Activists demand action on sexism

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

While the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party hope the furor over misogynist comments will swiftly blow over, others are continuing to press for a crackdown on discriminatory behavior in politics.

On Thursday in Tokyo around 100 people participated in a workshop organized by Change.org, an online petitions platform, which hosted a widely supported petition urging the Tokyo assembly to drive sexism out of politics after revelations that Tokyo lawmaker Ayaka Shiomura was subjected to sexist slurs from fellow members while speaking.

Begun by a 28-year-old man, the petition gained more than 90,000 digital signatures in four days. It added to the pressure on a reluctant LDP and Tokyo assembly to take action.

“The petition has its limits and that is why I wanted to organize this event,” said Emmy Suzuki Harris, who heads the Japanese operation of Change.org. “It is important to understand the issue of sexism, which embodies other various deep-rooted issues. Only then can we take further action.”

The participants said it is more important to end the obsolete belief that women should get married and have children, and get society to see it instead as a matter of choice.

“I was mortified such an outdated belief persists in Japan, and wanted to do something about it,” said Manami Takahashi, 21.

Other people who attended the event said there should be more platforms for the public to use in voicing concerns to the government.

They also called on the media to help fight discriminatory remarks and to accept diversity in people’s life choices.

“I am often ridiculed as being a pimp,” said Naobumi Yoshibumi, 30, a father and part-time teacher who stays home when not working because his wife is out at work. “The government and society, as well as the media, should embrace the notion of diversity.”