Japanese companies ‘ban women wearing glasses’

Woman says she was forced to put lenses in when she had an eye infection and suffered pain 

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
Friday 08 November 2019 15:35
Japanese companies ‘ban women wearing glasses’

A ban on women wearing glasses in companies across Japan has sparked outrage after the practice emerged.

The reasons for the rule differ from industry to industry, according to local media, but some retailers reportedly said shop workers in glasses left customers with a “cold impression”.

While traditional restaurants argued that spectacles do not suit old-fashioned styles of Japanese clothing, employers in the beauty sector argued customers would not be able to see female worker’s makeup clearly enough beneath glasses.

Safety issues were cited as the reason behind the spectacles ban in the airline sector.

It remains to be seen if rules barring workers from wearing glasses are enforced by formal company regulations or are instead imposed via culturally established norms.

Anger in the country surfaced after Japanese network Nippon TV ran a story about firms that make female workers wear contact lenses instead of glasses.

The hashtag “glasses ban” has gained increasing traction on Twitter since Wednesday – with one woman saying she was forced to put lenses in when she had an eye infection and subsequently suffered pain and discomfort.

Some women in Japan condemned the measures by tweeting images of their glasses.

Uma Mishra-Newbery, executive director of Women’s March Global, hit out at the bans.

“The policing of women’s bodies and what we wear continues to be a tool to enforce patriarchy,” the campaigner told The Independent. “It’s 2019 and still women are fighting to be seen for our value and work.”

Critics have compared the prohibition of glasses to stringent rules in some Japanese schools that make children with lighter hair dye their hair black so they fit in with their fellow pupils.

The country saw another recent backlash over firms forcing women to wear heels in offices. More than 31,000 have signed a petition calling for the requirement to be banned.

The hashtag #KuToo – echoing the #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment – has been widely disseminated on social media. The phrase is a play on the Japanese words for shoes “kutsu” and pain “kutsuu”.

The issue of sexual harassment continues to be prevalent in the country that has the poorest gender equality among the G7 nations. A recent survey of 1,000 working women found that 43 per cent had experienced sexual harassment, and more than 60 per cent of them did not report it.

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