Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

What might lie ahead of #MeToo?
ONO Goro / Emeritus Professor, Saitama University

June 12, 2018
In the United States, the reporting on the sexual harassment stories that galvanized the #MeToo movement was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. This is a step forward toward a society that does not condone sexual harassment.

What about in Japan? When I was teaching at a university, the faculty dean at the time was engaging frequently in sexual harassment, without apparently realizing the offensiveness of his actions. The repeated advice from myself and several other fellow teachers went unheeded, until an anonymous postcard presumably from the victim alerted the university’s president. Even then, the scandal was hushed up. Then, after the dean left his position, a courageous woman teacher stood up and, without hiding her identity, accused the former dean and the problem appeared to be on the verge of resolution. However, in reality, more voices of sympathy to the offender were heard than to the victim. Surprisingly, some other women teachers expressed sympathy to the offender.

I also recall a case that I witnessed in another organization. At a party celebrating the completion of a project, a woman manager was forcing her young junior colleague to dance cheek to cheek with her. Admittedly, in an overwhelming number of cases, male bosses tended to engage in such actions. However, taking into account the scarcity of women managers in Japan in those days, it is clear that the problems of sexual harassment or power harassment lie not just with men.

These days, it is increasingly taken for granted worldwide that women should have jobs in society. But there are women who do not want to have jobs, or who cannot get jobs for health and other reasons even if they want to. From their point of view, it would constitute a harassment to insinuate through words and actions that it is wrong for women not to have jobs outside their home.

As I delve deeper into the problems of sexual and power harassment, I come up against today’s social system that is constructed to men’s advantage. Even if the same conditions are given to men and women institutionally, men are at an advantage to the extent that the social system thus far has been constructed to meet their needs. Thus it makes sense to give some favorable treatment to women.

A note of caution is in order, though. However hard you might try to favor women, it would not be scientifically possible to give identical treatment to women and men. What is necessary is to remove artificial discriminations, not to try to eliminate innate differences. Women have their dignity as women, just as men have their dignity as men. They each should be given equal respect.

Seen in this light, it would be unworkable to give identical treatment to women and men while leaving intact the current corporate and social systems that have been constructed by men to meet their needs. In fact, it would mean disrespect to women. What is needed is to reassess the social system as a whole from women’s point of view, and to redesign the system with a view to enabling both sexes mutually to respect their dignities without discrimination.

To carry the thought one step further, we should bear in mind the fact that such problems arise from different social systems, as we try to overcome the ethnic, religious and other differences in this age of globalization. As long as we leave intact the social systems constructed by the advanced countries of the West (Europe and the United States) on the basis of their own values, we are bound to come up with difficulties of mutual understanding among regions and nations embracing different values, however hard we may try to build “equal” relationships.

The writer is Emeritus Professor of Saitama University
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

小野 五郎 / 埼玉大学名誉教授

2018年 6月 12日








一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