TALIN DEROHANESSIANS WRITES — It’s no surprise that women in Japan are held to strict beauty and dress standards. Now they have been banned from wearing glasses to work.

Working women already must follow a strict dress code, including high heels, which sparked the #KuToo movement. According to the Vision Council of America over four billion adults in the world wear glasses and more women wear glasses than men — over 50% of all women compared to 42% of men.

Yet there is a double standard favoring men. For example, a male receptionist in Japan is allowed to wear glasses, but a female receptionist is asked to wear contact lenses. Anyone who wears contact lenses on a daily basis can tell you that their eyes suffer from dryness and fatigue, inevitably impacting productivity. Nippon TV reported employers’ reasons for anti-glasses policies: They supposedly give a “cold impression” and are not feminine enough. (They also cite glasses as a safety hazard for flight attendants on domestic airlines).

“Lookism” is a real phenomenon. We already know this. Women are discriminated against based on their looks. Women in Japan are held to perhaps the narrowest beauty standards. They must wear false lashes and full makeup. They are told how to style their hair and hair color. “Ms. B,” a beauty clinic nurse, wished to remain anonymous, and no wonder; she left her job of six years at the beauty clinic to become an editor at a digital media company, hoping to “send out a message that would empower women; not to impose some uniform beauty standard.” More importantly, she states that if cultural norms change, the rules of the workplace can change.

Is this starting to happen? A female news anchor in South Korea, Lim Hyeon-ju, appeared on-air with her glasses despite the country’s strict beauty standards. She had complained of dry and fatigued eyes, causing her to use artificial tears daily. Once she gathered the courage to wear glasses, she received thousands of messages of support and encouragement. She has worn glasses while broadcasting ever since.

Yumi Ishikawa, the woman behind the #KuToo movement,  said this to Bloomberg news regarding the requirement to wear high-heels at work: “this problem with glasses is the exact same as high heels. It’s only a rule for female workers”. In early November 2019, the hashtag “glasses ban” started to trend on Twitter, gaining support for opposition to the glasses ban at work.

As women the world over continue to suffer high-heels and dress code uniformity, the glasses ban only deepens and broadens the push for uniformity amongst Japanese women in the workforce. But women in Japan have their own vision: Only with comfortable shoes and eyewear can they see their way forward.

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