National

Anti-high heels campaigner steps up to battle Japan's 'glasses ban'

AFP-JIJI

Actress and freelance writer Yumi Ishikawa, whose campaign against mandatory high heels in the workplace saw broad public support, has stepped up her fight against strict corporate dress codes in Japan to include a ban at some firms on women wearing glasses.

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 hashtag #KuToo — a play on words from the Japanese word “kutsu,” meaning “shoes,” and “kutsuu,” meaning “pain” — the campaign was recognized Monday for having generated 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,” she added.

Campaigners had already submitted a petition to the government in June that called for legislation to declare as harassment policies that make wearing high heels mandatory.

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 take it into consideration before making a final decision on new government rules to counter harassment in the workplace.

One 28-year-old receptionist, who asked to remain anonymous, said glasses had been 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,” she said.

An official at a major employment agency said that some companies asked receptionists to “refrain from wearing glasses” as part of dress codes that also included bans on dyed hair or unmanicured nails.

Campaigners have said high heels are akin to modern foot-binding, while others have pushed for other dress codes — such as the expectation that most men will wear business suits — to be loosened in the workplace.