Discussions on women’s dress code in the workplace have erupted on Japanese social media following reports that some companies are preventing female employees from wearing glasses at work.
Media outlets in Japan, including the
Nippon TV network, alleged that companies had different reasons for “banning” eyewear for female employees, reports Japan Times.
Among the reasons cited by firms include issues of safety for airline workers and being unable to see products properly for women in the cosmetics industry. According to the reports, some retail chains concluded that shop assistants who wore glasses look “cold” and leave a negative impression on customers.
Kyoto University of Foreign Studies sociology professor Kumiko Nemoto found the given reasons absurd, noting that such ideas reflected “old, traditional Japanese” mentality.
“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 was quoted by the BBC as saying.
“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.”
Since it was not made clear whether the prohibitions were enforced policies, accepted workplace practices or a mix of both, the topic was widely discussed among internet users. It has become a local trending topic on social media, generating posts and tweets with the hashtag “メガネ禁止 (glasses are forbidden)” on Wednesday.
A similar discussion permeated on Japanese social media when actress Yumi Ishikawa revealed earlier this year that she was forced to wear high heels while working at a funeral parlor.
She called everyone’s attention to the issue by launching a petition urging an end to dress codes in Japan. Her cause generated support from social media users who tweeted her petition with the hashtag #KuToo.
The hashtag, which references the #MeToo movement in the United States, is also a play on the Japanese words “kutsu” (shoes) and “kutsuu” (pain).
Many supporters of Ishikawa’s petition complained that wearing high heels has become obligatory for women during job applications. After Ishikawa submitted her petition to the Japanese government in June, an official reiterated that it is warranted for companies to enforce dress codes as they see fit.
Macquarie University gender studies lecturer Kumiko Kawashima shared that Japanese women have long been expected to wear certain wardrobe and get-up in workplaces.
“Employers frequently use the rhetoric of ‘manners’ to justify such demands and individualize the issue,”
she told the South China Morning Post
. “However, gender stereotypes clearly influence company policies regarding dress styles and self-presentation.”
“Many women enjoy wearing high heels on their day off, yet feel frustrated when they are forced to wear them at work on a daily basis,” she added.