Breaking the code in Japanese workplaces

AFP
A JAPANESE woman whose campaign against mandatory high heels in the workplace won broad public support has stepped up her fight against strict corporate dress codes.
AFP
Breaking  the code in Japanese workplaces
Reuters

Female office workers wearing high heels, clothes and bags of the same colour make their way at a business district in Tokyo, Japan, on June 4, 2019.

A JAPANESE woman whose campaign against mandatory high heels in the workplace won broad public support has stepped up her fight against strict corporate dress codes — including a de-facto ban on women wearing glasses.

Actress and freelance writer Yumi Ishikawa shot to prominence this year with her drive against Japanese office culture, in which high heels are seen as near-obligatory when job-hunting or working in the office.

Known by the slogan “#KuToo” — a play on the Japanese word “kutsu,” meaning shoes, and “kutsuu,” meaning pain — the campaign was chosen on Monday as one of the buzzwords of the year.

Ishikawa’s latest petition to relax the rules, delivered to the labor ministry on Tuesday, has attracted more than 31,000 signatures.

“The root cause of the problem is that (there are companies) that have rules for women only — such as a ban on wearing glasses or a requirement to wear make-up,” the 32-year-old told reporters.

“This practice has to be reviewed.”

Lukewarm progress

Campaigners had already submitted a petition to the government in June which called for legislation to declare the obligatory wearing of high heels as harassment.

But Ishikawa said progress had been lukewarm and she was “shocked to see there was no mention of high heels” in the government’s draft rules published in October.

An official who received the petition said the labor ministry would “consider the petition as one of the opinions” before making a final decision on new government rules to counter harassment in workplace.

One 28-year-old woman said glasses were banned at her workplace because they give a “cold facial expression.”

“I’ve been wearing glasses for more than a decade because I suffer from dry eye syndrome. I feel uncomfortable wearing contact lenses and am worried that my eye disease may get worse,” said the receptionist.

Campaigners say high heels are akin to modern foot-binding and some have urged other codes, such as the near-total use of business suits by men, be eased.

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