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. 

Gossip guru

Once a day my family and I gather around the TV to watch the Indian spin off of Big Brother. This version is by far more entertaining than any western episode I’ve seen to date, which is probably why we’ve been watching every episode of every season since the show began 3 years ago. We were now on the 80th day out of 100 and this week was family week, a chance for each of the contestants to get a visit from their friends and relatives. 

This year’s season was much relatable to me than the previous two as now there were Sri Lankan contestants; an actor/model and a newsreader. The newsreader and another actor in the house had fallen in love, and were making their relationship very public. She ignored warnings from her fellow housemates about the actor using her for votes against eviction (as she had much greater support from the audience than he did). Despite all this warning, to me, they definitely felt like a genuine couple and not acting for the screens.

The newsreader’s mum and two sisters came to visit in family week from Sri Lanka. They warned her about how she was being used wasn’t truly loved. They told her how she had lost any sense of her true self and was in fact being manipulated by the others, especially her so called lover. There was also another surprise for her; her father whom she hadn’t seen in 10 years.

However the rekindling was not how anyone would have expected. He stormed into the house and passed his now sobbing daughter in anger. Her father went to greet everyone in the house and then turned to his daughter to say “Is this why you came in here, to fall in love or win the game, this is not what I bought you up for.” My family and I sat in shock. This was not the greeting any of us had thought to see, especially after 10 years of seeing each other.

Then he said something which I really was not expecting:

“Everyone we know are talking, what will they think?”

This got me thinking; In this day and age, the times you can truly express yourself, why does it matter what others think? In the Sri Lankan community, there is still a stigma around falling in love and opening up about our feelings. Most marriages are arranged, depending on caste, religion and social standing. This still did not make it okay to build your opinions around what you hear through the form of gossip.

After visiting a Sri Lankan village last year, I became more understandable to why gossip had become something that everyone did. With a few houses, a church, temple and a small school on a small beach, there wasn’t really much to do. We had arrived on a Sunday night and by the morning, the entire village had acknowledged our arrival even though we had only met one person. But this was harmless. It was only truly toxic when someone it’s used to spread false news. The fact that the newsreader’s father had been so worried about the whole town talking, just shows the extent to which this can be used to manipulate and humiliate an individual.

My only true hope is that the next generation of individuals discards what anyone thinks or does. It’s better to strive for your own goal than follow in the lives of others.