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Liberal Democrats offend women again

House of Representatives in session, in Tokyo
House of Representatives in session, in Tokyo
Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images

It was in an important, but not national, legislative session. A woman from another party was speaking of the need to address women's issues, and she was heckled by a Liberal Democrat. The man rather offensively challenged why the speaker was not married and pushing out babies. It created quite a public uproar, including an online petition to have the heckler censored by his own party leaders.

It also gives us an example of the problem with labels: this occurred in mid June in the Tokyo Japan legislature, where the government is led by a party called the Liberal Democratic Party. This has happened several times over many years; Japan has been experiencing negative population growth since before World War II, along with the accompanying aging population and the economic problems this creates. To many in Japan, a woman's raison d'etre is to have children, and if she is not doing this, she has no value in society no matter what else she does. (Author's footnote: my sister worked overseas for a Japanese international bank, but left because advancement was limited to those who, as she put it, "have slanty eyes, are men, and are born in Japan". It's a very real misogyny.)

The shocking part, for us, is not so much that such a comment was made in a Japanese legislature, but that it was made by a member of what is called the Liberal Democratic Party. In America, liberal Democrats consider themselves the champions of women's rights, and any suggesting that a woman ought to be married and having children would probably be drummed out of the party. That the two groups have the same label clearly tells us nothing of what either believes or what policies they pursue. Nor should we, as voters, support someone simply for wearing a particular label--whether Democrat or Republican by party affiliation, whether self-described or slandered as Progressive or Tea Party, the label is a label.

Every writer knows, or eventually learns, that genre is not a writer's concept but a publisher's concept: people who sell books, or movies, or television shows call them horror or science fiction or romance in order to sell product. They want you to think that if you like well-known books by famous authors, you'll also like unknown books by unknown authors who wear the same label. The same is true in the political world: political managers want you to vote for candidates they manage based on labels. Yet few of us (as we have noted in connection with coalition government) agree completely with the platform of any particular party; we are comparison shopping for that platform which best matches our position both in particular issues and in specific emphases. There is a degree to which supporting the party with whom you most agree is a wise choice; but it is also important to be certain that the specific candidate for whom you are voting agrees with you on the issues you think important--after all, it is entirely possible that you and your candidate both agree with seventy percent of the party platform and think half of that is worth a fight, but he does not agree with most of the issues for which you want him to fight.

A label is ultimately just a marketing tool. That someone is called a Liberal Democrat, or a Tea Party Conservative, tells you very little about what the candidate actually believes. As we approach our national election, pay attention to what the candidates genuinely support, and not just what labels they wear.

We will return in a future article to the problem of Japanese negative population growth, and its implications for us.

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