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Artist Hiroko Yokoyama Discusses Sexism in Japan's '90s Game Industry

posted on by Jennifer Sherman

Artist Hiroko Yokoyama (SNK's Ikari Warriors, Crystalis, Guerrilla War games) posted on Twitter last week about sexist discrimination she witnessed in Japan's video game industry at around the time of the introduction of 3D techniques. She described various anecdotes that demonstrate a frustrating trend that many women in Japan continue to face today.

Yokoyama explained that when 3D gaming was beginning to take off in the 1990s, companies selected certain employees to send to training seminars and courses about polygons, 3D data, and related topics. She said that a certain company had decided to send to people to such a course, but the person in charge automatically dismissed women who showed interest.

Yokoyama reported that the boss said, "Because women will quit the company when they get married, the techniques won't remain with the company. Therefore, it's useless to let women take the classes." The man's remarks relate to the expected trend—which continues in Japan today—of women quitting their jobs after marrying and starting families. The boss' words also emphasize the expectation in Japan that employees will stay with a particular company for the duration of their careers instead of moving to various companies.

Shortly after completing the course, both men whom the company had sent to training quit without passing the techniques on to any coworkers. Yokoyama noted that anyone may quit a company due to various circumstances, regardless of their gender.

She added that people with technical knowledge may receive preferential treatment in their careers and be able to change jobs more easily. Yokoyama said that she feels it was particularly terrible that women automatically had their chances at learning crushed. She said, "I want to think that things aren't like this anymore."

Yokoyama mentioned that she herself had been interested in acquiring new skills around that time, but she decided not to apply due to her own boss and her status as a married woman. He previously said that women "can't work properly" after having children. Essentially, Yokoyama noted, women lost the right to gain new skills after getting married. On the other hand, they already faced the inability to gain those skills due to being unmarried women, as she described in previous tweets. Yokoyama said she feels that it was not the company head at the time that was the root of the problem, but that middle management tended to be sexist against women.

In a separate tweet thread, Yokoyama described how men sometimes ridicule women for their inability to take "jokes." She said that a man she worked with repeatedly joked that she was unable to do her job because she was a "fat, ugly otaku." Meanwhile, he acted differently and tried to look good around attractive people, men, and superiors.

Yokoyama said she is able to continue her work as an artist even now because of support from her teachers, husband, and other people who like her art. She thanked the people in various positions who have supported her.

Yokoyama's tweets are a response to the current Twitter trend that is using the "It's OK for us to get mad at discrimination against women" hashtag. The social media campaign itself is a response to the recent discovery that Tokyo Medical University has been lowering the entrance exam scores of female applicants since at least 2011. An internal investigation confirmed media reports that the university had been trying to regulate the percentage of successful female applicants. This year, the final pass rate at the university was 8.8 for men but only 2.9 percent for women.

Sources: Brandon Sheffield's Twitter account, Hiroko Yokoyama's Twitter account (link 2), The Japan News, Reuters (Elaine Lies)

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