By now, we’ve all become familiar with the long list of unrealistic expectations women face on a daily basis. In order to look “pretty” or be “sexy” and “desirable,” women must subscribe to a certain “look,” and according to various Japanese employers, that also includes your prescription glasses.
According to Business Insider, various businesses around Japan – including department stores and beauty clinics – have banned women from wearing glasses. Why? Because apparently they make employees look “cold, unfriendly, unfeminine,” or – the most unbelievable – “too intelligent.”
An anonymous Japanese woman in her twenties who works as a receptionist at a major department store was told by her superior that “glasses are prohibited” at her place of work.
“I told myself at that time that we weren’t allowed glasses because we needed to look feminine, that it just wouldn’t do to wear them,” she said. “Now that I think about it, perhaps it was that they wanted us all to look uniform, as though we were part of some kind of gymnastics squad.”
The woman said her vision without glasses was so bad she’d spend her entire break with her eyes shut just to relieve dryness and fatigue. “There are often mornings where I just think to myself, ‘I wish I could wear glasses.’”
She revealed that she was told “over and over I needed to look sweeter and more feminine,” and that certain types of makeup and hair colours were also banned, including glittery eye shadows, dark lipstick, coloured contact lenses and eyelash extensions.
The worst part of all is that wearing glasses is reportedly totally acceptable for the male receptionists – but not the females.
“It seems like only women are being asked for the appearance of beauty and feminine that isn’t imposed on me,” she said. “I just don’t understand.”
Another woman, who also chose to remain anonymous, said she experienced the same rules working as a nurse at a beauty clinic in Japan.
“I was told it would help boost sales, it would make me more convincing and I accepted it,” she said. “At the university hospital, we were judged based on our technique and knowledge but at beauty clinics, it was more about looks. I was a nurse but felt like I was being asked to be a sort of a doll.”
In South Korea, women facing similar social oppression have fought back with the “escape the corset” movement which is all about rejecting society’s expectation that women should have a “porcelain complexion, luxuriant long hair, lots of makeup and form-fitting dresses.”
It’s so important that movements like “escape the corset” exist to shine a light on how harmful the male gaze can be, and that women deserve to be treated as equals to their male counterparts. Oh, and that glasses are necessary for many people and do not have anything to do with how “feminine” or “intelligent” someone is.