#KuToo: A Revolt Against Pumps in the Japanese Workplace

#KuToo: A Revolt Against Pumps in the Japanese Workplace

Want more UJ? Get our FREE newsletter 

Need a preview? See our archives

KuToo Movement

While the #MeToo movement per se may not have taken off in Japan in the same way it was in the United States, women in the country are definitely growing more aware – and angrier – about how they’re depicted in the media and treated in the workplace. Last year, I discussed the online blowback against virtual reality star Kizuna Ai’s deployment by NHK in a sub-site discussing that year’s Nobel Prize winners. And of course there was the continuing controversy over women’s medical school submissions, and, more recently, the furor that erupted over idol Yamaguchi Maho’s treatment by her agency in the wake of her attempted rape.

Now a new furor is brewing. And it’s all about shoes.

Last year, pin-up model Ishikawa Yumi (石川優美) made waves with a blog post (JP) about numerous incidents of sexual harassment she’d endured – from being pressured by her manager to expose herself more than she was comfortable with, to invitations to sexual trysts from TV producers. Since making waves with that post, Ishikawa has set herself a new target: the custom in companies of forcing women to wear pumps in the workplace.

Borrowing the hashtag of the #MeToo movement, Ishikawa is promoting the movement with the hashtag #KuToo – a seriously clever triple-wordplay that combines “MeToo”, “kutsu” (靴, shoes), and the “ku” from “kutsuu” (苦痛), meaning “agony”. She’s using the tag to promote a change.org petition, which she plans to submit to the country’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in a bid to compel them to issue a binding ruling on the country’s companies.

石川優実@#KuToo署名中👞👠 on Twitter

1万人を超えました! メールアドレスとお名前だけで署名ができます。 問題点: ①性別によって同じ職場で強制される服装が違うこと ②健康を害してまで強制されるマナーとは? 「厚生労働省宛: #KuToo 職場でのヒール・パンプスの強制をなくしたい!」 https://t.co/q61K5E2TVw @change_jpより

The effort came about when Ishikawa posted an offhand tweet on her Twitter account about preventing companies from instituting rules that demand high pumps. That tweet was re-tweeted over 30,000 times, and sparked a chorus of agreement from women throughout Japan. Since then, Ishikawa’s subsequent change.org petition has accumulated almost 13,000 signatures, just shy of the 15,000 for which she’s aiming to send to the Ministry of Health.

広がる「#KuToo」 パンプス強制反対署名、1万人超える – 毎日新聞

「職場でのパンプス着用の強制をなくしたい」と訴えるインターネット上の署名活動への賛同者が1万人を超えている。署名活動を始めたグラビア女優でライターの石川優実さん(32)は「厚生労働省にパンプス強制を禁止する通達を各企業に出すよう求めたい」と協力を呼びかけている。 …

(JP) Link: #KuToo Spreads: Petition Against Pumps Surpasses 10,000 Signatures

“#KuToo” is now a prominent hashtag on Japanese Twitter, with many posters expressing agreement with Ishikawa’s drive, expressing exasperation that women are forced to sacrifice their comfort – and even their health – to maintain a certain standard of beauty in the workplace.

mori on Twitter

KuToo 反対してる方、以下明確に答えられますか? ・足が綺麗に見える事と仕事と何か関係がありますか? ・代わりになる物はたくさんあるのに健康を害してまで守らなければならないほどの慣習ですか? ・およそどんな職業でも効率を求められるのに何故こんな非合理的な物を強制するのですか?

Those who oppose #KuToo, can you respond to the following?

・ How does making your feet look pretty relate to your work?

・ Why, when there are many other types of footwear, do you have to protect a custom that injures women?

・ Why, when nearly every workplace demands efficiency, is something so illogical enforced?

This movement mirrors similar movements that have happened around the world. In 2017, actress Nicola Thorp led a similar petition drive in England against compulsory pumps, collecting over 150,000 signatures. The movement sparked a greater awareness, not just over pumps, but the various other ways in which women are compelled to look “attractive” or “sexy” at work. The province of British Columbia also moved to make compulsory heels illegal in 2017.


British Woman’s Revolt Against High Heels Becomes a Cause in Parliament

LONDON – When Nicola Thorp was sent home for refusing to wear high heels to her job as a receptionist in London’s financial district, she did not cower in her sensible flats. She got even. Britain’s 2010 Equality Act prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of gender, age or sexual orientation.

I have no doubt that Japan’s movement against compulsory heels will kickstart a similar discussion about workplace “etiquette”. I’ve had female Japanese colleagues tell me horror stories of everything from being insulted and put down by male colleagues, to being called out by their bosses for wearing “insufficient” makeup. If I were a betting man, I’d say that the #KuToo movement is just the beginning of a revolt against double standards in the Japanese workplace.

Want more UJ? Get our FREE newsletter 

Need a preview? See our archives

Jay Allen

Jay is a resident of Tokyo where he works as a reporter for Unseen Japan and as a technial writer. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and is fervently working on his Kanji Kentei Level 2 certification.

Japan in Translation

Subscribe to our free newsletter for a weekly digest of our best work across platforms (Web, Twitter, YouTube). Your support helps us spread the word about the Japan you don’t learn about in anime.

Want a preview? Read our archives

You’ll get one to two emails from us weekly. For more details, see our privacy policy