After weeks of a firestorm over sexism, Seiko Hashimoto has replaced former Japanese PM Yoshiro Mori as president of the Tokyo Olympics organising committee. Hashimoto, as a former athlete and minister who focussed on gender equality, is seen as a vindication for those who criticised Mori for saying that women hold up meetings, ‘annoyingly’ competing with each other by talking too much.
He retracted his remarks, mainly to end the fuss rather than trying to understand the injury. “Withdrawing my remarks was the fastest way,” he said, given how the event was merely months away. As most prominent leaders backed him, a stubbornly male-dominated power structure was on stark display. His remarks betray the casual contempt with which generations of patriarchs have preferred women to remain subservient and barely audible. Japan is among the lowest in the world in terms of female political participation, and the last among developed countries. Women make up less than 12% in corporate management, and a small fraction of undergraduates in top universities. Gender stereotypes are extreme and constricting: Achievement is cast as a barrier to getting married.
But now, the backlash is real. Recently, Japanese women protested their low-status roles by rejecting high heels in the #KuToo movement. A generational divide is evident in the outcry over Mori’s remark, with stubborn old people commonly being cast as ‘rougai’ on social media. Clearly someone has been talking for way too long and taking up too much time, and it’s not a woman.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
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