Saturday, August 2, 2008
Overlooking the Easy Solution
There's an old joke that starts with a man who goes to a doctor and says, "it hurts when I bend my arm like this." The doctor says, "then don't bend your arm like that." I'm guessing this joke is so old that Borscht Belt caveman comedians were telling it in the Saber Tooth dinner theater as patrons noshed on roast bison. The crux of the joke is that if something creates a problem, then don't do it. It's a bad joke, but a good point is embedded in it.
There has been a problem in Japan for quite some time with men who grope women on the train. One of the most appealing targets for such men has been schoolgirls. Part of the reason for this is that they are less likely to draw attention to themselves and cry our or react if a pervy old goon starts feeling them up. The other part of the reason is that Japan has a fetishistic fascination with schoolgirl attire. In particular, the skirts which reveal tender young legs and carry the potential for a tantalizing peak at underpants preoccupy the minds of deviant men.
The problem is not a limited one by any stretch of the imagination, though I'm hoping the attention given to the problem in the past decade has decreased the aggressiveness with which such men act on their desires. I've mentioned this problem to nearly every female student I've taught at one point or another and only one said she wasn't groped as a schoolgirl. One of them was groped every day and was once "gang groped" by a whole pack of men. Another said she sunk her nails long and hard into any hand that strayed her way. I think the perverts can sense who is confident and will fight back and who is timid and will suffer passively. They probably have a "how-to" guide somewhere out there which they pass around (along with their schoolgirl naughty pictures, I'm sure).
My husband has also discussed this topic with students. For the record, neither of us go out of the way to bring it up, but we both teach from the same textbooks on occasion and this topic is a natural off-shoot of one of the lessons. One of his students told him that her friend was not only groped on the way to school (on the train), but found when she arrived that there was was semen on her skirt. This is a good indication of how flagrant such behavior can be. A man can stand on the train with one hand on a school girl's private parts and the other on his penis and no one notices or stops him. Granted, the trains are crowded, but someone in the proximity ought to notice such a thing.
During this discussion, my husband proffered a possible solution to this problem which is easy and glaringly obvious. Why don't the schools have the girls wear slacks as a part of their uniforms instead of skirts? Pervy men with mirrors on the tips of their shoes couldn't peak up skirts and those who are excited by the view of young girls exposed legs may find their mojo dampened by covered legs, particularly since a school uniform with slacks is reminiscent of boys rather than girls.
I've asked students why such a solution isn't employed and am generally greeted with blank looks or the answer of "it's tradition." I have to restrain myself from concluding that the old men who make all the rules in this patriarchal society aren't the same ones who get off of fetishizing school girl uniforms and the idea (if not the act) of fondling young women against their will and prefer the status quo to stopping (or at least reducing the frequency of) the problem. I have to conclude that no one can think outside the box (and that it's a very small box).
Perhaps if there were a Japanese version of the antique doctor joke where the obvious solution is offered, someone would have gotten a clue and figured out that an easy way to stop panty obsessions and grabby perverts would be to simply change the attire of their unfortunate targets.