NEWS

Working Together For
Women's Empowerment.

WE Int.では #SheInspires と題して、団体メンバーの紹介をしています。女性同士支え合い、たたえ合うこと。これもフェミニスト団体であるWE Int.の大事な役目と考えているからです。今回紹介するのは、中国出身のヒ・キテイさん。なぜフェミニズムに興味を持ったのか、日本におけるジェンダー課題についてどう考えているか、ぜひお読みください!




1.キテイさんご自身について、お話し頂けますか?なぜジェンダーや女性の地位の問題に興味を持ったのでしょうか。

8歳の時、アモイにて。

私の名前はYiting Fei(ヒ キテイ)です。中国浙江省出身です。中学校から日本に興味を持私の家族は、中国の他の家族と同じく、子育てを大事にし、教育を重視してきました。特に、私の両親は今までずっと私の志望を尊重し、大学の専攻や日本への進学、就職を支持してくれています。私は一人っ子で、高校も理系だったので、比較的男女平等の環境で育てきたとは言えます。


しかし、成長する中で、ジェンダーの違いで不平等を感じた時もあります。高校のとき、理系科目でいい成績をとるたび、男子学生に(女子なのに)すごいと言われましたが、男子学生がクラストップの成績をとったとき、誰もそう言わなかったのです。それは、女性が男性より理系科目ができると期待されていなかったためでしょう。



大学入試が終わり、選考を決めるとき、自分を含め理系だった女子学生が文系の専攻を選ぶのがほとんどでした。医学や理工系の専攻が難しくて選ばないと考える人もいますが、仕事としてその道に進むには女性のロールモデルがいなくて懸念する人も多かったためです。大学の専門と将来の職業における選択肢も、男性より女性のほうが少ないと感じました。また、将来の職業に関して、親の世代の考えとして、女性は安定な仕事をする方が(結婚・子育てに)望ましいという考えがあり、終身雇用の保証のある「編制」内の仕事(地方公務員や国立学校の教師など)に従事してほしいという親が多いです。そして、女性も世間からの考えを受け止め、無意識のうちに、このような仕事は理想的だと考えるのです。このように、女性は知らないうちに、人生の選択肢は縛られていることに違和感を感じています。



2.WE Int.についてどこで知りましたか?なぜ参加に参加したのですか?


男女の不平等を感じるものの、自分から何かをして現状を変えようとは考えていませんでした。WE Int.との出会いは、私を現状に甘んじる意識から脱却させてくれました。きっかけは、友達の誘いで、WE Int.初のオリエンテーションに参加したことです。そこで出会ったファウンダーの皆はジェンダー平等に対して情熱を持ち、自らプロジェクトを回す能力と行動力があり、全ての人の話を尊重する姿勢を示し、すごく魅力的に感じました。皆から刺激を受け、現状を受け止めるのではなく、このメンバーたちと一緒にやりたいと考えました。



3.ジェンダー課題の中で特に興味がある問題はなんですか?


特にセクシャルハラスメントに興味を持っています。実は児童に対する性暴力もよく起きている現状です。口に出したくないと思い、性暴力被害を受けても黙っているといったケースはよくあると思います。このため、女性が安心して経験を話せる環境を作りたいのは私の思いです。



4.日本社会における女性の地位についてどう思いますか?


日本の女性は経済、政治、法律など多くの面でジェンダー不平等に直面していると思います。職場において、賃金格差、仕事と家庭の両立などが問題だと感じています。去年日本で就職活動をしました。ほとんどの大手会社が「女性が活躍職場」や「女性が働きやすい環境」をアピールしましたが、管理職が少ない事実に違和感を感じています。また、座談会でマネージャー層以上の女性管理職は男性より家族を持っていない人が多いこともわかりました。会社の目標と現実とのずれに、女性の働き方とキャリア構築に厳しさを感じました。

法律において、セクシャルハラスメントや性暴力を受けたときに声を上げる仕組みが整っていない問題があります。日本はセクハラを受けたことを公の場で話すのが恥ずかしくて難しい環境です。このため、セクハラを受けた場合、女性が声を上げられるメカニズムが必要だと思います。


                     5.WE Int.を通し何を成し遂げたいですか?


