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How far has political correctness gone in Japan?

42 Comments
By Michael Hoffman

Political correctness – blessing, or bane? Sometimes the one, sometimes the other, sometimes both, sometimes neither – it’s hard to say. The best intentions, carried to extremes, court absurdity. That’s what’s happening here, argues journalist and author Masumi Fukuda in Shukan Shincho (March 31).

Ideal, ideology, or satire? “PC” in everyday English, porikore in colloquial Japanese, the concept has roots traceable to an origin that taints any growth – Nazism. Wikipedia cites a 1934 New York Times report claiming Germany’s new Nazi government was granting reporting permits “only to pure Aryans whose opinions are politically correct.”

The liberal Western world that emerged from World War II lent it a different significance. It came to express the tone one should strike with regard to various collectives that had been persecuted in the past but no longer ethically or reasonably could be – blacks, women, religious faiths, sexual minorities and so on. Demeaning terms must go. Who defines “demeaning”? Whoever feels demeaned – blacks by racial epithets once commonplace and now scarcely utterable; women by “sexism”;  sexual minorities by laws against them and social disapproval of them; and, ultimately, anyone by anything felt as casting aspersions on individual identity or orientation.

It got out of hand, says Fukuda. The examples she cites are mostly American, but a corner of her eye is on Japan, where she sees nascent symptoms of overkill – as, for instance, at Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea, where English announcements now shun “ladies and gentlemen” in favor of the gender-neutral “everyone.”

How far can gender neutrality go? To the point, says Fukuda, of imposing standards that substitute “spouse” for “husband” or “wife”; “child” for “son” or “daughter”; “parent” for “mother” or “father”; “they” for “he” or “she.” She cites an ongoing lawsuit involving a high school teacher in the U.S. state of Virginia who committed a consequential faux pas in regard to gender pronouns.

The teacher meant well. A transgender student born female asked to be referred to with masculine pronouns. The teacher, Peter Vlaming, said he could not comply without violating his religious convictions but would instead use no pronouns at all, only the student’s name. One day he had his students walk around the classroom wearing virtual-reality goggles. The transgender student seemed in danger of falling and Vlaming reflexively called out, “Don’t let her hit the wall!”

“Her.”

He was fired. He sued. The school’s defense of the student’s human rights violated his own, he maintains. The suit drags on, now in its fourth year.

That’s an extreme case. Or is it? What about the ban – social if not legal – on “Merry Christmas”? One must now, in many parts of the U.S. at least, say “Happy Holidays” instead, for fear of seeming to exclude non-Christians. A “Christmas tree” is now a “holiday tree.” Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before somebody notices that the word “holiday” derives from “holy,” which may offend atheists who deny holiness. How neutral can one be? How clean can language be scrubbed?

How clean should language be? The issue arose, Fukuda recalls, in George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984.” A totalitarian regime imposed on its slave-subjects a simplified language called Newspeak. Pared down to the barest essentials, its vocabulary could express only sanctioned thoughts. Unsanctioned thoughts would not merely be suppressed, they would cease to be thinkable. Impoverished language risks impoverishing thought. “Thought control” is the Orwellian term; “word hunting” is Fukuda’s. Essentially, she says, they amount to the same thing.

Excesses aside, political correctness serves a civilizing purpose. Persecution once rampant has been restrained; abusive language by powerful majorities against powerless minorities raises public ire as never before – as Yoshiro Mori, a former prime minister forced to resign in disgrace last year as head of the Tokyo Olympics, learned to his cost.

He didn’t seem to know what hit him, as Shukan Shincho reminds us. Straining for laughs in a speech, he quipped to the effect that women talk too much and are therefore nuisances at meetings. He got his laughs but they came back to haunt him. Responding later to the backlash, he said, “My remarks went against the spirit of the Olympics and Paralympics and were inappropriate. For that, I feel deep remorse and I would like to retract my remarks. I also want to apologize to the people I offended.”

A generation earlier there would have been nothing to apologize for and he would have served, dignity and reputation intact, to the end.

© Japan Today

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

42 Comments
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The issue arose, Fukuda recalls, in George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984.” A totalitarian regime imposed on its slave-subjects a simplified language called Newspeak. Pared down to the barest essentials, its vocabulary could express only sanctioned thoughts.

George Orwell’s 1984 also showed us doom, where the imposition of the party’s “final, most essential command,” is to "reject the evidence of your eyes and ears.”

