Japan’s powerful patriarchy often sidelines women. Fixing that won’t be easy

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    Experts say that some men of that generation believe that women are best left at home, or that they should attend meetings, but remain silent.

    But Tokyo-based economics student Momoko Nzo says those ideas have driven a liberal oath between political gerontocracy and young people born in the 1990s, an era of economic tightness called the “lost decade”.

    A 23-year-old woman prepares to agitate for change, runs nozo “No Youth, No Japan,” a student-led social media initiative founded on Instagram in 2019 with more than 60,000 followers, which promotes political literacy and aims to help largely disgruntled youth influence the future To persuade him to use his vote.

    “We are sharing information on online platforms such as Instagram because we want the youth to voice their voice and count their votes,” said Nojo.

    Generational division

    From the late 1940s to the late 1980s, Japan turned its economy around. Powered by male white-collar workers, the country became the world’s second-largest economy after the United States.

    Born in the late 1930s, older leaders, such as Yoshiro Mori, the former 2020 chief of Tokyo and an official of Japan’s ruling party Toshihiro Nikkai, who recently received international condemnation for their sexual remarks on women, from a generation. The forthcoming is called “Dankai Sedai,”. Baby Boomer in English. According to independent Japan-based media scholar Kukai Chu, after his defeat in World War II, he is known as the generation that brought Japan to the global stage.

    During the economic miracle, women were largely occupied with clerical and secretarial roles in the domestic sphere or offices, largely because of the attitudes of the time.

    “(Dankai Sedai) thinks that then the society did a better job and the economy was better – there’s that ego there,” Chu said.

    Both Mori and Nikkai said that women should keep quiet. Chu states that his disparaging remarks towards women were an example of traditional and outdated views on the place of women in society, suggesting that men should remain the primary breadwinners and women should stay indoors.

    Student activist Nujo says that young people face a different reality than a boomer in Japan.

    While lifelong employment to white-collar workers was ensured when Japan’s economy flourished, today, many working adults face unstable job markets, snail-pace pay raises and the prospect of never owning a home.

    “It’s been almost 20 years since the bubble burst, but it’s getting harder for us to see a bright future where we can chase our dreams,” Nojo said.

    For example, in the last decades, Japan has seen dramatic increases in part-time and temporary employment – due, in part, to the partial legalization of temporary and contract work in 1986 and full legalization in 1999.

    In 2019, Japan had 22 million part-time and temporary employees, up from 17 million in 2011, according to the country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

    In the same year, 39% of women in the workforce were employed part-time, compared to 14% of men. According to a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, women as non-regular workers earn about 40% as non-regular workers and work regularly on an hourly basis.

    “We feel anxious about the future and wonder if we’ll get a steady job that pays us enough to raise children. Will we get the same salary that our parents had? Will we, too Will get a pension? We are a generation with all those types of concerns, ”added Nojo.

    Traditions die hard

    A former defense minister, Tomomi Inada, says the male old guard’s unconvincing attitude toward women symbolizes problems with Japan’s power structure, where women and minorities still have little representation.

    The government’s plan to hire women in 30% of senior management roles by 2020 was quietly pushed back to 2030 last year, proving to be very ambitious.

    According to data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union, in Japan, only one in seven MPs is female – as of January 2021, compared to a 25% global average and a 20% average in Asia. Organization that compiles data on national parliaments.

    The problem, says Inda, is the widespread belief that politics is still a man’s world. “The notion that good women understand how to behave and do not advance themselves still exists today.”

    Inada has supported the applicable electoral quota which proposes to make 30% of the candidates for election in Japan’s ruling party woman. She The argument is that increasing female participation increases accountability towards policies related to women and is beneficial for men as well.

    According to Nobuko Kobayashi, partner at EY-Parthenon, a strategic consulting group within E&Y Transaction Advisory Services, it is not always easy to shift the mindset that binds people to traditional gender roles in Japan.

    “When the idea of ​​being a step behind a man starts quickly in your mind, when you’re an adult, it’s harder to break it,” Kobayashi said.

