"Sekuhara," "pawahara" ... When it comes to ways of persecuting each other and getting on each others’ nerves, humans are endlessly inventive. English being the prime source of new names for new things, especially ugly things, the Japanized forms of “sexual harassment” and “power harassment” have lately become household words. They instantly call to mind a certain image – which may, says Shukan Post (Sept 12), be misleading.
The image is of a female company subordinate at the mercy of a male boss whose unwanted advances she can hardly resist because if she does she knows only too well how miserable he can make her working life, given their respective positions and status.
But society is evolving, women are advancing. More and more women are becoming bosses themselves, and Shukan Post, quoting a survey by a labor lawyer of 2,500 men aged 22-39, says more than a quarter of respondents – 25.5% – claim to have experienced "sekuhara" or "pawahara" at the hands of female superiors.
It’s no laughing matter, and not the least unpleasant feature of it is that it sounds like a laughing matter. A male office worker in his 20s, driven at last to complain to a male boss of a female superior’s constant efforts to force herself on him, was merely told said, “If you can’t enjoy it, put up with it.”
Is that fair, given what a big deal it would be if the harassing superior were male and the harassed subordinate female?
Men are generally held to be, and proud of being, able to take care of themselves, but what is a young man to do, for example, in a situation like this: 23-year-old “Mr A” works under a 42-year-old female boss who, no doubt merely trying to be friendly, has a way of turning every word into a sly wink. “If I get the stapler stuck, she’ll say, ‘How inconsiderate of you! You’ll never be popular with women.’ So I mutter something dumb, and she says, ‘Are you a man, or not?’ If I’m slow with an assignment, she’ll say, ‘Are you like that in bed too?’”
Granted, that’s annoying rather than harassing – but how about this? A 26-year-old man in advertising is told by his female boss in a meeting, “You’re cute – don’t hesitate to use your body to land this contract!”
A 22-year-old man goes to his office in the morning facing not only a day’s work but a day’s dealing with his 39-year-old boss, who’s “always finding a way to get close to me.” She bends over him as he labors at his computer, showing cleavage, guiding his mouse hand with hers… “I feel her breath in my ear.” She invites him for dinner, for drinks, for one-on-one career coaching. “I think to myself, ‘Is it okay to refuse?’ He has his doubts: a friend of his who gave his sexually hungry boss the cold shoulder found himself transferred – exiled, in effect – to a remote and insignificant branch office, with negative impacts not only on his career but on his love life, his girlfriend being unable to join him.
A 23-year-old temp worker won – to his dismay – the affections of a female boss 10 years older, who promised him promotions, took him to dinner, plied him with drinks, and finally took him to her place. Sobering up suddenly and not liking the look of things, he said it was time for him to be getting home, at which “she kissed me, pushed onto the bed… I couldn’t very well push her off, could I?” No, it would have been hard. “It was my first time,” he concludes ruefully, having pictured a more romantic initiation.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is eager to boost the number of women in high corporate positions – from 11% now to 30% by 2030. Fine, says Shukan Post – “but women executives must assume the same obligations and responsibilities as men, or else society will degenerate.”© Japan Today