In his Dec. 30 letter, “Conceptions of rape, sexism differ,” James Hicks chides me for making a statistical comparison of Japan and the United States in my Dec. 26 letter (“Statistically Japan does value life“) “as though their history, culture and tendency toward liberalism were irrelevant.” Mine was a short letter in which I was just saying that we Americans aren’t in a position to lecture Japan on their culture. I don’t think this makes me one of the “reflexive defenders of Japan.”
I’m an American who has lived in Japan even longer than Hicks, and I wish some of my countrymen wouldn’t be so quick to set themselves above the “culture” of this country. Maybe the key to Hicks’ letter comes at the beginning of his longest paragraph: “Rape in Japan should not be compared to rape in other more progressive countries without addressing the level of sexism and conceptions of rape in each country.”
Why do we have to assume that “other countries” are “more progressive”? This is too broad. Surely Japan is more progressive than the U.S. when it comes to, say, the teaching of evolution. I deliberately stuck to a comparison of murders because it is so hard to find accurate statistics on rape.
Hicks makes this point as if I’d ignored it, but he exceeds the facts by saying: “A woman raised in this [paternalistic, Japanese] environment . . . would certainly [sic] not have confidence enough to report it [sexual abuse] to authorities or to receive sympathy and support from her family.”
“Certainly”? To translate this statement into plain English, a typical Japanese woman who has been sexually abused will never report the incident to the police. The second part of Hicks’ statement is hopelessly ambiguous. Hicks either means that the woman would never solicit sympathy from her family or that she would never “receive” sympathy from them: Reception would be up to the family.
Well, Japanese women would be less likely to report sexual assault than American women. But that is as far as we can go. Hicks’ statement comes off as both patronizing and absurd.
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