In last month's issue, I included a comment to the effect that the October issue would include "one last airing of opinions on the controversy surrounding a few comments made by Martin Pauly in his 'Quality of Life' article in May." I also mentioned that this kind of public debate on a rather emotional issue was not what we wanted this monthly newspaper to focus on. I guess I was a bit naive to think more responses would not be forthcoming. The two letters we received, however, are worth taking a look at, though for the sake of space as well as to lower the decibel level of the rhetoric a bit, the second letter was shortened considerably (hopefully without deflecting its main points).
I must admit that I was caught by surprise as to how much heat would be generated by a few off-handed comments. They were not the kinds of things I would have committed to public print, but then again, when I read through them in the mad rush to get the paper finished, I didn't realize at the time those comments would cause such an uproar. When later pointed out, of course, it was not hard to see the reasoning behind the comments received. As the old saying goes, "Hind sight is 20/20". Likewise, as this voluntary effort often takes more time than I or any of the rest of us can really afford, it's difficult to take the care needed to avoid such pitfalls. We will endeavor to do better in the future. Hopefully, everyone involved has learned important lessons from the experience.
While we're dealing with this issue, I would like to point out a very timely and thought-provoking article in the Oct. 23rd Daily Yomiuri on the related subject of "Sexual Harassment in Japan." Written by "Times Staff Editor" (Los Angeles, not Alien) Hilary E. MacGregor, its basic point was that even though the taboo of publicly discussing this serious problem has finally been broken, the present economic recession is actually making the situation worse, since "it silences women who fear for their jobs (and) emboldens men who exploit vulnerability." In addition to vividly describing the types of things going on, as elicited from her numerous interviews, she makes one statement concerning the legal situation that I found particularly shocking. Until very recently, there were no laws against this sort of behavior, but even with the new law, there is very little hope of real enforcement, as it in effect says that "a man must state that his motive was sexual harassment to be found guilty under the new law." Fat chance of that happening!
Likewise, I found it rather surprising that the first successful sexual harassment case in Japan was not until 1989 -- only 6 years ago. In fact, even though it would be easy to directly translate the concept of "sexual harassment" into Japanese -- namely as "seiteki na iyagarase" or something similar, it wasn't until 1989 that any term was applied to this offensive behavior. And what was chosen? "Sekuhara", a coined word from a shortened version of the English! Perhaps there was a temporary side benefit it doing it that way in that the new word's meaning had to be explained each time it was used, but I think the overall effect of using a totally new "katakana" term is to reduce its impact by hiding the problem in vagueness -- a ploy not uncommon in Japan. At any rate, I wanted to commend this excellent article to our readers and offer copies of it to anyone who is interested. Just give me a call.
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