How Did Japan React to the Global Feminism Movement?

The year 2017 was full of changes, especially for women. On January 20th, the inauguration of the new American president took place, starting the new presidency of the controversial president. One of the most controversial points of him was his lack of support for women. In response, on the next day, January 21st, people all over the world participated in the Women’s March, advocating for policies regarding rights and equality of women. In fact, it became the largest march that took place in a single day in the U.S. Now that I look back, this may have been the harbinger for all the empowerment of women in 2017.

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#Me Too

One major movement that gave women an opportunity to speak out was the #Metoo movement. Originally created by social activist Tarana Burke in 2006, this phrase served as a way to empower and support women via social media.  This October, actress Alyssa Milano re-popularized it to speak out against a famous Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who had allegations of sexual harassment. She encouraged other women or victims of harassment to speak out about their experiences and share their stories to visualize the issue properly on social media using the hastag #Metoo. And they did. Within 24 hours of the tweet, it was reported that 1.7 million tweets were made regarding this issue. (via CBS)

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In Japan

Did Japan take part in this global movement? Unfortunately, no. The Japanese society still is extremely backwards regarding sexual harassment, as it is difficult to press charges against the harasser. In fact, Japanese society does not even acknowledge that these issues exist in the first place. Therefore, many victims can not even go to the police to report their stories. This is evident when looking at rape cases. According to the Cabinet Office, around 70% of victims keep the assault to themselves, which means they do not even consult their friends and family. Less than 5% of the victims actually reach out to the police for help.  It is important to keep in mind that the police do not often investigate the few cases that do get reported, as they persuade the survivors to believe that it will be hard to press charges without concrete evidence or threaten them by saying that they may have to bear long and intimidating investigations. The police, court, and legislators are dominated by men, making each and every process extremely difficult. Therefore, it is predicted that until more women have the power to participate in decision making, there will be very little change in these numbers.

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Shiori Ito’s Story

Shiori Ito, a journalist was one of the first women to publicly come out about her experiences. She held a press meeting this April claiming that she had been raped by a television journalist while she was drunk. This received a lot of attention from the media. However, the case was focused on mostly because the perpetrator had close ties with the Prime Minister and the prosecutors had dropped her case due to “lack of evidence”. The media’s focal point was whether or not the Prime Minister had anything to do with the drop of charges. Shiori was even accused of using this case to bring down the Prime Minister. Therefore, the crime, rape, was not even discussed that deeply. Furthermore, the reporter still has his career as a journalist. On his Wikipedia, nothing is written about Shiori’s statement and the accusations. He even made statements about how drunk women are irresponsible last month on social media.

Future

In reality, it will take a long time for the Japanese society to acknowledge sexual harassment as a serious crime. Men almost never discuss this topic, and when they do, it is often as a joke, minimizing how serious the problem is. However, one characteristic of Japan that is different from many other parts of the world is that women show very little sympathy for other women. When survivors do have the courage to speak out about their horrifying experience, many women just take part in victim shaming. Therefore, in order to make a difference, women must unify and stand up for one another. Only then will the Japanese society start to change.

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