When Japan Outlaws Glasses for Women
In Japan, an increasing number of companies are asking women not to wear their glasses to work, but the bizarre and sexist attitude has been heavily criticized on social media.
In Japan, birthplace of the Geisha, women are still subject to a lot of rules. In the workplace, they are often required to wear heels to look feminine and more ‘professional’ according to employers and they are also prohibited from dying their hair in favor of natural black. In another bizarre rule, glasses are increasingly being banned from the workplace, whether in sales, beauty, hospitality or airlines. The reasoning on the part of employers is that glasses give a ‘cold expression’, are not feminine enough, hide make-up and present security problems. In the food industry, restaurant bosses have even decided that they don’t go with Japanese traditional dress, the kimono.
So what about those whose eyesight will prevent them from working without their corrective lenses? Managers are asking them to wear contact lenses. But not everyone can wear lenses, especially sufferers of dry eye syndrome or anyone with damaged retinas. Contact lenses can sometimes be uncomfortable to wear if you have other temporary eye problems, as well.
But a resistance movement against such an absurd and sexist principle has been building on twitter since last year, on the hashtag #glassesban. One young woman told how she was forced to wear contact lenses during a bout of conjunctivitis, which left her in a great deal of pain. Others are fighting back with pictures of glasses-wearing manga heroines and attractive women in specs and there are even declarations of love and support for girls who wear glasses. Yet they remain a sensitive topic in Japan. On the Q&A site Quora, visitors have remarked on how few Japanese women wear glasses in the street, yet they have no problem wearing masks and using parasols. Sporting shades in public seems often to be seen as impolite or out of place, for being too on-trend.
To stamp out prejudice and conspiracy theories, don’t forget that the Land of the Rising Sun has its fair share of big-name glasses-makers, as well as high-tech materials with which to work. Titanium frames combining strength with lightness are a Japanese specialty, notably in the town of Sabae. Amongst the designers, is Masunaga, which has been making frames by hand since 1905, and Matsuda, which uses luxe metals like gold. More affordable and very stylish, are glasses by JINS, currently seen on young professionals in the know, while other brands to look out for include Yuichi Toyama, Danshari, Yellow Plus, Ken Okuyama (which also designs cars), Eyevan 7285 and the Charmant group that uses cutting-edge technology. Japanese craftsmanship is so reputed internationally that foreign brands like DITA, Anne et Valentin, Etnia Barcelona and Tom Browne have already called on the excellence of Japanese glasses-makers. Surely enough to counter received opinion in Japan itself?
Written by Kate Mathams