Japanese women kick back at high heels at work
Yumi Ishikawa, leader and founder of the 'KuToo' movement, which seeks to overthrow tradition that demands Japanese women wear high heels at work. (AFP)
Tokyo, Japan - A group of Japanese women Monday submitted a petition to the government to protest what they say is a de-facto requirement for female staff to wear high heels at work.
The #KuToo campaign, a play on words from the Japanese word "kutsu" -- meaning shoes -- and "kutsuu" -- meaning "pain" -- was launched by actress and freelance writer Yumi Ishikawa and quickly won support from nearly 19,000 people online.
Campaigners say wearing high heels is seen as near-obligatory when job hunting or working at many Japanese companies.
"Today we submitted a petition calling for the introduction of laws banning employers from forcing women to wear heels as sexual discrimination or harassment," Ishikawa told reporters after meeting labour ministry officials.
A ministry official who met her "was a woman and sympathetic to our petition... and told us that this is the first time voices of this kind reached the ministry," Ishikawa said.
"It's the first step forward" towards achieving their goals, added Ishikawa.
Ministry officials were not immediately available for comment on the petition.
A tweet by Ishikawa earlier this year that complained about the requirement to wear heels for a hotel job went viral, prompting her to launch the campaign.
"As I realized that so many people face the same problem, I decided to launch the campaign," hot on the heels of the global anti-sexual harassment #MeToo campaign, she said.
Some campaigners online have said high heels are akin to modern foot-binding while others urged other dress codes, such as the near-total donning of business suits for men, to be loosened in the Japanese workplace.
In 2015, the director of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival apologised after a controversy blew up over women being denied access to the red carpet for not wearing high heels.
But Cannes kept the dress code, despite a protest by Hollywood superstar Julia Roberts, who went barefoot the next year.
In 2017, Canada's British Columbia province banned companies from forcing female employees to wear high heels, calling the practice dangerous and discriminatory.