Head of the Olympics Committee’s Sexist Remarks Can’t Happen Again

Photo courtesy of Change.org

A petition, started by Kazuna Yamamoto, Momoko Nojo, and Kazuko Fukuda on February 4th, has gathered nearly 157.000 signatures in a week against the Head of the Olympics Committee’s sexist remarks. After a week, Yoshihiro Mori announced that he resigned from his position. In this article, Voice Up Japan’s founder shares her thoughts with the Voice Up Japan Media team about her thoughts on this issue and discrimination in Japan

Yoshihiro Mori resigned on February 12th after his words “women talk too much at meetings”. Women that he claimed to talk too much made him accountable for his words. On February 4th, nearly 157.000 people signed a petition titled “Please address Chairman Mori’s remark and take measures to not tolerate such behaviors”. The petition was signed by many influential figures such as Ryuichi Sakamoto, Kiko Mizuhara, Chizuko Ueno, and many more. Kazuna Yamamoto, the representative of Voice Up Japan, was one of the figures that took an active role in this petition. In this Voice Up Japan media paper, we interviewed Kazuna to know more about her motives to take part in this petition.

Real Laws with Real Accountability 

“In Japan, there is no anti-discrimination law and that definitely affects the fact that there is a continuous discriminatory discourse,” says Kazuna emphasizing that having no by-laws raises discriminatory actions. The Japanese constitution Article 14 states: “All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin”. It is clear that the main body of law in Japan condemns discrimination in political, economic, or social relations. But anti-discrimination law in Japan is non-existent which gives a free pass to discriminatory acts. That is why Voice Up Japan has started an Anti-Discrimination Law Team. 

Kazuna Yamamoto in 2020 Black Lives Matter demonstration in Tokyo

“No other OECD country has to deal with this many powerful politicians saying sexist/racist remarks. If the country could have an anti-discrimination law then the company has to create by-laws as well,” claims Kazuna. The by-laws will result in accountability that does not end with just “criticism” by the general public. Such words like “Women talk too much at meetings” or “people… (who have) dreadlocks tend to carry drugs” are left with criticism, not actual accountability. Also, there are some people who claim these discriminatory statements are just mere “freedom of speech” and by that, they recreate the systematic oppression in the everyday life again.

“Women’s Longest comment is Shorter Than Men’s Shortest Comment”

“He said it with no facts. There are more articles and studies that show men talk more at meetings,” says Kazuna. Women taking too much has been a topic that used to demean women not just in Japan but all around the world and for a long time. However, Barbara and Gene Eakins’ study shows that it is actually the contrary in the meeting situations. Women’s longest comments tend to be shorter than men’s shortest comments. Even though these myths are debunked it is clear that their effects on women’s lives are not easy to overlook. “His words were based on prejudice and how he looks down on women,” expresses Kazuna.

“A high schooler told me that in her elementary school the class teacher wouldn’t let girls be the class representative because that is not what girls should do,” shows Kazuna how stereotypes affect girls’ life at such a young age. “Especially when people in the leadership position approves those stereotypes, it mobilizes people to think that women shouldn’t be in the leader position,” Kazuna says.

150.000 Signatures and a Protest

“We said we have to do something because we still are hearing the same things in 10 years. I don’t want to complain about sexist politicians for 10 more years,” says Kazuna as she explains her motive to start the petition. After his statement, Mori was held accountable by more than 150.000 people’s resistance. A petition started on February 4th after his words. The petition was prepared by Kazuko Fukuda (#nandenaino project), Momoko Nojo (No Youth No Japan), and Kazuna Yamamoto (Voice Up Japan), people who are known by the public for their activities for gender equality. The petition demanded three points:

·  Asking three organizations that agreed-upon his chairmanship and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Committee to properly address his behavior and take necessary measures regarding his continuity

·  Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee to adopt a zero-tolerance policy

·  Demanding women to represent 40% of members on all executive board committees under the purview of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee.

Along with the online petition, on February 9th protests held in front of the Japanese Olympic Committee’s main building. Many statements such as “we don’t want misogynist Olympics!”, “We don’t forgive Yoshiro Mori’s discriminatory statements against women!”, “Corona measures, not Olympics!” were claimed by the protests.

Mori’s Resignation

On the 12th of February, Mori announced that he will be resigning from his position. His resignation may be the stepping stone of some changes in Japan. Someone was actually taken accountable for their discriminatory words. Could this be a new era in Japan where people actually are taken accountable for their words and actions?

“It feels like we accomplished something because we collected 150.000 signatures in a week,” says Kazuna regarding how she feels about the petition and Mori’s resignation. “We handed them an open questionnaire form asking about what plans/specific goals they have or what kind of by-laws they could consider adding. They announced that they will make a gender equality project team. But the question is what is this gender equality project team?” Although there is some action it raises question marks whether things will change in the future. The Committee will give the answers for the open questionnaire and other questions on the 23rd of February.