Recently a movement protesting the tacit requirement that women must wear high heels to work in Japan has been gaining major support. #KuToo was even on the brink of creating legislative changes that would impact the lives of women across the country.
That’s until Takumi Nemoto, Japan’s health and labour minister, shut down the movement, saying that high heels are “necessary and appropriate” in the workplace.
The #KuToo movement was created by writer and actress Yumi Ishikawa, after thousands of women applauded tweets in which she expressed her frustration with the expectation that women should wear heels to work every day.
#KuToo draws from the Japanese word ‘kutsu’ which stands for shoes, and ‘kutsuu’ which translates to painful. By referencing these words and giving a nod to the #MeToo movement, Yumi fought to change the unfair expectations that women face in professional settings.
Earlier this week, things were looking brighter for #KuToo, as Yumi met with labour ministry officials over the matter. In a statement to reporters, Yumi said: “Today we submitted a petition calling for the introduction of laws banning employers from forcing women to wear heels as sexual discrimination or harassment.”
Yumi and other activists of #KuToo have called out the prolonged wearing of heels as not only painful, but physically harmful. With this however, matters have taken a turn now with Japan’s labour minister’s recent comments on the movement. “It is socially accepted as something that falls within the realm of being occupationally necessary and appropriate,” Nemoto said to a legislative committee on Wednesday.
Although it is not confirmed what the outcome is of Yumi’s meeting with a labour minister earlier this week, the #KuToo movement isn’t over here. These remarks may be a setback to the movement, but we shouldn't be disheartened. If legislators stand their ground on the matter, the movement has still opened the discussion around the issue of unfair expectations women face in Japan and other socities in the region.
This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.