Awhile back, I joined the JET Ladies Facebook group on the recommendation of someone from one of the other JET groups, and I’m so thankful I did.
Most of the posts revolve around where you can find lady-specific items or doctors in a certain area–VERY IMPORTANT–but there are occasionally posts about someone’s struggle with sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior from students. It’s really interesting and helpful to see how other people respond to those situations.
I’ll be honest here. Until recently, I haven’t thought much about those situations. Of course, I prepared my answer for the interview. It was something along the lines of “Talk to my supervisor blah blah ginger.”
But yesterday, a current JET friend of mine posted on Facebook about elementary school students calling her “debu” which is the word for “fat” with a negative connotation. I started looking up similar situations because this may happen to me at some point, and I’m not sure how I’d respond.
I completely feel that children’s behavior should be corrected, but what how hard is it to speak up to the JTE or your supervisor or principal about a situation? What if something happens outside the school? What if going to the police doesn’t help? What if…? What if…? What if…?
I’m getting worried about situations that may not even happen.
But let’s be honest here. The world is different for women than it is for men. Men do afford a certain privilege because they happened to have been born men. They don’t always face the same situations and hardships that a woman would. And knowing Japan, women are expected to behave a certain way and not cause a fuss. You may have a stalker, but do you really want to make a big fuss over someone paying you too much attention? That’s the kind of feeling I may face over there.
It worries me, but something I read on a post in the JET Ladies group helped me put things in perspective.
Someone said that we are not Japanese. I know, SHOCKING, right? Yes, we may be living and working in Japan, speak Japanese, and may even be married to a Japanese citizen.
We, ourselves, are not Japanese. We need to speak up if something is wrong. Part of our collective job is to be the “non-Japanese person.” That may sound racist, but it’s true. Our job is to be a cultural ambassador and explain our respective cultures to Japanese kids (and even adults). I realize how important this is even while I’m still in America. I have a Japanese friend who speaks near-fluent English and has lived here for two years, but she still doesn’t understand some concepts of American culture. She asks me about them, and I try to explain as best as I can.
It’s okay that we’re not Japanese. It’s okay that she’s not American. It’s about making ourselves understood. As respectfully as possible, of course.
When I get to Japan and have to deal with it on a daily basis, I may feel differently. It will be a challenge. It’s good to know I’ll have friends there, Japanese and non-Japanese alike.
I will just try to deal with it the best that I can.