Have You Heard of #KuToo?

The petition seeks to end gender discrimination and “make it easier for everyone to work, creating a working environment free from unnecessary burdens.”

“It’s the first step forward."

A social media campaign against discriminative dress codes and the forceful wearing of high heels at work for women in Japan has gone viral, with thousands joining the #KuToo movement.

Nearly 20,000 women have signed an online petition demanding that the government outright ban companies from requiring female employees to wear high heels while on the job.

The #KuToo campaign – a play on the word for shoes, “kutsu” in Japanese, and “kutsuu”, which means pain – was started by actor and freelance writer Yumi Ishikawa, who submitted the petition to the health ministry on Monday.

She unknowingly launched the campaign after tweeting about being forced to wear high heels while working at a part-time job in a funeral parlour. Her comments drew an overwhelming response from women.

“Today we submitted a petition calling for the introduction of laws banning employers from forcing women to wear heels as sexual discrimination or harassment," Ishikawa told reporters. 

The actor explained how a government official had told her she “was a woman and sympathetic to our petition … and told us that this is the first time voices of this kind had reached the ministry”.

“It’s the first step forward,” Ishikawa added.

Campaigners said the shoes were akin to modern foot-binding – the, now antiquated, Chinese custom of applying tight binding to the feet of young girls to modify the shape and size of their feet.

Others also urged that dress codes such as the near-ubiquitous business suits for men be loosened in the Japanese workplace.

This isn't the first instance that women have revolted against misogynistic footwear practices in the workplace. 

A similar petition against heels in the workplace was signed by over 150,000 people in support of UK receptionist Nicola Thorp, who was sent home from her job in May 2016 for refusing to wear 2-4in heels.

In 2015, the director of the Cannes film festival apologised for women being denied access to the red carpet for not wearing high heels. Cannes kept the dress code, despite a protest by actor Julia Roberts, who went barefoot the following year.

Earlier this year, Norwegian Air came under fire for requiring female cabin crew to provide a doctor's note to wear flat shoes. 

Ingrid Hodnebo, a spokesperson for Norway’s Socialist Left Party, commented on the airline's dress code at the time, saying that “[i]t is almost comical that we face these issues in 2019."

Main image by @made

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