Celebrating the centenary of when women won the right to vote, 2018 proved to be positive in many ways regarding the status of women and equal rights.
However, as you might expect, it also revealed the need to continue the campaign as well.
There is a global element to feminism today, which couldn’t have been predicted, the internet allows women all over the world to connect and tell their story.
In October last year it was revealed that a company in Japan, known as Shuukan Spa, released a ranking of “University students with easy-access girls” and published the information in a public magazine. Uncomfortable wording aside, the magazine provided a valuable answer to the persistent question of why we need feminism today?
Deciding that the company needed to apologise and remove the article, Kazuna Yamamoto created a petition on change.org that featured a video with the hashtag #StandUpJapan. In order to further push the message, she included a video not just in Japanese but English, Spanish and Norweigan as well as a script in the aforementioned languages attached below the petition.
“It isn’t the only problem but it was crossing the line way too much…I just felt like I had to do something about it.”
Demanding that the media stop incorporating discriminatory language that only serves to disrespect and sexualise, the petition has already amassed a huge following. With 52,599 signatures and counting, the aim is to make a real change regarding the relationship between women’s rights and the media in Japan.
“Although the [Japanese] society seems like it is changing, it feels weird, especially for me…you realise that there still is a population that believes in patriarchy and truly believes that women shouldn’t access higher education, or have rights to work. People are gradually becoming open minded, sometimes you are just surprised by the gender biased stereotypes (hyper-masculine and feminine) that exist, and how it’s influencing the way we think in our everyday lives.”
Different countries bring a different interpretation to ideologies and beliefs that are sometimes thought as uniform in their description. Even within a society people’s experiences are not the same, differing opinion regarding everything not just the topic of equal rights.
Kazuna explains how when discussing equal rights it’s important to remember how it translates into different countries.
“I definitely think it does, not to generalise but in East Asian countries I feel like feminism has a negative connotation, and especially in Japan where people do not talk about religion or politics, it’s under that bubble of “taboos”. Since the society isn’t as vocal as other nations, I really do feel like the ideology differs, but that also comes from the lack of exposure to feminist movements, such as the Me Too movement.”
Kazuna’s petition has been picking up speed in many ways and gaining attention both positively and negatively, it is the internet after all.
Continuing to work for women’s rights Kazuna also set up Voice Up Japan, a Facebook group dedicated to supporting people and raising their voices where it is hard to do so. #StandUpJapan
Words : Eleanor Forrest