When women say they enjoy wearing high heels, I never know what to think. It always seems quite silly to me because surely there’s nothing enjoyable about shoes which, in essence, massacre your feet and slow you down.
At the moment, I always wear flat shoes, usually trainers, because I do a lot of walking and toddler-chasing. This makes me feel extremely frumpy next to glossy-haired Boden/Brora/Joules-clad yummy mummies whose clickety-clack strides seem to express some sort of efficient and in-charge mumsiness that I can only dream of. It’s the same when it comes to women my age who I see going to work in the morning in their pencil skirts and high heels.
I remember reading a few years ago on a former schoolmate’s Facebook ‘About Me’ page that wearing high heels made her feel empowered, and as she works in the fashion industry I thought, oh yeah, certain things could be seen as oppressive, but if you actively choose them, it’s empowering – that old chestnut again (see pole dancing, burlesque, making/watching pornography etc.).
But today, thanks to Ms. Magazine, I came across a really excellent explanation why that’s all rubbish: according to fashion historian Elizabeth Semmelhack, senior curator at Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum, quoted in the Huffington Post,
“the power that high heels seems to convey is very sexualized power. And very sexualized power is false power, because in order to be sexy someone has to find you sexy, and so the power actually is in the beholder.”
I find that really thought-provoking. It makes sense to me. If one thinks slightly further, the above view might mean that sometimes when women try to feel powerful, or even do feel powerful, they aren’t actually succeeding, but rather asking for permission (which is denied because women are objectified and therefore powerless), and degrading themselves.
Does this mean that I will never wear high heels again? Probably not. They are still part of the expected attire on nights out, and eventually I hope to be able to partake in this pastime again (as long as I can be in bed by 11). If I officially stopped wearing high heels, I’d officially be a frump with no fashion sense and therefore no personality worth getting to know, or a weirdo who enjoys being the odd one out. But this realisation made me wonder: ages ago I came across the idea that we define ourselves through consumerism, i.e. we buy things in order to express who we are or want to be, which I think is an accurate assessment of most people’s habits (and certainly my own). So women buy high heels to portray a sexy and/or powerful persona, but actually they were pushed into this decision by societal pressure, so by wearing high heels they demonstrate how little power they have.
Yes. This is a whole post about shoes. It’s late. Where’s the wine?