Longtime readers will be familiar with our 20-year addiction to the sport of sumo. Since at least 2012, I have been following and cheering on a Japanese rikishi called Kisenosato.
As background, the highest ranks of the deeply Japanese sport of sumo have been dominated for twenty and more years by rikishi from Mongolia and eastern Europe, including the current, and possibly greatest ever, yokuzana (or Grand Champion), Hakuho. The young Kisenosato was promoted as the latest and greatest hope for a Japanese to regain the top spot.
Unfortunately, there were times in Kisenosato’s career when he just didn’t seem to focus and it took him many years to finally reach the highest ranks. By then his body was beaten up and he has fought very little over the last eighteen months, withdrawing from several basho (tournaments) in a row through injury.
Yesterday was day four of the January basho, which Kisenosato had chosen as his comeback tournament. He was welcomed with open arms by the Japanese crowd but, unfortunately his sumo was not good enough and he lost the first three days’ bouts.
Sumo is a sport of very strict tradition, there are rules both written and unwritten that must be followed. Grand Champions are expected to win a very high percentage of their fights. If they do not, the weight of tradition begins to pressure them into retirement. After his year out with injury, Kisenosato had to immediately re-establish his position in the hierarchy. He couldn’t do it and so today he announced his immediate retirement. It is, I think, a sad end to an unfulfilled career.
Luckily, as we have seen in this basho and the previous one, there is a batch of young Japanese rikishi who are just bursting through: Mitakeumi, Takakeisho, Abi and several others are capable of beating anyone on their day. The first four days of this basho have witnessed the defeat of most of the upper level rikishi by up-and-comers: It makes for a great tournament.
This is a very brave corporate statement in support of #MeToo, noting that a large number of men need to change their actions and their thinking if we are ever to rid ourselves of a domineering patriarchy.
I’m not dumb enough to think they put this out without massive research in focus groups and elsewhere where they learned that it would not be a fatal mistake to launch such an “attack” on its own target market. However, I am intelligent enough to recognise that Gillette didn’t need to do this, didn’t need to take the risk but did it away because it was the right thing to do.
The risk, of course, comes from the response to the ad by the large number of unreconstructed males, the very same group who perpetuate the problems highlighted in the ad. A wide variety of these responses can be found most easily in the 1,650 comments on the YouTube video.
Some are simply sticking their head in the sand and hoping it will go away: “RIP Gillette”, “Goodbye Gillette”, “buy anything but this product”, “you just lost a customer for life”, “what a bunch of fools”, etc.
Others were more expressive: “it feels like Gillette is calling me a rapist”, “the entire country is sick of feminism,” and the ad is “dripping with contempt for men.”
But the antediluvian rednecks were loudest: “Men get treated like they’re bad just for being a man,” for example. (Compare and contrast: “Nazis get treated like they’re bad just for being Nazis.”) Those responsible for the ad should be “put in camps to be worked to death”. They say the ad is “misogynistic and racist” but is “still not quite gay enough.” “Now we can’t even shave without radical feminist ideology.”
It is “left wing propaganda” paid for by “your liberal masters,” and is “a garbage political narrative.” One even suggested that “big corporation sides with communists in the culture war.”
How can the idea of treating people as people rather than as sexual or dominatable objects be considered “radical”?
Unfortunately, the number and extent of these comments proves that there is a genuine need for more public service messages of this kind.