Japanese official calls high-heel mandates for women at work “necessary and appropriate,” dismissing “KuToo” movement

Tokyo — Japanese women are saying, “No,” to high heels in what’s been dubbed the #KuToo movement, a play on the words for “shoes” and “agony” and an allusion to the #MeToo hashtag. The #MeToo movement has not caught on in Japan, where speaking out often draws criticism rather than sympathy, even from other women.

“This is about gender discrimination,” Yumi Ishikawa, 32, an actress and writer, who started the movement, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday. “It’s the view that appearances are more important for women at work than for men.”It is a view not shared, apparently, by Japan’s government.
Earlier this week, Ishikawa handed the labor ministry a petition that she began online, protesting many companies’ requirements that their female staff wear pumps and heels. The petition had collected 18,856 signatures.But when asked about the petition in a parliamentary committee hearing on Wednesday, Takumi Nemoto, the minister of labor, appeared to defend heels-on-the-job.”It is socially accepted as something that falls within the realm of being occupationally necessary and appropriate,” he told the lawmakers.Employees’ health and safety need to be protected, but work is varied, said Nemoto, who oversees the country’s workplace reforms.The debate over heels began in January with tweets by Ishikawa about her frustration over being required to wear 2-inch heels for her part-time job as a receptionist at a funeral parlor.”I like my job right now but wearing pumps is really so hard,” one of her tweets said. “Of course, if you want to wear them, please go ahead.”Japanese laws guarantee gender equality, but critics like Ishikawa have long complained such ideals aren’t playing out in real life.