Munakata, head of Equal Net Sendai.

Nevertheless, Munakata, a member of a government gender equality panel, found a silver lining. She said the heavy media coverage of the incident has left the impression that sex discrimination will no longer be swept under the carpet.

In 2012, Suzuki drew attention by landing on one of the uninhabited Senkaku Islands to reinforce Japan’s control of the chain, which is also claimed by China and Taiwan. He entered the Tokyo assembly by winning a replacement election in 2007.

  • Mona

    Really shocked to see that the guy is quite young as I was thinking it was some grey-haired, old politician. What a f***ker

  • Mona

    His Wikipedia page says that LDP members call him the “typical rightwinger”

  • Lori

    He is not the only one…probably the scapegoat…

  • otisdelevator

    If Suzuki were forced to resign, then the rest of Japan would see that politicians are serious about rooting out bullying, sexual and power harassment from all levels of society.

  • Tory Gates

    This poor excuse of a human being should resign immediately. And I am appalled that elitist individuals still cling to the idea that women are supposed to get married and have kids. Isn’t this rather like the “she’s asking for it” rhetoric we hear all over the world about another more serious matter? We as a society need to grow up, and stop feeling so threatened every time a woman steps up does what she has a right to do.

  • LinkHK

    Patriarch and low international education country, we will force them to learn that woman are not only baby maker but society mother.
    They will learn anytime they get out of that Island that the world is moving ahead not living in Samurai days where women’s office is kitchen.

  • Warren Lauzon

    Unlike many politicians – and not just in Japan – he had the integrity to own up to it.

  • MikeMcCarthy

    Akihiro Suzuki, do you feel tough when you bully women?

  • Testerty

    The apology came from a Japanese politician. I wonder how sincere it is, given the history of Japanese politicians who constantly apologize and then turn around to claim they never did.

  • Gordon Graham

    He also said that his comment was “arianai”…unacceptable.

  • Roan Suda

    The article should have been checked and corrected by a native speaker of English…But that’s a minor point. The insinuations are all too typical of the Japan Times in recent years. What the legislator said was boorish, but what do his “nationalist” views have to do with it? Of course, for a certain sort of braying leftwing foreigner, it’s all part of the same thing. Ah, but it isn’t! My fiercely “nationalist” wife (mother and grandmother) was utterly disgusted and outraged by Suzuki’s remark, but that doesn’t in any way change her mind about, for example, the Senkaku issue…Day after day the Japan Times publishes articles and cartoons bashing (and misrepresenting) the Abe government, so, of course, this article is hardly surprising.

  • Lessa

    I feel he should have bowed lower. Or kowtow/dogeza.

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  • Dikaiosyne

    “Then why bother talking about anything at all, since, by your logic, nothing can be justified.”

    This is a ‘slippery slope’ fallacy. Simply because (if it’s the case) all systems are relative or ‘subjective,’ it doesn’t strictly follow that they can’t be evaluated.

    I certainly value equity over oppression, and believe that a system that embraces the former is better than one that’s oppressive. However, I realize that my judgement is relative–a product of my zeitgeist. I’d most likely have a different perspective if I lived 200 years ago in a different culture.

    The danger I see is in becoming arrogant: an unwitting zealot with a fundamentalist attitude who dehumanizes others (e.g., “a poor excuse for a human being”), accusing them of being ‘stuck in the old way.’ It’s the “I see things better than you do” that should be avoided.

    Social change is rough, raw, slow and painful. I think it’s good to call out those who want to oppress others, but that ‘calling out’ doesn’t have to be done disrespectfully, since doing so only hinders the transition.

  • Dikaiosyne

    Your reply evidences a Rorschachian response to my words.

    Men should not bully or dominate women. Women should not bully or dominate men. People should not bully or dominate people. Yet I realize I may have had an entirely different view if I were born 200 years ago in a different culture.

    “So…a disrespectful person spouting disrespectful ideas and behavior towards women should be respected? I hope you’re not serious.”

    I believe in the inherent dignity of an individual that’s not contingent upon their works. This doesn’t mean I should tolerate all behavior from people, but their behavior is different from their inherent dignity. Are you really suggesting that a person’s dignity hinges upon what they do?

    Using the pejorative “misogynist” or characterizing individuals as “a poor excuse for a human being” is a form of bullying that’s counterproductive. Both Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ushered in significant social change through nonviolence. Please find one case for me where either attacked their oppressors by using such terms or phrases as weapons against them.

    In making a transition to societal equity, I think taking a lesson from Gandhi or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is better than becoming the oppressor of the oppressors, as then one becomes exactly what one is fighting against.

  • Dikaiosyne

    “His view isn’t the problem, his mocking the woman is. Duh.

    Mocking someone for not holding the same view as you do makes one a poor excuse for a human being. And someone demanding ‘respect’ someone who mocks another isn’t too far behind.’

    You do realize that your “Duh.” is mocking, don’t you? And where was respect ever ‘demanded?’

    “I could ask you the same.”

    Which of my remarks were disparaging?

    “There is no correct way.”

    Your earlier words betray this claim.

    “Take your own advice.”

    I’m not on a quest for social change.

  • Dikaiosyne

    “My reply questions why you seem to think any behavior, no matter how bigoted or hateful, should be respected…”

    I never said the behavior should be respected.

    “If a great painter creates masterpieces, but was a cruel and abusive person, his masterpieces do not excuse him from being a poor excuse for a human being.”

    I agree, but his works are still masterpieces–untainted by the cruelty. In the same way, a person’s inherent dignity is untainted by his or her works.

    “You could have a point if not for your insistence that speaking out against hatred and bigotry is a form of bigotry itself.”

    I’ve never insisted this, as I believe oppression should be called to task. However, fighting fire with fire only burns all involved. Be careful to not become the thing your fighting as it can easily consume anyone.

  • Dikaiosyne

    People shouldn’t be oppressed. Period. The oppression of women is the same oppression that oppresses ethnicities, religions, and all others.

    “Besides, when someone tells me I cannot speak up regarding oppression of women because speaking up itself is being called bigotry, I’m not much interested in peace. Apparently, neither was the bigot who heckled Miss Shiomura.”

    You’re mistaken if you think I was trying to silence your voice. You called the heckler a bigot. His behavior was certainly disrespectful to Miss Shiomura. I don’t know whether he’s a bigot, but I strongly suspect he’s intimidated by Miss Shiomura–and he certainly shouldn’t visit that problem on her.

  • disqus_4NsfhsQIBv

    I like how women and man-ginas who throw around the word “sexist” are oblivious to their own sexism when they hurl sexist comments about men.

  • Carol Duchesneau

    Shameful behavior; one can hope these others will eventually ‘man up’ and do the mature thing and come forward and at least apologize.