Japanese women protest after being told not to wear glasses at work

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
Japanese women are protesting against a glasses ban in the workplace (Stock image). [Photo: Getty]

Japanese female employees are protesting a so-called ban on wearing eye glasses in the workplace.

The hashtag #メガネ禁止 (which translates to #GlassesBan) has been trending on the platform since last Wednesday.

It follows reports from news outlets both in Japan and globally that a number of employers in Japan forbid female staff from wearing glasses.

One Japanese woman, who works as a receptionist at a major department store in the country, told how she had to wear contact lenses at work because her superior told her “glasses are prohibited”.

“He said this as though it were obvious,” the woman, who identifies as Ms. A, told Business Insider.

“I told myself at that time that we weren't allowed glasses because we needed to look feminine, that it just wouldn't do to wear them.”

The employee, whose job involves arranging wheelchairs for customers who require one, said she suffers from dry eyes as a consequence of wearing lenses for her eight-hour shift together with her commute back and forth.

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“There are times when it's bad whatever I do,” Ms. A told the publication, who conducted a survey which discovered women who work in showrooms in Japan “have a very narrow set of rules, covering hair colour, nails, and glasses.”

Glasses are banned for female employees in a number of industries, including in customer service, beauty and hospitality.

It is believed male employees in the country face no such restriction, as a further report from Bloomberg confirmed.

Twitter users have called the policy “sexist discrimination”

A Japanese academic speaking to the BBC has agreed this policy is “about gender”.

“The reasons why women are not supposed to wear glasses... really don't make sense. It's all about gender. It's pretty discriminatory,” said Kumiko Nemoto, a professor of sociology at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies.

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The outcry is reminiscent of the #KuToo backlash earlier this year – where 20,000 Japanese women signed a petition against companies forcing them to wear high heels at work.

Japan, ranked 110 out of 149 countries in the world in the World Economic Forum’s gender equality index, is notorious for its company dress codes requiring women to wear high heels.

Feminist writer Yumi Ishikawa submitted the petition to the Japanese government. She coined the hashtag #KuToo – a pun on the #MeToo movement again sexual harassment – to refer to her movement. It’s a play on two Japanese words: “kutsu”, the word for shoes, and “kutsuu”, the word for pain.

Some companies, such as major bank Sumitomo Mistu, have responded positively to the high heels backlashing – abolishing formal dress codes altogether – while more newly-established companies never had such policies in the first place.

However, a number of the country’s traditional companies are said to uphold the high heels policies.