Abortion pills soon in Japan? Yes, but not without the spouse’s consent

Articles

Although abortion has been legal since 1948 in Japan, it comes with many regulations imposing women constraints in easily accessing abortions. The bigger constraint women face is the requirement of spousal consent in most abortion cases. In addition, it is only possible to get a surgically performed abortion that higher the costs of this act are not covered by the National Insurance. 

Surgical abortion does not come without any risks for the woman’s health. Japan has a history of legalising the contraceptive pill that only came in 1999, decades after the abortion rights. And without any surprise, abortion pills remain unavailable on the island which, however, allows safer abortions for early pregnancies.

picture from: https://www.sciencespo.fr/programme-presage/en/news/countries-covid-19-responses-could-debunk-some-myths-around-abortion-pill.html

Yet, the country is very likely to approve this year a medication from Linepharma International Pharmaceutical, as talks are proceeding within the Japan Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and in the Diet. 

A little twist happened at the end of the week, with Japan anticipating the imminent legalisation of the abortion pills: a spousal consent requirement, making angry reproductive rights activists and feminists. Spousal consent is already required for surgical abortions and stays problematic as it violates a woman’s bodily integrity. Women may soon be able to drink a pill to get an abortion, but will still need their spouse’s approval to do so, which seems (is) “weird” and frankly speaking very inappropriate. 

Regardless of calls from activists to remove this clause and the evolution of the Maternal Health Act throughout the years (see my article on abortion politics in Northeast Asia), the spousal consent clause persists. 

Japan, despite having a de facto free access to abortion and the contraceptive pill, continues to be a country controlling women’s reproduction, as the high costs of the above-mentioned reproductive rights refrain many poor and middle-class women to access abortion and contraceptives medication (one of the main argument used by Simone Veil in 1974 in front of the French National Assembly to pledge for legalising abortion).

Cover picture from: http://blog.livedoor.jp/ushi3730/archives/48854574.html

An anti-feminist president and a male-dominated cabinet for South Korea

Articles
 © Reuters, https://asia.nikkei.com/Opinion/Can-South-Korea-move-beyond-gender-war-politics

The anti-feminist South Korean President Yoon chooses his cabinet, and it is everything but progressist.

Last month presidential elections were happening in South Korea. And the results of the presidential race put the country in reverse mode. Yoon Suk-Yeol, leader of the conservative People’s Power Party came out as the winner. With no political background, he has been praised for his strong anti-corruption stance (he was one of the prosecutors who helped put former President Park Geun-Hye in jail who was impeached on December 9th 2016). Yet, the race with his opponent, Lee Jae-Myung of the Democratic Party has been quite tight.

The election of Yoon raised concerns among women’s and progressive communities, as he aims at dismantling the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. Moreover, despite the decriminalisation of abortion in December 2020, Yoon also blamed the feminist for the decreasing fertility rate of the country; a very common argument found in conservative, male-dominated politics (cf. see my article on abortion politics), that has been proven wrong. However, opponent candidate Lee Jae-Myung was not the best option either as he has been in the middle of a sexual harassment scandal.

Masculinist rallies, the stronger supporters of Yoon

Men at an anti-feminist protest with signs: « 헌법수호, 유죄추정 반대 », meaning « protection of the constitution. against the presumption of guilt », photo by Sotaro Suzuki, https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/As-MeToo-reaches-South-Korea-pressured-young-men-turn-on-Moon

South Korea is one of the advanced democracies in Asia that ranks the lowest on the Global Gender Gap Report (102 out of 156 countries) and has been subject to increasing hate against women, especially from young educated men. Anti-#MeToo sit-ins were organised across Korea, in response to the movement that took an important position in the public space after the Hyehwa Station Protest on 19 May 2018 where 300,000 women marched to fight against sexism, and against “molka” crimes (spy camera crimes), commonly used as a revenge porn method. These “masculinist” rallies are also criticising “feminists” and “women” for stealing their job opportunities. Nevertheless, again, according to the Global Gender Gap Report, South Korean women are far from stealing young men’s jobs as South Korea ranks 123 out of 156 in the category of “Economic Participation and Opportunity”. Indeed, only 53,3% of women participated in the labour force in 2021. And once a woman is employed in a company she quickly faces a glass ceiling as only statistics show that only 36.3 per cent of South Korean companies have more than one woman on the board of directors and 63,7 per cent of the companies still have no women as the board, meaning only a few women access high responsibility positions. The pressure on women to carry the future sons of the nation also prevents them from having a stable and full-time jobs.

Old male-dominated cabinet

With the nomination of the new Yoon’s cabinet, we can only expect more hate against women and less opportunity for women. The new cabinet of Yoon is mostly composed of his campaign team and does not fulfil any diversity whatsoever in gender, and age. Many of the nominees are in their sixties, and we count only one woman among them – Kim Hyun-sook for the position of minister of gender equality (which is supposed to be suppressed in the near future). The future of the country seems quite dark for women’s rights, in terms of economic opportunity, political participation and body politics. The argument accusing women to be the cause of the decline of the fertility rate might as well turn over the recent decriminalisation of abortion. But, only the future will enlighten us on this topic.


Quickly understanding the Korean presidential elections

South Korea is a presidential democratic regime. The presidential election consists of a single-round plurality voting system. The president is elected for a unique five-years term by direct popular vote. The incumbent president cannot seek re-election. How does a single-round plurality voting system work? Single-round means that people vote only once. A plurality system means that the candidate who has the better score is elected. It differs from the majoritarian electoral system, where the candidate needs an absolute majority of votes to be elected. The system encourages a bi-party system. The Democratic Party: Lee Jae-Myung (47,86%) The People Power Party: Yoon Sul-Yeol (48,56%) The Justice Party: Sim Sang-Jung (2,37%) The People’s Party: Ahn Cheol-soo

References

Chung Hyunback (2020) « South Korean women’s movement: between modernisation and globalisation, » in Jieyu Liu and Junko Yamashita (eds) Routledge Handbook of East Asian Gender Studies, Routledge, Oxon and New York, pp 59-74.

Dracie Draudt (2016), « The Struggles of South Korea’s Working Women », in The Diplomat, 26 August, available at https://thediplomat.com/2016/08/the-struggles-of-south-koreas-working-women/

Dracie Draudt (2022), « What President Yoon Suk-Yeol’s Election Means for South Korean Democracy », in The Diplomat, 23 March, available at https://thediplomat.com/2022/03/what-president-yoon-suk-yeols-election-means-for-south-korean-democracy/

Global Gender Gap Report 2021 available at https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2021.pdf

Justin McCurry (2022), « Conservative candidate squeaks to victory in South Korean election », in The Guardian, 9 March, available at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/09/yoon-suk-yeol-elected-president-south-korea

Kelly Kasulis Cho (2022), « Opposition’s Yoon Wins Tight Race for South Korean Presidency », in The New York Times, 8 March, available at https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/03/08/world/korean-election

Kim Kyung-Mi and Chea Sarah (2021), « Boards appointing women as new law requires diversity » in Korea JoongAn Daily, 8 March, available at https://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/2021/03/08/business/industry/women-female-women-power/20210308194700337.html

Laura Bicker (2022), « Why misogyny is at the heart of South Korea’s presidential elections », BBC News, 8 March, available at https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-60643446

Laura Bicker (2022), « South Korea: Conservative candidate Yoon Suk-Yeol elected president », BBC News, 10 March, available at https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-60685141

Nam Hyun-woo (2022), « Yoon’s selection of Cabinet members faces mixed outlook », in The Korea Times, 4 April, available at https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2022/04/356_327127.html

OECD « Gender equality: Korea has come a long way, but there is more work to do », 25 October 2021, available at https://www.oecd.org/country/korea/thematic-focus/gender-equality-korea-has-come-a-long-way-but-there-is-more-work-to-do-8bb81613/#back-endnote4

Sophie Joeng (2019), « South Korea’s glass ceiling: the women struggling to get hired by companies that only want men » CNN, 2 February, available at https://edition.cnn.com/2019/01/31/asia/south-korea-hiring-discrimination-intl/index.html

The World Bank, « Labor force participation rate, female, Korea, Rep. » 2021, available at https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.TLF.CACT.FE.ZS?locations=KR

Exclusive: Interview with Sung, aka S.Telecom

Collab-NoJadis

We have the pleasure to share with you this wonderful interview with S.Telecom, a Korean DJ based in Paris. This interview was conducted in English, however, some of its parts are in French (with translation right away). We have decided to keep this French touch to deliver the true vibe of the interview.

The lastest mix of S.Telecom

Feminist Majo: Can you introduce yourself?

S.Telecom: My name is Sung-Eun Oh (오성은) I am Korean, I’ve been living in Paris for the past ten years, almost eleven years now. I started DJing two years ago and at the moment, I am learning music production.

Feminist Majo: How was it to grow up as a woman in South Korea and pursue the dream of becoming an artist?

S.Telecom: I grew up in a rigid conservative frame where women should act feminine, women should be girly, and be very innocent. The socialisation of young girls in Korea was very stereotypical, but it is changing right now. I had to be really careful about all of those things because I had to fit into these rules. Then I had the chance to travel to Paris ten years ago, and that trip inspired me to do art. Therefore, soon after I moved to Paris to study art. I entered the Beaux-Arts, but I didn’t really like it, so I changed to graphic design. I have a diploma in graphic design. Before being immersed in music, I worked in a fashion company. I quit everything five months ago to only focus on music.

