TOKYO – A group of female Japanese lawmakers wore white in parliament Tuesday in protest of recent comments by Tokyo Olympic organizing committee chief Yoshiro Mori widely criticized at home and abroad as sexist against women.
Opposition members of the House of Representatives attended a plenary session wearing white jackets with white roses on their lapels, an homage to the early 20th century U.S. women’s suffrage movement.
Their male colleagues also sported white roses in a show of solidarity, while members of the House of Councillors wearing white attended as observers.
The protest was organized by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan with lawmakers from other opposition parties including the Japanese Communist Party and the Democratic Party for the People participating.
It was reminiscent of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union addresses in 2019 and 2020, where a group of female U.S. lawmakers wore white in support of women’s issues.
Mori, an 83-year-old former prime minister, came under fire last week for saying at an online gathering of the Japanese Olympic Committee that meetings with women “drag on” because they talk too much due to their “strong sense of rivalry.”
The furor over the comments has become another headwind for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which were postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are facing mounting pressure from the public to be pushed back again or canceled.
The International Olympic Committee on Tuesday released a statement saying the remarks were “absolutely inappropriate” and that “diversity is a fundamental value that we need to respect and draw strength from.”
While Mori has since apologized and retracted the remarks, calls for his resignation have continued, and around 390 people have withdrawn their applications to volunteer at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, according to the organizing committee.
The second-in-charge of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Toshihiro Nikai, has also been criticized for saying Monday that “if (the volunteers) want to quit, we’ll recruit new ones.”
Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto said in the lower house plenary session the exodus of volunteers should not be taken lightly and that Nikai’s comments were “inappropriate.”
JOC President Yasuhiro Yamashita echoed those concerns, saying, “I do not take (their decisions) as impulsive, nor should they be taken that way.”
Yamashita, the 1984 judo gold medalist in the open division in Los Angeles, reiterated at a press conference that Mori’s comments “violate the core of the Olympic spirit of not allowing discrimination of any kind” and were “extremely inappropriate.”
He added, however, that there is “no need to relitigate whether it was right or wrong” as Mori has already apologized.
But the remarks have also been criticized by games’ sponsors as well as athletes, and Yamashita said the JOC is collecting opinions on the matter through its athletes committee.