WE Int.を通じ成し遂げたいのは、まず女性のためにネットワークを作ることです。学生にせよ、社会人にせよ、女性としてジェンダー不平等に直面する場合は多いと思います。WE Int.を通して様々な分野の女性と繋がり、自分の問題を気軽に皆とシェアする機会を作りたいです。また、イベントを通し、女性だけではなく、男性のジェンダ

ー平等への意識も高めたいです。



“He inappropriately touched me [...] I told him to stop and he did it again. I was really confused about why he thought he could do it. Why he wanted to do it. What made him think he had the right to touch me like that?”


“I want to die. Nobody believes me. He’s hitting me and nobody believes me.” 


These are quotes taken from students who have experienced harassment and violence. They are among 246 million children subject to some form of gender-based violence in schools worldwide every year. The latter quote is from a 10 year old girl who faced a horrific ordeal alone, because her school refused to acknowledge her abuse nor were the necessary resources provided for support. One of the reasons for the victim’s struggle to explicitly express what she had gone through was fear that she “might be pregnant.” At her young age, receiving proper sexual education is also essential for children to understand what they’re going through. While the main offense that schools are faulted for is protecting their reputation over their students’ wellbeing, it must not be forgotten that this, too, is a consequence of larger, systemic issues in institutional guidelines and rooted within power imbalances. 


Kat Banyard, co-founder of education pressure group UK Feminista, believes that “What underpins it all is an inequality of power between women and men and various other cultural trends [...] that teaches boys and men that they are entitled to sexually access women’s bodies regardless of whether the feeling is mutual.” 


Sexual violence is pervasive, globally and within many different contexts (whether it be a workplace, on the street, at home, or on campus). And unfortunately, it is so pervasive that it often goes unseen. Gender sociologist Marianne Cooper urges us to “think about [it]. Sexism and certain forms of sexual harassment are so normalized it’s hard to distinguish it from another day at school or just another day at work.”


“This has to change.” 


Much like the conversations — and often, heated debates — about the meaning of “feminism” (no, it is not synonymous with “man-hating”) or “consent” (which must always be affirmatively, explicitly, and freely expressed), there are a range of ideas as to what “sexual violence” really constitutes. This can work both ways: underestimate the severity of violent actions, or wrongly label mundane actions as violence, thereby trivializing victims’ experiences. It is also important to note that anyone, regardless of gender, can be a victim of sexual violence, however women tend to be the focus of these discussions because they are undeniably most susceptible. Violence against women can exist on a continuum, from harassment to more extreme violations such as abuse and rape. 


UNESCO provides examples of school-related gender-based violence that can be physical (physical violence, corporal punishment), sexual (coercion), and/or psychological (verbal, emotional abuse), and may take place in any of the following spheres:

For developing countries in particular, this can severely hinder a child’s fundamental right to education — its severity cannot be overlooked, despite how sexual violence in schools remains a secondary concern for the global education aid architecture. Certainly, there are many different regional and cultural contexts that we could hone into, but one that may pertain more specifically to us is college and university campus assault, an issue that has been steadily garnering attention in recent years. 


College campuses contain a dangerous mix of instigating factors: alcohol and drug culture, peer pressure, young adults, and often, institutional neglect. The pressure to participate in social activities can lead to situations where incapacitated violence occurs, and these assaults go unreported due to victims not believing that authorities would help. While data varies by place and survey methodology, general estimates find between 19–27% of college women and 6–8% college men to have faced sexual violence during their time in college. Of these victims, only 20% of victims report the incident. Some of their reasons for not reporting may include

Moreover, most campus assaults are committed by acquaintances of the victim, thereby contributing to  narratives of “victim blaming” and other myths that this type of violence is trivial and deviant. The impact felt by the individual is immense, and may be reflected in academic performance, substance use, mental health decline. Victims are often shamed and silenced, but this is by no means an indicator that these events are anomalous. Perpetuating stigmas and denial can escalate into a “rape culture” where violence becomes normalized, and perpetrators are empowered to become repeat offenders. 