Feminist Majo: It took a lot of courage to quit everything to pursue what you really enjoy

S.Telecom: I will see how it goes, but I feel it is the best way to test my ability and gain experience. I’m really trying for myself. I think it is really precious.

Feminist Majo: How did you choose your DJ name? Why S.Telecom?

S.Telecom: When I do art or music, I always have the desire to connect with people (notably with my selection of music). It’s like a kind of message or writing a letter to people. Hence, ‘Telecom’ was the right name for me. Also, I really wanted to search for a name that was a little kitch, and ‘telecom’ fit perfectly into this register. So, I made it into S.Telecom (S for my name Sung).

NoJadis: When was your first encounter with electronic music? 

S.Telecom: Actually, it was nine years ago in Paris. But I think I already listened to electronic music in Korea when I was younger (probably in high school), but I didn’t know what kind of music it was, I didn’t really analyse the genre of the music. I really discovered techno music nine years ago when I arrived in Paris while going out a lot with my friends. However, what motivated me to start DJing was a trip to San Francisco three years ago. I was in a club that plays only drum and bass and that music was a real shock for me. I came back to Paris and I started to learn how to DJ. My journey is marked by so many important moments.

NoJadis: If I understand well, is it drum and bass that has an effect on you?

S.Telecom: Yes, I do not really play drum and bass now, but I don’t know why the music really inspired me. It gave me a lot of motivation for DJing.

Feminist Majo: Is there a woman who inspired you to become a DJ, becoming who you are?

S.Telecom: It would be Lena Willikens. I was very inspired by her music and especially her DJ sets. It gave me huge inspiration for my will to mix because listening to her for the first time, I felt like I was watching a movie with a lot of emotions. Every time I create my DJ sets, I get energised with her universe which is related to communicating with people. Two keywords that would describe that energy would be liberty and emotion. Actually, she also studied art before, like beaux-arts which are very related to her universe.

Lena Willikens

Feminist Majo: How do you feel as a woman in the electronic music scene? Have you encountered any challenges?

S.Telecom: Actually, I didn’t realise it yet since I never felt the difference because I was a woman. It’s true there are still more men DJs and producers in the music scene, but I feel the same with them. I challenge myself like everybody does with no regard to being a woman.

Feminist Majo: Have you been subject to sexism in the music industry? 

S.Telecom: I think I’m lucky I never experience sexism. The very small difference is that inconsciemment* I try to wear not too tight clothes. When I mix I prefer wearing a large shirt. I don’t feel comfortable wearing tight shirts. We have images of sexy women, and unconsciously I think about it and therefore I wear larger clothes. I think this came from my education as a Korean woman and I want to change this stereotype. Women have the right to wear any clothes of course, but I still view this as a stereotype inflicted on women. I really want to change about myself.

*Unconsciously 

Feminist Majo: Et tu aimerais pouvoir te sentir sexy sur scène quand tu mixes? (would you like to feel sexy when you mix on stage?)

S.Telecom: Nan pas du tout haha, en fait sexy a plusieurs sens. Du coup* for me sexy is not only about appearance, it could be words or attitudes. En fait, je ne veux pas trop cacher mon univers à cause de mes vêtements sexy, c’est l’univers que je produis avec ma musique qui est plus important que moi en train de mixer dernier mes platines. Montrer mon corps c’est pas du tout mon univers. Mais ca peut être une bonne communication, une bonne pub pour les femmes DJs, on a le droit de profiter qu’on est femme, donc je respecte et j’aime voir des femmes DJs qui dans leur universe s’habillent sexy**

*No, not at all haha, in fact, ‘sexy’ has many meanings. So…

** Actually, I don’t really want to hide my universe behind sexy clothes, it’s the universe I make with my music that is the most important, not me mixing behind the turntables. Showing my body, it’s not my universe. However, it could be an amazing way to communicate, a good marketing strategy for female DJs, I mean we have the right to enjoy being a woman and hence, I respect and like seeing female DJs whose universe integrates fancy clothing.

NoJadis: Have you already mixed in South Korea? Do you feel any difference when mixing in Paris and mixing in South Korea?

S.Telecom: Malheureusement* no yet because of Covid-19, but I really want to mix in Korea. I will visit a friend this year and I have a lot of friends over there in the DJ scene. Given this, I will ask for radio shows and programmation in clubs. I hope they will be open by that time. I started DJing in public at that time covid started. Sadly I didn’t play in Seoul, but I think the scene is very different. Honêtement**, in Korea there are no drugs. In France, it is easier to get drugs, so the club culture in France relates a lot to drugs. That’s what I felt mixing in Europe. I think that will be the big difference between mixing in Paris and South Korea. The ambience will be so different.

*Sadly

**Honestly

NoJadis: How would you describe the atmosphere, the ambience in South Korea, in a club? Are there elements other than drugs that make it particular?

S.Telecom: I believe that’s why Korean people drink a lot haha (to compensate for the absence of drugs). In Korea the club’s image is about “draguer”, to meet people for dating. I cannot really describe it because the music scene changed a lot in the past three years. I will (re)try it this year and I will tell you.

NoJadis: What was your experience mixing in France apart from the “drug”?

S.Telecom: I think people have a better culture of music and they already know a lot of genres of music since their young age. That’s what I feel when I’m playing in clubs here in France. Sometimes, I meet people who know more music than I do and I feel worried and afraid haha. I think it’s more open, deep and chill. That would be the environment.

NoJadis: Are women programmed as much as men in clubs/festivals in South Korea?

S.Telecom: Actually, no. In France, a lot of women are programmed, but in Korea, not yet, it is mostly men that are programmed.

NoJadis: Where do you go to listen to music in Seoul / in Paris?

S.Telecom: The place I listen to the most music is my place, my apartment, or a disco shop, named Dizonord and Syncrophone. They are the places I go to buy vinyl.

There are also record stores in Korea: the two shops I know are Clique Records and Junction. Junction was created by a French friend in Seoul several months ago. This friend is also a famous DJ called DJ S.O.N.S. I haven’t been there yet, but I follow them on insta.

NoJadis: What was your latest finding/vinyl you bought?

S.Telecom: It’s EnzoLeep. He only releases vinyl. His music genre is more bass music, minimal techno and I bought his vinyl just for one track, <Journey>. That one track (that is more bass and break) made me buy vinyl.

NoJadis: How did you join Connect’HER

S.Telecom: I already had a small contact with Arabella, even before she created Connect’HER, so she sent me a message and proposed that I publish my DJ bio. I mixed at one of the Connect’Cercle events at the end of last year.

NoJadis: Are you working on new music production? 

S.Telecom: Yeah, for 2 months now. I only work on Ableton for the moment, but I also have friends who own music instruments designed for production so I regularly visit their place. I’m searching a lot for my real world with music production and communicating like Telecom, so it will be another way to communicate with people. I’m not really ready yet, but I’m working on it.

Most of the stuff I work on now is down-tempo and tribal. 

Feminist Majo: What do you think about the term K-House? Is there a Korean women DJ that you particularly like, would you mind sharing a sound?

S.Telecom: I think they use “house” because it’s more accessible. Everybody understands the word house, whereas trance, techno, downtempo would be really hard to get. K-down tempo personne connait. House c’est le mot pour communiquer plus facilement avec le public*.

I really like the universe of Yaeji. She’s a Korean DJ based in NY. She is very creative both in her concepts( her clips are very original) and in her music. I particularly enjoy her DJ sets. One would be her Boiler Room set in New York.

J’espère vraiment que les gens à Paris soient plus respectueux des DJs locaux**. Local DJs are so important.

*K-down tempo no one knows. ‘House’ is the word to communicate easily with the public when it comes to electronic music.

**I really hope that people in Paris be more respectful of local DJs.

Interview made on January 27th through Zoom, by Feminist Majo and NoJadis

Me, S.Telecom (Sung), and NoJadis (Noémie) at l’International in Paris

Moving bodies in underground Korea

Collab-NoJadis

(should we say K-House?)

South Korea is a rising star of the music industry. K-Pop is literally under the planet’s projectors (yes it is. I am sure you’ve all heard of BTS, Black Pink, etc). Yet, in my opinion, the badass Korean women of the music industry situate so far away from the K-pop entertainment world. And they are as famous as Korean idols on the international scene. They stand for themselves in a men-dominated world, they made themselves a name on the top floor of the house. I am sure you too know them. I might have to give some more hints. If I say, electronic music, what would come to mind? If I say house music, maybe will it be clearer? 

And if I say Peggy Gou? 

Or Yaeji? 

Or Park Hyejin? 

Yeah, now you know. Badass Korean women have besieged the electronic music scene, not only in Korea but in every club in the world. And this siege is a real act of feminism. It is true since I am telling you so. But let me give you better details.

Today I am joining hands with my sister in soul, whom I name DJ NoJadis (the one who taught me about electronic music). Here you will find the first part of our joint project No JadisXFeminist Majo. We have prepared you a delicious recipe of Korean electronic music with some spices of details about Korean DJs (all women) and how they came on the front stage of a male-dominated industry.