To accept as fact whatever the party tells you to, and to totally disregard evidence clearly showing differences between fiction and reality.

So, how about it? Have we ventured too far into alternate political reality? "if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee?"

From a time where the medicum tells you to 'Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!' to a place in line with Citizens where the medium instructs you severely, 'Curtain? There is no curtain! You must see only what I tell you to, hear only what I tell you to!'

Who's hand is truly holding the puppet stings of today's society?

20 ( +22 / -2 )

 at Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea, where English announcements now shun “ladies and gentlemen” in favor of the gender-neutral “everyone.”

The term "everyone" could be offensive to non-binary people.

-7 ( +12 / -19 )

Impoverished language risks impoverishing thought.

Another sign of the impoverishment of discourse, specifically at the start of this article, is resorting to a Nazi analogy. Godwin's Law, and it does not even support the premise of the article.

Germany’s new Nazi government was granting reporting permits “only to pure Aryans whose opinions are politically correct.”

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

If you have to lie to make your point, then you don't have a point. The teacher, Vlaming, was not fired for accidentally misgendering a student one time. He was fired because he continually refused to acknowledge the student's gender, and used his religious as a justification for his bigotry. And yes, refusing to acknowledge a transperson's gender IS bigotry.

Common courtesy and kindness are not impositions. If you feel imposed upon by someone asking you not to use slurs, or someone asking you to use the correct pronoun, then the problem is not "political correctness gone amok" - the problem is YOU.

It really is just a matter of kindness. If you can't be kind, if you can't refrain from cruelty after you've been told by someone that you've been cruel, and if you refuse to acknowledge what you did was cruel and continue to be cruel, then you're not a good and moral person.

-18 ( +16 / -34 )

at Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea, where English announcements now shun “ladies and gentlemen” in favor of the gender-neutral “everyone.”

There is no reason for this type of silliness. Failure to recognize people's gender is a form of bigotry.

Females have 2 X chromosomes. That is science. Why try to ignore reality?

18 ( +29 / -11 )

Females have 2 X chromosomes. That is science. Why try to ignore reality?

You have still not brought any scientific source that says gender is exclusively chromosomal, why ignore the reality that your personal beliefs are not based on science but the opposite.

How about a reference from an institution that says the mental and social aspects of gender are invalid? none you can find? well, that is the point.

-17 ( +9 / -26 )

Females have 2 X chromosomes. That is science. Why try to ignore reality?

Science is whatever "he" says it is.

-3 ( +7 / -10 )

Political correctness is a mental disorder.

A disease.

19 ( +33 / -14 )

Females have 2 X chromosomes. That is science. Why try to ignore reality?

Ever hear of Klinefelter Syndrome? Some men have two X chromosomes and are XXY.

Also find out what Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome is. Some women are genetically XY male, but at about 6 weeks into pregnancy the fetus does not respond to a burst of androgen and its female plumbing never changes to male. They are genetically male but born with fully female bodies, or sometimes they are born with mixtures of male and female parts, often called hermaphrodites.

-8 ( +10 / -18 )

virusrexToday  08:37 am JST

You have still not brought any scientific source that says gender is exclusively chromosomal, why ignore the reality that your personal beliefs are not based on science but the opposite.

How about a reference from an institution that says the mental and social aspects of gender are invalid? none you can find? well, that is the point.

Because mental and social aspects are not biological, they are your personal beliefs.

Biology is based on facts, and facts don't care about your feelings.

National Human Genome Research Institute:

https://www.genome.gov/about-genomics/fact-sheets/X-Chromosome-facts

Desert TortoiseToday  08:57 am JST

Ever hear of Klinefelter Syndrome? Some men have two X chromosomes and are XXY.

Yep, and that rare issue is dealt with in the above link.

13 ( +21 / -8 )

Because mental and social aspects are not biological, they are your personal beliefs.

That is irrelevant, gender is not only biological either (you failed to produce again any reference that says the opposite) so obviously if the mental and social aspects are not biological that does not mean they are not valid components of gender.

Biology is based on facts, and facts don't care about your feelings

But gender is not biological, even if you mistakenly believed so, now that you have searched and failed to find any reference that says gender is purely biological you must be finally understanding your mistake.

National Human Genome Research Institute:

https://www.genome.gov/about-genomics/fact-sheets/X-Chromosome-facts

Your reference never says that gender is purely biological, much less chromosomal, it fails to mention that gender have no social nor mental component. These reasons means its an irrelevant reference to defend your mistaken point.

