lifestyle

Sexual harassment poster from Japanese government draws criticism for seemingly taking men’s side

48 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

The heart of Japan’s Cabinet Office was, ostensibly, in the right place. As part of its annual campaign to raise awareness about physical and mental abuse towards women, the government organization enlisted popular actor Mikihisa Azuma to appear in a sexual harassment poster, which can be seen above.

Azuma shows up four times on the poster. In the upper left, he’s seen winking and saying to a women, who’s dressed in a short-sleeved pink blouse, “Your outfit today is cute. It’s just the sort of fashion I like.” Meanwhile, at the top right, a smiling Azuma, speaking to another woman, says “You look beautiful. Have you lost weight?”

Neither woman looks particularly happy to hear his comments. “That’s got nothing to do with anything,” says the woman whose clothing Azuma commented on, while the other responds to his observation about her figure with, “Is that what you’re spending all your time looking at…”

However, the largest image of Azuma is the one in the middle, where he’s wearing an expression of shock and dismay, with large-font white text right under his face that asks the question “This is sexual harassment too?” Underneath that, written is blue, is the admonition “You aren’t the one who decides what is and isn’t sexual harassment!”

The look on Azuma’s face in the central photo, as well as the phrasing of the warning in blue, have some online commenters upset over what they interpret as the poster emphasizing the wrong victim. “How come in a campaign to raise awareness about violence towards women the main image is one of a male entertainer who seems to be saying ‘We’re the real victims here’?” asked one Twitter user. “Instead of a poster to protect women, it’s just taking the side of the middle-aged men who sexually harass them,” said another.

As reprehensible as such an intent would be, though, it doesn’t seem to be what the designers were actually going for. At the bottom of the poster, Azuma appears for the fourth and final time, holding up his index finger, the standard Japanese expression for “Pay attention and don’t forget this.” To his right, in white text, is the message “Be considerate in your behavior to the people you’re talking to and the surrounding environment.”

Even if one were to take the position that the way the women on the poster react to Azuma is overly sensitive and overblown, they still wouldn’t qualify as “inconsiderate.” With the added context of the words that appear next to the actor’s finger-raising likeness, it seems pretty clear that what the cabinet office hoped to convey was the idea that words can make people uncomfortable even without the intent to offend, that it’s important to consider and be accommodating of the fact that what you think of as a compliment may not be received as such, and that if the opinion you’re about to express falls in a gray area, the best thing to do is to keep it to yourself.

There’s also the fact that when sharing the poster’s image through its official account, the Cabinet Office also tweeted “Violence towards women of any kind, including domestic violence and sexual harassment, is absolutely unacceptable.”

But while a picture is worth a thousand words, it doesn’t say any of them explicitly. The posters’ designers may have felt that Azuma’s startled expression reflects how completely unaware some people are of the ill effects of what they believe are innocuous comments, and thus serves as a reminder to not use your opinion as the absolute measure of what is and isn’t acceptable, which would make the “you” in “You aren’t the one who decides what is and isn’t sexual harassment!” a reference to men who are speaking to women. To critics, though, Azuma’s expression looks like one of frustration at unreasonable reactions from the women he’s talking to, making the “you” feel like it’s pointing at the women who feel they’re being sexually harassed.

Unfortunately for the Cabinet Office, you have to make your way pretty far down the poster before coming to the “Be considerate in your behavior to the people you’re talking to and the surrounding environment” part. By that point many people were already offended by what they saw as a belittlement of the issue, and those men who do think society has become too concerned about sexual harassment claims were likely already nodding their heads and saying “See? Other people think this hypersensitivity has gone too far too.” Because of that, a redesign might be in order if the Cabinet Office wants the poster to actually fulfill the role it had in mind for it.

Source: Livedoor News/Josei Jishin via Otakomu  

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- “Women who attract chikan, and women who don’t”: The illustrated guide that’s provoking debate

-- Aichi Police send unorthodox message to molesters via poster with homoerotic undertones

-- Osaka University professor: “The prince from Snow White is a sex offender”

© SoraNews24

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

48 Comments
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taking the side of the middle-aged men who sexually harass them

Does the man's age matter?

Oh yeah I forgot, if a cute ikemen said the same thing the girls would take it as a compliment.

sekuhara is the only crime on the books where two people can commit the same act, one good-looking and the other ugly, and only one of them will be charged with a crime.