Women and music through history

A lil’ timeline by NoJadis


1986 – Lee Soo Man

Lee Soo Man is now known to be the CEO of SM Entertainment, one of the biggest Kpop Entertainment companies. He produces bands such as Shinee, Super Junior, Girls Generation, Red Velvet, and many more.


1999 – Lee Jung Hyun


2020 – closure of the MWG

go check on Dailymotion this video too 😇

The 21st century: engaged music and up-front presence (written by Feminist Majo)

I am not here to write to you down a list of rising Korean women DJs, no. I am here to try something different; show that these women are amazing especially because they bring the feminist dimension into their music, their way of performing and their positions in the industry; try to analyse their music and lyrics (I have la crème de la crème with me for this, aka NoJadis). 

It is well-known that the electronic (techno, house, trance, etc) scene is pretty male-dominated; and not only in South Korea, I mean, everywhere. But we women are loud, and that is for the best, especially those who know how to use turntables and vinyl, for the pleasure of our ears. 

Korean women DJs have started making a name for themselves and have taken an amazing advantage: being international. The Korean culture is sexist. South Korea ranked #111 in the Global Gender Index of 2020. In the music industry, especially in Kpop, women have to sign very strict contracts, forcing them to lose weight, forbidding them to have relationships, and shutting LGBTQIA+ voices down (despite growing support from Korean idols for the cause).

Korean women DJs have tried a different approach: being influenced by their life journey, and their openness to the world, they started for most of them mixing in their bedrooms with international references coming from the US, the UK, and even France. And it turned out to be what propels them just before our eyes. Yet, although the industry has become a little bit more equal, sexism remains “normal” in South Korea. 

Peggy Gou said in an interview with GQ, that there were a lot of hateful sexist comments under women’s DJs videos, mostly commenting on women’s look (a fashion that differs a lot from the very sexualised fashion of idols). Peggy Gou dresses the way she wants, and she seems to stand for her choices, as well as against the objectification of women. 

Yaeji started mixing in Queer Asian underground club in New York, being herself a queer artist. Being a queer Asian star of the house music already makes Yaeji one of a kind. The LGBTQIA+ culture is still cancelled a lot in South Korea, despite the independent artistic scene being more and more engaged with the cause. She took her feminist engagement to another level composing an EP (EP2) treating specific issues, such as mental health, women’s inferior position in the global society, and LGBTQIA+ issues (an advanced analysis of the title raingurl will be provided in the following section).

Park Hye Jin in her music also fought against sexist comments in her title I don’t care and points out in an interview for Antidote, that she was often reduced to her condition as a woman and treated unequally because she was a woman.

Didi Han freshly signed a contract with a French Producing House and managed to add the french romantic vibe to her Korean-born sweet melodies. Love and sexual freedom/liberation – another highly feminist topic – seems to be at the centre of her first EP “Wake up”.

In their duo, C’est Qui, Closet Yi and Naone are bringing a sense of sorority in Korean house music. Their complicity is a pleasure for the ears, as well as for the eyes. What is feminism without sorority and the support of our peer’s women?

C’est Qui, Boiler Room BUDx Seoul DJ Set, 2018
Didi Han at Djoon, 25/11/2021
Peggy Gou, Boiler Room: Streaming from Isolation #21

Musicality and lyrics

An analysis of Nabi by Peggy Gou (feat OHHYUK) (2021) (written by NoJadis)

Back in June 2021, I listened to South Korean DJ and Berlin-based producer Peggy Gou’s new single, “Nabi”, featuring indie rock band Hyukoh’s lead singer OHHYUK on my way to Berlin.

I’ve always had a thing for Peggy Gou’s tracks, ever since I came across her track “Han Jan” (2018) back when I was a student. I sensed there was something both futuristic and recalling early acid house productions, such as Mr Fingers “Can You Feel It” (1986) or Frankie Knuckles “Your Love” (1989). “Nabi” (“butterfly”) captured my interest in the same way. Here is my little analysis of its musicality.

A hypnotic set of electronic layers

The first seconds of “Nabi” set the scene. The reverbed percussions and wind instruments sound like the beginning of a reggae/dub track, think of pioneers Augustus Pablo and King Tubby’s opus (1976). The beat paves the way to a wider synth-wave, to which is added an entrancing keyboard. I immediately thought of the Italian label Dance Floor Corporation Balearic Beats productions, taking and expanding Manuel Göttsching’s E2-E4 (1984) masterpiece. To know what I mean, have a listen to Sueño Latino by Sueño Latino (1989) or Hazme Soñar by Morenas (1989).

The vinyl scratch adds a break in the atmospheric sound, impulsing urban energy to the song, introducing Peggy Gou’s ethereal voice singing Korean lyrics. A third synth layer adding new tropical-sounding chords opens the way to OHHYUK’s soft voice, which perfectly matches Peggy Gou’s. This collaboration definitely recalls that of Japanese producer Soichi Terada & Nami Shimada “Sunshower”, teleporting listeners to a Pacific Ocean rave since 1989.

An early-house revival

The song is built with the same patterns that made the success of acid house and downtempo in the late 1980s-early 1990s: a relaxing piano melody, sensual vocals, a syncopated rhythm, and a dreamy synth for a perfect summertime soundtrack. This track sounds like it could have been released on a Roland TR-808 in 1989 or 1990, in the heydays of Balearic Beats, in the wake of the so-called “Second Summer of Love”. You could be sipping sangria while staring at the sunset at Café del Mar (Ibiza, Spain), bathed by the tides of José Padilla’s ambient DJ set.

An analysis of Raingurl, by Yaeji (2017), (written by Feminist Majo)

Yaeji’s Raingurl is – in my opinion – a feminist anthem, although it is subject to many interpretations. Either interpretation you choose to agree with doesn’t make it less of a feminist anthem. 

Taking the title out of any context, “Raingurl” could definitely mean “wet and free girl”, which brings us to two possible lines of understanding.

The first is sexual, and the second is about freedom. Raingurl can explicitly mean a woman who squirts – who rains. Or, it could simply mean a girl feeling free under the rain – I know I take it to another level, but dancing in the rain is for me the definition of freedom.

“When the sweaty walls are bangin’

I don’t fuck with family planning”

I believe this verse makes it quite understandable that the song is about feminism. “Sweaty walls” in slang is nothing other than a vulva and a clitoris going up to Pluton (well in a more scientific term “being sexually excited”. The second line of the verse speaks for itself “I don’t fuck with family planning” – or, “I don’t have time for my birth control, I already orgasm”.

“Make it rain, girl, make it rain” 

The all-purpose of the refrain is to yell for women’s liberty, freedom. “Make it rain” has no other meaning than making cash money out of strip dancing. And by dancing to make money, women emancipate themselves, reach freedom – economically, socially and sexually.

And what can be more feminist than this discourse? 


Feminist Majo X NoJadis’ selection

The selection

NoJadis’ favorite

The soundtrack of my trip to Berlin in June 2021 – wandering on Frankfurter Allee, contemplating the sunset… Lightness, euphoria and nostalgia.

Marie’s favorite

The soundtrack of my rebirth – sweet, island’s drums, euphoric. Feeling so alive.

References

Alexander Dias (?), « Sound Behind the Song: “Can You Feel It” by Mr. Fingers » in Roland, available at https://articles.roland.com/can-you-feel-it-mr-fingers/

Alexander Iadarola (2017), “Yaeji Shares Shapeshifting Mix Ahead of Discwoman and YJC’s Queer Lunar New Year Party” in Vice, available at https://www.vice.com/en/article/yp493y/yaeji-queer-lunar-near-year-mix-stream

Alex Frank (2016), « The Story of Jamie Principle and Frankie Knuckles’ “Your Love,” The Sexiest Dance Cut of All Time » in Vice, available at https://www.vice.com/en/article/d7jxzv/jamie-principle-frankie-knuckles-your-love

Dave Turner  (2019), “Peggy Gou on sexism in music: “the best revenge is just me doing well”  » in Mixmag Asia, available at https://mixmag.net/read/peggy-gou-sexism-music-news/

Eleanor Halls (2018), “Peggy Gou: ‘I want to look good. If I can play a good tune, then so what?’ “ in GQ, available at https://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/article/peggy-gou-interview-sexism-in-techno

Jason Parham (2018), “Yaeji’s ‘One More’ Hops Languages, and Codes, With Purpose”, in Wired, available at https://www.wired.com/story/yaeji-one-more/

Jeanne Briatte (2020), “Women Are (Finally) at the Top of the Electronic Music Scene”, in The Culture Corner, available at https://medium.com/the-culture-corner/why-are-women-finally-at-the-top-of-the-electronic-music-scene-a56a064a4f90

Jennifer Cheng (2018), “The rising female musicians of Seoul’s underground scene” in i-D, available at https://i-d.vice.com/en_uk/article/kznx9n/the-rising-female-musicians-of-seouls-underground-scene

 Juan Carlos Gonzalez (2020), « José Padilla, The DJ Behind Cafe Del Mar Compilations, Passed Away », in EDMTunes, available at https://www.edmtunes.com/2020/10/jose-padilla-died-age-64/

