Last year, I posted an article entitled, the Best and worst places to be a woman . Gender gap, gender equality, girl power, however you call it, is one of my most favorite topics. I have so much to say because I have enough experience living here, where women are treated like second class citizens, worse than dogs, sometimes; and  back home, where some women eat “death threats for breakfast” (to quote a female politician) and where matriarchy is the norm. You might argue, so what, the Philippines is a third world country with almost a fourth of its population unable to feed themselves – and I agree. We don’t have abortion. We don’t have divorce. Many girls (and boys) are unable to go to school. Blah blah blah. Once we get into the problems we are facing, the list just continues, miles long. So let’s stick to the topic and celebrate – the best thing about being a Filipina is that we have balls the size of coconuts and we’re actually pretty damn solid. For one, we don’t let the men walk all over us -or beat us- in the corporate world, in politics, in society, in living  a good life in general. We are the breadwinners and the guys willingly, gladly, thankfully take the backseat to become ‘housebands’ (not in my case, though). I’d like to point out that I haven’t been to a country in Asia that considers women an asset more than in the PI. Even in the olden days, men had to pay for dowry, not the other way around. The thinking was,a daughter was priceless, an asset, and it was to a man’s great benefit if he married her; therefore he must prove his worthiness and his sincerity to the woman’s family. Japan, as far as I remember in my art history class, had the same system of dowry before the samurai era – that is, men paying for dowry to marry his lady love. There was a total reversal during the samurai-jidai, and women were considered a liability – the family had to come up with dowry because,   the woman would be  burden to her husband. And that’s how it is until now. The end.

Abenomics seemed to have little effect on how the women are treated in the corporate world. For one, companies still discriminate against women. A student drew me a table which I reproduced here rather clumsily, explaining the payscales at his company (and probably many other J-companies). Disclaimers : You shouldn’t take this too literally – I have no numbers to support this. This is a rough reproduction of my student’s drawing.

2014 Gender gap report - Japan at #104. 2 types of payscales at Japanese companies.

2014 Gender gap report – Japan at #104. 2 types of payscales at Japanese companies.

My student explained that women’s pay scale is flat, even if it is, essentially, against the law. But women don’t seem to mind – they rest their future in finding the man that will feed and house and clothe them. Indeed, perhaps it is why women would rather marry and retire happily ever after ? Because companies treat their women like dogs. Or perhaps it is a cycle. Companies treat women like dogs because women don’t stay long. Or women don’t stay long because companies treat them like dogs. But women must want – before it will be given. I mean seriously want. And if they want it hard enough, maybe they themselves will fight for what is due them.

There is a saying in Japanese :

意志があるとき方法があります

In English :

When there’s a will there’s a way.

In French :

Voulour c’est pouvoir.

In Tagalog :

Kung gusto, may paraan. Kung ayaw, madaming dahilan.  

ね?Ain’t I right? N’est-ce pas?Di ba?

 Gender Gap : Philippines vs Japan

Japan at #104. Philippines vs Japan

2014 Gender gap report – Japan at #104. Philippines vs Japan

Look at the political empowerment! Look! Japan’s low ranking may explain why women are being treated like dogs. They are under-represented, their interests overlooked. Remember the incident in June?

A Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker apologized on Monday for shouting a sexist remark last week at a female colleague from Your Party during a plenary session of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly.

Akihiro Suzuki, 51, apologized at a news conference at City Hall five days after the sexist taunting incident, which allegedly involved at least one other male lawmaker.

“I apologize from the bottom of my heart for inflicting heavy heartache and causing trouble to assembly member fellow lawmaker Ayaka Shiomura, the assembly and the public, caused by my remark, ‘Why don’t you get married soon?’ ” the nationalist lawmaker said.

Suzuki, part of a cadre of like-minded nationalists who landed on the Senkaku Islands in 2012, elicited jeers and laughter from his male colleagues in the assembly that have raised doubts about the LDP’s commitment to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s stated policy of promoting women in the workplace.

Abe is also president of the LDP.

The Tokyo assembly’s evident sexism has done nothing to burnish the image of the capital as it gears up to host the 2020 Olympics.

Suzuki acknowledged the remark was inconsiderate.

