The TV star-turned-politician who goes by the single name Renho made good on her bid to make history yesterday, winning the contest to become the first female leader of the opposition Democratic party in Japan.
The victory that makes her a potential prime minister candidate could be a watershed moment in Japan, where women constitute less than 15% of Parliament and PM Shinzo Abe is trying to stimulate the economy by getting more women into the workforce. Last year he cut his target for female representation in leadership from 30% in 2020 to 7% in 2021.
The gender imbalance in Japanese politics is due in part to men’s tendency to do little more than pay lip service to female candidates and office-holders, according to The New York Times. Male politicians voice their support for women but in reality favor other men. Female politicians, meanwhile, are still judged mainly on their looks.
There was fear that in order to prove her political chops, Renho would have to emulate this sort of macho behavior and downplay women’s issues. But at times, she’s indicated her intent to do just the opposite. She’s said she wants to help more women get elected to Parliament and has advocated for the right for married women to keep their maiden names—which is still illegal in Japan. Plus, she’s acknowledged her history-making ride outright on her website: “As the first woman leader, I would like to break the glass ceiling.” Yesterday she did just that.