Kiddest Sinke (2020), “Interview: Yaeji Speaks on Community, Intimacy & Identity in the Creative Process” in Yale Daily News, available at https://yaledailynews.com/blog/2020/04/24/interview-yaeji-speaks-on-community-intimacy-identity-in-the-creative-process/

Leina Hsu (2019), “Queer Asian American women artists you sould listen to”, in Women’s Republic, available at https://www.womensrepublic.net/queer-asian-american-women-artists-you-should-listen-to/

Les oreilles curieuses (2021), “Didi Han – Wake Up”, in les oreilles curieuses, available at “https://lesoreillescurieuses.com/2021/07/23/didi-han-wake-up/ 

Marie Solvignon (2021), “Qui est Didi Han, l’artiste de k‑house qui vient de signer sur Roche Musique” in Tsugi Magazine, available at https://www.tsugi.fr/qui-est-didi-han-lartiste-de-k-house-qui-vient-de-signer-sur-roche-musique/

Master Class Staff (2021), « Guide to Balearic Beat: A Brief History of Balearic Beat » in Master Class, available at https://www.masterclass.com/articles/balearic-beat-guide#what-is-balearic-beat

Maxime Delcourt (2019), “Rencontre avec 박혜진 Park Hye Jin, rappeuse et pionnière de la K-House” in Antidote, available at https://magazineantidote.com/musique/park-hye-jin-interview/

Natalie Sears (2018), “The Raingurl Yaeji”, in Gender Amplified, available at https://genderamplified.org/the-raingurl-yaeji/

Patrizio Cavaliere (2021), “ »I see my whole career as creation”: Didi Han talks us through the latest steps in her evolving musical journey”, in Mixmag Asia, available at https://mixmag.asia/feature/didi-han-career-creation

Sharon Walker (2018), « Thirty years since the second summer of love » in The Guardian, available at https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/jul/01/thirty-years-since-the-second-summer-of-love-1988

Tristan Gatward (2019), « The story of E2-E4 – Manuel Göttsching’s accidental masterpiece » in Loud and Quiet, available at https://www.loudandquiet.com/interview/the-story-of-e2-e4-manuel-gottschings-accidental-masterpiece/

Yuri Suzuki, “C’est Qui’ in Shure24, available at https://24.shure.com/artist/cestqui/

Zainab Hasnain (2017), « How the Roland TR-808 revolutionized music » in The Verge, available at https://www.theverge.com/2017/4/3/15162488/roland-tr-808-music-drum-machine-revolutionized-music

What does the election of the new Prime Minister in Japan mean for feminism?

Articles

Early October, Fumio Kishida —the president of the Liberal Democratic Party (later LDP)— was elected by the Parliament (Diet). On December 31st of 2021, Japanese citizens were called to cast their vote for the General Elections of the House of Representatives and the Lower house of the Diet which had been dissolved earlier by the Emperor. 

The appointment of a new Prime Minister means new political directions. Japan is known as a conservative and traditional country where the Liberal Democratic Party has led the country for several decades (except from 2009 to 2012 when the Democratic Party of Japan managed to secure the majority in Parliament). It is very unlikely that the country will take a radical turn, but gender equality is probably at stake (and not necessarily in a good position).

The Kishida, almost only-man cabinet 

After the failed attempt of Shinzo Abe’s “Womenomics” to place women at the centre of political and economic decisions, Fumio Kishida begins his mandate by striking quite hard: in a twenty-member cabinet, only three women were appointed. Karen Makishima is the Digital Minister, Noriko Horiuchi, as the Vaccine Minister, and Seiko Noda as the Minister in charge of Measures for the Declining Birth Rate. For those who read my article on abortion politics, you will probably remember Seiko Noda, who is an anti-abortion advocate. She tried to limit access to abortion in 2013 but failed to do so. Knowing that she is now in charge of finding a solution for the shrinking declining birth rate of Japan sounds like a red flag to me.

Most importantly, the Prime Minister has positioned himself quite strictly on two crucial issues apropos gender equality: same-sex marriage and a revision regarding the name of married couples. My interviewee, Hana from Japan, actually mentioned these two topics in my project “you and feminism”.

Separate names for married couples (夫婦別姓 fufubeissei)?

Picture by me, Meiji-Jingu, Setpember 2012

Japan does not recognise married couples who have different family names as article 750 of the Civil Code requires. Usually, the husband’s name prevails, but the wife’s name can also be chosen. Yet, forcing the wife to take the husband’s family name—or in fewer cases, the husband to take the wife’s family name—equates to losing one’s identity. In Japan, the marriage’s scheme is often as follows: the wife takes her husband’s name (in 95% of the cases as for 2015) and comes to live with her parents-in-law. She ends up becoming the primary caretaker of her in-laws, leaving her own family on the side. Although society is evolving, and some companies let their female employees use their maiden name, the Civil Code has been unchanged since the Meiji Era, which dates back to 1898. However, despite the article 14 of the Constitution which principles state equality between the sexes, women remain, second-hand citizens, when it comes to healthcare, employment, the wage gap and house cores. Being able to go by their own family names as well as being married would, in addition to being recognised equally to their male counterparts, give them better visibility as individuals. It would also let them embody their strength and credibility to society and the workplaces and simply would empower them as women. 

The Diet, with a majority of the LDP members and mainly composed of men, has been summoned by the Supreme Court to debate on the issue after a lawsuit was filed claiming that the Civil Code and the Family Registration law goes against the Constitution’s principle of equality between the sexes. In addition to the top court’s rule to maintain the 2015 Supreme Court judgement forcing married couples to share the same family name, the newly elected Prime Minister Fumio Kishida publicly expressed his opposition to changing the system at the Japan National Press Club in October 2021, being the only members being against a future revision of the law. 

The Diet, with a majority of the LDP MPs and mainly composed of men, has been summoned by the Supreme Court to debate on the issue after a lawsuit was filed claiming that the Civil Code and the Family Registration law goes against the Constitution’s principle of equality between the sexes. In addition to the top court’s rule to maintain the 2015 Supreme Court judgement forcing married couples to share the same family name, the newly elected Prime Minister Fumio Kishida publicly expressed his opposition to changing the system at the Japan National Press Club in October 2021, being the only members being against a future revision of the law.

Japan, the only G7 country to not recognise same-sex marriage

Japan is the only G7 country that does not recognise same-sex marriage. Fumio Kishida has stated his resistance to the legalisation of same-sex marriage. His party (LDP) is publicly opposing the law, yet the LDP with the Komeito, in favour of marriage equality, opens a window of opportunity. A light of hope remains for the future legalisation of same-sex marriage nationwide.

This window of opportunity was taken by Yuriko Koike, governor of Tokyo, who publicly announced that same-sex partnerships will be recognised and made legal by April 2022. If this is not the legalisation of same-sex marriage, this decision marks a major step toward marriage equality and was saluted by LGBTQIA+ activists as well as the international scene. It will allow same-sex couples to gain several rights that were for now reserved to heterosexual married couples, such as renting places together or visiting a sick partner at the hospital. 

Only-woman talks, putting women at the centre of decisionmaking?

On a more positive note, the government appointed the former Minister of Justice Masako Mori as a special advisor on women’s participation in politics and society and has promised to hold across the country non-mixed only women gathering to discuss women’s issues, such as employment, the care, as well as how the Covid-19 has impacted women (on a greater deal than men). Indeed, the healthcare and employment systems in Japan are designed under the patriarchal ruling, which disadvantages women. Although women in the labour forces increased in the past couple of years, Japanese women rarely acquire “regular” positions—they mostly work as part-timers, or contract workers—without mentioning a significant wage gap between male and female workers. In addition, Japan’s welfare system is a “welfare through work and welfare through marriage model” meaning, it protects regular workers (men) who hold secure positions while assuming that “women will eventually marry and be supported by their husband”. (Miura in Kano, 2018: 6-7) 

Moreover, the Covid-19 crisis has forced women to step down from their jobs in order to take care of their children confined at home due to the closure of the school. This resulted in increased stress, putting women in danger (mental health, economic security).

I could go one with the failing Japanese political system that put women on the bench condemning them to economic poverty, or the burden to produce babies to avoid the labour shortage Japan is facing, but it is not the main topic of this article. 

The only-woman talks are supposed to begin in January 2022. I hope it will come with good results. Although the picture for feminism right now in Japan seems very dark, there is still a flame that burns to show the right way toward better equality.

References

Arielle Busetto (2021), « Meet the Kishida Cabinet: A Few Holdovers, More Women, and a Host of First-timers » in Japan Forward, Oct 21, available at https://japan-forward.com/meet-the-kishida-cabinet-a-few-holdovers-more-women-and-a-host-of-first-timers/

Ayako Kano (2018), « Womenomics and Acrobatics: Why Japanese Feminists Remain Skeptical about Feminist State Policy » in Feminist Encounters: A Journal of Critical Studies in Culture and Politics, 2(1), 06.