-1 ( +10 / -11 )

Good Golly, you’d think that Taro never gets annoyed or irritated by Toshiko’s comments.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

The poster is working if ppl are talking about the issue.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

Round-eyed, blond women--the J-office is full of them.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

I've no doubt that a committee of twelve 70 year old men sat in a room for some months to come up with this fine work. The only female voices being those serving them tea.

6 ( +13 / -7 )

sekuhara is the only crime on the books where two people can commit the same act, one good-looking and the other ugly, and only one of them will be charged with a crime.

Here's an example of how not to behave, guys. If the person you express interest in does not respond, then you say Goodbye and walk away. Don't be a whiny bitch about being turned down. A woman doesn't owe you their attention or time or, let's face it, a civil response when you can't leave her alone.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

It's true that there are many instances of clear sexual harassment involving unwanted touching, aggressive demands for dates or sex etc. These should be stamped out and ought to be the focus of such posters.

However I don't believe that simply paying a women a compliment on her looks should be put in the same category.

Such comments can be insensitive and we ought to be mindful of our words but I don't think this is limited to men. We don't want to go to the extreme of policing and punishing people simply for words.

-1 ( +7 / -8 )

Sadly, rather than men and women being driven to communicate and understand eachother more deeply by such issues, there are those who use these issues to promote thier own agenda and drive an ever widening wedge between the sexes. This is unhealthy for society.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

I'm a woman but I don't think this poster is taking on men's side...

That just asks a question do let men think about it.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

I don't consider any of these comments "violence towards women". Yeah they may be considered sexual harassment or just annoying determined by who and how they're said.

I bet if these compliments were said nicely and sincerely by a good looking guy, I don't think women would mind. Having these same comments made by a dorky, sweaty, ugly guy would probably give women the creeps.

2 ( +8 / -6 )

How are any of these comments anything like sexual harassment? If women choose to be offended by compliments about their appearance then that's their problem. It's about time the men's side of this garbage is shown

-5 ( +9 / -14 )

Some women like compliments from co-workers because their husbands never compliment them. "You've changed your hairstyle. I like it." "Oh, you've noticed. Thank you. My husband hasn't noticed."

2 ( +9 / -7 )

Anything you say nowadays is offensive. Shoganai, we're in 2018. "Hey, I've never seen you in that before. You got a new jacket, blouse, shirt. Looks good on you." And instead of a "thank you" in return, nope. That's sexual harassment. I wonder if I as a guy could cry "sexual harassment" when my female co-workers told me that that my new eyeglasses look good on me today.

-4 ( +6 / -10 )

If another woman, who happens to be a lesbian, says a woman looks good today, is that sexual harrassment?

I'm in favour of stamping out sexual harrassment, but the battle does not need to be fought over borderline comments like this. The campaign should focus instead on complete eradication of more flagrant abuses, the "I normally go for sexier girls than you, but I'll shag you if you're up for it" comment that the blogger Ha-chu got from her boss at Dentsu, a guy that would ring her up at midnight. Any woman who manages to record her boss saying that should automatically win in court.

Metoo started with Weinstein who was "let me do what I want or no job". It wasn't "you look fabulous".
7 ( +11 / -4 )

"I like your outfit", "you look beautiful" and "have you lost weight?" are not things I would say to any woman in the workplace. The phrases sound a bit creepy to me. Stick to talking about the weather.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

The knee-jerk reaction that now you can’t compliment a woman anymore are silly. The only thing that has changed is that guys get called out when they are creepy about it. If you don’t know whether something is creepy or not, err on the side of caution and don’t say it. That means some guys should err on the side of caution and say nothing. People with high social intelligence will be able to know whether something they are saying is a nice compliment or a creepy observation.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

if just saying 'nice outfit' is considered sexual harassment we're all doomed. Commenting on someone's body shape is a different matter though.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

The other thing is how it is considered differently if a man says to a woman 'You're in great shape, have you been working out?' Vs a woman saying it to a man......

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Compliments, depending on who, where and how they are delivered can be offensive or not. I agree that Japan must work on gender equality and sexual harassment.Personally, putting a male face on this poster suggests that men should talk be concerned and that this is not an issue that only affects women.  The facial expression of the model also conveys the confusion of the male population on where to draw the line between compliment and harassment.

