Japanese women are protesting this old-fashioned work dress code requirement

Women in Japan are tired of the de facto rule that they wear high heels on at many jobs and when going on job interviews – and with the #KuToo campaign, they’re formally protesting it.

Over 18,000; women signed an online petition, submitted it earlier this week to the government’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, asking for laws that stop employers from requiring high heels at work. The #KuToo group’s founder is Yumi Ishikawa, an actress and freelance writer.

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

#KuToo – which references the MeToo movement – is a play on words from the Japanese kutsu, which means shoes, and kutsuu, which means pain. Ishikawa started the campaign in late February of this year after she Tweeted a complaint about the requirement to wear high heels for a hotel job went viral.

“As I realized that so many people face the same problem, I decided to launch the campaign,” Ishikawa told the Guardian about #KuToo.

The next day, on June 5, Japan’s health and labor minister, Takumi Nemoto, responded. Defending the requirement of high heels at work, he called them “necessary and appropriate,” reported the South China Morning Post.

Nemoto told  a legislative committee that women wearing heels at work was “socially accepted as something that falls with the realm of being occupationally necessary and appropriate.”

There is a precedent here: in 2016, London office worker Nicola Thorp was sent home without pay for wearing dressy flat shoes instead of the heels the job required. She started an online petition, which 150,000 people signed. In response, there was a parliamentary investigation into dress codes and discrimination was found in UK workplaces that required heels, but no law was passed that would ban companies from forcing women to wear high heels at work.

It doesn’t end with shoes. Relatedly, a company in Russia, aluminum manufacturer Tatprof, is facing criticism after opening running a campaign offering female employees cash incentives to wear skirts or dresses to work.

A company spokesman defended the campaign to a radio station, saying “Our team is 70% male. These kinds of campaigns help us switch off, rest. This is a great way to unite the team. Many women automatically wear trousers to work, which is why we hope that our campaign will raise our ladies’ awareness, allowing them to feel their femininity and charm when they make the choice of wearing a skirt or dress.”

Tatprof is currently taking fire from the local and international press, plus Twitter.

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