Elaine Lies (2021), « LGBTQ groups cheer Tokyo’s same-sex partnership move as big step forward » in Reuters, Dec 8, available at https://www.reuters.com/article/japan-lgbt-marriage-idUKKBN2IN0ET

Emily Boon (2021), « Japan’s General Election: A Step Towards Marriage Equality? » in Tokyo Review, Oct 31, available at https://www.tokyoreview.net/2021/10/japans-general-election-a-step-towards-marriage-equality/

Justin McCurry (2021), « ‘I can’t go on’: women in Japan suffer isolation and despair amid Covid job losses » in The Guardian, March, available at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/29/i-cant-go-on-women-in-japan-suffer-isolation-and-despair-amid-covid-job-losses

Natsuki Okamura and Akira Minami (2021), « Kishida vague on spending plan; opposes law for LGBT individuals » in Asahi Shimbun, Oct 19, available at https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14463878

News Wire (2021), « Japan rules government’s same-sex marriage ban is ‘unconstitutional' » in France 24, March 17, available at https://www.france24.com/en/asia-pacific/20210317-japan-rules-government-s-same-sex-marriage-ban-is-unconstitutional

The Japan News by the Yomiuri Shimbun (2021), « Japan’s government to hold women-only talks, starting next month » in The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec 23, available at https://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0008120847

The Japan Times (2021), « Japan’s top court says forcing couples to share surname is constitutional » in The Japan Times, June 23, available at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/06/23/national/crime-legal/top-court-surname-ruling/

Thisanka Siripala (2021), « Japan’s Same Surname Law for Married Couples Is in the Hands of the Diet » in The Diplomat, July 8, available at https://thediplomat.com/2021/07/japans-same-surname-law-for-married-couples-is-in-the-hands-of-the-diet/#:~:text=Society%20%7C%20East%20Asia-,Japan’s%20Same%20Surname%20Law%20for%20Married%20Couples,the%20Hands%20of%20the%20Diet&text=Sharing%20a%20surname%20after%20marriage,the%20Supreme%20Court%20last%20month.

Tomoyuki Kobayashi, Masaharu Maeda, Yui Takebayashi and Hideki Sato (2021), « Traditional Gender Differences Create Gaps in the Effect of COVID-19 on Psychological Distress of Japanese Workers » in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(16).

To go further

For more information on Womenomics

Taiwan, demystifying sex and pleasure

Interview

Sex is definitely a taboo in today’s society, and homosexual sex is even more hidden. Yet, we exist through sexual intercourse. Sex education has been on the feminist agenda for a long time in the West. Although sex education remains rare in school, we witness a better approach to the topic by Education Authorities as well as better inclusivity and positivity. (I’m actually working with high school students at the moment to develop a sex education and gender equality awareness week, but that’s another topic! ). How is it happening in Northeast Asia? Is sex health and education to pleasure in Taiwan getting more awareness? And how about the LGBTQIA+ community?

*A quick reminder: Taiwan became in May 2019 the first country in Asia that legalise same-sex marriage.

On my journey to better understand Asian feminisms, I met Amanda from Taiwan. We exchanged on the LGBTQIA+ community, on the lack of sex education in Taiwanese schools and on how to demystify pleasure, making it less of a taboo.

*Cover picture; Spider Lilies (2008), film directed by Zero Chou

Amanda, Taiwan

“Sometimes self-care is super green spirulina smoothies or hearty hotcakes, but sometimes it’s buying yourself a vibrator.”

Amanda and I discussed sex education

Hello, thank you so much for being part of this project that aims at capturing the essence of Asian feminism. Can you first, present yourself briefly?

My name is Amanda. I’m an undergraduate student, my major is Math. I’m Taiwanese and currently reside in Taiwan. Since this is going to be about gender equality and the LGBTQ+ community, I would like to say that I kind of found out that I was not straight when I was in middle school (12 years old) because I had a massive crush on one of my friends. It was a big shock for me at the time as I didn’t really know about the concept of gays and lesbians. I quickly accepted my sexuality, though. I didn’t go through that much of a struggle. Although I have to point out that when I came out to my parents, they were shocked and… pissed. They still believe that sexuality is something that people can change like it’s entirely a personal choice. But it doesn’t work that way. In my own experience, I think sexuality is a COMBINATION of biological factors plus personal choice. But my parents are pretty stubborn about it. They keep saying that it’s because I haven’t found the right guy. They’re like: « One day you’re gonna find a guy you really like. » but I’m like: « Nahhh, that’s not going to happen. »

Do you consider yourself a feminist?

To be honest, not really, I’ve never really considered this type of thing before. But I do support gender equality. I don’t particularly identify myself with any kind of category. 

I’m not against it, and I do support it. Ummm…let’s say, I’m not an advocate, but I’m supportive of the essence and the concept of it.

So in your opinion, feminism is linked to advocacy?

Ummm, yeah, I think it is. Like I’m not the type of person who would go on parades. Speaking of which, there have been several gay parades in Taiwan. However, I’ve never been to any one of them. I’m just like showing my mental or spiritual support for the movement, not like outwardly taking actions. But on the inside, I know I’m definitely supportive of the concept of gender equality.

What would be your definition of feminism?

In my view, feminism is essentially about supporting gender equality between both genders – well, not necessarily both genders, but ALL kinds of genders should have equal rights in all respects, not just things like marriage.

How your coming out/you, knowing that you were not straight kind of shaped your consciousness about gender equality? As part of a sexual minority, how do you feel in Taiwan, how is hard or not hard to be part of the LGBT community in Taiwan? Did you face harassment or discrimination regarding your sexuality?

Basically, everybody around me knows that I’m a lesbian, and I’m pretty open about it. I don’t view it as a secret. If anyone asks me, I’ll just tell them candidly. I feel truly lucky because almost every one of my friends is so supportive of who I am, I’m just really grateful for that. I don’t think I’ve ever faced any kind of discrimination or harassment due to my sexuality or because of whom I identify with.

However, when I was with my ex-girlfriend, her mom was livid because she was really tomboyish. She dresses up as a boy, basically. So I presume on her part she definitely faced a lot of discrimination and felt out of place in her environment. That’s what I saw when I was together with her. But personally, I’ve never experienced this kind of… ummm… unfair treatment.

Is, you being a witness of this discrimination, which is linked to gender stereotypes that women should be feminine and boys should be masculine, shaped your consciousness on gender inequality?

This is something quite interesting for me. I’m currently doing therapy – I’ve been doing therapy for over two years. I used to be more tomboyish than I am now. I think it’s linked to body image, in a way. Like in my own experience, I used to be very self-conscious about my appearance, or how I presented myself to other people. But thanks to therapy, now I’ve been able to appreciate myself more. What I find interesting is that, ever since I started seeing myself in a different light, I think I have become more feminine… and I do not know why… but I like this feeling. I’m like embracing different aspects of me that I would otherwise not have been aware of. Also a fun fact: I just recently changed my profile picture on a messaging app that I use with my family, which is of me with my hair down. And the funny part is that I’m actually really worried that my mom will think that I’ll turn straight, solely based on the fact that I APPEAR more feminine. But it doesn’t work that way.

Do you think that Taiwan is promoting enough gender equality? What would you like to see change?

That’s a good question. I feel that Taiwan is pretty fair on everyone. That said, there are definitely parts of the community that are not being seen or heard enough. Even though personally, I feel I’m being treated fairly.

I’d like to see people’s attitudes towards sex change, especially Asian women — or maybe more specifically, Taiwanese women. In my experience, they appear to be so conservative about sex. The majority of the society still views sex as a taboo, but it’s actually biological and very natural. What needs to be addressed is our approach towards sex education. We are not getting enough correct information with regard to sex. I feel that sex education in Taiwan is from the perspective of heterosexual people, which might be very confusing for people who do not necessarily identify as heterosexual. It should be a subject in school or at least a topic mentioned in school. For instance, when we talk about masturbation, most of the time it’s about male masturbation. When the subject of masturbation comes up, people automatically think of guys, and neglect women. But it’s really normal, women are biologically animals too and we have desires, which is just natural.

Most of my knowledge about sex was learned when I started my relationship with my ex. We were experimenting with different kinds of… intimacy, and so we read articles, bought books and watched videos, in a way it was self-studying. The main idea is that we really deserve to treat ourselves better and give ourselves pleasure.

Is there a personal story related to feminism, sexism or gender equality that you would like to share?

It’s more of a fact than a personal story. As I’ve mentioned, our society here in Taiwan is pretty conservative and people, especially women, do not talk about sex. When we do people tend to shy away. However, recently I’ve been trying to have conversations with my friends about sex, and whenever this topic comes up, people actually like digging into it, more than they are willing to admit. And it’s funny. I’ve been talking to several of my friends about masturbation and generally about sex. I’ve found that they are actually very intrigued by it. If nobody brings up the topic, people are just going to pretend that they don’t care, but they actually care a great deal. Initially, I brought up the subject because I was curious (as a lesbian, I’ve only dated girls, and I probably won’t ever date guys), about what sex is like from a woman’s point of view with a guy. So in order to satiate my curiosity, I asked one of my straight friends and we moved towards the discussion on sex with different genders.

Can you share a picture, artwork, song, book, film, quote that you would like to associate with this interview?

I’ve found one but it’s not word for word because I saw this quote in an Instagram post, but unfortunately, the page seems to have been removed. The page used to be run by psychotherapist Nicole Arzt (author of “Sometimes Therapy Can Be Awkward”). So the quote I’d like to share is:

“Sometimes self-care is super green spirulina smoothies or hearty hotcakes, but sometimes it’s buying yourself a vibrator.”