The poster is doing its job, people are talking about the issue. I'd rather have this than the sterilized kawai psoters.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The government should just show this film on sexual harassment:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxuUkYiaUc8

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Meh. Girls just want to be complimented by guys they find attractive. It's nothing new.

Its one reason I like working independently. I can say whatever I want to whoever I want however and whenever I feel like it. There are no laws against flirting and if girls don't like what I say, it's not skin off my teeth.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Again it's all about discernment.

A 'oh you look hot today' is perfectly fine if both you and your colleague often enjoy playful banter, are on the same page, both do it etc.

On the other hand, even a simple 'nice' or ' I like your hairstyle' would be completely inappropriate if you don't know the other person, have never spoken to her/him or she/he has been ignoring/snubbing you since day one.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

 People with high social intelligence will be able to know whether something they are saying is a nice compliment or a creepy observation.

So people with a low social intelligence will get charged with a crime while those with high social intelligence can get away with it.

Isn't justice supposed to be fair, blind and apply equally to all?

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

As a woman, getting compliments from men about my clothes or hairstyle is okay. But somehow if the guy says, "that's the style I like," it sounds creepy!

7 ( +7 / -0 )

So people with a low social intelligence will get charged with a crime while those with high social intelligence can get away with it.

Um, that's an entirely illogical conclusion to make from what I said. I'm guessing they don't teach logic in Russian schools.

Isn't justice supposed to be fair, blind and apply equally to all?

As a Russian, I don't expect you to have any comprehension of how fair justice works. I'd try to explain it, but it would like trying to explain Mars to a snail.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

 I can say whatever I want to whoever I want however and whenever I feel like it. There are no laws against flirting and if girls don't like what I say, it's not skin off my teeth.

True but personally, if someone was hitting on me and they continued despite knowing it was not appreciated, I'd find it unpleasant and possibly harassment.

The poster is a bit clumsy in its design, unfortunately.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

So many defensive responses from male posters who just don't get it. I'm guessing these are the same guys that women don't feel comfortable working with because the insistence of "I can't even compliment a woman these days" really and truly is not the issue. I'm not sure what these guys need to be told to get it but I'm tired of whiney men thinking women are overreacting when the office creep says something.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

If it's a woman I know, if we're work pals, if we have a relationship that's easy and comfortable, then it's OK - maybe even expected and polite - to comment favourably about her new hairstyle, new dress, etcetera.

Otherwise, there's no reason for me to say anything. I do think the ad errs on the side of caution, though. It would have been better to have shown more clear-cut examples of inappropriate comment.

I've been complimented by women I work with about a new suit or haircut. I like it.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The first time is always fair game. Beyond that, discernment.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Why not have a poster asking women to stop wearing make up and be free?

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Why not have a poster asking women to stop wearing make up and be free?

What does make-up have to do with sexual harassment? Being "free" would mean not having to worry about safety constantly. The only way women will be "free" is the badly behaved men stop being entitled jerks.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

tmarie:

So many defensive responses from male posters who just don't get it. I'm guessing these are the same guys that women don't feel comfortable working with because the insistence of "I can't even compliment a woman these days" really and truly is not the issue. I'm not sure what these guys need to be told to get it but I'm tired of whiney men thinking women are overreacting when the office creep says something.

I think the issue we men have here is equating what some women feel are insensitive comments by men with sexual harassment.

The two comments in the above poster might be considered creepy or flattering depending on who uttered them. I would imagine if uttered by a handsome wealthy eligible bachelor many women would be happy for the attention. If uttered by the known office creep who is a sleaze bag then obviously not. I think we men should take responsibility to listen closely for verbal and non verbal clues as to how women are reacting to us and to respectfully act accordingly. This I wholeheartedly support. Myself, working almost exclusively with women for many years have had to learn this and thankfully have great working relationships with them.

Having said that though, insensitive comments such as those in this poster do not constitute sexual harassment, which is considered grounds for possible job termination or even legal action. This is what I beleive some guys are concerned about.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I would add that if a woman made it clear to a man that his comments such as in the above poster were unwelcome and he persisted over and over then a warning is certainly warranted and discipline required if the warning is not heeded.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

On the other hand I once had to point out to a senior female colleague that her constant teasing and put downs of a junior male colleague was denting his self confidence. I suggested to her that he needed her encouragement and wise guidance. Thankfully she took it real well, apologized and treated him great after that. And he appreciated it. It seems she just didn't realize the effect her teasing had on him.

