A tabloid magazine has ignited intense backlash on social media after it published a list of colleges whose students are “easily available” for sex after drinking, underscoring what critics described as the country’s systematic objectification of women.
In its Dec. 25 issue, the weekly magazine Spa! printed an interview with Keiji Isogimi, manager of the matching site Lion Project, who ranked five colleges whose students he said were “sexually easy” at drinking parties. He further described how to “coax” women and judge whether a woman is sexually available based on her clothing and appearance.
In response, a female university student started an online petition Friday on the website Change.org demanding that the magazine publicly apologize, take down the article and promise not to use terms that objectify women. The petition gained further visibility on Sunday when Sputniko!, a renowned Japanese-British artist, urged her followers on Twitter to sign it. More than 25,600 people had signed it as of Monday evening.
“I am really happy (about the number of the signatories) because I thought Japanese people didn’t care,” said Kazuna Yamamoto, the senior at the International Christian University who started the petition. “I want people to understand that sexualization and objectification is not a joke and not funny.”
Takashi Inukai, a representative from Spa! magazine’s editorial department, said in a statement that the magazine was writing specifically about drinking parties where male participants pay fees to women. Such parties, he said, are popular among female college students these days.
“We would like to apologize for using sensational language to appeal to readers about how they can become more familiar with women, and for making a ranking based on (Isogimi’s) experience that mentioned real university names — which came out in a way that may have offended readers,” Inukai said.
Along with the online petition, Yamamoto posted videos on social media in Japanese and English lambasting the magazine over its portrayal of women. In the videos, she also rebuked Japanese society at large for condoning the objectification of women and for its victim-blaming of sexual assault survivors. Her friends in Japan and Asia, Europe and the United States also shared their outrage in one video using the hashtag #StandUpJapan.
Yamamoto said this was not the first time the weekly tabloid had published such content. It has also published stories on subjects such as “the characteristics of a woman who gets into bed easily” and “the types of alcohol to use to have sex with a woman.”
Responding to criticism that it is merely a tabloid magazine for men, Yamamoto questioned the relevance of disseminating information that could lead to a sexual assault case.
“Getting a girl unconscious or incapable of making decisions so that you can have sex with her is called rape,” Yamamoto said during the video. “What if your daughter went to one of the schools (mentioned in the story)? What if your daughter’s classmate is reading the article about alcohol to get a girl drunk and unconscious?”
Japan has recently been on the spotlight for lagging behind on gender equality amid the worldwide #MeToo movement. The country placed 110th out of 149 in the World Economic Forum’s global gender equality rankings for 2018. Additionally, multiple medical universities in the nation have admitted tampering with entrance exam scores to deliberately put female applicants at a disadvantage.
Yamamoto said she is frustrated by the country’s hypersexualization of young women, and said she hopes to initiate a movement pushing for gender equality and women’s rights.
“The fact that objectifying women and sexualizing women is a good cover story is just sick and disturbing,” she said in the video. “Stand up, Japan, because it’s 2019.”