Heels, has the time come for a flat earth?

JUNE 9 — Over the last few months, women in Japan have been engaged in an uprising against the high-heeled shoe. 

Actor and writer Yumi Ishikawa submitted a petition to Japan's labour minister asking for dress codes that mandate high-heeled shoes for women to be made illegal. Her petition garnered thousands of signatures and attention across Japan and worldwide. 

The Japanese labour minister was compelled to respond to the anti-heels movement but said "wearing heels to work was generally accepted by society” and that it is “necessary and appropriate.” 

In other words, it doesn’t look like mandatory heels are going to be banned in Japan anytime soon and this is a real shame. 

Of course the minister asserting that high heels are not only appropriate but necessary is male and has (very likely) never worn high-heeled shoes in his life.  

But that is the history of women's dress codes; mandated and decided by men.  

To heel or not to heel is not a uniquely Japanese problem. While Japan's general formality means that large numbers of women in the country are compelled to wear heels, all over the world women are either mandated or pressured to squeeze into footwear that is restrictive painful and potentially disfiguring in order to look more professional.

I’ve long been baffled by the idea that being unable to move properly is a sign of professionalism but the idea that tottering about unstably is a minimum requirement for a woman’s appearance is still ingrained in offices worldwide. 

There have been some successful anti-heel campaigns in parts of the world though. 

The Philippines has passed legislation making it illegal for work places to compel women to wear heels at work and the  Canadian state of Calgary has passed similar legislation.  

There have also been favourable rulings on cases where women have been dismissed or penalised for not wearing heels in many nations but we are still a very long way from a world where women aren’t pressured into wearing heels.  

In good news, an increasing number of airlines have stopped mandating their stewardesses wear heels but this really only begs the question — why did it take so long?   

Stewardesses play an essential role in flight safety; in emergencies they have to shepherd people to exits and deliver CPR.  

How can these be done in footwear that restrict your movement? Why for so many years did we prioritise women’s appearance over their ability to move and actually do their jobs?  

Because of the level of restriction and pain high heels impose, they really can’t be compared to items of men’s clothing. 

While some argue the tie or jacket is the equivalent of the high-heeled shoe for men, the reality is that neither cause pain nor increase the risk of injury.  

While more flexibility in male dress codes is also warranted, the idea that women should be forced to wear something that causes pain and discomfort to conform to male ideas of what is appropriate or preferred is beyond outdated.  

So regardless of the statement from Japan's labour minister, the women behind Japan's heel-free petition should be encouraged to continue their righteous fight for a flat earth.  

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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