Illustration by Simon Abranowicz

I think this quote really resonates with the topic because, since we talked about the misconceptions or taboos surrounding female masturbation, I think it’s important that we acknowledge that masturbation is entirely healthy and should not be frowned upon as it’s now. It’s a means to caress and explore our physical selves. Pleasure comes in various forms, and so does self-care. At the end of the day, it’s really about finding what you are comfortable with and what makes you feel at home in your own body and mind. We as women deserve all sorts of pleasure as much as men or any other gender does.

The Witch’s sex toys selections

Coco by Puissante

Coco, by Puissante, is (omg) THE Sex Toy to own. Puissante is a French-owned brand that developed a sex toy thought for every person with a vulva. It has two different sides: a clit sucker (yes we love that) and a vibrator that can function at the same time. Waterproof, sweet soft surgical silicon, you are certain to reach the 7th sky.

*For more info: https://puissante.co/en#

Ocean by Fun Factory

photo by me

Ocean, by Fun Factory, is literally a wave of pleasure (or should I say multiple waves*). Its texture is so soft and squeezy. The design is damn cute and its price is affordable for a first quality sex toy. A better symphony of pleasure than Mozart’s.

Powerful China means powerful women

Interview

China is probably the country in Eastern Asia I know the less about. However, China has fascinated me all my childhood (my parents are highly responsible for this because they lived in China in the early 1990s and had narrated many stories). What I loved the most about China was the stories and legends about women, their beauty, the way they dress. I was completely under their charms, and I was carrying with me (yes in primary school) a book called Le secret d’un prémon (the secret of a name) written by Lisa Bresner, illustrated by Frédérick Mansot, calligraphy by Fan Yifu (Actes Sud Junior, 2003) all the time. Therefore, I thought that I could not do an interview project about feminism in Asia without interviewing a Chinese woman. And I met Yatong, (through my friend Lydia).

*Cover picture: from The Empress of China (2014), directed by Go Yik Chun

Yatong Wang, China

Empress Wuzetian (武則天)

Interview

Hello, thank you so much for being part of this project that aims at capturing the essence of Asian feminism. Can you first, present yourself briefly?

I’m Yatong WANG, a student of MIC (cultural management) in Sciencespo Lille. I come from Beijing, China.

Do you consider yourself a feminist?

Yes !

If yes, where, from who (e.g. family, friends, professors, public figures…), when and how did you build your feminist consciousness?

I think that should be from my friends and those opinions I have seen on the internet ( famous people or famous groups).

What is YOUR definition of feminism?

I believe feminism is a way for women to gain equal rights as well as men. That means rights and equal opportunities for elections, jobs, education and all the things in the world.

Do you consider that your country is promoting enough gender equality? What would you like to see change in your country?

Compared with other Asian countries, Chinese women have much more rights and equality, but still, it is not enough. I would like to see the patriarchal society being changed, as more women in the political arena, and at positions of power.

Is there a personal story related to feminism, sexism, gender equality that you would like to share?

When I was in primary school, we always heard teachers or parents saying that boys were good at studying but girls were not. In fact, after the final exam, the girls in my class proved that girls could get better grades than boys.

Can you share a picture/artwork, song, book, film, quote that you would like to associate with this interview?

This is an image of Wuzetian, empress regnant of the Wu Zhou dynasty of China, who ruled from 690 to 705. She is the only female emperor in ancient Chinese history.

Wuzetian (武則天)

Wuzetian (武則天), the Empress we want to know more about

Directed by Fang Peilin, the film starred Gu Lanjun as the titular character (1939)
Les culottées #3, l’Histoire de Wu Zetian (in french)
Directed by Li Han-hsiang (1963)

Rising Sun, Growing Thoughts

Interview

Japan is probably one of a rare country where tradition and modernity walk in hands. It is almost like robots are welcoming you in a temple or a shrine. If modernity (especially scientific modernity) founds its legitimate place within a country of traditions and history, why can not women’s empancipation? With Hana, we talked about the problem of definition, the issue of growing in a men’s world, education and the law.

* Cover picture; Still the Water (2014), film directed by Naomi Kawase

Hana, Japan

« People laughed at the way I dressed, but that was the secret of my success. I didn’t look like anyone » – Coco Chanel

Interview

Hello, thank you so much for being part of this project that aims at capturing the essence of Asian feminism. Can you first, present yourself briefly?

My name is Hana, I am from Japan. Although I originally majored in human rights law, I now study Japanese domestic law in order to obtain a national licence to work in the field of international human rights in Japan.

Do you consider yourself a feminist?

I consider myself a feminist.

Can you tell what YOUR definition of feminism is?

Giving a definition of “feminism” can be tricky, because in Japan, when people understand “feminism” as “the equality between men and women”, and “the rights for women”. I think, if you stand for equality, then you are a feminist. In a broad way, feminism is about women but includes as well other genders. It aims not only women, men can also be feminists. The concept of equality should be determined too. For instance, treating men and women exactly the same might not represent the meaning behind equality in this situation. We have to think about how we can include the LGBTQIA+ community, how we can end men discriminating against women, and how we can fight against gender stereotypes that men and women reproduce. In Japan, the centuries of masculine domination, and the importance of the tradition has led many gender social construct and stereotypes to perpetuate. 

From where, from who, from when and how did you build your feminist consciousness?

At first, I did not consider myself a feminist, since I was not sure I could use this word to define myself, especially because I too have inculcated many stereotypes and my actions sometimes follow these stereotypes. Well, everybody does. I did not feel legitimate and did not have the confidence to voice it out loud.

I do not remember who. However, I remember how and when. I think it was when I encountered a Twitter post reading, “if you say you are not a feminist, it means against gender equality, and you are on the opposite side”. It triggered me because I am definitely not against gender equality. You do not need to be perfect as a feminist to call yourself a feminist. Starting this moment, I acknowledged I am a feminist, and I can grow from it, I can dig into feminism as a subject of study and live as a feminist”. 

I reckon although that the roots of my engagement and interests in gender equality and human rights come from my mom’s education. She influenced me a lot heading toward this direction. She was always proclaiming that “it’s women’s time now. It’s time for women to work and go out. You can be anyone you want to be.” That empowered me considerably. Maybe it is her “the who”.

There are also public figures who comforted me into building my feminist consciousness. I really love Emma Watson. I was following her on social media, and I have been reading articles about her advocacy and feminist-related activities.

Do you think that Japan is promoting enough gender equality? What would you like to see change in your country?

I do not think Japan is doing well for gender equality as a modern democracy. I feel things are changing, especially among younger generations. We observe better inclusivity and visibility of women, gender and sexual minorities, but still, Japan remains a really close-minded country. It already has a deeply established political and social system that is very hierarchical and vertical. The older male politicians stay in power. The status quo will be hard to shake. It might take decades.

Most of the changes made to date are related to social disturbances such as the fast-ageing society and the shrieking of the fertility rate in Japan. Women’s rights are advancing in the name of possible labour shortage, and economic distress rather than in the name of feminism. Tradition prevails.  

The hot issue these days is “fufubessei” 夫婦別姓 which means “different names for a married couple”. The new Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida mentioned his strong opposition against a possible evolution regarding different family names in a married couple. Being able to get married and for women to keep their birth name is in contradiction to the patrilineal tradition, although it is something that could be easily changed since people are really interested in this topic. 

The other matter concerns LGBTQ rights. The LGBTQ community is gaining more visibility (although not that much) in the media. Same-sex marriage is still not allowed on the national scale. However, the city of Tokyo is about to recognise same-sex unions, which could lead to a potential evolution nationwide in the near future. 

What I want to change is education, since education is the key to societal growth. I remember that we never mentioned LGBTQ or gender equality and sex education in school. I think it is a major problem because it is crucial to know about these topics to get better attention as well as be able to change mentalities. And also we need to educate older people. And Covid-19 happening now just proves that people are sometimes forced to adjust their ways of life. Maybe this pandemic might become the starting point for global social change.

Do you have a personal story (or stories) that you would like to share related to gender equality, sexism, etc?

This story occurred in the United Kingdom. There were some boys who were completely fond of Japanese manga/anime, and I am really proud that my culture has such radiance abroad because it can be a nice topic of discussion. However, very often, some of these guys had an idealised image of Japanese girls as being naive, following what men say, not arguing, cute, and quiet. And I have felt disgusted by the way there were seeing me, the same way manga and anime portray women. They expected me to act like a manga character. That was something I never experienced in Japan. They fetishised me for being a Japanese woman.

In Japan, it really common to be confronted with sexist behaviours and be victims of harassment in packed trains. I already faced that kind of sexual harassment when going to university. What can I do? I need to take the train to go to class. However, I do not want to lose time for that for those stupid guys who are uneducated. But at the same time to improve the situation, I have to speak out loud and say something. I am really annoyed that gender-based violence and harassment is mostly happening to women and literally every day. Thankfully, it exists “only women” cars in Tokyo at peak hours, which can ease some women to get on the train without stressing the possible fact that they are going to be harassed. 

Can you share a picture, artwork, song, book, film, quote that you would like to associate with this interview?