Violence continues when organizations are permissive of this behaviour, and there are insufficient measures in place for a perpetrator to be punished. Therefore, “when these codes of conduct are crossed and nothing happens,  this is a green light opening a door to further misconduct.” The bottom line is that tolerance of bad behaviour leads to more bad behaviour — it’s a vicious cycle.


If you are currently a student and are wondering what you can do to protect yourself, the first thing to remember is that you are never responsible for preventing violence; it is always in the hands of the perpetrator. There are measures you can take to make you and your surroundings safer, including things like ensuring you know someone well before spending alone time with them, commuting to/from social events with others, and being aware of your surroundings. 


Needless to say, there are resources online that you can find for more information — but of course, these can feel very detached and unhelpful; after all, what good can reading about it do when faced with violence in reality? Or perhaps you are thinking if even those in an educational context are vulnerable, surely knowledge has little to do with whether you become subject to violence? But educating yourself is part of a bigger collective action which demands that institutions and authorities take the problem seriously; to be transparent and accountable. Part-in-parcel with this objective is also understanding the experiences of others — victims, survivors, or anyone really, because we could all be subject to violence in our lives. After all, behind all these statistics are individual voices, who deserve to have their stories heard. 


With WE Int.’s  ‘El Tendedero’ campaign at the University of Tokyo, we hope to raise awareness on the pervasiveness of sexual violence through an online adaptation of Mexican artist Monica Mayer’s original installation by the same name. The project asks participants to share their stories and opinions about harassment and gendered violence through several prompts. These anonymized responses are then put on display along a clothesline (now in a virtual gallery). 


We would love for you to join us in this initiative! Your voice will be anonymous, but nevertheless an invaluable part of a larger community. By filling out this Google Form, you would be contributing to the project by sharing your thoughts and experiences, which will remain completely anonymous, and become a part of our website’s publication. Please help us create awareness around the episodes of harassment and sexual violence women experience every day. By embedding a Latin American art project in a Japanese context, we show the persistence of these issues across societies around the world.


**If you don’t currently live in Japan, but would still like to contribute with your answers, simply leave the questions related to a Japanese context blank, and submit the rest of the questionnaire.**


***Finally, if you are seeking help and would like to contact someone, here is a link to our resources page.*** 


Sources: 


Bates, Laura. “Are We Ignoring an Epidemic of Sexual Violence in Schools?”The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 12 Dec. 2017, www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/dec/12/are-we-ignoring-an-epidemic-of-sexual-violence-in-schools.


Cooper, Marianne. “The Power of Us: How We Stop Sexual Harassment: Marianne Cooper: TEDxUniversityofNevada.”TED Ideas Worth Spreading, TED Conferences, Jan. 2018, www.ted.com/talks/marianne_cooper_the_power_of_us_how_we_stop_sexual_harassment.


Guru-Murthy, Krishnan. “Sexual Harassment Debate: 'It's Offensive to Women That Have Been Raped to Discuss Knee Touching'.”Channel 4 News, 6 Nov. 2017, www.channel4.com/news/sexual-harassment-debate-its-offensive-to-women-that-have-been-raped-to-discuss-knee-touching.


#AntiDomesticViolenceDuringEpidemic

#EndViolence

#ElTendedero

#spreadtheword

#Standupjapan

#bewomenpowered

WE Int., committed to lifting up women and shedding light on their work, introduces its members as part of the series #SheInspires. In this article, we introduce to you Serah Alabi, a photographer with a deep understanding of gendered gaze in visual arts.

