In Japan, a campaign was started by feminist author Ishikawa calling for a ban on workplaces requiring women to wear high-heeled shoes as part of their dress code. Ishikawa had been forced to wear high heels at her job in a funeral parlor (60% of Japanese women have high heels as part of their workplace dress code).
The campaign quickly escalated into a global conversation about gender inequality in the modern workplace and adopted the hashtag #KuToo – a spin on #MeToo and play on the Japanese words for “shoes” and “pain“.
With the support of over 19,000 people who had signed her petition, Ishikawa and our team in Japan have asked the Labour Ministery to respond. The LDP Labour Minister, during a Diet government hearing, said that high heels were ‘necessary’, and issued a non-committal answer when asked if forcing women to wear high heels in the workplace was sexist and constituted as harassment.
This response has prompted a wave of criticism and renewed media attention on the campaign from around the world.
Sexism and discrimination is a significant and under-addressed issue in Japan. A previous campaign supported by our team aimed to update a sexual assault law that hadn’t been changed for over 100 years. The Japanese Labour Ministry is issuing updated guidelines on workplace harassment in the coming months and thanks to this campaign, mandatory dress codes will definitely be on the agenda.
In a country where women are only 9.5% of parliamentarians and hold only 3.4% of corporate board seats, campaigns like #KuToo are urgently needed to overcome stereotypes and sexism that holds back women’s progress.