By Kayla Kibbe / June 6, 2019

Many Companies in Japan Still Force Women to Wear Heels to Work

Japan's labor minister said the enforcement of these dress codes is "necessary"

Women in Japan are fighting for their right to wear flats
Women in Japan are fighting for their right to wear flats
Amanda Vick/Unsplash

When it comes to workplace etiquette, certain things are necessary. Wearing high heels is not one of those things — unless you ask Japan’s health and labor minister, that is.

Takumi Nomoto defended controversial dress codes common throughout the country that require women to wear heels to work, BBC reported. The health and labor minister said that it was “necessary” for companies to enforce these dress codes.

“It is socially accepted as something that falls within the realm of being occupationally necessary and appropriate,” he said at a parliamentary committee on Wednesday after he was asked to comment on a recent campaign launched by actor and writer Yumi Ishikawa, who is petitioning for the removal of the discriminatory workplace dress codes.

The movement has attracted attention on social media, where supporters have promoted the petition using the hashtag #KuToo — a play on the Japanese words for shoes, “kutsu,” and pain, “kutsuu,” modeled after the famous #MeToo hashtag.

Ishikawa’s petition has received over 18,000 signatures and was reportedly submitted to the Japanese labor ministry on Tuesday.

“I hope this campaign will change the social norm so that it won’t be considered to be bad manners when women wear flat shoes like men,” said Ishikawa.

One lawmaker, Kanako Otsuji, conceded the rules were “outdated” during Wednesday’s parliamentary committee session.

While a mandatory heels policy may indeed seem like a relic of sexist workplace environments gone by, the movement in Japan isn’t the first of its kind in recent memory. As BBC noted, similar petitions have been launched in the UK and Canada in recent years in which women successfully petitioned companies to modify their dress code requirements.

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