TOKYO – While trying to schedule housing for a summer program at Temple Japan, I came across a discrepancy in dorm availability. TUJ offers two dorms: the Hiyoshi Men’s Dorm and the Kitazono Women’s Dorm. At first glance, there is nothing amiss: It’s normal to separate study abroad students by sex, and TUJ offers housing to both.
However, there is a glaring issue: the Kitazono Women’s Dorm has a curfew of 11 p.m. seven nights a week, whereas the Kiyoshi Men’s Dorm has no curfew.
The reasoning? “The safety of female students is of highest priority,” Temple Japan’s documentation reads. “While the emphasis on safety specifically for female students does reflect a cultural difference that might take a bit of time and effort to get used to, this rule ensures that Kitazono residents are guaranteed housing where they may live safely and focus on their studies.”
On the surface, this is not equal opportunity housing for both sexes. Many parts of a society’s culture take place after 11 p.m. – and not all activities after that time involve typical nightlife, like drinking or clubbing. Many festivals, celebrations, concerts and events take place at night and would not allow female students time to return to the dorms by 11 p.m. Moreover, TUJ needs to provide both sexes with the freedom to experience Japanese culture in their own way. The women participating in the program are all adults and should be allowed to decide for themselves how they wish to do this. It would be one thing if the curfew applied to both dorms – as it stands, locking up only the women gives them an inherently second-class experience.
The second glaring oversight is that the curfew doesn’t actually protect women.
In a foreign country, the chances of getting lost on the subway or even on the street are higher than usual, so I was prompted to ask what happens if you return after curfew: You are locked out. Someone comes and locks the building for the night and the guard on overnight duty doesn’t have a key. Now the female student is potentially alone, without safe lodging for the night and is forced to go out and find another place to stay.
If – as is customary with traveling abroad – the female student isn’t carrying an exorbitant amount of cash on her at the time, she might not have enough to find safe lodging for the night. This leaves the student alone in a strange place after 11 p.m., which, as we all know, is one of the least safe positions to be in.
TUJ is helping to perpetuate the rape culture that dictates we should lock up women rather than teach men not to commit crimes. TUJ is condoning the attitude that any woman indecent enough to be out after 11 p.m. is asking to be victimized. Not only is the curfew unjust and discriminatory, it is not in the spirit of women’s safety. I understand there is a cultural difference here, but when I attend Temple – no matter the campus – I expect fair and equal treatment.
Perhaps the greatest hypocrisy is that Main Campus has a high crime rate. During the three years I’ve been a Temple student, I’ve been informed of bomb threats, homicide threats, a professor being assaulted in an academic building, off-campus shootings, drug busts, suicides, accidental deaths, you name it – I can name specific instances of all of them.
How is it that Temple students – including females – are trusted and expected to deal with all of this, and yet not allowed to be out after 11 p.m. in Tokyo? At best it’s unnecessary, and at worst, it’s bigoted.
Walking off campus for me means being extremely cautious, vigilant and responsible – three qualities that I pride myself in being. After living safely for three years, independently and with no curfew – as most female students have – I think I deserve that freedom wherever I choose to attend Temple.
I understand TUJ does not own or operate the Kitazono Women’s Dorm. It does, however, have a choice as to where it puts funding for a women’s dorm, and I don’t think Kitazono adequately represents the equitable experience Temple strives to provide for all students. While I had initially hoped to find my niche among other study abroad students in the dorm, I have since decided to take my business elsewhere.
I can only hope, in the future, that Temple will eliminate such an obsolete and offensive practice as having a women-only curfew.
Leah Rosenbloom can be reached at email@example.com.