Your position is like saying mutations in the BRCA genes define 100% of the cases of breast cancer, this would be mistaken EVEN if you find a reference saying that the genes are involved in cancer, because that reference is not enough to prove there are cases of breast cancer not related to them.

So, you failed again to find a reference that proves gender is purely biological and without any mental nor social component.

Why do you think this happened?

-13 ( +7 / -20 )

Coronavirus may have vaccine. But this virus has no vaccine. It will rot the society with riots engulfing the streets, children taking a hormone blocker and dancing in a strip bar, people losing their livelihood over a pronoun.

9 ( +16 / -7 )

An article about the impact of politics on discourse has devolved into chromosomal rarities and how they map onto concepts of gender.

Along typical political culture war divides.

The dialectic abides.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

nero Today 11:10 am JST

Coronavirus may have vaccine. But this virus has no vaccine. It will rot the society with riots engulfing the streets, children taking a hormone blocker and dancing in a strip bar, people losing their livelihood over a pronoun.

The real problem is people making ridiculous hyperbolic statments that have zero foundation in truth or logic.

What the hell does a hormone blocker have to do with dancing in a strip bar?

FFS. Can these people be any stupider, or any more bigoted?

-15 ( +9 / -24 )

He was fired because he continually refused to acknowledge the student's gender, and used his religious as a justification for his bigotry. And yes, refusing to acknowledge a transperson's gender IS bigotry.

If, as these people claim, gender is a social construct, why should we respect anyone's self-declared choice? You feel you're a man, and I feel you're a woman. It's a social construct, so it's all relative, and no one is right or wrong.

Moreover, I don't acknowledge the existence of human gender. Latin, French, German, Italian, etc. nouns have genders. Human beings are male or female. This is called sex. Just because some Californian academics claim we have gender, it doesn't make it true. There was no such thing when I was a boy. How can there be now? It's tendentious, evidence-free drivel.

11 ( +15 / -4 )

How far can gender neutrality go? To the point, says Fukuda, of imposing standards that substitute “spouse” for “husband” or “wife”; “child” for “son” or “daughter”; “parent” for “mother” or “father”; “they” for “he” or “she.” She cites an ongoing lawsuit involving a high school teacher in the U.S. state of Virginia who committed a consequential faux pas in regard to gender pronouns.

Credit to Japan for these crazy lawsuits not reaching here yet.

This country still recognizes the simplicity in gender meaning male or female; in essence, a female has two X chromosomes, and just as everyone recognizes how silly it would be for a 5'10" Japanese to claim he is a 6'4" Norwegian, Japan is still grounded in the biological, scientific reality.

But hey, that is what we have TV and movies for--people acting like they are someone else. It is all entertaining, but it is all an act.

5 ( +12 / -7 )

I wonder how much is real and how much is just made up to trigger.

Anyone else old enough to remember "Ba Ba black sheep" being banned in some London schools so as not to offend people of color? It was widely reported in the UK press at the time. Only thing is it never happened, likewise the banning of "Christmas" a few years back. Never happened outside the imagination of the Daily Mail editor.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

If you read it carefully you’ll notice that the article is basically just a backhanded defence of the idiot former head of the Tokyo Olympic Committee, forced out after a series of unforced gaffes in the middle of the disastrous debacle those Games were.

The author laments of the poor Tokyo IOC head:

A generation earlier there would have been nothing to apologize for and he would have served, dignity and reputation intact, to the end.

Everyone who remembers the Tokyo Olympics, is this really what Mori deserved?

Other than that, the article despite its title doesn’t provide any examples of political correctness running amuck in Japan.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

This country still recognizes the simplicity in gender meaning male or female; in essence, a female has two X chromosomes, and just as everyone recognizes how silly it would be for a 5'10" Japanese to claim he is a 6'4" Norwegian, Japan is still grounded in the biological, scientific reality.

But yet you failed to bring any scientific source that say gender is only biological, which means this is not a scientific conclusion, only a personal one that goes against the consensus of science.

If the actual authorities in human health say gender is more than just biological they are simply much more likely to be correct.

-10 ( +4 / -14 )

If the actual authorities in human health say gender is more than just biological they are simply much more likely to be correct.

'Actual authorities in human health'? Well, if they present no evidence either, I guess we're entitled to reject it. In fact, I reject the entire concept of gender when applied to humans. It's a late 20th-century fabrication by American academic and woke weirdos, nothing more.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

virusrexToday  06:32 pm JST

But yet you failed to bring any scientific source that say gender is only biological, which means this is not a scientific conclusion, only a personal one that goes against the consensus of science. 