    A Kyodo News poll last month found that more than 60% of active women MPs thought it would be difficult to increase the number of women in Parliament to 35% by 2025.
    The TV Ashishi advertisement - which was later taken over by the company - drew a lot of criticism from women in Japan.

    From clicktivism to activism

    Last month, Japanese broadcaster TV Asahi expressed displeasure over an advertisement featuring a female actress saying “gender equality is outdated.” The network later apologized and took down the commercial following a Twitter storm.
    Twitter has long been the dominant social network in Japan, with more than 51 million active users. According to a 2020 report by social media marketing company Hootsuite, it is the second largest market for social media sites globally behind the US.

    The large user-base has resulted in a plug-in student activist in the younger Japanese generation like Nojo, who is broadcasting her complaints online and being held accountable for her actions and words in power.

    “Political dinosaurs were very clear about all of this, but they were suddenly felt,” said Jeffrey Kingston, a Japan expert at Temple University.

    Thousands of Japanese women join the campaign to ban workplace heels requirements

    Kingston gives the example of the backlash that took place on social media when Mori, the former Tokyo 2020 chief, tried to hand over another octagonal figure as his successor. The move eventually failed when she was replaced by a 56-year-old woman by former Olympian Seiko Hashimoto.

    Kathy Matsui, Japan’s former deputy head and chief strategist for global investment bank Goldman Sachs, said that 10 years ago when sexist comments swept under the carpet, now “foot-in-the-mouth” comments are unforgivable. “Because of social media, you can’t overcome it easily,” she said.

    In recent years, campaigns such as #MeToo and #KuToo – which saw a petition against women wearing high heels to work – have made headlines in Japan’s gender inequality and human rights issues, even as supporting movements have failed. Country as they did in the West.

    changing of the guard

    Matsui, a former banking strategist, says that there are many young people in Japan who do not share the traditional values ​​associated with their fathers and grandfathers, resorting to social media to raise the voice of women.

    Koichi Nakano, a political science professor at Sofia University, said that young people dislike public people who make derogatory remarks, as they see it as a frequent symbol in the workplace. He said, “I think, ‘I know the man’.”

    But Nakano argues that not all controversial remarks from the top result in the dismissal. For example, Mori’s resignation earlier this year came as public skepticism towards the Olympics. “Ministers often make lewd comments in Japan, but they often stop the hook. But people understand that when the situation is right, the protests on Twitter can be effective,” he said.

    Although Mori’s razor marked a watershed moment, the fight to make Japan a more diverse and gender-equal society is not over.

    An 18-year-old woman cast her vote for the Upper House of Parliament election on July 10, 2016 at a polling station in Himeji, Japan.
    In 2015, a new Japanese law reduced the minimum voting age from 20 to 18, marking the first such change in more than 70 years, when the age was reduced to 25. That new law allowed approximately 2.4 million 18- and 19-year-olds to exercise their democratic rights in 2016 for the first time in national elections.
    However, the turnout was lower than expected, with only 18- and 19-year-olds participating. The following year the figure fell to 41.5% in the lower house elections.
    Nojo stated that Japanese youth are less involved in politics than their counterparts in the US and Europe, as they feel dissatisfied with the status quo and do not bother voting, while those who are right-leaning.

    “In Japan, many people are conservative. If you take America, young people support Biden and in Europe, young people are liberal, whereas in Japan, people in their 20s don’t go to the polls. They have to.” Politics is suspect and politicians, ”she said.

    Kanam Nakama, a fourth-year student at Meiji University in Japan, who identifies as a conservative and runs a political YouTube channel, said that youth in the country think politics is too complex.

    He Political issues are discussed during the Joe Biden Presidency, ranging from the role of the media in Japan to the Geopolitics. He Said young conservatives find old remarks made by older men in positions of “shame” and their peers believe that women should not stay at home.

    For Nojo, Mori’s Aster set an example. However, she wants older men of the ruling elite to reflect their behavior and the need for greater representation of women in positions of power. She Said that the issue is never about an older person at the top, but a need to improve the behaviors and systems that promote them.

    “It’s really about the problems at the heart of organizations – and Japanese society as well,” Nojo said.


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