Monday, April 27, 2009

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!”


At April 27, 2009 at 2:21 PM , Anonymous Dan said...


I agree with you completely on this topic.

At April 27, 2009 at 3:15 PM , Anonymous Naomi said...

Sad to say, some women are still pawns of the Patriarchy. For their own good we should ban such things as high heels, padded bras, etc, and shame such things as clear skin and good figures. Consider it a means of collective bargaining, like work quotas in labor unions. After a generation standards of beauty will fall into line and we'll be one step closer to a feminist utopia.

At April 27, 2009 at 6:49 PM , Anonymous Dan said...

Whoa, hold on a minute Naomi...

Didn't you just say, in your comment to the previous post, that "a homely woman is a pawn of the Patriarchy" and that women "increase their options" by "increasing their attractiveness and sexual market value"?

Do you notice any inconsistency between that view and the view you just expressed above?

At April 27, 2009 at 8:47 PM , Blogger Courtny said...

A well fitting pair of heels is like a well-fitting corset. If these things are forced onto women through social shaming and dress codes, then I think they're mentally harmful. Physically, sure they can change your posture and center of gravity--but if they're reasonable and well fitted, and you take care of your body (eat, stretch, etc.) I don't think there's harm in them.

A poorly fitting pair of heels or a shoddy corset can damage one's body and should be worn minimally, if at all. Same goes for insane ballet hills and indiscriminate tight-lacing.

However, choosing to wear heels, lace into a corset, bleach your hair blonde, etc. because YOU think that's sexy (whether you're a man or woman) doesn't mean your choices deserve ridicule--or make you less of a feminist.

As a woman who on occasion wears heels and corsets, and who has hung out with men and woman who make that choice, so what if we have to do some Achilles tendon stretching? ;)

At April 28, 2009 at 12:49 AM , Blogger Franki said...

What Courtny said.

There's a difference between walking down the street or sitting in a desk in well-fitting, well-made heels and wearing 4" stilettos half a size too small all night at the club because you're trying to fit in with your friends/be cute for hot dude in the corner.

I'm not giving up my high-heeled boots for anyone. Not because I want to be sexy or conform, but because they make me feel like an absolute badass. And I think that's okay.

At April 28, 2009 at 9:14 AM , Blogger Courtny said...

*I meant to write ballet heels:

Franki, you are an absolute badass, boots or no ;)

At April 28, 2009 at 3:15 PM , Blogger Roscoe said...

ya, I'm gonna go ahead and say it, I don't want high heels out cause then the girl I like won't look as sexy. And it really means something when they are willing to put up with something to look sexy for ME, not for men, or for the patriarchy, but for ME. Likewise, I'm not gonna go around in a bathrobe ALL the time (I mean, I don't expect the girl I like to wear high heels every day!). But when I go to a formal, I'm gonna get dressed in a tux, which is significantly less comfortable than a bath robe, because I have enough respect to look nice and tidy myself up for those who I care about.

Naomi, you can go ahead and become a pimply-faced fatass, but that just ain't sexy, well, at least to me, so don't expect me to ask you out. If you DO find someone, hey, all the more power to you. In the end, sexiness if just something between two people. AS SUCH, the most important lesson to take away is to not try an conform to social beauty standards, but rather, conform to your partner's beauty standards because it makes being around each other that much more fun.

At April 29, 2009 at 12:21 AM , Anonymous Chloe said...

"Naomi, you can go ahead and become a pimply-faced fatass, but that just ain't sexy, well, at least to me, so don't expect me to ask you out."
Seriously? What are you doing here? On a feminist blog?

At April 29, 2009 at 9:22 AM , Blogger LSG said...

Chloe, I think he was referring to Naomi saying we should "shame such things as clear skin and good figures." I think Naomi's entire comment is a little silly, but still not cool, Roscoe. And for today's moment in trying not to be heteronormative -- maybe she doesn't want a man to ask her out. :)

And for today's personal anecdote, I work in a relatively secluded area and often take walks during my lunch breaks. Yesterday, as I was skipping happily along in my flip-flops, a car full of men pulled up beside me and the driver said jovially, "Where are your high heels? Why aren't you wearing high heels?" and when I laughed uncomfortably and kept walking, "High heels tomorrow, okay?"

They may have been trying to be friendly, not creepy -- they probably live nearby and saw me running around in wedges all winter -- but ick. That makes me want to wear combat boots.

At May 3, 2009 at 3:24 AM , Blogger Brenda said...

I don't know if I would ever ditch my high heels. I don't wear them all the time, but when I do, I feel taller and confident. I don't know if there's anything wrong with feeling sexy, and I'm not sure if all women wear heels solely for the purpose of attracting other people. Is there anything wrong with the confidence and grace that heels can bring to a woman? What about dominatrix-type heels which represent a reversal of "patriarchal" male/female gender roles? The fashion trend of high heels is not an imposing one, and the choice to wear them is very different from the decision not to eat because of poor body image.

At June 12, 2009 at 1:42 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am 63 and have been a feminist all my life. Sadly, I used to think the battle against high heels had been won. New York women at least wore sneakers to work. Many of us who had scrunched our toes into spike heals during our teen years vowed never to wear them again.

From my viewpoint, women have again
decided to bind their feet in the interest of fashion. The shoe industry and podiatrists are in bed together. Most visit to podiatrists are by women.

The other shoe/podiatrist conspiracy is the impossibility of finding women's shoes in wide sizes.


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