« People laughed at the way I dressed, but that was the secret of my success. I didn’t look like anyone » – Coco Chanel.


Formose testimonies

Interview

I discovered Taiwan (its politics and specificities) while studying Asian Politics at SOAS. My supervisor, specialist on Taiwan politics issues, really made me a Taiwan nerd (which I was not before). I study Taiwan gender politics during the year the law on same-sex marriage was legalised. And while I was researching for my dissertation on abortion politics, I really engaged with Taiwan’s history and especially the women’s movements’ history. Taiwan is a pearl in Asia for those who study gender equality. Its civil society is vibrating, and it is a privilege and an honour to be able to talk and engage with wonderful Taiwanese women who will create the Taiwan of tomorrow. With Ting-Sian, we talk over the phone for around two hours, and we could have talked longer. She/they is/are such an inspiration to me, she/they is/are empowering me, she/they is/are helping me expand my definition of feminism.

Ting-Sian, Taiwan

« Each time a woman stands for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women » – Maya Angelou

Journey to your body, periods, anatomy, pleasure: a discussion between Ting-Sian and Marie


Interview

Hello, thank you so much for being part of this project that aims at capturing the essence of Asian feminism. Can you first, present yourself briefly?

My name is Liu Ting-Sian, I am from Taiwan and my pronouns are she/they, I identify as a lesbian/pansexual. I initially majored in anthropology and I recently graduated from SOAS University of London in gender studies.

Ting-Sian, can you tell what YOUR definition of feminism is?

The definition I used when talking to my parents would be that « feminism » aims at achieving gender equality, simply for women to have the same rights as men. However, deep in mind, my definition of feminism is not limited to that simple understanding. It is a whole process and a long-term construction. If I was drinking in a pub with my sisters, I would say that women should rule the world (*laughed). But my closest understanding of feminism is to erase all forms of oppression. It has therefore an intersectional dimension. This definition grew while I was studying at SOAS. SOAS is an amazing place to question yourself and the world surrounding you and emphasizes issues such as how to end oppression and focuses on intersectionality. To achieve the radical change of society works with all forms of oppression. I have to say that feminism, especially the one depicted in Taiwanese books seem to have omitted the overlapping of concepts such as intersectionality, race, ethnicity and class struggle and disability. Feminism in Taiwan remains mostly under the influence of white middle-class feminism and therefore limits itself.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? If you do, from where who when and how did you build your feminist consciousness?

I grew up in a family that prioritizes men over women. I needed to try so much harder to gain the same attention and receive the same compliments as my brother from my parents. My family is quite conservative when it comes to gender issues, which could be surprising since they tend to advocate for labour and environmental rights. So, while growing up, I felt something was off. Why do I, as a woman, need to try so much harder than men? At that time, I wanted to be a man because it could have been so much easier. So I believe, growing up in such a family, and having so many questions about my position as a girl in this environment was the starting point towards my feminist journey.

I had to go to University to further dig into feminism. Secondary education in Taiwan is really heavy and doesn’t leave space for students to explore their own interests. Therefore, in University, I found myself with a lot of free time. It was the perfect moment to start reading books and materials online about feminism and gender equality. My first interaction with feminism was through Facebook. I was following feminist thinkers and students that were commenting on facebooks’ news publication about sexism. Then, I came across Paris Shih’s books about homosexual desire within girls and the feminine power within popular culture. He is my earlier influence on feminism. This growing interest led me to take feminist theory modules. To be honest I would be super attentive and excited about this class while being less motivated when attending other modules. I also attended the Gender Equality of the Student Union. Finally, I enrolled in a MA in Gender Studies.

To sum up my evolution of consciousness of mine, I would say that I became a feminist by practising feminism.

You said that you identify as a lesbian/pansexual woman using the she/they pronoun. Could you tell us a little about your identity and sexuality journey?

The all genders identity journey is quite recent, whereas, my sexuality has deeper roots.

In Junior High, I first noticed I had a crush on a girl, and I told my friends about it. They were pretty cool. This is probably because of my position as Han Chinese (the ethnic majority of Taiwan), my privilege of being educated in an urban, middle-classed area and having friends coming from liberal families. Moreover, me being educated and smart was like a joker card given to me in order to « be forgiven of my so-called sins ».

In senior high school, I became more comfortable talking about sexuality in general, especially because I was mostly surrounded by girls (although it was not an all-girl school), who were quite open about their sexuality. This safe environment (outside of the home) really helped me build my sexual identity. My identity building is a long process that I am still ongoing. I did actually not identify as a lesbian until I dated my ex-girlfriend. I felt more pansexual because I am attracted to all gender. But considering myself a lesbian through the time, and dating girls strengthened my identity and my understanding of feminism. However, I did not really acknowledge all processes of me becoming this person in terms of sexual identity, until quite recently. I started reflecting about my coming out process in the past few months, as I suddenly thought about the girl I had a crush on back in the years and I have been wondering how she is. Honestly, the idea of coming out is western and liberal and does not represent a necessity in the LGBTQIA+ community in Taiwan, even today despite the recent legalisation of same-sex marriages.

I did not come out to my parents, and extended family, and that is something I do not want to do, and that I am comfortable not doing although I had a long relationship with a girl. I would say I kind of came out to my friends if we understand « coming out » as telling and labelling who you are to your friends.

When it comes to my gender identity, I said before that this is quite new to me, to actually question myself. The whole « pronoun thing » is so new. In Taiwan, we do not really value the meaning of pronouns. In Mandarin, in spoken language, when you refer to « he, she, or they » it all sounds the same « ta ». There is no gender, even though in the written language there would be gendered pronouns. When I came to the UK to study, the concept of pronouns was a culture shock. The first thing I was asked when sitting for the first time in my gender studies class was to speak my pronouns and I completely freaked out since I did not know this pronouns thing. Panicking I started the year by choosing « she/her » which are the pronouns associated with female biological bodies. But gradually I learnt what « they/them » mean, as well as the concept of non-binary. Retrospecting over my pronouns through the year in London, I can proudly say now that my pronouns are she/they.

Anyway, gender and sexuality are fluid, but when looking back the moment I knew I had a crush on a girl was the starting point of me not being heterosexual. I must, however, point out that I do not fit into the lesbian circle of Taiwan, which remains somehow binary: either you need to be feminine, or you need to look like a « tomboy » and this mindset is way too awkward to me.

Do you think that Taiwan is promoting enough gender equality? What would you like to see change in your country?

Taiwan is well known to be the first country in Asia that legalise same-sex marriage. I was outside of Parliament the day the law was adopted. It was raining all day, nevertheless, surprisingly, the moment before same-sex marriage was officially voted, the rain stopped and the sun came out with a rainbow as if it was always meant to be. I am so happy I was part of that milestone event. But back to our sheep, there are so many things to be done in terms of gender equality in Taiwan, and having a female president (Tsai Ing-wen) does not always mean working better on gender equality issues. I think that Taiwan is seen on the international scene as a relatively gender-equal place in Asia. But, it is not my life experience at all. Well, the progress made by Taiwan in terms of gender equality did indeed boost its visibility in the international space, however in reality the government is not doing enough. 

A recent incident called “Deepfake” is one example among many others showing that the government is not taking gender issues seriously, and how gender issues should be addressed. The “Deepfake” app has been used in combining women’s faces (and some public celebrities) with the bodies of X-rated actresses, and pornographic videos. In addition to violating human rights and clearly being a form of revenge porn, some of the perpetrators were paid to create these videos. Sexual violence in intimate relationships in Taiwan is quite prevalent, which makes the entire society sexualise women’s bodies all the time. The main problem here is not that the government is not taking action against this use of “Deepfake”, the problem is the line the government is using to denounce it. Indeed, the government is addressing the issue through the spectrum of human rights as “Deepfake” produces fake news that would jeopardise democracy, instead of addressing it as an issue of gender-based violence. Revenge porn is always a matter of gender-based violence in my opinion. Therefore, the government is, in some ways, hiding the essence of the problem: sexual harassment and sexism. And this is not restricted to “Deepfake” and revenge porn. Despite women being kidnapped and murdered in Taiwan, the Parliament and the Judicial Court will always focus on the personal behaviour of the perpetrators/murderer and not treat it as a social phenomenon that is gender-based violence, erasing all possible forms of public awareness of sexual violence. 

Taiwan enjoys its portrayal of a gender equality engaged country thanks to the international media, but when women are asking for better equality and more engagement, it gaslights women’s feelings, arguments that Taiwan is already doing enough. I can not deny the fact that Taiwan has passed many laws to achieve gender equality, however, these laws are not implemented in the right way, which leads to victim-blaming, trauma consequences and forgiveness of the perpetrator (or only small sentences/fines). I wish that the legal sector would be willing to talk and educate about sexual harassment and sexism. I hope that more and more women will be sharing their experiences and their stories. I have been empowered and moved by how others share their experiences, so I started to share my stories occasionally as I am entitled to the right to do. I am trying to be brave! 

Transfeminism is a need in our globalised world, and I think women from all around the world need to work collectively. 

