The head of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee stepped down on Friday after more than a week of backlash for his sexist remarks—but experts say it’s hardly a victory for women’s rights in Japan.

What’s more, Yoshiro Mori’s resignation likely would not have happened were it not for the international attention over his comments, experts say.

Mori, 83, said at an Olympics committee meeting on Feb. 3 that women talk too much in meetings.

“If we increase the number of female board members, we have to make sure their speaking time is restricted somewhat, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying,” he reportedly said.

Mori, who served as prime minister from 2000-2001, apologized the next day, but said that he was not considering resigning.

“There have been a lot of these kinds of comments from politicians and people so many times before, but they never resign,” says Kazuko Fukuda, who started a petition calling for action to be taken against Mori. She points to top ruling party politician Koichi Hagiuda, who in 2018 caused a furor when he said that raising infants and toddlers is a job for mothers. Following his comments, he was appointed in 2019 as Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology—a job he still holds.

In announcing his resignation, Mori defended himself and said he had worked to support women during his career. However, he added: “The most important thing is to hold the Games in July, so I cannot be any hindrance to this aim.”

With less than six months to go before the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, there remain lingering questions over how the Games can be held safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Japan’s first COVID-19 vaccinations are not set to begin until next week.

Further complicating matters, Mori’s pick to replace him—Saburo Kawabuchi, the 84-year-old former chairman of the Japan Football Association—plans to decline the job, according to the Asahi Shimbun. There have been increasing calls for a woman, at at least a younger official, to take over the job.

Mori’s resignation followed a drumbeat of criticism both within Japan and outside it. Fukuda’s pedition, which called Mori’s comments “prejudiced, narrow-minded and discriminatory” received almost 150,000 signatures. An editorial in a large daily newspaper called for him to resign.

Credit: Time


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