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

April 6, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 23.1%. 2 min read.

There was the Tokyo 2020 official who floated the idea of an "Olympig" creative campaign with plus-sized model Naomi Watanabe. An Olympic chief who resigned after making sexist remarks about women.

For decades, gaffe-prone men in positions of power have caused embarrassment and sparked outrage among younger generations and women in patriarchal Japan, which is ranked 120 out of 156 countries in the World Economic Forum's latest Global Gender Gap Index -- between Angola and Sierra Leone.

And with only 14% of seats in Japan's parliament occupied by women, and most lawmakers aged between 50 to 70, male boomers dominate political and business life in the country.

As a 23-year-old woman prepared to agitate for change, Nojo runs "No Youth, No Japan," a student-led social media initiative founded in 2019 with more than 60,000 followers on Instagram, which promotes political literacy and aims to persuade a largely disenchanted youth to use their votes to influence the future.

Born in the late 1930s, older leaders, such as former Tokyo 2020 head Yoshiro Mori and an official from Japan's ruling party Toshihiro Nikkai, who recently sparked international condemnation for their sexist remarks on women, come from a generation dubbed "dankai sedai," or baby boomers in English.

But Nojo, the student activist, says young people face a different reality in Japan compared to the one the boomers lived through.

Tomomi Inada, a former defense minister, says the male old guard's disparaging attitudes toward women symbolize problems with Japan's power structure, where women and minorities still have scant representation.

And in Japan, only one in seven lawmakers is a women -- that's fewer than 14%, compared to a 25% global average and 20% average in Asia, as of January 2021, according to data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union, an organization that compiles data on national parliaments.

In recent years, campaigns such as #MeToo and #KuToo -- which saw women petition against wearing high heels to work -- have put Japan's gender inequality and human rights issues in the spotlight, even though the movements failed to garner as much support in the country as they did in the West.

Matsui, the former banking strategist, says many young men in Japan who do not share the traditional values espoused by their fathers and grandfathers are also taking to social media to amplify women's voices.

Kaname Nakama, a fourth-year student at Meiji University in Japan, who identifies as a conservative and runs a political YouTube channel, said young people in the country think politics is too complicated.

He said younger conservatives find outdated remarks made by older men in positions of power "embarrassing" and his peers don't believe women should stay at home.

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