Women not here to bear children; gender deserves respect, equality

As the ladies of TCU get ready to celebrate what is supposed to be one of the most romantic days of the year, I bet we are all thinking the same thing.”We are baby-making machines.”

At least, that’s what Japanese Health Minister Hakuo Yanagisawa seems to hope the women of Japan are thinking.

Yanagisawa was speaking about Japan’s declining birthrate Jan. 27 when he uttered the now-infamous statement, “the number of birth-giving machines and devices is fixed, so all we can ask for is for them to do their best per head.”

Looking at this from Yanagisawa’s perspective, it is true the best way to increase the birthrate of Japan is for women to have babies.

But, as Bryan Walsh wrote for Time.com on Feb. 5, “It’s not surprising that most (women) take a pass on becoming rent-a-wombs for the nation,” when having babies “often means sacrificing their career and their independence, even in 2007.”

But the insensitivity of Yanagisawa’s statement may be a reflection of greater troubles with women’s rights in the global community.

“I think this statement is just the beginning of uncovering the problems that still exist today,” said Marcy Paul, associate director of the Institute on Women and Gender, via e-mail.

Paul pointed out examples of inequality in the United States, such as the fact that women on average still earn less income than their male counterparts for the same job, and the fact that college sports played by men get more media attention and funding than their corresponding women’s teams, even when the women perform better.

And many people describe women who refuse to hold to social norms with negative terminology such as “bra-burners” or “man-hating.”

The truth is that until women are truly viewed as more than “baby-making machines” in society, we will never be able to rise above these stereotypes.

This is why mechanisms that bring women’s issues out of the bedroom and into the limelight are so necessary.

For example, tomorrow, there will be two showings of the play “The Vagina Monologues” at 4 and 8 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom.

Although highly controversial for its frank discussion about vaginas, the play also brings to light many taboo women’s issues, such as sexual abuse.

Paul wrote, “One in four women in their lifetime will be sexually assaulted.”

The good news is that for women at TCU, there is help.

The Women’s Resource Center Web site, womensresourcecenter.tcu.edu, provides links to various Web sites dealing with rape and sexual assault, such as rainn.org and feminist.org, as well as phone numbers for local organizations such as the Rape Crisis Center, 817-927-2737.

And globally, there is still hope for ending gender discrimination.

According to Walsh, opposition parties to Yanagisawa’s Liberal Democratic Party are not taking the comment lightly and have called for his resignation.

Walsh quotes Yoshiaki Takaki, head of the Diet policy committee for the Democratic Party of Japan, as saying, “We cannot accept that the ministry that deals with grave social issues like decreasing population is headed by someone who has demonstrated a complete lack of respect for the people.”

If men and women can learn to respect each other as equals, and to use language to reflect that respect and equality, then the world will be a better place for it.

Talia Sampson is a junior news-editorial journalism and international relations major from Moorpark, Calif.