As a junior high school student, I had many opinions about school rules. Wearing a scarf was banned in wintertime, and students were ordered to wear only one type of coat or jacket in the winter, and tights were banned in winter for girls, and also braids were banned. But at that time the teachers seemed quite scary, so I didn’t dare to confront them. With high school entrance exams, I didn’t want to be regarded as a disobedient type of student in my school marks.
Did you talk to your classmates to see if they felt the same way? Did you ever feel like you could speak out together?
From middle school through high school, we always had the feeling that we weren’t supposed to express our opinions. I felt a kind of tacit pressure on women. Women were not supposed to talk much or speak out as much as men did. Rather, they are expected to respect men. And through various media and TV programs, that message came across.
You work as a model. What is the culture of modeling in Japan?
When I first worked as a swimsuit model for videos and magazines, I got the impression that female models were not respected enough. Editors or directors did not regard our opinions at all. There was no real physical violence, but the agents or editors would force models to do things they did not want to do, even until they cried. Images that I did not consent to be published, were published anyway. They made me put on swimsuits that exposed more of my body than I wanted, and yet they ran the photos.
At that time, I believed that was an unavoidable thing as a model. The adults around me were saying, “This won’t sell unless you do this.” The other female models themselves would say, “We just have to accept it.” But after 2017’s #MeToo movement, I finally realized that this could be a crime, and it was very natural for me to get upset or angry at these demands.
You have said that advocating for a ban on high heel requirements is not the only cause you are fighting for. What are some of the other issues that you think are important for women in Japan?
If a woman is sexually progressive or assertive, people criticize you. I want to change these attitudes. For example, if you pose nude, people will criticize you or try to take you down. [Earlier this year, Ms. Ishikawa posed nude for a feminist collection of essays and photographs.]