Estimated reading time: 5 minutes. Image by Jr Korpa on Unsplash.
For sixteen years, I’ve maintained a strict policy of never covering anything related to the “comfort women” issue. I already have my fair share of trolls, thank you very much, so don’t need to add Japanese and Korean ultra-nationalists to the mix.
With this convenient out-of-sight, out-of-mind attitude though, I recently realized I’ve been missing a crucial connection to present discourses about sexual violence today, especially in Japan.
It just took two minutes, taken from the New Book Network’s podcast interview of Robert O’Mochain and Yuki Ueno about their book Sexual Abuse and Education in Japan: In the (Inter)National Shadows (Routledge, 2022):
“The fixation with depicting comfort women as fake victims has repercussions for survivors of sexual assault today. Even if victims of abuse are not aware of comfort women issues, they are aware of the danger of being labeled a higaisha-buru (“fake victim”), and in the book we show how the association of ideas between ex-comfort women, and fake victims, and contemporary women who report sexual assault, is still a factor in the silencing of women, who have a right to report sexual assault, but…they remain in the shadows.
And, I think a good illustration of how this is relevant still today, is something that happened in 2020. There were prominent members of the main political party, the LDP, and there was an event there on a program that was looking at (unintelligible Japanese term?) through comfort women issues, and when the issue was under discussion a member of the House of Representatives, Sugita Mio, she made the comment “Women can lie as much they want.” Now she did issue an apology later for saying [that], but she wasn’t censured by her party for the comment. They actually refused to receive a petition against her then, when it came to the LDP headquarters…she is still around—she continues to exert influence as a lawmaker in the Diet. And the comment [about the refusal?] was “Why do you report it?”, so it’s part of public discourse. So I think it indicated there’s a determination there amongst ultra-conservative groups to depict ex-comfort women as fake victims, to cast doubt on their oral evidence, and that will affect all sexual assault survivors. I think that’s an important question that we’re exploring in the book.”
(Robert O’Mochain speaking,16:24-18:33)
Unfortunately for those of you who likewise now want to get their hands on said book, I think I speak for most of us when I say US$160–$204 is slightly out of our price range ㅠㅠ. So too, even US$44–$50 for a copy of Voices from the Contemporary Japanese Feminist Movement edited by Emma Dalton and Caroline Norma (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022) that I’ve long had my eye on, when you realize it’s only 141 pages long!
I therefore recommend the podcast interview again then, for more on links to the relative failure of Japan’s #MeToo movement (also Lile Otaki Donohue’s article in Trinity Women & Gender Minorities Review for an excellent 8-page summary and comparison with other countries), and the Daiwa Foundation’s video below for short interviews of the contributors to Voices:
Finally, it’s my birthday next week on—yes, really—International Women’s Day(!), so I think one source on Japan’s #MeToo movement even I can indulge myself on is the self-explanatory Black Box: The Memoir That Sparked Japan’s #MeToo Movement by Ito Shiori :)
Has anyone read any of those books? Or have any other recommendations? Can any Japanese speakers please help with the term I couldn’t make out in the podcast at 17:25? Thanks!
- Why #MeToo Failed in Japan (Trinity Women & Gender Minorities Review)
- Japan’s Me Too Movement and ‘Comfort Women’ Issue: Part 2 – Intersection of History and the Translation of Culture (Research Institute on Japanese Military Sexual Slavery)
- In Japan, victims wary of #MeToo movement (Chicago Tribune)
- In Japan, Saying ‘Me Too’ Comes With Risks (Voice of America)
- #MeToo to meat: no more soju calendars with nearly nude women in South Korea
- If You Understand Korean, Please Don’t Miss Out: “After Me Too” (애프터 미투, 2021) is Screening October 6-9!
If you reside in South Korea, you can donate via wire transfer: Turnbull James Edward (Kookmin Bank/국민은행, 563401-01-214324)