Japanese women who say “me too” do so at their own risk.
Online comments accused Rika Shiiki of lying and being a publicity hound when she tweeted that she lost business contracts after refusing to have sex with clients. Some said that by agreeing to dine with a man, she led him on.
“The comments I received were disproportionately negative,” the 20-year-old university student and entrepreneur told a TV talk show in December. “We need to create a society where we can speak up. Otherwise sexual harassment and other misconduct will persist forever.”
The (hash)MeToo movement has not caught on in Japan, where speaking out often draws criticism rather than sympathy, even from other women.
In a patriarchal society where women have long taken the blame, many victims try to forget attacks and harassment instead of seeking support and justice, said Mari Miura, a political science professor at Sophia University in Tokyo.
Japan lacks such a sisterhood. It’s an exhausting and intimidating process. … It’s quite natural that victims feel reluctant to speak up.
One woman, journalist Shiori Ito, went public last year. She held a news conference after prosecutors decided not to press charges against a prominent TV newsman whom she had accused of raping her after he invited her to discuss job opportunities over dinner and drinks in 2015.
Many online comments criticised her for speaking out, looking too seductive and ruining the life of a prominent figure. Some women called her an embarrassment, she told The Associated Press.
The October release of Ito’s book “Blackbox” detailing her ordeal came as the (hash)MeToo phenomenon was making headlines in America. It prompted some discussion in Japan, but only a handful of other women came forward.
“Many people think Shiori’s problem has nothing to do with them … and that’s why (hash)MeToo isn’t growing in Japan,” said lawyer Yukiko Tsunoda, an expert on sex crimes. In Japan, sexually assaulted women are traditionally called “the flawed,” she said.