Program Management Officer of Gender and Climate Change , Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, UN Environment Programme
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Yumi Ishikawa caused a stir in Japan last year when she launched an online petition to prohibit employers from forcing women to wear high-heeled shoes in the workplace.
The attention the campaign created led to her founding the #KuToo movement (a play on #MeToo and the Japanese words for shoe and pain), which in no time put her at the forefront of women’s rights in Japan.
Ishikawa is an accidental activist. It all began with a post on her Twitter account last year, motivated by the 7-centimeter (2.8-inch) heels she was mandated to wear during her eight-hour shifts as an usher in a funeral parlor. The tweet went viral and soon #KuToo was a part of the national conversation around sexual discrimination.
The response to #KuToo has been mixed. On a personal level, Ishikawa has received a lot of negative online feedback, much of it focused on her previous career as a bikini model.
More positively, a small but growing number of companies — including her previous employer at the funeral parlor — are abandoning stipulations on high heels.
“I started #KuToo because I had something to share with society and my message went through,” Ishikawa told Japan Today. “The movement could get going thanks to everyone’s efforts. This is proof that we collectively need to talk about this issue.”