In Japan, it is mandatory for women to wear high heels to their workplaces, as flats are usually frowned upon. To combat this sexist and unnecessary dress code Japanese women have begun the #KuToo movement on social media, calling for a change in this policy. From its fetishization to seeing it as a sexy accessory by women themselves, to now perceiving it as an accessory which objectifies women, our bitter-sweet affair with high heels has come a long way.
High heels as such are not a problem, many women wear it out of choice. But to force women to wear, despite not wanting too or feeling uncomfortable, curtails their agency and is downright sexist. No woman should have to wear something to work which she doesn’t want to.
- Japanese women have begun #KuToo movement on social media calling an end to the dress code which makes wearing high heels to workplace compulsory.
- No woman should have to wear something to work which she doesn’t want to.
- Wearing high heels doesn’t make you a better doctor, engineer, lawyer or corporate woman.
Over the decades, the way we look at heels has drastically changed.
Young job seekers in Japan, too, don’t have any options but heels to wear because there are unspoken requirements formed by the society. I hope every women, including high heel lovers, can wear whatever business shoes they choose in the near future.#KuToo #Japan #genderequity pic.twitter.com/Mrsnbqf7Xy
— ゆーぼー♨️#就活セクシズム署名受付中 / 男女二元論・性差別的な就活マナーにNO (@fearofbigleaves) March 20, 2019
Today, different women see their association with this particular kind of footwear differently. Many women love to wear high heels and for various reasons. Some wear it to add height to their stature. Others wear it because it makes them look sexy, while many think it adds a certain dimension to their personality. Then there are few, like me, who see high heels as the worst thing one could do to their feet.
But the most important aspect, as it is with any accessory, is the agency to make a choice. We all choose or choose not to wear heels. When you remove this choice from the equation, high heels get reduced to yet another method to sexualise or objectify women. Foot fetish makes many men see women wearing heels as attractive. They are automatically perceived to be sexy, sharp and “presentable.” This, however, has nothing to do with their capabilities as a professional. Wearing high heels doesn’t make you a better doctor, engineer, lawyer or corporate woman. Thus, it makes no sense to make it compulsory for working women to wear it to work.
Why do some people not wanna admit it’s sexism? Have guys ever been forced to wear heeled shoes, which are actually harmful to health? Obviously not…Tbh those who wanna avoid sexism connotation just are representing so uncool ideas in this era, which is shameful. #KuToo
— SATOMI (@silver_texas) March 14, 2019
Wearing high heels doesn’t make you a better doctor, engineer, lawyer or corporate woman. Thus, it makes no sense to make it compulsory for working women to wear it to work.
Such practices divide male and female workers into two groups. Men will never be able to see women at workplace as equals, unless the policies implement uniform dress codes, which do not play on gender. It also limits opportunities for women as their capabilities and talent take a back seat, unless they willing to get into high heels. Also, what if your feet don’t take to heels? What if it gives you back or knee or arch trouble? Are women expected to endure pain and discomfort on a daily basis? Or must they sacrifice their career for the sake of their well-being?
Sexism at workplace comes in many forms, sometimes as harassment and bias and other times in the guise of regressive gender specific dress code. It forces women to adopt a practice/ footwear/ type of clothing against their wishes to please superiors. How is this healthy workplace environment? How is this not oppression or bias in the name of work culture? Which why it makes sense that Japanese women have modelled their hashtag after #MeToo, calling it #KuToo. And as we have risen in solidarity to women battling workplace harassment, let us also lend support to these women who have every right to break free of this oppressive practice of compulsorily wearing heels to their workplaces.
Picture Credit: SHEfinds
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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.