“I uttered the remark with a philosophy that I’d like people to get married soon amid the falling birthrate and delayed marriage,” he claimed. “I profoundly regret my lack of consideration for people who find it hard to get married even though they hope to do so,” he said, adding that he didn’t intend to defame Shiomura.

The married father of three, who represents Ota Ward, said he should have come clean sooner. He said he has left the LDP to take responsibility for the incident but repeatedly insisted that he would not quit the legislature.

Earlier Monday, Suzuki denied making the remark when asked by reporters. His own website claims he stands behind the policy of “realizing a society with a better working environment for women” and promotes the idea of work-life balance and reflecting the voices of Tokyo women in the city’s politics.

Suzuki also purports to want to improve support for families with children by creating more small child care centers.

Shiomura, a member of Your Party, said her fellow lawmakers yelled out remarks like “You should give birth first” and “Can’t you give birth to a baby?” while she was raising questions about policies related to the nation’s declining birth rate and other demographic problems.

Minoru Morozumi, secretary-general of Your Party’s contingent in the assembly, told reporters later Monday that his party will call on the other individuals involved in the sexist jeers to come forward as well.

“If that turns out to be difficult, we will urge other parties at the metropolitan assembly to conduct an investigation to identify who made those remarks,” he said.

He also said the party will propose setting up a panel to discuss parliamentary reform in the wake of the incident.

Before his news conference, Suzuki apologized in person to Shiomura at the metropolitan assembly building.

“I feel it marked an end to the incident after (Suzuki) admitted it,” Shiomura said after the meeting with Suzuki. “For the past couple of days, I feared it would turn out such a remark wasn’t uttered.”

Shiomura said she asked Suzuki to help her find out who else was involved in the sexist jeers.

Earlier on the day, Osamu Yoshiwara, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party’s contingent in the assembly, said Suzuki came to Yoshiwara in the morning to admit he was responsible for one of the remarks.

The heckling drew media attention at home and abroad, to say nothing of criticism.

Marriage and childbirth are matters for each individual, and these heckles are sexual harassment based on a conscious desire to discriminate against women, and they are insulting to the Assembly member herself (Shiomura) and to all women,” the Japan Federation of Women’s Organizations said in a statement issued Saturday.

The heckling shows that “the idea of gender equality has not spread to the people of Japan, and the discrimination against women is still deeply rooted,” said Emiko Munakata, head of Equal Net Sendai.

From the Japan Times < japantimes.co.jp/ news/2014/06/23/national/tokyo-assemblyman-suzuki-admits-heckling-lawmaker-with-sexist-remarks/ > /blockquote>

If this happened in the Philippines, the women’s group would rally in front of his office; the media matriarchs will crucify him; social media will vilify him ;and worst of all, the trolls would find even creative ways to troll in his name. Luckily, this happened in Japan, where it suffices for transgressors to bow and apologize. The end.

Personally – and I’ve said this many many times – it’s terribly difficult be to be a woman in Japan. Of course, my perspective is heavily distorted by my own experience : being a non-white, non-western woman in Japan, Japanese people tend to feel ‘superior’ and lord it over me – because 1) I am from an Asian country that is dirt poor and with a bad rep in Japan 2) I am a woman. The second cannot be helped, and that’s what irritates me the most. But I equally feel bad for Japanese women for being treated like a piece of shit in their country. My sympathy has grown, so much that I started hoping all my kids(if ever) will be males. Which is weird, because gender preference for my unborn kids never crossed my mind before moving here. In the Philippines, despite all my rants, I never felt that gender was an issue, a serious liability. In fact, generally speaking, I feel like I have more opportunities  than males. The only time I feel bad about being a woman is when I have to go home late, or walk on the street by myself late at night. But then, I a) drive wherever I go b) avoid doing that in Manila. So yea, I almost always feel good about being a woman back home. Unfortunately, I don’t feel that here.  And, as far as the gender gap reports over the past few years go, it seems like Japan is taking its sweet time. Maybe in another life time then?

I know, I know. have strayed from my topic. All talks about women and Japan makes me want to rant. Read about the Gender Gap Report here (copy, paste) :  reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2014/