Dear Yoshiro Mori,
I can’t imagine what you’ve been doing ever since you were forced to resign from your position as president of the Tokyo Olympics. Twiddling your thumbs?
As the world now knows, your swift downfall came after your ill-advised remarks, made after a plan was announced to double the proportion of women on the board of the Japanese Olympic Committee.
“Women are very competitive,” you noted. “When one of them raises her hand, they probably think they have to say something, too. And then everyone says something.”
It’s true, women are competitive. The number of women athletes competing in the Olympic Games is approaching 50%. Soon we may even be equal with men. We also compete as leaders. Women are heads of FTSE 500 companies, major universities, philanthropies, and think tanks. Women run hospital systems, construction firms, and investment banks.
When it comes to speaking, yes, we do tend to run our mouths — speaking out about governance, foreign affairs, agricultural policy, prison reform, and just about every other issue under the sun. But I know you didn’t really mean what you said! As you later clarified, you’ve actually been “praising women, promoting them to speak out more.”
So I’m going to take you at your word and say all is forgiven.
Just to set things right, I have a special invitation for you. In honor of International Women’s Day coming up March 6, I’ve partnered with a Singaporean women’s organization, called KeyNote Women, to create a special live event: the first-ever global women’s speak-a-thon.
We’re presenting 29 women from around the world, coming together to do nothing but speak. Each of us will read the words of a woman from history who also spoke up in her day — despite the slings and arrows of men who just wanted her to shut up.
Women like the great American abolitionist and suffragist Lucy Stone, who was once doused on the podium with a bucket of ice water. And the great 19th century American orator Sojourner Truth. Jeering and taunting her, someone in the audience once called out, “Are you a man?”
In response, she ripped open her blouse — to show them.
Our event will feature women speakers paying homage to women speakers through the generations — what an enthralling event. It will include speeches by women in history from Singapore, India, the United States, Canada, Britain, France, New Zealand, Belgium, Australia, the Philippines, Kenya.
And yes, there will even be a speech by a woman from Japan, the great activist and orator Toshiko Kishida, who spoke often about improving women’s status in Japan.
After delivering her most famous speech, “Daughters in Boxes,” in the city of Ōtsu in 1883, she was arrested, put on trial, and fined for having made a political speech without a permit, effectively ending her public speaking career.
But we will honor her words and ideas this weekend. Because if there’s one thing women all over the world have in common, it’s a commitment to bettering the world, generating new ideas, and speaking up for their beliefs. We will be holding two separate sessions, at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Japan time. Here’s the link to sign up. If you have any friends in the United States, that’s 6 p.m. and midnight Friday, California time, and three hours later on the East Coast.
Note that there’s a modest fee, sir, but you don’t actually have to pay. As a token of our affection, we’ve set aside a ticket for you — and it’s free.