Growing up in Japan, I struggled because I always felt like I didn’t fit any “standards”. I didn’t fit the ideal beauty standard, my ambitions didn’t fit the “female standard,” and how I wanted to dress was different from what fashion magazines told me was right. My ambition was laughed at because “I’m a girl” and I don’t know how many times I was told by neighbors, peers, and relatives that education shouldn’t be a priority because of my gender. I used to speak what was on my mind, and was clear about what I wanted, but society taught me that raising my voice won’t do any good.
I started Voice Up Japan because I was tired. I was tired of having to laugh at every sexist joke I heard my boss say. I was tired of being a bystander while me and my friends got verbally harassed. I was tired of hearing politicians and celebrities saying homophobic, racist, or sexist jokes and society not doing anything about it. That anger and that ambition I had to change this society is the reason why I stand here, with my amazing team.
Japan is very traditional, “cultural,” you may say. And that has its beauties as well, but sometimes traditional customs become a burden, and exclude those that do not fit in to such standards. 96% of people who identify as a women in Japan have to change their last name because the law doesn’t allow couples to have different last names. Same-sex couples are not able to get married, only 13% of the victims of sexual assault report their experience because of the culture that shames survivors of sexual assault, women make significantly less than men and men are rarely allowed to take paternity leaves because they are the “bread winners”. This is where our first vision, of an equal society, comes from. No matter one’s gender or sexuality, because that shouldn’t define what we are capable of doing, and how we are born, who we identify as, nor who we want to be with shouldn’t change our rights.
Our second vision comes from the struggle I have experienced, and the struggle I’ve seen in many people – which is a society where everyone can voice up, and are respected for it. Voicing up our opinions should be normal, we should be allowed to confront our peers and bosses and point out mistakes that others have done. But that’s often not the case. We are taught to be obedient and patient, and we are told to not question our leaders. Those that voice up and try to make a change are often put in danger, thrown violent words at by the society, and shamed for “having an opinion”. We want to encourage people to voice up, we want a society where anyone can say what is in their mind without having to feel ashamed of their courage.
We will keep voicing up, we will keep educating, not only the people around us, but ourselves as well, and we will keep empowering people so that we can stand for a community that pushes for a better society.