‘Because She is Stupid’: the Realities of Female Students in Japan

Below is my translation* of Chizuko Ueno’s congratulatory speech at the entrance ceremony of the University of Tokyo in April 2019.

*mostly google translate’s work though (as I wanted to be quick). 

[Update (Dec 16, 2019): I posted this translation when there was hardly any English translations online, aiming to share the contents of the speech with interested, non-Japanese speaking individuals. On the 24th of January, ten days after my post, WAN, Chizuko Ueno’s organisation released the English translation of the contents of the speech. So, I think this post has exhausted the original role, but I keep this to show my response to the speech.]

Chizuko Ueno is a Japanese sociologist and the most famous feminist in Japan. She set the foundation of women’s studies in this country.

After decades of indifference towards feminism and social justice in Japan, a speech by Ueno drew an unprecedented scale of attention across online media. The fact that this speech was presented at the University of Tokyo has a significant meaning. The University of Tokyo is the top school of Japan, having produced elitist symbolism, and their messages have impacts on Japanese society. I have never seen that a feminist message is taken that positively by the majority, which would sound an exaggeration. But it is, unfortunately, not. I translated the script in full because I wanted to report this belated rise of feminist awareness in Japanese society, but also because her speech provides a good overview of the situation currently our country’s female students are at, with statistical figures and information about recent incidents that represent the state.

Congratulatory speech at the entrance ceremony of the University of Tokyo in April 2019 by Ueno Chizuko, President of NPO Women’s Action Network (April 12, 2019)

Congratulations on your admission. You have gone through the fierce competition to come here.

The realities of female students

I think you are not suspicious that the screening exam is fair. If there is an injustice, you will get angry. However, last year, the Tokyo Medical University’s unfair entrance examination was discovered, and it turned out that there are discriminations against female students and ronins [students who failed to get accepted in the previous year and are seeking another chance]. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology conducted an exhaustive survey of 81 medical colleges and medical schools across the country. The Tokyo Medical University in question has 1.29, the highest at 1.67 at Juntendo University, and at the top there are private schools such as Showa University, Nihon University and Keio University. Tottori University, Shimane University, University of Tokushima, Hirosaki University, and other local national university medical schools are lined up at universities that are lower than 1.0, meaning that female students can easily enter. By the way, how do you understand this number of the University of Tokyo’s Science Division 3 being 1.03, which is lower than the average but higher than 1.0. Statistics are important, because discussion is based on that.

Is it more difficult for female students to pass than male students because male students’ grades are higher? The person from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology who announced the results of the National Medical School survey made the following comment. ‘There are no departments that show superiority of men, and there are many cases in which women are superior in science and engineering as well as in humanities.’ That means that in other faculties, except for the medical department, the difficulty of entering girls is 1 or less, and that the medical department exceeds 1 requires some explanation.

In fact, various data prove that the deviation score of female students is higher than that of male students. First of all, female students tend to decide where to take their exams in order to avoid ronins. Second, the percentage of women enrolled in the University of Tokyo does not exceed the ‘20% wall’ for a long time. This year, it was 18.1%, down from the previous year. Statistically, there is no gender difference in the normal distribution of deviation scores, which means that female students who excel more than a male student are taking an examination of the University of Tokyo. Third, there is a gender gap in the four-year college entrance rate itself. According to the basic school survey in fiscal 2016, the four-year university entrance rate has a gap of 7 points from 55.6% for boys and 48.2% for girls. This difference is not a difference in grades. It is the result of sexism of parents who think that ‘the son is for a university; the daughter is for a junior college’.

Recently, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai visited Japan and called for the need for ‘girls education’. It is important for Pakistan, but irrelevant to Japan? Saying ‘being a girl anyway’ and ‘because you are a girl’ and discouraging them and pulling their legs is called a cooling effect of aspiration, that is, the cooling effect of motivation. When asked ‘How did you bring up your daughter?’, Malala’s father said, ‘I have kept the wings of my daughter from breaking.’ Indeed, many daughters have broken the wings that every child has.

What kind of environment is waiting for a male and female student who went on to work hard at the University of Tokyo in this way? The University of Tokyo’s male students are popular at a joint blind date party with other universities. I heard a story from a female student at the University of Tokyo. When asked ‘Which university are you from?’, they reply ‘a university in Tokyo …’. It is because if they say they are from the University of Tokyo, it intimidates the men. Why can male students be proud of being a university student, but female students hesitate to answer? Because while men’s values ​​and grades are in line, there is a twist between women’s values ​​and grades. Girls are expected to be ‘cute’ since their childhood. By the way, what is the value of being ‘cute’? The value to be loved, chosen and protected includes a guarantee that you are non-threatening. That is why women try to hide their good grades and being a student of the University of Tokyo.

There was an incident in which five men’s students from the five undergraduate and postgraduate students in the engineering school of the University of Tokyo sexually assaulted a female student of a private university. Three of the male students dropped out of school and two were suspended from school. Based on this case, an author Kaoru Himeno wrote a novel, Because She is Stupid, and a symposium was held on campus last year with that theme. ‘Because she is stupid’ was the word that the perpetrator, a male student actually said during the interrogation process. If you read this novel, you will understand what kind of eyes from society are on the male student at the University of Tokyo.

