I would like to get this out of my head, so, I’ll just write this now.
Japan is, as you may or may not know, statistically not a great country to be a working woman. The USA, also not a great country to be a woman. Though, notably a better one. Japan is just about the worst, as rated by The Economist, in terms of developed countries to be a working woman. I don’t care to and strongly believe it is foolish to comment on what someone else’s experience is and because there is no way I could begin to know. However, I can comment on my own experience. Though it’s always important to remember mine is only a slice. Just like if I were to compare the experience of a Texan and a person from Washington State, it’s going to be very different.
You start to notice certain things here. Like, why is the woman the one who is ALWAYS serving the tea at the meetings? Why do my students (almost all of them) talk about how their mom does the cooking and cleaning and their dad earns money for the family? Oh and that one time I had a co-worker actually tell me that women’s brains are not suited for math and science !@#$%^%#@%$#
These are social norms/bias that I don’t nor do I ever see myself participating in. But, it’s important to realize it’s not just Japan. If you look at the examples I just gave, you might start to think you’ve experienced them, too, in one way or another. And that rural Japan might not be all that different in some ways from rural America, where the ideals are heavily conservative and that has never meant much for the empowerment of women.
What does it mean to be empowered?
The fact is that, I, and — I am willing to bet — every single woman you know has dealt with some type of sexism, full-on sexual harassment, or even worse. When I reflected on a lot of the shit I’ve had to deal with, it even surprised me. But, then again, it didn’t at all.
It is more or less normal for a man to get away with sexism. What’s worse is that the details of it don’t even really matter, because you already know the sexist shit that goes down if you’re a woman.
And if you’re a man, reading my story isn’t going to help you wrap your head around this. But do you know what will? Asking the women in your own life not if, but what they’ve had to deal with that most men will never even have to worry or to think about.
But remember, this isn’t a question of if.
Sexism and sexual harassment isn’t a situation that has maybe happened to your wife, your girlfriend, your mom, your grandmother, your niece, your sister, your great-aunt, your aunt, your co-worker, your daughter, your doctor, your office clerk, your barista, your friend, or even your boss.
It’s when. It’s when and for how long.
Because it’s already happened to them. And it will happen again.
So men, I challenge you to gain the courage to ask and seek to understand or just support whenever they need it. Even that is huge.
But I am not a defeatist because in a world that is filled with people who continue to benefit from whatever power they were born into, there are even more people who are just looking for a way to help or a way to let someone know they are cared for, and they are worth it. Women, we can’t group these men in with the others. So, don’t.