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  • Writer's pictureWomEnpowered International

Event Report: #KuToo Workshop @University of Tokyo

On July 28, WomEnpowered International organized a workshop at the University of Tokyo in support of the #KuToo movement. #KuToo is a campaign aimed at challenging companies within Japan that require their female employees to work in heels. #KuToo nods to the worldwide #MeToo movement and also plays with the Japanese words for shoe (kutsu) and pain (kutsuu).

The movement began in February 2019, with an online petition started by Japanese actress and feminist writer Yumi Ishikawa. Ms. Ishikawa started the petition after working part-time at a funeral parlor and having to work the majority of her shift in heels. The petition --which asks the government to ban company rules that force women to wear heels-- has reached over 30,000 online signatures.

WE Int. members gathered at the University of Tokyo to have roundtable discussions on what we, as students, have to contribute to this imperative movement. What we came to realize: much of the social pressure that women in Japan face when it comes to wearing heels starts not at work, but when they begin looking for work, as students.

Job hunting in Japan has very specific --unwritten but almost universally followed-- rules of conduct. Women are recommended to tie their hair back and wear dark skirt suits, nude stockings and black pumps with a heel of 3-5 cm. Then, for some women, these job-hunting heels turn into company-required heels when they are hired.

Ms. Ishikawa says that events like the event held at the University of Tokyo are crucial for changing gendered norms in Japan. “The norm of women having to wear heels begins with job hunting,” says Ms. Ishikawa. “Until this point, females are given the choice of whether or not to wear heels.”

Here is WomEnpowered International’s official declaration of support from the #KuToo movement:


The #KuToo movement not only addresses women’s restricted autonomy when it comes to clothing, but also the structural obstacles they face when participating in the labor force. Wearing heels causes pain for many women, which effectively impedes them from realizing their full potential in job hunting and in the workplace. Therefore, WE Int.'s support for the #KuToo movement is both an expression of solidarity with individual women facing this issue and an urge to remove all existing barriers from society that obstruct women's empowerment.


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