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Mainichi's Gender Inequality Article is Riddled with Confirmation Bias

A Mainichi Shimbun article portrays Japan as a distorted society with severe gender inequality. But the author's bias is evident from the cherry-picked data.



The streets of the "Minami" area in Chuo-ku, Osaka City on November 16, 2022. (© Sankei by Yui Sutani)

"Unrelenting Attacks on Women Who Speak Out on Gender Inequality on Social Media: a Distorted Japan" — This is the headline of a Japanese article published by the Mainichi Shimbun on January 16. There is an English version with a slightly different headline.

The subject of the article is a tweet by Kanako Otsuji. She is a former member of the House of Representatives for the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

Describing an advertisement that was placed inside JR Osaka Station in November 2022, she tweeted, "In 2022 Japan, sexualized illustrations of women are used unashamedly in advertisements at train station exits."

Her tweet sparked a flood of responses, some of which included threats toward Otsuji. This prompted the article to criticize "Japanese society's distorted views on gender."

Jumping to Conclusions

But there is a huge leap in this argument. Clearly, the ones who are "distorted" are the individuals who threatened Otsuji, not the whole of Japanese society or the government. The article even states that some responses agreed with Otsuji's statement. Then it would be misleading to criticize the foolishness of some people as if it represents the whole of Japan.


Furthermore, the article concurs with Otsuji's observation that illustrations of manga characters including a woman wearing a "bunny girl" costume were sexualized.

But that raises the fundamental question of what constitutes a sexualized illustration. Who has the right to make such a judgment and based on what criteria? Such an issue requires a multifaceted debate on whether such advertisements should be banned from train stations, and where and why they can or cannot be displayed.

The headline also lacks objectivity, because it implies that only women are attacked for speaking up. But the article does not present a correlation between Otsuji being a woman and her being attacked.

This article is written by Dr Akari Iiyama, who is a scholar on Islamic Thought. (© Sankei by Mina Teragawauchi)

Cherry-Picked Data

Toward the end, the article states, "The World Economic Forum has announced that Japan ranked 116th out of 146 countries in the Gender Gap Index for 2022." The Japanese version of the article also says, "These attacks on women who speak up are an indication of where Japan is at right now."

The Gender Gap Index, which the article cites, is not the only international index of gender disparity. For example, the United Nations Development Programme released a Gender Inequality Index in 2022. It ranks Japan 22nd out of 191 countries. The writer cannot simply take one set of data and conclude that it reflects the reality of Japan.

As a result, one gets the impression that the journalist already viewed Japan as a bad country that discriminates against women, then cherry-picked data to back up her claim.

In that light, some sense can be made of the last sentence in the Japanese version of the article. "I want to keep reporting so that the bravery of people who speak up to lessen the struggles of women won't be deterred by abusive rhetoric."



(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Akari Iiyama, Scholar of Islamic Thought

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