I heard that the University of Tokyo still has men-only clubs that only girls from other universities are allowed to participate. Half a century ago when I was a student, there was a similar circle. It is surprising that it continues half a century later today. In March this year, under the name of the director and vice president of the Office for Gender Equality, The University of Tokyo, a warning was issued that women’s student exclusion violates the idea of ​​equality advocated by the ‘The University of Tokyo Charter’.

The school you have spent in the past was a society of superficial equality. There is no gender distinction in the deviation score competition. However, hidden sexism has already begun when you enter university. If you go out to society, more explicit sexism prevails. Unfortunately, the University of Tokyo is one of the examples.

The female student ratio of approximately 20% in the undergraduate program is 25% in the masters’ program and 30.7% in the doctoral program. After that, when it comes to research positions, the percentage of female assistant professors will drop to 18.2, 11.6 for associate professors and 7.8% for professor positions. This is lower than the ratio of women in the parliament. The female dean of undergraduate studies and of graduate studies are one in 15 and the presidents of the past have no women.

As a pioneer in women’s studies

A study to research in such topics was born 40 years ago. It is called women’s studies. It came to be called gender studies later. When I was a student, there was no discipline of women’s studies in this world. I made it because there was not. Women’s studies were born outside of the academia and entered the academia. A quarter of a century ago, when I was appointed to teach at the University of Tokyo, I was the third female teacher in the Faculty of Literature. And I was in a position to teach women’s studies. When I started women’s studies, the world was full of unsolved mysteries. Why do you decide that men are at work and women are at home? What is a housewife? What were menstruation products like when there were no napkins or tampons? Were there homosexuals in Japanese history? … There is no prior research, because no one had examined it. So whatever you do, you have become a pioneer and first person in that field.

Today, at the University of Tokyo, you can get a degree in either the study of housewives, the study of girls manga, or the study of sexuality, because we have struggled in new fields. And what has driven me was the unceasing curiosity and anger over social injustice. There is also a venture in academic studies. There are studies that are newly emerging while there are declining studies. Womens studies was a venture. Not only women’s studies, various new fields such as environmental studies, informatics and disability studies were born. It is because the change of the times sought it.

A university open to change and diversity

I would like to say that the University of Tokyo is a university that is open to change and diversity. The proof is that we appointed a person like me and let us stand at this place. At the University of Tokyo, there were also the first zainichi national university professor, Mr. Kang Sang-jung, and Mr. Tadao Ando, ​​the first professor at national university with a high school degree. There is also a professor with a disability in hearing, speaking and seeing, Mr. Satoshi Fukushima.

You were selected and came here. It is said that the national expenses burden that costs per a student of the University of Tokyo is 5 million yen a year. A great educational learning environment is waiting for you for the next four years. The wonderfulness is assured by me who has the experience taught here.

You should have come here thinking that you will be rewarded if you do your best. However, as we mentioned the fraudulent entrance exam at the beginning, a society where it is not rewarded fairly even if you try is waiting for you. And do not forget that what you see as rewarded if you do your best is not the result of your efforts, but the environment. It seems that you will be rewarded if you do your best today because the environment around you has encouraged you, pushed your back, raised your hand, and appreciated what you had done. That’s why. In the world, there are those who do not get rewarded even if they do their best, those who cannot do their best, and those who have broken their mind and body. There are people who have lost their willingness before doing their best, with messages ‘You are not capable of it’ and ‘I am not good at anything’.

Please do not use your hard work just to win the game. Use the blessed environment and the blessed ability not to disregard the people of disadvantage, but to help them. And don’t pretend to be tough, acknowledge your weakness and live in mutual support. Feminism is the woman’s movement that gave birth to feminism, but feminism is not a philosophy that women and women want to behave like men, and the weak wants to be strong. Feminism is a philosophy that seeks that the weak be respected as the weak.

Worth learning at the University of Tokyo

What is waiting for you is the unpredictable, unknown world, where the theory of the past does not apply. So far you have sought knowledge with the correct answer. What is waiting for you from now on is a world filled with questions without a correct answer. The reason why diversity is needed on campus is that new value is created between systems and systems, where different cultures are in conflict. You do not have to stay on campus.

The University of Tokyo also has a system to support activities related to studying abroad, international exchange, and solving local issues in Japan. Please seek out the unknown and jump out into the world. There is no need to be afraid of different cultures. Where humans are alive, you can live anywhere. We want you to have a living knowledge in a world where the University of Tokyo brand does not mean at all, in any environment, in any world, even as a refugee. I am convinced that the value of learning at university is not to acquire certain knowledge, but to acquire knowledge to create knowledge that no one has seen before. Knowledge that generates knowledge is called meta-knowledge. It is the mission of the university to get students to acquire the meta-knowledge. Welcome to the University of Tokyo.

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