It seems there are many men and women whose problem is just a little insensitivity with words and actions and hopefully all that is required is sime kind or even firm guidance from a superior.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Personally the issue I have as a man is that I don't think women who get complemented for a change in hairstyle should automatically see themselves as victims on a par with women who get regularly propositioned or receive comments of a more overt sexual nature about their bodies. Those are the problems that need to be eradicated. Ninety something percent of men will happily get behind this.

It may be news to some women, but lots of men don't like their male superiors and having to humour their office chat either. Lots of male banter is of a derogatory nature. With some people, it is constant put-downs. You just have to grow a thick skin or find work elsewhere.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

tsukkiToday  02:47 pm JST

As a woman, getting compliments from men about my clothes or hairstyle is okay. But somehow if the guy says, "that's the style I like," it sounds creepy!

This is a prime example of the minefield. A guy might feel inclined to add "that's the style I like" to try and make it clearer he appreciates your clothing style rather than what's inside it. It could sound like he wants you to dress like that all the time but it's unlikely that's what he actually means.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Having said that though, insensitive comments such as those in this poster do not constitute sexual harassment

They very well could be, if they are unwelcome, and part of a repeated pattern of behavior contributing to a hostile workplace.

Sexual harassment in the U.S. is defined as:

*Unwelcome **sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:*

· Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment, or*

· Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or*

· Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. 

from http://www.un.org/womenwatch/osagi/pdf/whatissh.pdf

Some sexual harassment, especially if it is physical, can be considered such just in one incident. Other kinds of less-serious unwanted behaviors like innuendo-laden jokes, have to be repeated over time to be considered a "hostile environment."

Sexual harassment is much more complex than just what the perp's face looks like as Concerned Citizen seems to think. There could be a power imbalance involved, or a refusal to take no for an answer. If your "compliments" are in a condescending manner, or to discredit me somehow, or if you never talk to me except to express how my appearance pleases you, it doesn't matter a fig to me how objectively handsome you are, that's scary stuff. It shows me you view me not only as sexual but also as somehow below yourself.

The poster only seems illustrate male-to-female sexual harassment when it can be perpetrated by both sexes and not necessarily to the opposite one.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Personally I think this is a good poster. It's aimed not at the hard-core office pest but at the snide middle-of-the-road clever dicks who do not see how others might be taking their comments. People in positions of authority should not be mixing sex and work, and some people need to question themselves a little more. That movie, 'What Women Want' was great in this regard.

One woman in our office was constantly the butt of suggestive comments from the men about her (relatively large) breasts. They all felt secure there in the thought this was normal. She quit, and later I heard that it was because of the office atmosphere.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

If women choose to be offended by compliments about their appearance then that's their problem.

Still victim blaming, uh huh.

Mildly better than calling for women to be hung/jailed for life.

Here's the thing, though, it's everyone's problem when its unwanted, uncalled for and downright harassment.

tmarie is spot on, as usual. A fair bit of toxic masculinity from some, as usual.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Nest time, ask some women to help on the poster.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Nest time, ask some women to help on the poster.

You'd think so, wouldn't you?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Do we know that women were not consulted or part of the team?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sexual harassment has been a perennial but slippery concept ever since Adam and Eve. Sexual harassment is an unlikely call if two people are attracted to each other, but much more likely in the precarious situation where the attraction is not mutual and one rejects the advances (verbal or otherwise) of the other party. And what about, if you belong to the select few who can "grab 'em by the *ussy", as asserted by the resident perv in the White House? Fortunately, the young generation will, as ever, be able to pick their way gingerly through today's minefield of sexual politics, but the older ones must tread very carefully indeed for seduction is fraught with risks that are seldom worth the effort.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Stupid anal campaign.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

It's never going far enough for some, unless he get's hung for the comment...

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Nest time, ask some women to help on the poster.

The poster is aimed at men. What would a woman know about how "boys" think?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

When media articles such as this one claim 'outrage', 'criticism', etc. over some comment or issue often they are emphasizing the so called outrage of a vocal perpetually offended minority that doesn't reflect the views of the silent majority.

This article should be in the work place etiquette section. If JT wants to help sufferers of real sexual harassment then publish articles that highlight actual cases or relevant scenarios.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What would a woman know about how "boys" think?

I think women have a fair idea when they are repeatedly harassed outside the train stations, or on the actual train, or walking home, or just sitting in a bar waiting for their friends to turn up.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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