I also failed to bring in scientific sources that say the earth is flat, because that is also not the issue.

Can you stay on point?

Females have 2 X chromosomes. Do you argue against this scientific fact?

If the actual authorities in human health say gender is more than just biological they are simply much more likely to be correct.

You failed to bring in any scientific source supporting your hypothesis.

Lord DartmouthToday  06:39 pm JST

'Actual authorities in human health'? Well, if they present no evidence either, I guess we're entitled to reject it. In fact, I reject the entire concept of gender when applied to humans. It's a late 20th-century fabrication by American academic and woke weirdos, nothing more.

Excellent points.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

. . . sometimes being "politically correct" means feeling for the other party . . ..

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

The constitution forced on the country is a form of political correctness

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

The teacher meant well. A transgender student born female asked to be referred to with masculine pronouns. The teacher, Peter Vlaming, said he could not comply without violating his religious convictions but would instead use no pronouns at all, only the student’s name. One day he had his students walk around the classroom wearing virtual-reality goggles. The transgender student seemed in danger of falling and Vlaming reflexively called out, “Don’t let her hit the wall!”

> “Her.” He was fired. He sued. The school’s defense of the student’s human rights violated his own, he maintains. The suit drags on, now in its fourth year.

What bull. I hope he wins and bankrupts the school in the process. This has gotten way out of hand. The easiest path would have been to just say it was a slip of the tongue but everyone feels hurt by the slightest slip and wants a fight these days. I have to honestly say I don't understand this new non-binary, trans, etc issues so I try to avoid any interactions with these people.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Somebody here got a thing for sharks…? Lookin at you hoffman.

So, sorry, still not Sorry Mori gettin on his 1-year later poor poor "me" tour? Your tellin me he's finally payin some minions to throw around the shiny yens, and wash up his act. What 's all that tax fund Loot dinero he's got stashed safely away after backseat driving olmpic games? What is this weak knee clickbait?

Your tellin me this is the best PR all the mori Loot can buy? HAHAHA.

Stop wastin time and wasting wasted Loot on fake sorries. Nobody believes you.

You want respect. Be a man. Be strong. Do something like… not waste the tax / Loot and give back to real abuse victims for a change. SML

0 ( +3 / -3 )

There's been hardly any PC in Japan until Russian troops entered Ukraine a few weeks ago.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

While the example offered in the article made a clear case for the origin and intention of the phrase "politically correct", the subsequent commentary made it clear that the general understanding of that phrase is almost 100% idiosyncratic. The example implies the expressing of an opinion which will allow one to escape the punishing boot of 'Authority'. But, like so many terms used by people filing an opinion, it has become meaningless for wealth of 'meanings'. Most often it seems to be used as an epithet disparaging a person who seems to be too weak to express an honest opinion of their own, that is, it's not politically correct to be politically correct. Mostly it's just in the set of all "weasel words" used by the thought and/or language challenged and best left to the obsolete past.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

More than half a century ago, there was a huge billboard showing Mifune Toshiro in the blazing sun, a huge beer mug in his hand. The message read: 男は黙って、サッポロビール “A man falls silent—Sapporo Beer.” A truly great advertising slogan, in part because it made use of the image of the manly man of few words. My wife tells me when I talk too much: おしゃべり!女みたい!Is that so evil?

0 ( +5 / -5 )

And yes, refusing to acknowledge a transperson's gender IS bigotry.

Refusing to acknowledge someone’s religious beliefs is ALSO bigotry.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Disillusioned: "Refusing to acknowledge someone’s religious beliefs is ALSO bigotry."

Maybe, but that doesn't mean they need to be followed to be "acknowledged".

Anyway, PC does get a little crazy sometimes, but for the most part the over crazy settles down, and we agree on some things. There's nothing wrong with saying "firefighter" instead of "fireman", or 看護師 instead of 看護婦 in Japanese. I've always used "guys" as a gender-neutral pronoun when referring to two or more people, but would find it weird to say "She's a nice guy" referring to a woman (or someone who identifies as one). The whole "African-American" term went a little overboard even right in front of me once when I was at an izakaya with a black friend drinking some beer and I said the term "black" and someone we don't know, who was obviously listening to us, quipped, "The term is African American!". While he seemed to be quite smart and obviously spoke English well, I turned to the man and said, "He's from Britain, not that it matters, so what should I refer to him as now if we're talking ethnicity?" He could have been from anywhere for that matter, getting fired up about someone saying "black" has gotten out of control, same as if one got worked up for saying a person is white.

