Thursday. 11/2/2021

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Junichi Toyofuku

Last gaffe?

Remarks last week by Yoshiro Mori, head of the Tokyo Olympics organising committee, that women speak too much in meetings were shocking in themselves. But the subsequent silence from those in power is making matters even worse. Earlier this week, prime minister Yoshihide Suga seemed to cave under pressure, saying that Mori’s statements go against national interests. Yet nobody in the ruling circle is willing to tell the powerful 83-year-old former prime minister that he needs to go.

Meanwhile, the public outcry is mounting: more than 400 volunteers have withdrawn from participating in the Games, while 140,000 people have signed an online petition condemning the remarks and demanding more female representation on the organising committee. A group of opposition female members in parliament (pictured) showed solidarity in a legislative session yesterday by wearing white jackets in reference to the US suffrage movement; some male MPs wore white roses in their lapels too. According to Kiyomi Tsujimoto from the Constitutional Democratic Party, the fact that nobody in the ruling party is speaking up means that the government is discriminating against women: silence equals consent.

But it’s about more than whether or not Mori keeps his seat. The fact that he believed what he said to be true – and acceptable to express – sheds light on a more fundamental problem. While his comments do not represent the thinking of every Japanese citizen, the image that Japan is projecting to the world is one of a male-dominated and antiquated society that is unable to change – because everyone is afraid of challenging authority. Some companies are now even wondering if advertising at the Olympics could do more harm than good for their brand. The repercussions are growing. Leaders need to act now before it’s too late.

Media / Hungary

Radio free europe

Klubrádió, one of Hungary’s last remaining independent radio outlets, will disappear from the airwaves after losing an appeal this week to retain its broadcasting licence. The station has been on air in the Budapest area for 21 years and was regarded as a bastion of government scrutiny, regularly inviting opposition politicians on its talkshows. Hungary’s media regulator says that the government acted lawfully in refusing a new licence but the move is seen as another example of the shrinking space for critical media under authoritarian prime minister Viktor Orbán. “The concern is twofold: one is the independence of the media and another is the impartiality of the judiciary,” Justin Spike, Budapest correspondent for The Associated Press, told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. He also noted that the four media council members who heard the appeal were appointed by Orbán’s Fidesz party. Klubrádió says that it will continue to broadcast online, starting on Monday. “The internet has become the last refuge where journalists can practise their trade independently,” says Spike.

Politics / Italy

Election knight

The fortunes of Italian politicians are notoriously unpredictable, as governments often only hold power for a matter of months. Still, there are some characters who appear politically indestructible and Silvio Berlusconi (pictured) is one of them. “Il cavaliere” (“the knight”) defined Italian politics for decades and, while in the past few years his voice has become less relevant, he has not retired.

In the major shake-up caused by the latest government crisis, Berlusconi has once again found a seat at the top table. His Forza Italia party, which is currently polling at about 8 per cent, will be part of the broad coalition that’s expected to support Mario Draghi’s bid to become prime minister. Berlusconi might no longer be taking centre-stage but the 84-year-old (and his sizeable cohort of MPs and senators) still holds sway. It seems Berlusconi will get his long-awaited curtain call after all.

Culture / Canada

Open art

Montréal’s museums began reopening their doors this week as the Canadian province of Québec began easing aspects of its coronavirus lockdown. It’s a welcome move, particularly given that Québec has been one of the areas in Canada hardest hit by the pandemic. Among those cultural spaces now open is the MAC, the city’s celebrated museum of contemporary arts (pictured), which will require visitors to book tickets for time slots before arriving and to wear masks while in the galleries. Given that nightly curfews and many other restrictions are still in place in Montréal, it’s good to see priority being given to the opening of cultural spaces and it should help to make the lockdown easier to endure. Austria also reopened museums this week; gallery heads in France and Switzerland are calling for a similar easing. Montréal’s galleries and museums might help by offering a template on how to do this safely – and artfully.

Fashion / Paris

Age before beauty

French fashion house Rochas has appointed Charles de Vilmorin (pictured), a virtually unknown 24-year-old, as its new creative director. Though he only graduated in 2019, launched his own label last year and presented his much-praised debut couture show last month, De Vilmorin had been tipped as a potential designer for major houses such as Saint Laurent, so it’s a coup for Rochas to secure him. Founded in 1925, the firm was long noted more for its perfume than clothing. That changed with the 2002 appointment of Olivier Theyskens, who revived the house’s elegant aesthetic. Subsequent designers Marco Zanini and Alessandro Dell’Acqua won customers by creating gloriously feminine, wearable clothes, rather than focusing on flashy logo-heavy accessories. Despite his youth, De Vilmorin’s debut collection for his own label, featuring hand-painted flowers, butterflies and nudes across puffed-sleeve, full-skirted silhouettes, indicates that his style will delight fans of the maison.

M24 / Monocle on Design

Design to last, part 2

We look to Nordic woodworker Nikari for its design philosophy, and speak to architect Hugh Broughton about the challenges of designing for extreme conditions. Also in the programme: how French footwear brand Salomon combines performance with aesthetics.

Monocle Films / Finland

The home of the Finnish art scene

We tour the breathtaking studios of artists’ residence Lallukka in Helsinki, which hasn’t changed its purpose since it was completed in 1933. The landmark functionalist building offers spaces at low rents so that its tenants can focus on one thing: making art.

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