Misery in Manolos
by Emily Sullivan
I had two hours to wait in Penn Station for the earliest train on Saturday night. It being New York, 3-5 a.m. happened to be prime time for people-watching. I watched woman after woman stumble past - tripping, grimacing, and generally having a tough time. My rough estimate is that 95% of the women in the station were wearing stiletto heels. Many of those women had bleeding feet.
Now, I know tons of women - even my most radical feminist friends (Amelia) - who will defend heels ‘til they’re blue in the face. But let’s get real here. It makes zero sense to be a feminist and wear heels. I agree - they’re sexy. But so is being rail thin. The fact that they look good does not make them any less damaging to women. As feminists, we fight against those fashion trends that stem from a patriarchal perception of beauty. Skimpy clothes—while sexy—promote the objectification of women. Bleached blonde hair reveals conformity to the narrow and repressive ideals of feminine beauty set forth by society. Why do we ignore high heels? They are damaging to women’s bodies! We got rid of corsets (thank god) and now’s the time to get rid of heels.
Here’s what we don’t tell young girls as Cinderella trades her pretty blue flats for a glass high heel: high heels cause corns, bunions, and calluses, but so do most ill-fitting shoes. The real risk comes from the effects heels have on women’s knees and backs. Hammertoes (misshapen, curled-up toes) are the effect of toes being scrunched into a tight-fitting shoe and the subsequent force while walking. Knee osteoarthritis—the painful breakdown of the cartilage surrounding the knee—has been linked to heels, even thicker ones. The Achilles tendon, which tightens when wearing heels, can lose its flexibility and become shorter, which in turn makes wearing flat shoes or being barefoot painful. Being in heels changes your center of gravity, and your body compensates in a way that misaligns your spine. This causes back injury and bad posture.
You don’t need to know all the specific anatomical effects to know that heels suck. Just spend an hour in them! Eventually - I hope - high heels will go the way of the corset - a fashion memory that makes our granddaughters say, “I can’t believe they’d do that to themselves!”