As for saying I can't give the okay sign because white supremacists have adopted it as their symbol, or I can't say Merry Christmas, can't open doors for women (when I also open them for men), or what have you, I just say I don't have the time to waste on other people being offended over nothing. Let them be; I'll just let the door close on those sad few next time, or not help them carry something heavy, or even wish them greetings. Let them wallow in their hatred; that's okay with me (flashing okay sign and also thumbs up).

0 ( +4 / -4 )

the concept has roots traceable to an origin that taints any growth – Nazism. Wikipedia cites a 1934 New York Times report claiming Germany’s new Nazi government was granting reporting permits “only to pure Aryans whose opinions are politically correct.”

That surprised me as I thought the term had roots in the Communist party of Russia. Looking at Wikipedia (link below), while it mentions the Nazi usage, it also contains this line:

The term political correctness first appeared in Marxist-Leninist vocabulary following the Russian Revolution of 1917.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_correctness

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The teacher meant well.

Given the writer's error over the source of the term "political correctness" and girl_in_tokyo's comment above, I wondered about this one too. It seems girl_in_tokyo's comment is correct. The incident described in the article is generally described as "the final straw" following a series of concerns about his behavior.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

PC is just a byproduct when country undergoes cultural mar xism assa ult through critical theory.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Has political correctness gone too far in Japan ? I think not. While some may decry the faux pas of people like Peter Vlaming, there was a time back in early 平成 (Heisei) when Japanese game shows would show topless women on prime time TV for ostensibly "educational" purposes. Obviously, this would be unthinkable now. Just think of the feminist backlash.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What about the ban – social if not legal – on “Merry Christmas”? One must now, in many parts of the U.S. at least, say “Happy Holidays” instead, for fear of seeming to exclude non-Christians. A “Christmas tree” is now a “holiday tree.”

Plain nuts..

girl_in_tokyoApr. 14  07:58 am JST

If you have to lie to make your point, then you don't have a point. The teacher, Vlaming, was not fired for accidentally misgendering a student one time. He was fired because he continually refused to acknowledge the student's gender, and used his religious as a justification for his bigotry. And yes, refusing to acknowledge a transperson's gender IS bigotry.

Not according to the law in Virginia:

A Virginia school district has agreed to permanently reinstate a physical education teacher who had been suspended for refusing to refer to transgender students by their preferred pronouns.

A court issued a final order permanently prohibiting the Loudoun County Public School Board from punishing the teacher for freely expressing his views,

https://nypost.com/2021/11/16/virginia-school-board-reinstates-p-e-teacher-who-wouldnt-use-preferred-pronouns/

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Bringing back a dead topic just to make fake arguments? how desperate, lol. The law in virginia did not say the guy is not a bigot, the law says the bigot is allowed to use his religion as an excuse to be a bigot, that is very different.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

William RoundToday  04:47 pm JST

Bringing back a dead topic just to make fake arguments? how desperate, lol. The law in virginia did not say the guy is not a bigot, the law says the bigot is allowed to use his religion as an excuse to be a bigot, that is very different.

Really?

Can you cite where the court called him a bigot?

Or is that a fake argument?

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

Really?

Can you cite where the court called him NOT a bigot?

Or is that a fake argument?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

William RoundToday  06:29 pm JST

Really?

Can you cite where the court called him NOT a bigot?

Yeah--the entire hearing transcript.

That was an easy way to settle this!

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Got the thing, not even once the court called him "not a bigot", so you got confused with a different case or just made up the whole thing? I mean, you did not even cite anything.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

William RoundToday  08:53 am JST

Got the thing, not even once the court called him "not a bigot", so you got confused with a different case or just made up the whole thing? I mean, you did not even cite anything.

Sorry have to school ya on the weekend, but just citing your language. For a reminder:

William RoundApr. 21  06:29 pm JST

the court called him NOT a bigot*
-4 ( +0 / -4 )

What do you think you are correcting? lol

yes, that is exactly what I said, that the court did not called him not a bigot, you said they did and cited the entire hearing transcript, except that in the entire transcript the court never said he was not a bigot, so you made up your cite thinking nobody would notice, lol busted!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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