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“We Wear Heels When We Want To, Not When We’re Told To” – says Japan’s #KuToo Movement

Japanese female activists are fighting to eliminate gender-based dress codes that brings negative impact to women.

source: Photo AC

A group of women submitted a petition to the Japan government to call for a ban on dress codes that force female staff to wear high heels at work.

The petition bearing nearly 20,000 signatures was presented Monday by Yumi Ishikawa, the leader of the group working as part of the #KuToo movement.

“This is just the first step,” the 32-year-old actress and writer said at a news conference in Tokyo after submitting the petition.

“This is a problem that many women believed was a personal issue because (wearing high heels) is generally seen as good etiquette.”

The petition calls on the government to tell companies to ban rules enforcing the wearing of heels.

Yumi Ishikawa holds a news conference in Tokyo on Monday. source: KYODO

The KuToo campaign, a play on words from the Japanese term kutsu, meaning shoes, and kutsuu, meaning pain, nods to the viral global #MeToo movement which raised awareness about the scourge of sexual harassment and violence against women.

The campaign quickly won overwhelming support online following Ishikawa’s tweet in January sharing her experience of being forced to wear high heels for a part-time job at a funeral parlor.

In fact, her original tweet received as many as over 67,000 likes and nearly 30,000 retweets.

Not only does wearing high heels can cause knee pain and ankle sprains, it can also lead to severe lower back pain, nerve damage, and even Cancer-Causing Inflammation.

Some supporters of the campaign tweeted that forcing women to wear high heels in earthquake-prone Japan can even pose a threat to their lives.

Currently, Japan has a law to prohibit gender-based discrimination during certain phases of employment such as recruitment, promotion, training and renewal of contracts, but there is no reference to dress codes.


To give men a taste of what it’s like to walk around in high heels all day long, Ishikawa co-organized an event in Tokyo yesterday with petition website, in which they ask a group of men to jam their feet into 5-itch stilettoes and walk back and forth.

Featuring the tagline of "Is job-hunting in sneakers acceptable?", the experience allowed the men to understand the discomfort and inconvenience that come from walking with one's heels held aloft.

"I'd be quite annoyed if someone asked me to wear these," shoemaker Jun Ito, 34, said as he put on a pair of black heels. He promptly took the shoes off after posing for a photo. "Wearing heels makes me feel unstable and my feet got sweaty," he added.

Japan has long lagged in gender equality. The country has been placed 110th in the World Economic Forum’s global gender equality rankings for 2018, released Tuesday, up from 114th in 2017.

Recent years see countries worldwide have been cracking down policies on workplace dress codes that are associated with gender or racial bias.

In Britain for example, professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers faced fierce backlash as receptionist Nicola Thorp was sent home without pay for not wearing the required 5- to 10-cm high heels in December 2015.

Thorp’s online petition garnered over 150,000 signatures, subsequently triggering a debate in parliament.

Julia Roberts went barefoot in 2016 Cannes Film Festival; source:

Celebrities also did their part in standing against forced dress-code targeting women. At the 2016 Cannes Film Festival in France, Julia Roberts and many other actresses sent photographers crazy when they walked the red carpet barefoot or in sneakers to cast light on the event's dress code.

Their protest came after a number of women were barred from entering a screening for not wearing high heels the year before.

Source: Japan Today, The Guardian

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