Think Twice before Complimenting Your Japanese Female Colleagues

We’ve all heard how men who notice the little changes in women’s appearances win the girls over, but the government and the women in Japan seem to have created an environment where it’s a better bet to not say anything.

The Japanese society has long been known to place women lower than the male species. While many changes and improvements have been made today, there still is a long way to go, especially with the older people and those with outdated mentality.

This can be seen from the incident involving a female politician a few months ago. While she was making her presentation, the male politicians in the audience called out to ask her to go home, get married and give birth instead. Let me detract a little here. I have no idea on the purpose of allowing heckling in the parliament. In fact, I think it should be outlawed. For such a profession with adults who are greatly responsible for the country’s well-being, such behavior makes me wonder about the quality of politicians in Japan. This is not elementary school. It is not even allowed in elementary school. Whether you agree or disagree on something should be presented in order and professionalism. Wait for your turn and attack the argument. Not the person. With a childish group of old men populating the political arena in Japan (as can be derived from the number of people who laughed at the heckling comment), it is little wonder why Japan has seen 7 Prime Ministers in the past 9 years with the first 8 reigns ending in less than 1.5 years, and some ending in less than a year.

Allowing things like these are the reasons why men think it’s okay to demean women. At the office, there are men who make inappropriate comments, like how I once attended an interview with another girl, during which, the company president started talking about boobs and gesturing it by cupping his own chest. That took me by surprise and I was worried how the girl felt. The shocking thing was, when I related that incident to our female Japanese language teacher expressing my disgust, she said with a stern tone that it’s common in Japan and if we wanted to work in the country, we should learn to not be so petty about such stuff.

In the last couple of years though, the government appears to have decided to step up on eliminating sexual harassment especially at the workplace. This let loose a whole string of incomprehensible sexual harassment claims that has come to make me wary about complimenting female co-workers. When men compliment women on their nice or big boobs, it is considered sexual harassment which I totally agree. And then men complimenting women’s legs became sexual harassment as well. And then men complimenting women’s clothes became sexual harassment. And then men complimenting women’s hair became sexual harassment. And then men complimenting anything relating to women’s appearance became sexual harassment.

Recently, a female Australian colleague was teasing a male colleague saying how tiny and tightly fitting his pants were. The male colleague responded jokingly that it’s not the pants that are small, it’s his thighs that filled up the pants. And then the female colleague suddenly realised the situation and said, “Oh no, if it were the other way round, this would’ve been sexual harassment.”

I totally see her point.

It’s worrying that in a bid to protect women, the law might unwittingly create gynocentrism, or women who abuse the “power” awarded to them like the numbers of blackmail cases we’ve seen at clubs at home with women who wrongfully scream molest just to get money out of men who would rather pay to avoid unnecessary trouble than fight the lawsuit.

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