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Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010
HAVE YOUR SAY
Both victims, perpetrators of sekuhara : responses
A selection of readers' responses to "Foreigners victims, perpetrators of sekuhara" (Zeit Gist, Oct. 26) by Steve Silver:
Males also harassed
I am a teacher in Kanagawa, and the situation you described at the various schools of sexual harassment victims is very similar to my own. They key difference is that I am male.
At my junior high school, boys constantly ask about my penis and body in general in both English and Japanese. They ask how big my penis is, whether they can touch it, whether I masturbate, etc. I should also add that the Japanese teachers around me seem to think this is totally normal.
I just wanted to say that it isn't only females that endure this, although some of my Japanese female coworkers also face harassment similar to that described in the article on a daily basis.
However, I have never noticed it happen between female or male students and believe that a big source of it is the general disrespect for teachers in schools now, while respect for peers is maintained to a degree. Were it to happen between students, I believe it would be taken seriously.
I have not reported anything, as I believe a Caucasian blond male reporting sekuhara in Japan would be laughed out of the country.
Deeply offended by term
While reading Mr. Silver's article, I was deeply offended as a Russian citizen residing in Japan by the following passage:
"Men constantly approached her and asked her to accompany them to hotels; with her long, blond hair, they would assume she was a Russian prostitute, even after she attempted to convince them otherwise."
Mr. Silver uses the phrase "Russian prostitute" as if it is a coined term. I understand that Mr. Silver most likely had no malicious intentions, but the uninformed reader might understand that Russians are the most representative nationality on the Japanese "prostitution market."
Therefore, I strongly suggest to rephrase the above paragraph (online), because it is inappropriate, especially in the context of an article that criticizes sexual harassment of foreign women in Japan.
A RUSSIAN FEMALE READER
Harassment rules a joke
I also had a problem at the university where I worked. About two years ago I started receiving tons of e-mails from a coworker (female teacher) who used to help me translate a student newsletter. However, most of the e-mails were not related to the translations.
Then she started asking me out for dinner "to discuss her trouble class" so I could give her some advice. I told her that I was not the person in charge of dealing with problems in the classroom and that she should contact the head of the department. She got angry with me for not "helping and spending time with her."
A few days later, one of my students who was in her class told me that she made a comment to a male student who was wearing a tight white T-shirt (according to her, it was "too sexy"). She told him to avoid coming to my office wearing that T-shirt because I was "gay" and that I would surely "attack" him.
I was enraged, and I immediately told my supervisors, who advised me to "forget about it" and "not to confront her." But I couldn't let those rumors start on campus. After all, I work directly with students, and I didn't want them to be scared to see me for no reason.
I confronted her and she told me it was a "Japanese joke," and kept making comments to her classroom about me.
Later on, I reported her unprofessional behavior to the university's Sexual Harassment Committee. Someone on the committee asked how old she was and if she was married. I told them that she was in her mid-40s and single. Their answer was, "Oh, this is understandable! Japanese women who don't get married get a bit crazy after they turn 40."
That was it! I never heard a word from the committee about this case. So I had to go back to the teacher and ask her "rudely" to leave me alone, or I would take the case to court. I guess she got scared after this and stopped.
After this stressful experience, I realized that sexual harassment rules in Japan are a joke, especially when the victims are foreigners. Usually we are either patronized or people won't believe us.
But if the foreigner is the one accused of sekuhara? God forbid! Surely he/she will be punished.
A Western exaggeration?
As an American who is in the military around the Tokyo area. Mr. Silver's article about harassment in Japan was interesting. While reading the examples of the victims, I was saddened.
However, the article fails to have any credibility as all Western names are in quotations. The only real identity was the Japanese woman who fought her situation legally.
I find Mr. Silver's article contradictory. Western women are taught to believe they are equal and that sexually discrimination is wrong. One way to combat this evil is to identify themselves and speak out.
I'm sure a Western woman would be happy to speak of her experiences in Japan, from the good to the traumatic. Granted, not all can. But could Mr. Silver not find one woman, past or present in Japan, who could identify herself?
I have met women of many different races and nationalities in Japan.
None of them have had experiences like the ones I read about in Mr. Silver's article.
Does discrimination happen? I believe it does, but not to the extent that Mr. Silver describes. I'm not calling Mr. Silver a liar, but — with my experience in Japan and the people I know — I feel that until I hear about a real person, his story just looks like an exaggeration by a Western journalist reporting in Japan.
I give him credit, though, for providing a list of numbers that can help if one does experience discrimination.
Stick to the relevant facts
I don't understand why the J.T. published this. I'm all for denouncing sexual harassment, but the length, pathos and melodrama of this piece is just appalling! I felt like I was reading a cheap novel, not a newspaper!
Stick to the relevant facts, please! And that doesn't include mentioning that Kristine "contracted into a fetal position and cried for the rest of the afternoon."
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