Media Mix, March 18, 2018

Here’s this week’s Media Mix, which is about train groping, or “chikan.” Though I think it’s apparent from the overall tone of the column, it should be noted that the majority of male commuters do not grope, and, most likely, the men who protest women-only train cars are not gropers either. However, if you watch the YouTube video that’s linked in the first paragraph, which shows what happened on February 16 on the Chiyoda Line, you can sense a very powerful attitude of condescension on the part of the male protesters, who counter the women’s vocal objections to their presence with a very childish response, as if they were elementary school boys teasing girls on a playground. This attitude demonstrates the sort of mindset that Prof. Muta refers to in the Asahi Shimbun interview. These men, believing themselves to be above the issue of chikan, mock women who regain a measure of relief from at least temporarily being spared the possibility of unwanted touching. These men think that while they themselves aren’t chikan, the very existence of women-only cars implies that all men have such a potential, and that offends them personally. But it’s not their feelings that are the issue. Almost every woman I have met in Japan, whether Japanese or not, has told me she has been touched at least once while riding on a crowded train. It’s not a rare occurrence, and while some women have built up a kind of carapace out of cynicism and exhaustion, many have become psychologically damaged by the repeated intrusions. Maki Fukasawa, in the “Golden Radio” report, said that many high school girls refuse to go to school because they have been so traumatized by groping. The protesters may think they are somehow doing the right thing by standing up to discrimination (the male commentators on No Hate TV point out that Dr. Sabetsu, mentioned in the column, is a former left wing agitator who ended up as a kind of libertarian racist), but in truth they are simply perpetuating the male-dominant narrative. Just because a man doesn’t grope, it doesn’t necessarily mean he respects women.

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