Chie Matsumoto, Japanese reporter and activist, gave a lecture on Wednesday about her efforts following the #MeToo movement to push for legislation penalizing workplace sexual harassment in Japan.
Matsumoto — senior officer in the Media Workers’ Union Tokyo branch, author, freelance journalist and activist — spoke in Ives Hall to students and faculty.
The #MeToo movement in Japan was inspired by accounts from the United States last spring, according to Matsumoto. The confessions from women in media gained traction in Japan since “it is one of the first cases of women collectively speaking out about their sexual harassment experiences.”
The movement for equal treatment of women in Japanese media started with the case of a TV reporter anonymously reporting sexual advances made towards her by a high-ranking ministry official, Matsumoto said. The reporter shared the story with a tabloid magazine after her bosses ignored her request to report the harassment, and her recording of the official making sexual comments was shared worldwide.
Compared to other individual stories of sexual harassment, the outcome for the anonymous female reporter was different. To show solidarity and to support the reporter, other women in corporate media joined together to protest, lobby and establish a hotline.
“[Other] reporters felt her experience personally, and they were worried that when or if they experienced the same sexual harassment their employers would not protect them,” Matsumoto said.
In May 2018, these journalists, alongside Matsumoto, established the Women in Media Network Japan, which currently has 80 members.
“I was asked to represent this organization because I was already an activist and also a freelance writer, so I had less to lose by lending my voice,” Matsumoto said. “The sad thing is that the majority of our members are still remaining anonymous. Only a handful of us identify ourselves as a member of this organization.”
In order to gauge the realities of people’s experiences, the Women in Media Network conducted a survey asking a poll of 428 men and women if they had experienced sexual harassment. The amount of sexual harassment cases, reported by 46 percent of women, did not surprise the organization, but the relationship between the survivors and the perpetrators did. Most perpetrators are coworkers or bosses.
Perhaps even more surprising were perpetrators listed as police officers, prosecutors or government officials. Although their numbers were smaller, the survey results present a serious issue, Matsumoto said.
“The interesting thing is that most of our members said they’ve experienced this all along, for 20 or 30 years, but they’ve never thought to report it,” Matsumoto explained. “They learned to shrug it off, and they believed that dealing with sexual harassment on their own was part of being a professional female journalist.”
College graduates trying to get a job in corporate media disclosed on the survey that they were asked in their job interview how they would react to sexual harassment, according to Matsumoto
Matsumoto noted that workplace sexual harassment or violence violates the section of the Japanese constitution dedicated to media censorship.
“We consider the press a core part of democratic society and we are there to serve the people’s right to know,” Matsumoto said. “If we are suffering from assault or certain pressures, that means that there is information control.”
In the last year, the Women in Media Network Japan has increased their membership to 123 women representing 45 corporations, including publishing companies, newspaper services and broadcasting companies, according to Matsumoto.
The network focuses on establishing a platform for journalists who have been harrassed to receive advice, according to an article in The Japan Times.
“All of our efforts are going to lead to, and already has lead to, the empowerment of women,” she said. “We also want to promote true journalism to monitor the government rather than be a victim of government power, which can then lead to a mature democracy.”
Moving forward, Matsumoto said the organization will expand to women in other sectors and industries, such as caregiving, nursing and firefighting.