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Workplace Dress Code Difference in US and Japan: Anti-Glasses Policies in Japan

What woman doesn’t love accessorizing? It is a fun way to express yourself and your personal style. Everything from bangles and shoes to hair clips and fashionable glasses help us build our own identity and set us apart from the norm.

While this may feel like reality for the USA, some see these types of self-expression as unnecessary. For example, there is a recent trend in Japan that is banning women from wearing glasses. 

While Japan is not considered the most progressive country, this is a bit of a shock when you consider what Japanese women have accomplished and established within their society. 

 

How Glasses Are Seen

In the U.S. glasses are seen as both a necessary medical device and oftentimes a fashion statement. Sometimes it is both, sometimes it is one or the other. Plus, we are all familiar with the nerdy stereotype. The thin gangly kid with a pair of round lenses and a taped bridge to keep them together. However, this is not universal. Which is the main reason they have been banned among many employers in Japan.

Many employers find women wearing glasses as unfeminine. They are seen as stern and not very welcoming. While this may not be the blunt reason explained, it is often masked as wanting everyone to look uniform. Everyone wears the same outfit, which also means no glasses.

 

The Reasoning

Some liken this rule to other restrictions like modest makeup. Restrictions on dark lipstick, bright eyeshadows, or loud nail art is also seen as ununiform. This is not hard to imagine among some careers, even in the United States.

Many employers may find this distracting, especially if these employees often work in customer service or professional services.  A law firm may restrict unnatural hair colors or bold jewelry due to fear it may distract when in the courtroom. Whereas a cosmetologist may be encouraged to have fun with her appearance and let her personality shine through.

This of course varies from one industry to the next, and even from one employer to the next.

But glasses, seems like a bit of a …jump?

Some employers get really creative with the reasonings. Explaining that it is not about looking uniform but it is actually more hygienic. Something seen in the hospitality industry. 

 

The Solution

As a result, many women are finding themselves needing to wear contacts – some for the first time. For those who prefer contacts, it may not seem like a big deal. But for women who are new to contacts, work long hours, or simply do not prefer them, it is actually a very frustrating part of their job. They find themselves constantly rubbing their eyes, dealing with dryness and irritation.

Some women are taking things a step further to overcome this obstacle by getting full-on surgery to correct their vision. Not only does this remove them from the office for a period of time, but it can also be expensive. Further setting them back. 

 

The Contradictions

When the Business Insider began talking with women who have been restricted to contacts, many have reported double standards. For example, women in other departments of the company and even their male peers being allowed to wear glasses as needed. Which has only diluted the argument that everyone should look uniform.

This has not only created a distrust for these women looking to their employers but is a strong comment on how their well-being is truly in the employers best interest.

It is not unreasonable for a company to want a uniform look, but within what parameters? Are necessary medical devices, like glasses, now seen as optional? Does the company need to provide alternatives and offer compensation for contacts expense or the elective surgery many women are undergoing just so they can do their job?

 

The Response

This is not going unnoticed by women in Japan. Many women are noticing this double standard and trying to change the system. Whether that is with rebelling and wearing glasses anyways or switching jobs to a workplace that allows them to wear their glasses.

Unfortunately, it does not end with glasses and in fact, only exposes a wider problem around how women are seen in the workplace. Women who may wear less makeup, or too much, are looked down upon. Women who do not devote much time to their appearance can be seen as cold or unfeminine. The rationale is that this would turn people away and hurt sales or the reputation of the business.

Whereas women who maybe enjoy spending more time on their appearance, either with coloring their hair, wearing fake eyelashes, or more bold makeup, are seen as unprofessional.

It appears these employers who frown upon these women identify a sweet spot of how a woman should look. Anything more or less is seen as inappropriate, no matter their performance in the office. 

 

Today

Women are not being submissive to all of these standards. Especially in the current technological age where inspiring women can speak out online and have a platform to encourage others. While there are attempts to make changes, it is sometimes more challenging than it can seem from the outside.

There is no doubt being a woman in many parts of the world is a challenge, which that alone is an understatement. These restrictions no matter how small simply create another obstacle among many that women have to overcome in order to become equal to their male counterparts. Glasses may not seem like the biggest issue women face, but for some women, it is forcing them to change jobs, opt for surgery, and remove focus from fulling living out their potential in the workplace.

Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/women-japan-banned-from-wearing-glasses-as-its-not-elegant-2019-11

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