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Japanese Mayor Enters the Dog House

Taking a page from the Donald Trump Guide to Effective Press Briefings, the mayor of the Japanese city of Osaka suggested that men should do the grocery shopping during the coronavirus pandemic.

“When a woman goes [shopping], it will take time. Women take a long time as they browse around and hesitate about this and that. Men can snap up things they are told to buy and go, so I think it’s good that they go shopping, avoiding human contact.”

Osaka Mayor, Ichiro Matsui, according to multiple press reports

Mayor Ichiro Matsui meant well, as he was trying to promote social distancing and minimal time spent in public, in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Perhaps he was inspired to brainstorm in front of the press by watching President Trump speculate aloud about injecting humans with disinfectant to kill the virus.

When challenged by a reporter, the mayor acknowledged he was speaking from personal experience. “In my house, my wife takes longer and I’m faster.”

The 56-year old mayor was shamed online as being sexist and out of touch. One Japanese Twitter user called the mayor’s remarks “disrespectful to women and men.”

In a reply more offensive than the mayor’s words, another person tweeted, “Old dudes hanging around in the store – don’t they just get in the way? Better for them to stay home and watch the kids.”

Another user got right to the point. “Japan is a country where these words come calmly out of a mayor’s mouth. Deplorable.”

The mayor could easily have delivered a similar message, without making international headlines for his alleged sexism. Instead of making gender assumptions, Matsui’s advice could have been for each family to select one person to consistently do the shopping. The designated shopper should be the least vulnerable and the most efficient at navigating the aisles.

Still, much of the online reaction seemed overly harsh, as is often the case with reaction to President Trump’s musings. Some comments are just so clumsy or ridiculous that you can only laugh and move on. With leaders being pressed for solutions and held accountable for the spread of a disease that took the world by surprise, they are working around the clock and often grasping for answers. I’ll cut the mayor and President some slack. I just hope that when I go shopping later, I can quickly find the Lysol for my evening cocktail.

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