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  • Japanese women fight against sexist policy of wearing high heels at work.

    Japanese women fight against sexist policy of wearing high heels at work. | Photo: Twitter / @ishikawa_yumi

Published 3 June 2019
Opinion

#KuToo, a petition started by Japanese women to fight against a de facto requirement of wearing high heels at work.

A group of women from Japan submitted a petition to the government protesting against a de facto requirement for them to wear high heels at work.

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The KuToo campaign was launched by an actor and freelance writer Yumi Ishikawa. The name was derived from the Japanese words kutsu, meaning shoes, and kutsuu meaning pain.

The petitioners said wearing high heels is considered to be near-obligatory for female staff.

“Today we submitted a petition calling for the introduction of laws banning employers from forcing women to wear heels as sexual discrimination or harassment,” Ishikawa told reporters.

The government official who met Ishikawa told her that she “was a woman and sympathetic to our petition … and told us that this is the first time voices of this kind had reached the ministry.”

Ishiwaka, earlier this year, criticized the requirement to wear high heels for a hotel job on Twitter which went viral encouraging her to launch the campaign.

“As I realized that so many people face the same problem, I decided to launch the campaign,” she said.

The petition brought out deep-seated misogyny is Japan according to some experts.

Many said that the shoes are similar to modern-day foot-binding. Foot-binding was a custom in many Asian countries where the feet of young women were tightly bound to modify the shape and size of their feet, mainly to make them small so they look “attractive.”

Apart from Japan, many companies in many countries have compulsory high heel policies. A similar petition like in Japan had been signed by more than 150,000 people in the U.K. in 2016 when Nicola Thorp, a temporary receptionist was sent home from work for refusing to wear high heels.

This led to a committee of Member of Parliaments to start an inquiry on workplace dress codes revealing women in many jobs are required to wear high heels even for jobs that need physical activities. The government, however, refused to change the law stating that women can claim redressal based on the Equality Act of 2010.

The Cannes Film Festival has also been criticized for denying access to women to the red carpet for not wearing heels.

In 2017, Canada’s British Colombia province banned companies from forcing women employees to wear high heels calling the practice discriminatory.

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