Being outside of the Legislative Yuan, when they legalised same-sex marriage must have been of a lifetime event!  I am really happy to hear you talk about it. I feel too that governments are avoiding putting words on sexual harassment, and rather use a human rights’ line of argument. That said, I think they tend to forget that women are humans too, and that sexual harassment and sexism need to be addressed as gender-based violence, as crimes against women. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about your country’s engagement for more gender equality. I join you in saying that transfeminism is a need. It actually reminded me of something Virginia Woolf wrote: “As a woman, I have no country. As a woman, I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world”. 

I’d like to ask you a more personal question. You mentioned earlier that you feel empowered and moved by how other women share their experiences and that you are trying to be brave in sharing your stories as well. Do you have a personal story (stories) that you would like to share related to gender equality, sexism, etc? Oh, I think we women, when asked this question, only recall bad or traumatic events, but there are also inspiring and happy stories to share too.

Indeed, you did well reminding me that there are happy stories too. And these stories are such an achievement. As I am in mandatory quarantine after returning from the United Kingdom, I did think about many stories to share with you, and mostly bad/sad ones. Let me tell you two things I have experienced that make me want to fight even more for gender equality. And then I would like to share a cute story I just thought of. 

There has always been a comparison between me and my brother, essentially made by my dad, but also by my family in general. My brother, because a man, was seen as more rational, to have a better sense of logic than I do, which is factually wrong since I excelled in logic-oriented fields such as maths for the college entrance exam (doing much better than my so-called rational brother). However, despite my good grades and the investment I put in my studies, my dad never admitted that I was more rational than my brother. 

In addition to everyday sexism on the street, such as men staring at your legs when wearing shorts or skirts, I also witnessed something which really shocked me. The year of my university graduation, with five girls from my anthropology programme, I went on a fieldwork trip with the Youth Association whose members ranged from ten to thirty-five years old. The final night of the trip, we were all sitting around chatting, when suddenly, the president of the association grabbed a young high school boy and asked him to grade all the girls present at the scene according to their appearance – including me, we were six to eight girls. We tried to stop him in vain as he kept gaslighting that it was a joke and continued on asking the boys to grade the girls from one to ten. This incident really triggered me on how I used in the past to negotiate my inferiority as a woman, with other skills (like intelligence). But how much you try to negotiate, you appear as a woman, because you are a woman, you will always remain a target. 

But the cute story, actually, is a story that gives strength. Actually, being in a queer relationship for two years, and being surrounded by my sisters, not my sisters in blood, but my sisters in soul, helped me unlearn my heteronormative education. I always feel safe within these relationships. We are listening to each other, we give thoughtful advice to each other. For example, I am a latecomer in using tampons, and it is really hard to use them. But the women around me were there to show me (with words) how to squat, how to look in the mirror while inserting a tampon. These discussions, tips-sharing are really empowering.

*More about our discussion about body and periods on the Soundcloud link on the upper-left*

Can you share a picture, artwork, song, book, film, quote that you would like to associate with this interview?

I have this quote in mind: “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women” – Maya Angelou.

There is also a song called 光 (Pride), means the light, by Enno Deng, a publicly out lesbian and musician in Taiwan. This song describes how people still hold on to each other walking through the darkness and walking toward the light. It gives me strength, and I hope that it gives you too.

(1) to go deeper, for those who can read traditional Chinese (system used in Taiwan), here is Paris Shih’s website

* Cover picture: Nina Wu (2019), directed by Midi Z and written by Wu Ke‑xi

The Voices of Korea

Interview

Despite being a fictional character, Hermione Granger was more than right when saying in Harry Potter The Chamber of Secret « fear of a name only increase fear of the thing itself ». I would change this a little bit and write down instead « fear of the word feminism only increase fear of feminism itself ». Chaelim and Jian are very conscious of what the fear of the word feminism is doing to their country, and both embodied their own version of ‘Hermione Granger’ by stepping out and trying to go over the fear of a word.

I invite you to read these strong voices of Korea 🇰🇷

Chaelim, South Korea

« 아빠가 라면을 끓이면 자상한 아빠 엄마가 라면을 끓이면 나쁜 엄마 아들이 라면을 먹으면 불쌍한 내 아들 딸이 라면을 먹으면 게으른 딸 »

Interview

Hello, thank you so much to be part of this project that aims at capturing the essence of Asian feminism. Can you first, present yourself briefly?

Hello, I am Chaelim from South Korea. I am 21 years old and I identify as a cis woman.

Chaelim, can you tell us what is YOUR definition of feminism?

For me feminism is a movement that aims at destroying the patriarchy, and empower and liberate women.

That is a strong and powerful definition that you gave us, thank you. Do you consider yourself a feminist ? If you do, from where, who when and how did you build your feminist consciousness ?

Yes. I consider myself a feminist.
I honestly wasn’t aware of feminism that much until I went to university in 2020 (and still, I don’t think I know that well about feminism, yet my knowledge is growing). Since the pandemic is going on, I didn’t get the chance to go on campus, so I relied on my school’s online community to get information. One thing I noticed is that majority of people in my school’s community are supporting feminism, and identify themselves as feminists. They talk freely about many issues regarding misogyny, gender inequality in the Korean society, etc. As I read many posts about it, I slowly identified myself as a feminist as well. However, I am not confident enough to proudly say I’m a feminist to people I don’t know that well. It’s sad how people see feminists in Korea.

Do you think that South Korea is promoting enough gender equality? What would you like to see change in your country ?

I don’t think my country is promoting enough gender equality. Firstly, the presidential election is coming up and one of the biggest parties candidates’ promise is to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. Also, the low birth rate is one of the biggest issues in Korea, and rather than trying to fix women’s huge burden on parenting and domestic chores in Korean, as well as trying to understand the fundamental reasons of why more and more women of the younger generation (compared to men) are not willing to get married, the government and politicians are focusing on financial subsidies. Furthermore, sexual crimes remains largely unpunished or the punishment are ridiculous.
Very specific to Korea, there were many incidents where a lot of men complained that the image or illustration of a hand gesture grabbing something using index finger and thumb on ads was representing some sign of a ‘radical feminist community’, and ‘man hate’ and made the companies and even government organizations apologize, which gave penalties to the illustrators and people related to it. All the ads showing this specific hand gesture where taken down, which is really absurd and nonsensical because how else would anyone normally grab an object with a hand? Plus, when women complained about some misogynistic issues, they never became big like this before. It feels like every things a woman can do can be hold against her.

Is there a personal story related to feminism, sexism, gender equality that you would like to share ?

I am not sure if this would be considered sexism but I have two older brothers, and since I am an adult, I sometimes hang out with my friends at night. One day, my mom called me when I was out with my friends drinking, and told me to go get back home by midnight. But since it was my friend’s birthday, I didn’t want to miss out and arrived home by one am. My mom was furious about it and had arguments with me until three am. The funny thing is until that time, my brother didn’t even come home, and my mom didn’t even care. I know it’s a society where women are more likely to be placed in a dangerous situation but still, since I am an adult and know how to behave, it is not fair to give curfews and prohibit night overs only to daughters. Because even if I were to be attacked by some people, it’s not because I walked home late, it’s the criminal’s fault 100%. The sad thing is it’s not just my mom. I heard so many stories like this from many women.

Can you share a picture, artwork, song, book, film, quote that you would like to associate to this interview ?

It’s a quote from the internet not sure about the exact source.
“아빠가 라면을 끓이면 자상한 아빠 엄마가 라면을 끓이면 나쁜 엄마 아들이 라면을 먹으면 불쌍한 내 아들 딸이 라면을 먹으면 게으른 딸”
Meaning: “When dad cooks ramen, he’s a caring dad. When mom cooks ramen, she’s a bad mom. When son eats ramen, he’s a poor son and when daughter eats ramen, she’s a lazy daughter.”
This quote shows a typical Korean family ambiance. Since ramen is one of the unhealthiest, fastest, and simplest meals to cook, ‘man eating ramen alone’ is a frequent image to describe an isolated man among family, etc. however, ‘woman eating ramen alone’ is often considered an image of a lazy daily life.


Interview

Hello, so honoured to have you here today to talk about feminism. Can you first, present yourself briefly?

My name is Jian. I’m a 22-year-old women, a college student living in Seoul, South Korea.

How would you define « feminism »?

I would say feminism means recognizing current women rights issues and having interest in them.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? If yes, how did you build your feminist consciousness?

I do consider myself a feminist. When I was 17-year-old, I built my feminism consciousness through my friends. I found out that the things I thought subconsciously uncomfortable were wrong, and there were people who can empathize me.

Do you believe South Korea is doing enough in terms of gender equality? What would you like to see change?

I believe South Korean is not doing enough regarding gender equality, I mean, I wish not yet. There are still so many misogynistic problems and gender conflicts in Korea. And in my opinion, the biggest problem is that the public perception of the term ‘feminism’ which is quite negative. It seems to be considered like male-hatred and radical, aggressive term, and I hope this public perception will change.

Can you share a picture, artwork, song, book, film, quote that you would like to associate to this interview ?

I would choose the film ‘Maggie’ directed by Okseob Lee. It is an independent film released in 2019 which theme is based on women rights, and it tells story in a humorous and unique way. It was quite popular when it came out, and I’m also a big fan of it.


Jian, South Korea

‘Maggie’, by Lee Okseob (2019) – Trailer