What are you afraid of?, a documentary film by MATSUI Hisako that features WAN’s director UENO Chizuko and several other feminist forerunners in Japan, was screened at the University of Toronto in Canada on October 17. Ueno, who was visiting Canada for other conferences and speeches, appeared in the theatre in person after the film screening and answered questions by diverse audience.

The various subjects of questions included different surnames for husband and wife (which is not possible in Japan), feminist education, living as a single woman, and so on. The following are excerpts of some of the discussions.

Divide between Female Social Groups

Woman: When I was in Japan I was an administrative assistant serving tea to men. What’s your opinon?

Ueno: Well, as you saw in the movie, Yoko fought against the tea serving and she lost. You’re probably 40 years younger and still serving tea at work. But please remember there were precedent women who fought against it. And some failed, some succeeded. I don’t know anything about your workplace, but in many workplaces tea is now self-served, not forced on women like it used to be.

When my previous female students who now work visit me, I ask them if they still have to serve tea at their workplaces. Most of them say ‘no.’ I tell them that’s because their senior women fought against it.

Also, an important problem to remember is that women’s working style is divided into two tracks in Japan. One is regular full-time employment and the other is irregular employment. So there are always disadvantaged women workers with no job security who are actually confined in elementary-level employment.

So women are divided. In one sense, young women are given more choices than us, our time. Then again, this choice divides women into different social groups. Some gain, some lose.

Neo-Liberalist Society

Man: Japan is becoming more conservative politically and economically. The comment made by SAKURAI Yoko towards the end of the movie was quite shocking. She told young people to try to survive in this difficult society. I think that comes from the economic situation. About 20 years ago, I read an interview article that featured you here in Toronto. And its subject was how to promote “house wife feminism.” Now, you’re talking about ohitorisama (single person) feminism, such as how to make network, and how to be united. But you know, young people, before they enjoy feminism, they have to survive.

Ueno: I’m surprised to see that currently Toronto’s growing in population and economy, unlike Japan which is suffering a long lasting recession. I would say that Japan is not becoming conservative; it’s becoming nationalistic. “Conservative” means that men ask women to stay at home to take care of children, but Neo-Liberalist politicians would never ask women to stay at home. They require women to do both: work and raise children.