MEET THE AUTHOR/Elif Erdogan is currently studying Law and Political Science at Nagoya University. She is from Istanbul, Turkey, and is a member of HeForShe Student Club and Flower Demo in Nagoya. She would like to spread the word to end patriarchy and raise awareness of feminism.
“My Pussy My Choice", about Japan’s First SlutWalk
INTERVIEW/ For this week’s Voice Up Japan publication, we have interviewed three inspirational figures that organized Japan SlutWalk, Hinako, Gaymakimaki, and Myongfa. We wanted to know more about Japan SlutWalk and its motivation to organize this movement.
Nearly 200 people walked the streets of Osaka’s Nanba to Amerikamura to Mido-Suji, wearing whatever they like, regardless of their gender nor their national identity, to shout “my body my choice”. On the 3rd of November 2019, people in Japan had their first SlutWalk to fight against the patriarchal culture.
It first started in Toronto, Canada, when a police officer told female students that: “I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this, however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”. Then, the SlutWalk movement spread around the globe and came to Osaka, Japan.
Can you define slut-shaming for us?
Hinako: Slut-shaming is when someone is wearing revealing clothing and if they face sexual harassment or violence, the clothing is used to justify that violence. For example: “Since you wore that kind of clothing aren’t you the one to blame?”
When did you first hear about slutwalk and when did you first want to organize a slutwalk？
GayMakiMaki: In the Herstory exhibition ( in Kyoto Seika University) they show the women’s side of history. Exhibition collected activism pieces related to feminism, anti-racism, anti-nuclear plant activism that happened in Japan and around the globe. At that exhibition, we were talking about the rise of transphobia in social media by so-called feminists. Myonfga is Zainichi Korean, I’m a sex worker, we’re forced to be an outcast of this society. We thought we should make this movement together to show that we are perfect!
Myongfa: I learned from other people about slutwalk. When I saw the placards I realized that this is something we need!! We also saw Amber Rose’s Los Angeles’ Slutwalk. The Slutwalk movement started around 2011 at the same time with the nuclear disaster in the world so we could not commit to it.
Gaymakimaki: I knew about it for two or three years, but I did not know how to organize it. There was another anti-sexist movement called Diversity Parade. I told someone that I wanted to do a slutwalk at the end of 2018. If we do it in Tokyo then there will be a lot of people gathering. But I wouldn’t be able to lead the movement. I was talking to Myongfa if we could do it together, and finally, we decided to do it with the Diversity Parade people. I also wanted a transgender person to lead so I asked Hinako to take part.
What are your opinions on Japan’s condition of sexual freedom?
Gaymakimaki: The way I was raised was totally different from the Japanese stereotype of sexual freedom. My parents are not married, my father has different partners and children from them. In school, I received attention from others since what I was saying in the class had nothing to do with the “norm”. I would say stuff like “we should change the Japanese Family Registration System!” I realized Japan is not sexually free society but I did not struggle because my parents are the elites of “sluts”. But I wasn’t totally free. My father said we’re his treasures, but we were still ranked in his eyes. He did it for a non-oppressed world but he didn’t think about how others would feel the burden or pain. My sense of virtue is different that’s why I don’t get married. Since I don’t hide it, they don’t ask me “are you married?”, “do you have a boyfriend?”. I don’t feel hurt when I hear these questions. But then they don’t take me seriously and things that you wouldn’t do to the others, they would do it to me. So, still, it’s really different from what is called “free”.
Hinako: There are two problems regarding sexual freedom in Japan. First, the struggles of transgender people in Japan and other countries are different. Japan is actually friendly to transgender people if they go under Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS). Some laws are made for them. If you are a transgender person who did not go under SRS, then society waits for you to looks like a beautiful woman. If they face violence, then society claims it’s their problem because they don’t meet the norms’ physical appearance. I believe that this situation is far away from “freedom”. Second, if a woman does not meet the stereotypical idea of womanhood, who does not have children, who does not marry, who does not look like the cute women on the television, it is hard to live in this society.
