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Japanese Women Forced by Law to Wear Heels at Work

Japanese women are the latest to join the battle against high heels as they petition to stop workplaces from requiring them in their dress codes.

Thousands of women are joining the protests online under the hashtag #KuToo, a play on the Japanese word for shoe (kutsu) and pain (kutsuu), as well as the #MeToo movement. Initially, the petition started when Yumi Ishikawa, now an actress, changed career paths after being required to wear high heels eight hours a day training at a hotel.

As of right now, the petition has been signed by over 27,000 people calling for a law that stops employers from requiring heels at work. There has been no official response to the petition, but Ishiwaka isn’t hopeful for a positive answer. “I guess the government and corporate communities don’t want to take a risk to change the society,” she said.

Attempts to break down rigid gender roles in Japan has done little to help women who are overworked and overstressed in their own homes, much less the workplace. A lot of women and men also still enforce the idea that heels are empowering and attractive, yet others believe that the heel isn’t workplace appropriate. It seems like women can’t win with whatever shoe they choose, but working women in Japan hope to change this.

The biggest problem women have with the footwear they’re required to wear is the fact that Japanese men are not held to the same standards. Studies about heels have shown that over time, the ankle is weakened by the positioning of the foot while in the heel, making the entire leg and ankle more susceptible to injuries like broken bones or pulled muscles. Men simply don’t have to deal with this problem.

When women are trained for these jobs in Japan they are often told that they are required to wear heels, even if they aren’t directly interacting with the public. Many believe this is an unfair standard, even if Japan doesn’t have any specific definitions for gender harassment in their courts or laws. Shino Naito, a vice senior researcher at the Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training in Tokyo says, “Expecting or imposing a feminine standard at the workplace is the issue here.”

In recent years, other countries have taken steps to eliminate this kind of discrimination in the workplace. In 2017, the Philippines joined four other countries as it banned mandatory high heels at work. Only four women complained to the labor department and it was then decided that the heels were a health and safety issue. British Columbia also banned mandatory high heels in the workplace that same year, citing similar health and safety issues.

The British government has also looked into making a law against heels after a petition gathered 150,000 signatures, but stopped short of an actual law.

Even though the first complaint against heels in America was first recorded in 1873, it’s still a worldwide issue today. Women in Japan and around the world deserve to feel comfortable enough in the workplace to do their jobs, not worry about what type of footwear they should be wearing.

What do you think? Should women be required to wear heels in the workplace? Let us know in the comments.

Featured Image by Matthias Uhlig on Flickr.

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0

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