So, interesting quote at the end of that video- the lady goes ‘Well YOU try walking in those heels!’ to a male colleague laughing. Now she was kidding, but… Seriously, why do women wear high heels? They’re a fashion choice that I have never understood and can never partake in; because I love my feet and I cherish my ability to break into a run whenever I like. So why do women actually do this? ‘Beauty is pain’ my arse, I demand a better explanation than just that.
So firstly can I say I’m not going after heeled shoes at all- I am all in favour of sassy 1940s style dancing shoes with a good old bit o’ heel on them, as modeled by this gal here-
What I really have a problem with are HEELS. Like, HIGH HEELS. Heels so high your foot is permenantly contorted as long as you wear them.
Heels so high that they basically restrict your movement and make it unbearably painful to walk, that do nothing for posture and make it so you have to carry a pair of supplementary flat shoes in your bag- Whatever happened to the sensible heel? The kind of shoes you could go dancing in without doing that stupid limpy dance.
Posture and optical illusions
So generally when I hear arguments in favour of this crushingly painful things (I know the photo above is slightly exaggerated but fuckin’ still!) I always hear the ‘but high heels make you stand much better!’ BULL. SHIT. I have never seen someone standing with nice posture in high heels that wasn’t a Hollywood star who gets paid millions to walk about in them. On anyone I’ve seen on a night out in Dublin, High heels just make her look gawky and graceless. I know it’s possible to learn how to look fabulous in a pair of aggressively high heels, but what I’m saying is most women don’t do this.
The other argument is that high heels make your legs look slimmer is annoying. Black tights do the same goddamn job without crippling you! If anything I’ve found they emphasize the chunkiness of one’s calves even more by elevating the foot up. I have a problem with this idea that we need optical fucking illusions to look nice- If you have fat legs, flaunt those babies! Throw on your black tights (seriously, get black tights) and some ankle high doc martens or some absurd pumps with a HUGE buckle and go have fun! Show them off to the world and if you don’t like them, strive to get rid of them and slim them up. Don’t limp around fooling yourself, be fucking proud! (I have fat upper arms and I’m finished hiding them in cardigans. I still haven’t come to like them and so have resolved to do pull ups whenever I’m home alone until I have arms like Sarah Connor in Terminator 2)
So what the fuck is up with these shoes?
I really don’t know what’s happened. It feels like for all the steps we’ve made forward in you know, not being oppressed and taking on sexist bullshit as it comes, fashion and style are dictating to women that they need to wear this gloriously uncomfortable things to be good lookin’ or fashionable or to fit into an ideal of beauty. It’s not even a very small petty thing- I’ve observed women who literally cannot walk another step in their shoes because the pain was too much. I sat and waited with a girl on a garden wall for 20 minutes while her boyfriend ran ahead to pick her up a pair of flats from the house we were walking to; her shoes were hurting her too much to walk further. And I don’ get it!
They’re sooooo sore but look how FABULOUS they are!
Can you be a successful, independent, strident, sassy feminist woman while wearing high heels? Oh certainly, and I’m not saying for a moment you can’t be. I’ll still sit back and silently roll my eyes at anyone complaining they can barely walk in their shoes. SHOES ARE SUPPOSED TO BE MADE FOR COMFORT. The trend shifts in fashion towards more and more extreme forms of tottering high heels and aggressive, BDSM looking monstrosities and for what? Some might say ‘well hey there Niamh, you get waxed! That’s beauty for pain!’ And I’ll be all like girl, please. Waxing, at least in the places I get it, is painful for approximately five seconds? In total it’s 20 minutes of each month spent being very uncomfortable so that I can feel comfortable in the body I have. The difference is I don’t walk around in constant crippling pain all night because I got my chin hairs ripped out. I’m all for women waxing and shaving and lopping off anything they like as long as it’s a conscious decision they’ve made without a defeated sigh and an ‘okay…’ (Well okay Brazilian waxes are a bit weird but still, TO EACH THEIR OWN.)
Women wear bad shoes because they feel compelled to. By who, you say? Well… I don’t know? The man, I guess. I say ‘the man’, but really other women are encompassed into this too- The entire fashion industry based on having the bag, the shoes and the outfit to fit each woman perfectly into this biscuit cutter shape, and crippling shoes is the worst of it because it actively impedes you in your daily life. Okay I can deal with absurdly large/small/expensive handbags and those obnoxious giant sunglasses but shoes LEAVE MARKS ON YOUR FEET. Why would anyone who is not suffering some kind of oppression put themselves through that pain? We look a pictures of women with bound feet in 19th Century China and get weirded out, but the current generation of women folk do a form of it too- Pouring themselves into a footwear that forces 90% of them to turn into unstable, wobbly, submissive creatures.
So the shoes are uncomfortable and they aren’t aesthetically pleasing chiefly because they don’t follow the natural curves of a woman’s body- Again, sure you can learn to make them extenuate your figure, but why the hell bother? Why not strap on a pair of sassy old style dancing shoes and have the best of all worlds? Why do women abuse themselves like this?
Don’t tell people what to wear you SEXIST
I know, I know, women can wear whatever they like and they’re totes free to! I’m not going to admonish anyone for wearing what they want to wear but I question why any woman would make the conscious choice to really hurt themselves just for the sake of looking ‘good?’ nobody would ever tell a man what he wears is politically charged but then again, men don’t actively strap themselves into something that restricts them- Generally oppressive clothing is the domain of the woman folk again. Is that ever a rational decision to make or does it speak of some oppressing force that has women convinced that this is what they must do to be considered attractive? It confuses me to no end that modern fashion in a world where the general opinion is that feminism has somehow ‘won’ and is finished, women’s fashion shows a trend towards more restrictive features- Like my number one enemy, THE STILETTO HEEL
The Stiletto heel is the fucking DESCENDANT of the corset, I am convinced of that. That’s what high heels really are, they’re the remnants of a formerly common ideal- that women have to suffer to look good. We suck in our fat and keep it in with whalebone, we poison our skin with lead, we break our feet, and today we stagger into a nightclub bathroom and collapse onto the toilet silently sobbing and applying corn plasters. We don’t need this shit!
I just don’t get it, I suppose. I don’t get why anyone who is fully in control of their own body would choose to make themselves so needlessly uncomfortable and inhibit their own movement so much. It might be splitting hairs, maybe it’s not an issue at all but it’s just that I’ve heard the phrase ‘oh they’re killing me but they look amazing’ too many times to be fully okay with the idea of high heels. You could say that politically speaking, I’m opposed to it. It doesn’t feel right that in 2012 shoes are doing to women what corsets and foot binding did on a larger and more serious scale to our ancestors. Pain is not something that should be worn.
I guess my golden rule should really be that they’re perfectly fine as long as they’re comfy and you can walk in them without being crippled- Now good luck finding seven inch stiletto heels that are so comfortable. As for me? I await with bated breath the comeback of the sensible heel to modern fashion. Until that day, I shall kick it out on the town in a pair of sassy pumps.
Niamh ‘Get on your dancing shoes’ Keoghan
Note- Thanks to Aileen Bowe for her feedback and advice- This piece was revised after her chat with me! <3