Myongfa: I am Zainichi Korean, so it may seem that Koreans and Japanese are same-level conservatives, Koreans are more conservative. We are in the center of the patriarchy because of Confucianism. Zainichi Koreans who live in Japan want to protect their culture, meaning protecting the patriarchal values. Ten years ago I was also living with those patriarchal values. Before feminism, I also thought sexual violence such as chikan, was something normal in society. Later, I learned I didn’t have to live life like that.
What do you think that was achieved by the SlutWalk?
Hinako: It turned into a really interesting environment. When we said to wear whatever you like I thought people would be wearing more stereotypical clothing like Playboy bunny girl. But people were actually kinkier and queerer. When we asked queer people to be themselves, rather than the stereotypes from television or magazines, they participated as their true selves. I think this was an achievement.
Gaymakimaki: It was a part of Japanese feminism and Japanese social movement so Slutwalk’s existence was odd right? Japanese people aren’t good at expressing themselves in topics that they are interested in. But people came and told us that the SlutWalk was great. So I thought it was a transforming event. People asked when we were going to do it next time. But no one came up and said they were going to organize something so…. It isn’t like Flower Demo where people feel safe, so maybe people are still a bit worried.
Are you considering making another SlutWalk in the future, perhaps in other cities?
Myongfa: I think it’s a good idea to do SlutWalk in other places too. But we never heard of anyone from other places who wanted to do it. But, if we can do it in Tokyo, SlutWalk could become a topic in the media.
Would you like to mention anything that influenced your movement?
Myongfa: There were three floats at the Diversity Parade. One for women, one for laborers and one for diversity. Maybe it was the first time when people in Japan gathered with feminist identity.
Gaymakimaki: In Diversity Parade’s feminist float, some slogans were against the patriarchal perception of “motherhood”. Or “what is wrong with being a bitch?”. As a sex worker, I talked about sex work in feminist float and also in the laborer’s float. I think it is the first time when a sex worker talked about her experiences on the streets of Japan. The Diversity Parade can be considered as a pioneer.
Do you have any suggestions that could end slut-shaming in Japan?
Hinako: Getting angry at slut-shaming’s origin is its connection to sexual violence. To protect the individual’s sexual dignity and consent, a straightforward approach is necessary. Yes means only yes. We should confirm consent in this manner. Some people think that they can do anything they want to sex workers or who works in Kyabajo. They have the right to say no and everyone should respect it.
Myongfa: If someone gets mad, people around them think they should “calm down”. If you are harassed and get mad, I think you should get even angrier! The “You should calm down” approach should end.
Hinako: In order to say yes, it is also necessary to be able to say no.
Gaymakimaki: In Japan, people think it’s not cool to express your feelings. Rather than thinking what other people think, saying what you feel and trusting people will lessen their worries.
SlutWalk has been a movement that welcomed sex-workers and transgender people, which was also the case for SlutWalk Osaka. Would you like to share your opinions regarding people who may be against this?
Hinako: Some critics thought the expressions were too slutty and sexy. We could have done it like a university symposium. But, because we are sex workers, Zainichi Koreans, and transgenders, we chose to express ourselves in a way that fits ourselves the best. There was a lot of criticism on social media. Some people are living without knowing the reality of us and thinking that we are “sluts”. I don’t mind feminists and women who are saying mainstream stuff but our purpose is the same, ending sexual violence.
Gaymakimaki: Feminists who are against SlutWalk would usually say “You claiming it’s okay to be a slut is for men’s sexual desires”. But what we are trying to say is our looks do not mean we should face sexual violence. Don’t limit our freedom! It is off point to say that our visuals are to make men happy. Some women want to button their shirt until their neck, and some who want to show their body. But it doesn’t mean that they should face violence.
Myongfa: Like we said before, at SlutWalk there were a lot of people who were wearing different clothing, which had nothing to do with satisfying men’s sexual desires!