The June 14 issue of the women's magazine Fujin Koron carries a two-way dialog between Buddhist nun/author Jakucho Setouchi and Haruko Obokata, who last January published a book of autobiographical essays titled "Ano Hi" (that day).
In 2014, Obokata, formerly a molecular biologist engaged in research at Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, published a paper concerning the existence of STAP (stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency) cells. When objections were raised, Science magazine eventually retracted her article. The humiliation that followed was blamed for the suicide of Yoshiki Sasai, co-author with Obokata of the original paper and her supervisor, in August of the same year.
To add insult to injury, last November, Waseda University announced it would revoke Obokata's doctorate, conferred in 2011, due to her failure to correct inaccuracies in her thesis.
In her conversation with Setouchi, Obokata relates what it was like to be treated as a world-class scientific fraud, lambasted by the media. The media bashing, she said, obliged her to undergo treatment for depression.
The point that Nikkan Gendai (June 1) wants to make, however, is that while Obokata's case, and particularly the negative publicity, may have been extreme, similar situations in the corporate world are not uncommon.
"I think Ms Obokata exhibits strong traits of histrionic personality disorder (HPD)," remarked Tamami Katada, a psychiatrist who lectures at Kyoto University. Adults with HPD are characterized by a pattern of excessive attention-seeking emotions, including seductive behavior and an excessive need for approval. Among diagnosed cases, females are said to exceed males by a ratio of 4 to 1
Katada added that while such a condition may be observable from Obokata's behavior, "She's not sick, so I don't think she will change either. She has no self-awareness of the condition. She was born that way, and has adapted to her environment accordingly. Quite a few women exhibit similar tendencies."
One of the most recognizable attributes of a person so afflicted, Katada points out, is the strong sense of victimization, in which a person will always try to find a justification for his or her actions.
"If such a person makes a mistake at work, you'll hear excuses like, 'I just did things exactly like the boss told me' -- in an effort to shift the blame to others. Ms Obokata's book also touches on this, claiming she was just following the instructions of her supervisor. Her ability as a performer is quite polished, so she gives good presentations, and can also do role playing.
"The attitude of such females does not go so far as to be blunt, but for instance if there's a woman she doesn't like, you might see her circulating rumors that 'It's said Ms So-and-so is spreading malicious gossip.' It's done in a way that will easily delude males," Katada explained.
Just as Obokata made appearances in her white lab coat -- which to men bears a resemblance to the feminine "kappogi" (sleeved apron) -- such women, said Katada, behave in a seductive or inviting manner, often making contact with men, patting their knees or touching them lightly. They also tend to lean toward apparel that emphasizes their breasts.
"Should trouble arise, they will feign tears or even go so far as to threaten suicide."
"Even then, such women manage to be popular with men on the job," Katada remarks.
Yomiko Yamazaki, who has specialized in research on male-female relationships, advises that the only safe way to deal with such females is to avoid getting emotionally involved, by maintaining a neutral attitude. "It's possible she might accuse a male colleague of 'ijime' (bullying)," says Yamazaki. "Since their type tends toward conspicuous behavior, if a co-worker adopts a formal manner -- such as only by saying, 'You're looking nice today' -- there's not much chance of getting involved in some sort of trouble."
Ultimately, the most sensible way of dealing with such females, concludes Nikkan Gendai, calls for avoidance whenever possible. It concludes by invoking an old saying that goes "Sawaranu kami ni tatari nashi" (avoid the god and evade his curse).© Japan Today