Northeast Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - Mother of the Nation? The Relationship Between Political Women and the Media in Japan

Saturday, July 7
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Juniper, New Building

In Japan, there is an entrenched media practice of touting any woman who rises to prominence in politics as a potential first female prime minister. This media focus has not resulted in any women achieving the role and there are many examples of female politicians subjected to sensationalist, discriminatory and gendered reporting by the media. This established pattern has been evident since the ‘Madonna boom’ of the late 1980s when Doi Takako became the first women to lead a political party and a record number of women were elected to the Diet. It has continued to the present day, with the Abe government promising to create "a society in which women shine."  However, some female politicians have also used media attention to state their ambitions for achieving higher levels of political power and even a desire to become the “mother of the nation,” thus simultaneously reinforcing the gendered norms that construct their presence in politics as unnatural. It is also important to note that media freedoms in Japan have declined rapidly since 2011, and the country is now ranked 72 out of 180 in the Reporters Without Borders 2017 World Press Freedom Index. According to the most recent industry study, only 14.8% of full-time journalists in Japan are women, mirroring the low levels of women elected to political office. This paper will examine the complicated relationship between the media and political women in Japan, and analyze recent media reporting on prominent female politicians.

Sally McLaren

Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan

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2 - Mother of the Nation? The Relationship Between Political Women and the Media in Japan



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