Shoes maketh the (wo)man…

// 5 March 2008

Sarah Sands has written a piece in The Independent about how feet and shoes have become a marker of feminine identity.

“The pain that women endure for beautiful shoes is, like childbirth, unknown to men…High heels are to us what corsets were to late Victorian women. They are inhumanly uncomfortable – and yet self-imposed. There is an ecstatic relief at stepping out of them at the end of the day. One gazes down at swollen, red, slashed, blistered feet and thinks that Mallory’s hobnail boot was an ordinary thing.”

From The Independent

What’s interesting in Sands writing is that she praises Kylie and Danni Minogue and Victoria Beckham for their heels wearing, reducing the achievements of each (love ’em or hate ’em) to congratulations on the ability to walk across a room. She then tells us that women are “squeezing their Ugly Sister feet” into high heels to feel more attractive. Another example of a woman encouraging us to fetishise parts of our bodies to focus our attention on sexual attractiveness rather than women’s real achievements in the real world.

And whilst we’re talking about bodies and fashion, Racialicious has coverage of Glamour magazine waking up to racism in their presentations.

[A] recent slide show by an unidentified Glamour editor on the “Dos and Don’ts of Corporate Fashion” at a New York law firm shed some light on the topic, according to this month’s American Lawyer magazine.

First slide up: an African American woman sporting an Afro. A real no-no, announced the ‘Glamour’ editor to the 40 or so lawyers in the room. As for dreadlocks: How truly dreadful! The style maven said it was ’shocking’ that some people still think it ‘appropriate’ to wear those hairstyles at the office. ‘No offense,’ she sniffed, but those ‘political’ hairstyles really have to go.

From Racialicious

Whilst Latoya Peterson isn’t impressed with the panel which Glamour put together to, well, redress this racism, she does highlight some interesting comments made:

REESE: Most of the more than 200 women I interviewed for my play Split Ends [about the history of black women’s hair] said that most of the hurt they received was from other black people. We have a history of not being valued that we still impose on each other. I don’t want to sound cavalier, but nobody’s got a whip over our backs. Why are we waiting for someone outside of us to dictate when it’s OK to be who we are?…I’d like us to consider how we see things. When it comes to race, we’re looking from the past. When people see me with my natural hair, they don’t see Dr. Venus Opal Reese who has four degrees, they see an historical idea of what natural hair means. And that’s what it meant in the 1970s and 1960s; it equaled black nationalism and was linked to the Black Panther Party. It was considered militant. That doesn’t mean it’s true now, but that’s how it’s linked.


Meanwhile over at The FFiles there is an interview with Shelia Jeffries on beauty practices, global exploitation and women’s bodies (scroll down the archives section to find). Jeffries interviews really well for this piece and draws out the similarities between foot-binding in China and high heels – especially the fact that both foot-binding and high heels provides erotic pleasure for men from watching women’s pain.

Comments From You

sian // Posted 5 March 2008 at 12:52 pm

what on earth was the point of sarah sands’ article? it was dull and badly written. yes, i get it. women wear high heels. and? does this mean feminism failed? is that what she was trying to say? that high heels are empowering?

what about the sex aid thing? does anyone really think heels help your pelvic muscles?

i just don’t understand why she wrote it. i also didn’t like the bit about wanting to congratulate women who can walk in heels. no other reason to congratulate each other? madness!

Ruthie Samuel // Posted 5 March 2008 at 7:23 pm

High heels embody ‘spice girls’ style feminism. Women look good in them, look and feel a bit powerful in them because of the elevated height…but at the same time it’s just an illusion, there’s no real power gained from a man thinking you look sexy. Plus they hurt and they restrict what you can do. I’ve given up on uncomfortable shoes. They’re really not worth it, hobbling is not attractive or fun. The research behind the ‘pelvic floor’ comment is also complete rubbish.

And I would argue that although women might be wearing heels on the catwalk, most girls around my age (19) rarely wear heels, even on nights out, and flat shoes kate moss style or comfy boots sienna miller style have been easily the most popular shoes of the last few years.

Lindsey // Posted 6 March 2008 at 11:58 am

“Women burned their bras but now subject their feet to terrifying pieces of engineering in order to lengthen their legs and reduce their waists”

Are these the same women? Way to pigeon-hole! It can be difficult to break out of high-heel culture – you get judged as non-professional in the office and not smart enough to get into clubs. Plus with so many shoes produced having rather perilous heels they are presented as the norm, with even most flats having toe-pinching grip and no insole cushioning, it can be difficult finding anything both comfortable and suitable for daily life.

For work I wear low heeled lace-up shoes, comfy enough to run for the bus in even, though I was amazed when I found I could run twice as fast in plimsoles. Does anyone else worry that when they are out in heels/restrictive shoes they may not be able to run fast enough from attack?

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