Hiyori Kon, or Little Miss Sumo, is a new, powerful force behind a centuries-long debate about sumo and its men-only rule (“Little Miss Sumo wrestles with sexism in Japan’s ancient sport” in the Nov. 5 edition).
This controversy begs the much-needed question: “Where do we draw the line between tradition and discrimination?”
Tradition is never set in stone; it is an ever-changing concept affected by the ideals of that time. Many of the traditions or norms that existed a century ago are unbelievable to us now. Slavery was once a tradition, and when it was going to be abolished, people also used the “tradition” card to fight back.
In the same sense, women still continue to be barred from the dohyo for an insanely outdated reason — that we are “impure” because of our menstrual blood. This was never a written rule, but many say the tradition must be preserved, even if it means discriminating against women.
Tradition is an ambiguous concept in the first place, and the benefits of preserving such culture is intangible at best. Even if it is important to remember our culture, there is no need for us to preserve it in practice. I think that having a separate female league in sumo, and allowing people like Kon to compete, will not have any negative effects. Rather, she is bringing to light the problems behind these outdated ideals.
Although we have made some progress in gender equality in the past few years, many, male and female alike, are still captive to the gender stereotypes that are deeply rooted in our society. It is hard for anyone to break through such constraints, especially in sumo, a completely male-dominated industry. My hope is that Kon can start the revolution and empower Japanese women to challenge the traditional views that remain deeply rooted to this day.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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