There are times when fighting misogyny on the internet gets too draining, and I seek solace in scrolling through my Pinterest feed of beautiful, clever DIY projects, seeing what my favorite internet cats are up to lately, and listening to This American Life. Learning about Tama, the feline station master at Kishi Station in Kinokawa, Japan, I was certain that Lil’ Bub and Grumpy Cat had some new competition.
Tama is sort of a hero for the Kishi Station. She was a stray who hung around during a time when the Wakayama Electric Railway was losing copious amounts of money. According to Jim Motavalli in a piece for Mother Nature Network, a local grocer who was informally managing the station named Tama Station Master in 2007, and the railway, wisely, stood behind this appointment. Tama not only saved the station from extinction, she made it sort of a tourist destination, with a cartoon version of her visage appearing on souvenirs and on a train.
After feeling sufficiently warm and fuzzy about Tama, I learned that she was promoted to Super Station Master, making her Wakayama Electric Railway’s only female executive. Japan has a higher wage gap than the United States, with men earning over 30% more than women, according to data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. This spring, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in a proposal to stimulate the nation’s economy, encouraged companies to get more women into executive roles. According to a piece in Financial Times, women in Japan hold 1.6% of executive positions and only 15% of Japanese companies have any female executives at all. It seems that Tama is a synecdoche of larger gender discrepancies in Japan, and a fuzzy slap in the face to other women seeking to work their way up in their respective companies.
In a world where Internet cats are no longer a safe haven from sexism, at least I still have Pinterest and This American Life.