Born in Nigeria and grew up in Germany, she recently completed her masters program at Bunka Gakuen University and currently work as freelance writer/photographer in Tokyo.


1.Tell us about yourself. What is your passion? What is the background you grew up in?


My family made the big move from Nigeria to Germany when I was around four-five years old.

The city I grew up in west Germany was fairly new to African immigrants, which resulted in me being the only coloured girl in my entire school. The creative space always had a strong appeal to me, because it allowed me to fully embrace every step towards my journey, be it playing different instruments, drawing, writing my first short stories as a teenager or picking up the art of capturing memorable moments in time.



2. Could you talk about your specialty? What do you try to express/convey?


Photography is part of my creative practice and language, that defines the relationship between individuality sensory engagement. For me photographs do not only operate on a visual level, but have the ability to occupy the spaces bounded by emotional impact and semiotic codes. Photography is a medium of storytelling and shifting relationships through which meaning and purpose are created. I want my photos to not only represent the person but evoke sensibilities of the past, present and future. In a time where the material and embodied experiences are constantly changing with the inventions of new digital communities across the globe, I want to convey an alternative way at looking at the social inscriptions of images within gender studies and art historical background.


3. How did you become interested in gender issues?


I hadn’t realized I was particularly interested in gender studies until I was deep into my Master thesis, which was an investigation of the female gaze in Japan through the eyes from Japanese female photographers. I looked at the female gaze as a diverse visual landscape, a window for the feminine experience and its uniqueness as a transnational culture.  I wrote my first research paper as a teenager on Jeanne D’arc, investigating her life as a martyr and the question of her identity as a saint and heroin. I remember how fascinated I was with historic female figures and with the impact they had over the centuries.







For me photographs do not only operate on a visual level, but have the ability to occupy the spaces bounded by emotional impact and semiotic codes. I want my photos to not only represent the person but evoke sensibilities of the past, present and future




4. What gender-related issue(s) are you most interested in and why?


My interest lies in analyzing women’s role in visual and cultural studies. I studied Fashion Journalism for my B.A degree, and during that time I merged my interest for gender, research and media. I started looking at different angles on how women are perceived in the visual landscape of fashion, art, and culture. It is important to visually critique and analyze how women are portrayed in mass media. Since then, I discussed the objectification of women in fashion and beauty advertising, the restrictive notion of their stereotypical portrayal by men in media and the impact visual media has on the social construction of gender. We are living in an sensory era where we are easily influenced by the media and brands. 





5. How do you see the status of women in Japanese society (compared to Germany or other cultures you know)?


Germany was ranked 10th in last years gender gap report and Japan was placed 121st out of 154 countries. Even though there is an immerse gap, both countries share similarities when it comes to employment policies. Focusing on characteristics such as age, work experience and education during their hiring process. Whereas Germany is updating their corporate policies to match today’s zeitgeist, Japan is sticking to its lifetime system. Each country brings with them a diverse set of cultural differences. What I believe we have to do is to recognize the differences and learn to respect each countries values and status. What we can not do is forcing one country's conditions to another. Instead, we should focus on slowly introducing adapt-friendly policies to help grow the economic position of men and women.  In order to narrow the gender gap, we first have to highlight different institutional scenarios to promote gender equality in both countries. 


I started looking at different angles on how women are perceived in the visual landscape of fashion, art, and culture. It is important to visually critique and analyze how women are portrayed in mass media.


6. Through WE Int. platform, what would you like to achieve? How do you think you can benefit from/contribute to WE Int.?


I bring in the art historical aspect of gender studies to WE Int., widening the conversation in able to include thematics that may have not been discussed. Yet this is how I also benefit from WE Int., being exposed to differences members who are focused  on a specific specialty within gender studies. By widening the exchange of views on gender-related issues, I would like to be part of a progress WE Int. will make in the future.



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