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Sexism and Sexualization of Women: East vs West

I really couldn’t help but feel saddened by three recent news stories about the continued attitudes that are so harmful to women. If these media reports are right, Japan’s leadership appears to be way off target, referring to women as baby machines and refusing to apologize for enslaving and raping ~200K women in World War II.

America has a more insidious version of sexism that can harm young minds – exposing children repeatedly to age-inappropriate sexually explicit images and ideas. As we expand our understanding of neuronal plasticity, it is becoming more and more clear that what we see and experience can imprint itself on our brains and literally change the way we think and feel. We spend a lot of time worrying about what we put in our bodies (e.g. avoiding trans fats, food chemicals, etc.) I wonder if we should think a little bit more critically about what we let into our minds?

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Japanese health minister says women are “birth-giving machines”

In a report in which the health minister explained how dangerous the low birth rate is for Japan’s economic future, he suggested that women are a rate limiting factor. There are only so many “birth-giving machines… and all we can ask is for them to do their best.”

There has been an outcry in Japan against the health minister though it’s unclear if he’ll resign.

Japan refuses to apologize for crimes against women

Japan admits its army forced women to be sex slaves during World War II but has rejected compensation claims.

Historians believe at least 200,000 young women captured during World War II were forced to serve in Japanese army brothels.

A large number of the victims – who were known as comfort women – were Korean, but they also included Chinese, Philippine and Indonesian women.

The media’s portrayal of young women as sex objects harms girls’ mental and physical health, US experts warn.

Magazines, television, video games and music videos all have a detrimental effect, a task force from the American Psychological Association reported.

Sexualisation can lead to a lack of confidence with their bodies as well as depression and eating disorders.

For more information on kids and sexualization, see Dr. Stryer’s recent blog post.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

The strength of weakness

An excellent blog post was forwarded to me for comment – an Internal Medicine physician reflects on his patients’ common underlying condition: isolationism.

Today I saw patients with the following problems:

  • A person who had attempted suicide over the weekend
  • A person who was possibly acutely suicidal and was abusing narcotics I was prescribing
  • A person who is in an abusive relationship and has a severe eating disorder
  • A terribly depressed woman in a dysfunctional marriage
  • A pre-teen child whose father had suddenly died

My observation from today is that most of these people are isolated.  They have difficult situations to face and the people who normally surround them are somewhat uncomfortable, not knowing what to say…

Western culture is obsessed with avoiding suffering.  We entertain ourselves to avoid having to face the harsh realities of life.  People die and suffer daily, and we are obsessed with the latest TV show, the latest political soapbox, or the latest self-help tool.  We feel that the goal of society is to create happy and secure individuals.  This is not true.  The goal of society is to function as a unit in a healthy way – with the weak parts supported by the strong ones…

What I emphasized to the people I spoke with today was the need to find people who had gone through the same things.  Those in the eye of the storm need to hear from people who have gotten to the other side that it is OK to feel the way they feel.  Those who have gone through hard times have something huge to offer those who are going through them now – experience.  You lose the pat answers when you have suffered yourself.

It is my hope that those who are struggling will find others online here at Revolution Health who can support them, and that those who have made it through to the other side will reach out to help others through our online community. Suffering is not meaningless if you harness it for good – your wounds can heal others.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

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