The undeveloped side to Japan

Last week, Japanese companies came under criticism after introducing a new company policy; banning women from wearing glasses at work. This came just months after protests all over the country to put an end to mandatory high heels in the workplace. 

Over the years I’ve grown to love Japan in all its culture and history, so disappointment struck when I came across this news article. The first thing I do when I wake up is reach for my glasses. I put them on and suddenly everything becomes high definition. It’s my routine. Heels though, I’m not so fond of – I can barely walk a metre without twisting my ankles so having to wear them all day would end up with me on a hospital bed. 

So why did these rules come about in Japan? 

Firms say that wearing glasses ‘gives a cold impression’ and that high heels look ‘professional’, both of which aren’t good enough excuses considering the rule makers were probably middle aged men. In that case, all genders should be forced to wear glasses and high heels. It was never a matter of professionalism or looking friendly. It’s pure discrimination coming from people with ‘traditional’ views. 

One person told to remove her glasses was a nurse in a beauty clinic. She was forced to wear contact lenses all day, drying out her eyes and causing her work to be disrupted. I don’t know about you but I would definitely not want a nurse jabbing things into my arm when she cannot see what she’s doing. Likewise, a working as a receptionist was also forced to remove her glasses whilst her male colleague was allowed to keep his own. 

You would think an innovative, fast paced country like Japan would do more to solve gender equality. But no. In 2016, the world economics forum ranked Japan 110th of 149 countries for gender equality, coming after Liberia and Azerbaijan – places where women have less access to education and where female genital mutilation is still a problem – suggesting the gender gap is worse than we think. Women working full time in hotels are required to wear skirts and high heels despite long hours and hard labour.

Japanese actress and KuToo founder, Yumi Ishikawa, started a petition after being made to wear heels whilst working in a morgue. The petition attracted thousands of signatures yet there has still been no change. Japanese officials say that a uniform is essential for employees to remain safe – so far, I can’t imagine a single scenario where my blurred vision and high heels will get me out of any situation. 

If a woman wants to wear glasses in any way shape or form, let her do so. If she wishes to wear contacts or get laser eye surgery, it’s her choice. Perhaps you should evaluate yourself if you think a woman wearing glasses gives a ‘cold impression’ It simply informs us of the dangers and curiosities of the outside world. Similarly, if a woman wishes to wear high heels, let her do so – but don’t make it a necessity. If her job requires her to move around often she would most likely want to wear trainers – for ease and efficiency. Finally, if you had any trouble reading this article and are currently thinking, ‘Why is this a big deal?’, try walking around on tiptoes for a day whilst looking through a kaleidoscope.