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#KuToo Movement: Japanese Women Revolt Against Mandatory High Heels at Workplace

Kingson Chingakham



Dress Codes at Workplace have been a problem for both men and women across the globe. But women have been suffering under the ‘grooming policy’ followed by many companies. At many workplaces, women are asked to wear traditional clothes, at some places women are asked to wear a dress with high heels (which also comes with a mandatory length of the high heels – 2 to 4 inch).

In Japan, wearing high heels has been dubbed as ‘socially accepted as something that falls with the realm of being occupationally necessary and appropriate’. Many women in Japan have called this a form of ‘gender discrimination’. But nobody revolted so far. If you don’t like high heels, you are fired.

#KuToo Movement

There is a limit to bear discrimination and agony. Actress and freelance writer Yumi Ishikawa has launched the #KuToo movement, a play on words from the Japanese word “kutsu” – meaning shoes – and “kutsuu” – meaning “pain”, and a reference to the global #MeToo movement against sexual abuse.

The Actress filed a petition online and quickly won support from about 20,000 signatories. The petition was submitted to the Labour Ministry on Tuesday.

The reaction from Takumi Nemoto, who oversees Japan’s workplace reforms have sparked protests online. He said that heels-on-the-job may be needed because of customary social expectations in some workplaces.

Japan is a country which encourages part-time jobs. Students mostly work during the odd hours to earn pocket money. One of the students expressed her pain. A lot of emphases has been given on the appearance of women.

A woman who works in a restaurant is required to wear 2 inch high heels. And she is required to run around the restaurant to serve the customers. With a meager earning from the part-time job, they end up the day with bruises on their feet and pains in their ankles and joints.

Women in other parts of the world have protested against the dress and makeup requirements imposed on the women. In 2015, celebrities walked barefoot at the red carpet of Cannes Film Festival to protest against the irrational dress codes.

Do not live in the perception that since they are models and actors, they are bound to wear high heels. It should be left to the person. It should be her choice. Let her wear what she is comfortable at.

In 2016, a woman in the United Kingdom was fired for not wearing high heels. She filed an online petition to make high heels at workplaces illegal. This was signed by about 1,50,000 people online. This led to a serious debate among the lawmakers whether to continue with the current dress code norm or amend it. Under British laws, companies can set different dress codes for men and women as long as it is ‘reasonable’. But how reasonable is it to wear 4-6 inches of high heels?

There are many cases across the least developed countries where the MNCs of western origins have imposed such dress codes. Some of the women do not even want to invest their hard earned money in buying a pair of high heels. Some are clearly not comfortable wearing high heels. This lowers the confidence level. And you cannot attend a recruitment process or attend a job interview with such low confidence. Even if they are recruited, it might impact on their performances.

In India, it might not be as stringent as any other countries. But the appearance of women still matters to a lot of companies. A receptionist is expected to be well dressed, even asked to wear high heels. In some companies, women are asked to wear traditional Indian clothes – sarees/ salwar.

You see every time you visit Moti Mahal, you are greeted by a man with a large mustache and a traditional Rajasthani attire. He has to wear the same clothes in hot summer weather too. How uncomfortable it must be? Why don’t they give normal clothes to wear?

In New Zealand, recruiters have made wearing high heels optional. This is a welcoming move. They said that appearance cannot judge the aptitude of a woman. She should be decently dressed but she should not wear anything she is not comfortable. This has attracted more women to attend the screening round in the recruitment process.

In Japan, men are also required to follow a strict dress code- business suits crisply ironed full sleeves shirts and ties. But when the weather becomes warmer, they are allowed to wear half sleeves shirts, they can avoid ties and opt for sandals instead of shoes. So, this is clear sexism. Why can’t women just wear sandals or flat shoes? If we do not take some immediate actions, there could be serious repercussions on women’s health because of the stringent dress code.

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