The Daily Yomiuri
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8055
The article “Maternity badge system not helping pregnant women,” (December 29, 2007) gives two main reasons for the low level of public recognition of the maternity badges: a variety of designs blocking widespread public recognition - confirmed with a quotation from Hisashi Matsumoto, an emeritus professor of design at Yokohama National University; and, the use of soft colors that fail to make them sufficiently noticeable. It all relates to the use of priority seating on public transportation - reserved for the elderly, the infirm and the pregnant. I know that Japanese think they have a population problem and so more public policy is drafted with pregnant women in mind. But this kind of public labeling seems to be an ineffectual way of addressing the population issue and in fact might even be quite alienating because of the offensive public humiliation that it can lend itself to. It is akin to branding pregnant females like livestock. The public policy response to the population issue here is to treat reproductive age women as livestock commodities. Did the designers of the maternity badges ever think of this? Of course they didn’t.
Everyone likes to get a seat on the trains and buses, but do they want to accept being publicly labeled as a means? If you accept this kind of labeling then other kinds of public labeling cannot be farther in the imagination - yellow badges for Jewish visitors, crescent moons for Muslims, maybe mandatory flag pins to identify the nationalities of all registered foreigners. Everyone with a medical condition can be publicly labeled - for their own good, of course. But what is the virtue of that? What of the virtue of privacy?
I admit that I have never noticed maternity badges, although I have long been aware of priority seating. It’s a good thing, I think, because it shows that I do not habitually stare rudely at female abdomens.