Yuka Ogata is a member of the municipal assembly in the Japanese city of Kumamoto. (Congrats!) She’s also the mother of a seven-month-old baby boy. (Congrats, again!) Last week, she brought her little guy to work…which her fellow council members (read: dudes) thought was about the most egregious and offensive thing they’d ever seen.
Ogata’s mostly male coworkers were so uncomfortable and weirded out by the sight of a woman and her baby at work that they repeatedly asked her to leave. After about 40 minutes of resisting, she gave in and left.
A few things: There’s so rule in the council’s rule book that bans babies, but there is one that bans visitors, so the baby technically qualified as that. (Who remained quiet the whole time, by the way.) Also, Ogata did it all on purpose, knowing exactly what kind of reaction she’d get. Ogata wanted to bring attention to the plight of Japanese working mothers. In Japan, many women are still expected to give up their careers once their kids are born; the country also has a child-care shortage.
“The whole reason why it’s so difficult to raise a child and have a career in Japan is because there are no women with children involved in the decision-making process,” Ogata said. “I’m determined to change that.”
The attempt at consciousness-raising worked. The story went viral in Japan and elsewhere and led to a supportive social media hashtag #子連れ会議OK, which translates roughly to “It’s OK to bring a child to a meeting.” (Because it is.)