“The policeman is your friend,” we’re taught as children. Policewomen know better. To them, the policeman and his groping fingers are at best a constant nuisance, says the monthly Takarajima (October). Sometimes they’re a downright menace.
What can parents tell children who watch the news and hear, as they would have in July, that four Kanagawa policemen were involved in sexually molesting a female colleague? If honesty is the best policy, the answer would have to be, “It happens all the time.” That, at least, is what we read in Takarajima’s interview with a former policewoman, pseudonymously named Shinobu Yamazaki. According to her, the unusual thing is not the occurrence but the disclosure. Most of the time it is simply kept quiet. It surfaced this time, she says, only because of the victim’s exceptional bravery.
Yamazaki, 42, joined the Nagasaki police force out of high school and quickly learned that women in that severely masculine environment were considered “decoration.” Sexual harassment is not just sexual, and is maybe better termed gender harassment. Being out on patrol was a relief, because in the office she was relegated to filing papers and cleaning ashtrays, the tasks deemed suitable for a woman. There was another, more unpleasant obligation she learned went with the job. This was attendance at after-hours drinking parties. An “unwritten law” made it, in effect, mandatory.
“At worst,” she says, “there would be scenes that would’ve made a cabaret club hostess blanch.” Esprit de corps compelled the women to suffer in silence. Problems arising from any consequent sexual encounters would be settled by superior officers in the male’s favor – by forced transfer if necessary.
“There’s no one you can really blame,” she says. “After the (1989) Equal Employment Opportunity Law, the National Police Agency really did try to establish an equal opportunity workplace.” But even more so than the corporate office, the police office was traditionally a man’s world, and the brutal nature of the job at its worst has helped keep it that way.
“Not like on TV,” observes Takarajima.
“Well, no,” laughs Yamazaki. “You can hardly show policewomen being groped in the elevators on TV.”
She finally quit the force – she doesn’t say when or specifically why – and now works for a leading security firm. Interestingly, she has not lost faith in the ideals that drew her to police work to begin with. “I still believe that the police exist to enforce the law and justice in the interest of citizens.” But a “revolution,” she says, will have to occur before the force is a dignified workplace for a woman.© Japan Today