Some Japanese companies are enforcing sexist dress code policies, including banning glasses and makeup requirements, sparking a social justice movement amongst Japanese women.

Women are reporting on their companies’ sexist dress code policies and the lengths they have had to reach to comply with them. These policies range from shoe styles to hair and nail colors.

Businesses are telling women to not wear their glasses to work, regardless of their medical need for them. Companies are citing a multitude of reasons depending on the line of work. Airline companies are saying the glasses ban is for security reasons. Makeup industries are claiming that the glasses prohibit seeing someone’s eye makeup. If a woman is a receptionist or talks to customers frequently, businesses are citing that glasses could make women appear cold or unwelcoming. However, men receptionists in the same positions are not being asked to wear contacts.

Women are being forced to go to extremes to comply with the glasses ban. Some women with poor vision are forced to bring eye drops to soothe their eyes after a full work day of wearing contacts. One woman reported that her eyes were so irritated from her contacts that during her breaks she would simply close her eyes to help alleviate the irritation. Other women have resorted to laser eye surgery to correct their vision.

Other explicit dress code policies for women include a requirement for makeup and a ban on non-conservative makeup. Women also cite a requirement for heels in the workplace. Takumi Nemoto, Japan’s health minister, said heels were “necessary and appropriate” for women in the workplace.

Many claim that these dress code policies are due to antiquated Japanese values. Kumiko Nemoto, a sociology professor at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies, said, “The reasons why women are not supposed to wear glasses … really don’t make sense. It’s all about gender. It’s pretty discriminatory.” She added, “It’s not about how women do their work. The company … values the women’s appearance as being feminine and that’s opposite to someone who wears glasses.”

Earlier last year, Lim Hyeon-ju, a South Korean news reporter, broke the social norm when she wore glasses during her newsreel. Many women cited this as a wakeup call about beauty standards.

Japanese women are starting a movement with strong social media support in response to the dress codes. Yumi Ishikawa, an actor and writer, started a petition after being required to wear high heels in her part time job at a funeral parlor. This launched a movement of solidarity amongst women rallying behind the hashtag #KuToo. Professor Nemoto added that the high heel policies “evaluate [women] mostly on their appearance. That’s the message that these policies are sending.”

Sources: BBC 11/08/19, Business Insider 11/09/19

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