nellie wong | a bad week for women in japan


Remarks of 3 male leaders reveal lingering undercurrent of discrimination by Audrey McAvoy, Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle, July 5, 2003

“Tokyo—A former prime minister says women
who don’t have children shouldn’t get pensions.
A senior ruling party lawmaker suggests gang rapes
are ‘normal’ behavior. Even the Cabinet’s top
spokesman pipes up, saying women who dress
provocatively invite rape.”

See what happens when Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori
and other senior political leaders debate how Japan
should address its declining birth rate.

Ah, the experts on the behavior of women speak out.
Such clanging in our ears, such male noise!
“Welfare is supposed to take care of and reward
those women who have lots of children,” Mori said.
“It is truly strange to say we have to use tax money
to take care of women who don’t even give birth once, who grow
old living their lives selfishly and singing the praises of freedom.”

“At least gang rapists are still vigorous,” replied former
Cabinet minister Seichi Ota when the debate’s moderator
then referred to a recent high-profile case of gang rape
allegedly involving students at several prestigious universities.

“The problem is that there are lots of women dressed
provocatively,” said Yasuo Fukuda, minister in charge
of gender equality. Mr. Fukuda, off the record, of course,
told reporters at a briefing that the real culprits in
gang rape dah dah were women.

Thank you, gentlemen, for speaking your true thoughts.
No wonder fewer women in Japan continue to have children.
Welfare is not such a wonderful incentive.
Ever think of offering a vault of gold?
No wonder women who don’t even give birth once
live their lives selfishly, singing the praises of freedom.
Never mind the fact that some women are unable
to have children. Or they should have such a choice?
Really. Such audacity. Such daring. Such original thinking.

And, oh, those women who choose not
to have children? Why, just send them
off with their own cell phones to a desert island.
No wonder women wear low-cut T-shirts
with their belly buttons showing. Shame, shame.
No wonder boys join gangs. Gang rapes represent
their vigor, their virility! Such enlightenment.
So what if it’s at the expense of women?
No wonder headlines about fighting for women’s equality
the world over appear now and then
if you look hard enough. Good luck.
Hmmmm. Gender equality. Maybe
It’s just not a sexy enough issue. Maybe
this gang of politicians just got to be boys.

Nellie Wong

is a poet and revolutionary feminist activist living in San Francisco. She was born in 1934 in Oakland, California, the first U.S.-born daughter of Chinese immigrants. Wong’s first collection of poetry, Dreams in Harrison Railroad Park (1977), was published by Kelsey Street Press. This book went through four printings and was the most successful release in the history of Kelsey Street Press. Her other titles are The Death of Long Steam Lady (1986), published by West End Press and Stolen Moments (1997). Her work has appeared in approximately 200 anthologies and publications. Wong writes directly from her working life as well as from her family history, bridging China and Asian America. Her poetry spans issues of feminism, the fight against racism, workplace injustice, and finding identity as a writer and activist.

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