Asia.Com: Asia Encounters the Internet

By K. C. Ho; Randolph Kluver et al. | Go to book overview

13

Opening a Pandora's box

The cyber activism of Japanese women

Junko R. Onosaka


INTRODUCTION

They [women] are trying to build real communication and relationships on the Internet, leaving behind "secure" and "soothing" conversations…. Women who were once confined at home to so-called issues of "privacy" such as child-rearing, care of the elderly, domestic violence, sexual harassment and other discrimination, are now stepping out, as if a Pandora's box has been opened in Japanese society.

(Matsuura, 1999, p. 20)

From May to September 2000, I took part in the Digital Asia Library (DAL) project by cataloging Japanese websites at Ohio State University library. 1 My work on the DAL project identified, evaluated, and catalogued Japanese materials available on the Internet. It gave me the opportunity to analyze the Japanese women and women's groups most active on the Web. It became clear, based on my study, that they have begun to use the Internet for women's advancement; indeed, the number of mailing news groups or websites established by them for that purpose has increased exponentially in recent years. In fact, while a large bloc of Japanese women and their groups do not as yet use the Internet, it is clear that the Internet has provided a tremendous opportunity for many Japanese women to resist pressures in Japanese society for "harmony" and "silence."

Japan is the only non-Western society so far to have established itself as an economic superpower, although it has suffered from a long economic recession. The number of Internet users, moreover, has increased rapidly, growing, for example, by 74 percent between 1999 and 2000, and, as of December, 2001, 44 percent (55.93 million) of all Japanese use the Internet (The Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications, 2002). According to September 2002 statistics provided by Global Reach (2003), Japanese is used by 9.7 percent of the world online population (estimated at 619 million), more than European languages such as Spanish (7.2 percent), French (3.5 percent), and German (6.7 percent), constituting the third most widely used language after

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