Kiyoka Yahaba – TRANSCRIPT
On April 17, 2015, I, Kiyoka Yahaba, managed to miss two hours of maths class and not be considered absent. You’re probably wondering how I did this.
I was sexually assaulted on the train that morning. Now, by saying that out loud, I may have made a few of you quite uncomfortable. Hopefully, my overwhelming positivity can distract you a little bit. I’m not here to tell you what happened that day, or how it made me feel. I’m not even here for your sympathy.
Rather, I’m here to address a bigger issue that we face in society – sexism: behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on a person’s gender. To talk about sexism, I’m going to have to talk about what happened after my assault. I go to a Japanese high school. When the news of my assault was reported to my school, the teachers separated the girls and the boys into separate classrooms. The girls were told to line up at the back of the classroom, while three female teachers assessed everyone’s skirt lengths.
If your skirt was considered “too short,” they were going to call your parents. This may seem like a military scene from a movie, but this is quite a normal situation at a Japanese high school. However, this routine check in particular was different from the others. The teachers sat all the girls down. And they told us that us girls should have more pride in how we portray ourselves. “Short skirts were asking for it,” “Long skirts showed a sense of integrity.” They didn’t finish there, though. They told us that us girls tempt boys. Personally, my exposed knees tempting? I was flattered; I mean, really I was getting attention.
But then they said that it was our fault that sexual assault happens because we tempt boys. Later that day, I talked to a guy friend of mine who was in the other classroom. When I asked him if he was given the same talk about sexual assault, he looked at me really weird, and he was like, “What are you talking about? We weren’t given that talk at all. We were told to pull up our pants.” I am no Rhodes scholar, but pulling up pants is not a big issue compared to sexual assault.
I was really confused that day. How come the boys weren’t given the same talk as the girls? Why were the girls reprimanded for sexual assault? I decided to turn to feminism as a way to combat the sexism in society. By hearing “feminism,” some of you might have like an allergic reaction to it. You’re probably like, “Oh my god, she’s just another ‘man-hating feminist.'” Well, if you look at the foundations of feminism, it’s quite different than modern feminism.
An example of that is Mary Wollstonecraft. Mary Wollstonecraft was a writer in the post-French Revolution. Her writings on equal rights for men and women are the foundations of modern feminism. Mary Wollstonecraft had this idea. That if the qualities in men are more regarded than those of women, then why don’t women adopt those qualities for themselves? That meant being more assertive, more academic, and less emotional was the results of masculine women.
The same goes for men. Being more caring, less aggressive, and loving was a result of feminine men. I decided to incorporate these theories into my everyday life to combat sexism. At the annual dodgeball competition at my high school, I, Kiyoka Yahaba, managed to turn all my female classmates into gorillas. I’m not even joking; here’s a photo.
Before each game, I gave a little pep talk to the girls; I huddled them up, I said, “Now listen. Take your wimpy femininity and put it at the door. Bring out your masculine side.” I was given the weirdest expressions of my life. They were just like, “What are you talking about?” I decided to restate myself.
I told them to become gorillas. To my surprise, that seemed to have worked. That day, we were amazing; we beat everybody. The boys heard the rise of the apes, and they came over, and you could just see, their facial expressions were just so funny. They look like they were witnessing this new species.
We, girls, were strong, fearless, and definitely masculine. Mary Wollstonecraft’s idea on masculine women was a far easier task than her idea on feminine men. I had to take a different approach. I started small, and I gave a presentation in my English class about a day in the life of a woman, highlighting the precautions women have to face every day to make sure that they’re not caught in a bad situation. Now, keep in mind, during this presentation, I brought scarves, cute accessories, hair bands, and I dressed the guys up in my class.
I also brought a skirt for my English teacher to wear. I had him stand in front of everybody as I demonstrated the different labels a woman has to face on the length of her skirt. I turned all the guys into feminine men. I kind of forced a little bit on it, but I want everyone to know that nobody was hurt during this experiment, so I call that a success. But after my presentation, my English teacher came up to me.
I thought he was going to say, “Kiyoka, that was a little bit too much, you should have brought it down a little bit.” But to my surprise, he thanked me. He said it made him think of how to treat his daughter and his son so that they were both viewed as equals. So, after hearing that from my English teacher, I had this spark, this fire within me. So I went around school, and I asked some guys if they would participate in my next project, which was dressing them up in cute little hair bands again and posing for photos.