What brought Yoshiro Mori’s resignation as the president of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games was heavy pressure from widespread public criticism both inside and outside Japan, after his sexist comments that women talk too much and make meetings drag on.

When his comments were first reported, many people must have thought “Not again!” and felt some kind of helplessness. And the people around Mori, as well as he himself, must have underestimated the situation. They expected that if Mori withdrew the remarks and apologized, the issue would be closed. They asked Mori to stay in the position. However, his “apology” press conference, which revealed he did not understand what was wrong, fueled the public anger and even worsened the situation. The International Olympic Committee also altered its stance. Some say this resignation only took place as a result of foreign pressure. But it’s not just that. Eleven young Japanese women started an online Change. org petition demanding Mori’s resignation and collected over 150,000 signatures immediately.

The problem with the remarks by Mr. Mori is, firstly, a stereotypical gender view that meetings with many women take a lot of time. It has nothing to do with attendance of women whether a meeting takes a long time or not, even if he spoke from his own experience. Secondly, what is wrong if “a meeting takes a long time”? The thing about democratic meetings is that they are based on mutual agreement. They inherently take time and work. His remarks suggested that most meetings he has attended in the past were finished in a short time thanks to the attendees trying to read the feelings of their seniors and the root-binding process, or consensus building in advance. Mori’s attempt to pick his own successor, which invited further criticism, also indicated that he did not really understand what mattered. Thirdly, his remark “The women at our organizing committee all know their place” clearly had a deterrent effect on women. This could be read as threatening. He was saying to women, “You should know your place.”

But on social media, using that remark against him, the hashtag #wakimaenaionna (women who don’t know their place) went viral. That’s a clever thing to say, I thought, impressed. Regardless of how many women are present, they would not be able to change Japanese organization culture if they all “knew their place.” A post with #wakimaenaionna says she has realized that she was among the women who picked up the bad habit of “knowing their place.” This moved my heart. You can’t say this without pain.

It was also considered inappropriate that many committee members laughed when they heard the above remarks by Mori. Silence is agreement and laughter is accomplice. Yuko Inazawa, who became the first female board member of the Japan Rugby Football Union, said, “I thought he was referring to me.” She also said, “I have to admit that I would laugh too back then. I was the only woman member at that time. Perhaps I was trying to be in the men’s circle by laughing and letting it pass.” From those comments, many of us were reminded of our bitter memories of inner conflict.

Mori’s remark highlighted not only his sexist nature but also the committee’s culture where they agree by laughter, and the sports industry’s tendency where politics and interests silence athletes. And there is more than that. The anger quickly spread because many women felt the problem was also theirs. Another big change is that older generations of women have started to speak up, saying “That’s enough. Our generation should be the last one to experience things like that.”

When women learn to “know their place” and “be patient,” sexism prevails. Silence is agreement and laughter is accomplice. Yes, you will be a partner in crime then. In order to avoid that, you should issue a yellow card on the spot. Unfortunately, yellow cards issued by men, not women, seem to work better for men. So, men should not be bystanders, not to mention that neither men nor women should be partners in crime.

Original article written by Chizuko Ueno
for Chizuko’s Blog (reprinted from “Tengan” in the Kyoto Shimbun newspaper with permission)
Translated by A. Tawara

Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese