High heels have been the topic of heated debate recently. From English temp, Nicola Thorp, being sent home from work after turning up in flats, to Julia Roberts kicking off her heels and going barefoot on the Cannes red carpet. It seems that suddenly everyone has realised the inherent misogyny and sexism that go hand-in-hand with the forcible wearing of heels.
I’m about 5’11, so I can’t say that wearing heels has ever been something I’m that enthusiastic about. When I put on a pair of heels I tend to feel like a structurally unsound skyscraper, liable to fall any minute and take any innocent by-standers down with me. But, when I was slightly younger and slightly more naive I used to force my size 10 feet into dangerously high heels and stumble along to my party destination. It’s not that I enjoyed wearing the heels, but it felt like if I didn’t I would be missing out on something. Friends and I would go shopping, and despite my better judgement I’d succumb to the ‘but they’re so pretty’s and the ‘think about how great your legs will look’, and inevitable end up leaving the store with a ludicrous pair of heels that would raise my head dangerously close to ceilings and door frames…
The question of whether women should or shouldn’t wear heels is something which has burst into view, every online journal contributing their thoughts to the matter. It’s always interesting when issues like this become hot topics. At the beginning of this new media-craze I was enraged. First I was angry about the stories I was hearing. One in particular of a waitress who worked in heels until her feet bled and then was still not allowed to ditch the heels. But after hearing many similar stories of women getting the short end of the stick in terms of footwear, I stopped being mad and started to feel exhausted. How is it that we are still talking about this? Furthermore, how is this even something that needs to be discussed? It’s crazy to think that something as simple as footwear has sparked such an intense debate and brought out some truly horrific stories. How has it gotten to the point where women have so little agency that our choice of shoe creates so much drama? Or I suppose the better question is, how long will it be until women are given full and complete control of their own bodies and lives?
Its issues like this that give us a glimpse of the position women have in society. If you don’t really pay attention you can probably move through life blissfully unaware of the inherent disadvantages of being born a woman. Even if that is the case, issues like this are sure to spark a thought, cause a comparison between the treatment of men and women in our society. Has anyone ever heard of this much fuss over what men wear on their feet to work?
Really what it comes down to is an idea of ownership; of subservience. Women are made to wear heels to fulfil a certain societal image, to maintain an idea of how women should look (as well as how they should act and behave). As Amanda Bynes wisely says in She’s the Man; “Heels are a male invention designed to make women’s butts look smaller… and to make it harder for them to run away.” Whether or not women should be made to wear heels to work is not just a question of dress-code, it’s a matter of the treatment of women in our workplace and our society. It’s perfectly possible to wear flat shoes to work and still look professional, men do it every day. There is absolutely no need for a woman to wear high heels to work unless she chooses (or she works in a place with a lot of high shelves or something…)
When I hear stories like this I can’t help but think how much further we have to go. It’s the little issues, the things that seem completely irrelevant that really highlight the differences between men and women in our society. Even something as simple as picking out shoes for work has a sinister undertone for modern day women. Despite the fact that these issues might sound inconsequential or small to some, it really shows a massive fault in our society, an unfair treatment that is so rooted in our everyday behaviour that we don’t even truly comprehend how messed-up it really is.