Jul 242007

or at least recycle them.

I really know that there are more pressing social matters than fashion and gender, but somehow I always think of these not so pressing issues first. In fact, I think about them all the time. Which proves how shallow I am (and further proof lies in the fact that I start and finish every single post with I, me, and my). But then maybe these obsessions are only showing my belief that even big issues are made out of a thousand small ones.

So. I have been thinking about fashion again. On one hand this is part of my midlife crisis and the attempt of re-inventing myself, on the other hand fashion is something I used to be very interested in which I then dumped because I thought a) it was too shallow, b) I didn’t have money for clothes anyway, and c) I thought I was too old for fashion. That was ten years ago, by the way, and I have a half written post about that in a notebook. But todays topic are high heels.

When I got pregnant my feet got bigger. That happens to a lot of women. I thought this would be permanent and so I threw away half a dozen pairs of shoes. Some of them I liked a lot, like the shoes I got married in. So I needed new shoes. Since I had thrown away my black pumps and everybody needs black pumps (well, everybody who is female) I then thought about buying new ones. Then I thought again. Because every time I was about to go out, all dressed up and standing in front of the mirror I put on my black pumps and loved the way I looked. And then, nine times out of ten, I’d think about the necessary way to the train station or an evening of standing around holding a glass of wine in one hand, and then I would step out of the pumps and look for my black flats. So I didn’t buy black pumps. I bought black flat Mary Janes.

But now I have a) become more fashion conscious again which you can easily spot by the fact that I have given up on the backpack and now schlepp a big purse around that makes my shoulder ache, and b) my feet have returned to their pre-pregnancy size, and c) I have found four pairs of my old shoes that I had totally forgotten in the basement. So now I am the proud owner of black pumps again. With a 2-inch-heel. And they are Mary Janes of course. Also I have nice little black dress sandals. Also with a little heel. I love the way I look in these. Especially the way my legs look in these. What I don’t like is the way said legs and feet feel when I have worn them for any amount of time. Like last week I felt fancy, and also I was wearing a beige-brown skirt with a brown top and my comfortable sandals are red… I wore the black sandals to preschool. All in all I walked for about twenty minutes. I had three blisters and my hips, knees and back ached. Hm.

I looked at shoe shop windows. Almost every shoe has a heel. A lot of them have stiletto heels. There even are mules with stiletto heels. Hm. Have you ever tried to walk in shoes like these? I have. You have to think about your feet and walking all the time. One careless move leaves you injured on the floor.

I looked at women’s feet: flip flops, sneakers, more flip flops. Hm.

A couple of months ago I bought my first ever copy of “Vogue”. Almost every woman pictured in there wore extremely high heels. I look at the pictures at the Satorialist. I love the blog but nearly all women in the pictures wear high heels, very high heels. I have yet to see a man wearing heels.

Last winter I went into a shoe store and said, “I’d like to buy some nice shoes to wear with a dress or skirt but without a heel, please.” The sales woman showed me a pair. “No ballet flats, please.” Another one. “I don’t want a heel, please.” She, “But that’s not much of a heel.” I, “It’s 2 1/2 inches. If I wear those my back will hurt.” And then she began to rant about todays young women who always wear sneakers and then their feet become all wide and they never will be able to go to the prom in something else than sneakers, and how wearing heels of different heels is good for you. I left the store and haven’t bought a pair of shoes there since.

What I really like is the argument that your feet are getting wide by wearing Birkenstocks or sneakers. See, my feet are very narrow. I have trouble finding shoes that are narrow enough. Even though I haven’t worn anything besides sneakers, Birkenstocks and flat heels for the past five years. And then I thought, “How would a man react if a sales person told him that he should wear heels because this is good for his back?” And how can something be good for my back if it makes it hurt? And, would you let your child wear stilettos? Any heel? Shoes that might make him or her trip? Shoes that are totally rigid? What? You wouldn’t? Why then do you do this to yourself?

Last week my husband and I went to the big city. We walked along the river and I, obsessed with shoes of course, looked at the feet of everyone we passed (and at their bags but that’s another story). Amongst myriads of flip flops (which are not really shoes) I saw a couple before me. She went barefoot with her black stiletto heels in hand. Later we passed them again where there were more people and she again wore her shoes. I remembered the agony of walking in heels. Once I walked for two or three hours in stiletto heels. My feet hurt for days.

My mother crippled her feet with heels. She used to wear nothing but high heels. When she tried to walk barefoot her feet hurt because her tendons or muscles were shortened. Her big toes had been pressed inwards for so many years that she had to have them operated on. Since the operation, by the way, she wears very comfortable and flat shoes too.

So why do we do this to ourselves? Because we want to look pretty. And pretty shoes are hard to find when you look for flats. Comfortable shoes are often quite ugly. Just yesterday as I was walking around in my comfortable sandals the only other women wearing shoes like mine were about 65 or older. That seems to be the usual age for comfort becoming more important than looks. But I think that it must be possible to make shoes that are both comfortable and pretty. Fashion isn’t god-made. It is made by people. That high heels make a woman pretty is a stupid dogma that we have the power to dismantle. If women are asking for shoes that one can walk in, the industry will make them eventually.

Why this is a gender issue? Okay. Imagine a man wearing high heels walking down the stairs at a restaurant. Walking over gravel in the garden. Haha. Well, why isn’t this funny when a woman does it?

So I’m starting a revolution: the high heel boycott. Maybe I’ll even walk into shoe shops and ask for pretty and comfortable flats to wear to a wedding. Anyone in?

  13 Responses to “Why feminists should burn their high heels”

  1. I never understood the concept of fashionable shoes and sandals. When Mad was lamenting her sensible shoe restriction, I thought, gee, I like those sandals. I’d actually choose them. So, I guess that means I’m part of the revolution by default.

    My mother was having trouble with her foot or ankle, something, and the podiatrist she saw told her she needed to wear a shoe with a little heel. She came around, preaching his word, but I told her time and again, no way. There is no way that’s right.

    My feet are narrow with high arches and straight toes. They will not suffer nor be distorted by poorly fitting shoes.

  2. I am in great sympathy with everything you are saying, but it may take a while for the world to catch up. I remember my grandmother saying that when she and my grandfather returned to the U.S. after a seven year stint as missionaries in India, she saw women wearing newly stylish high heels. She was reminded of the Chinese practice of crippling females with footbinding, and thought ironically to herself, “Oh, the poor heathen!” And that would have been in the 1920’s.
    I gave up my beautiful high heels in college when wearing them somehow pinched a nerve and resulted in a needle-sharp pain in my left foot, which sometimes lasted some hours after taking the heels off–I was terrified it would become permanent.

  3. I’m one of the weird girls who grew up in ‘practical’ shoes, shoes I could play volleyball in at the drop of a hat, essentially. Now I practically live in Ecco sandals and sports sandals in the warm weather, and their boots and walking shoes in the cold. I also have comfy slides for those non-baby pushing hours and very low to the ground sandals.

    Because.really.high.heels.suck.and.make.my.knee.hurt. Plus they’re stupid. Stupid, I say!

    That sales person you spoke to is an idjiot by the way. Keep up the boycott.

  4. I’m in!
    I am 6’1″. I say BAH! to high heels. I am tall enough, and my legs are long enough already. I really like this post. I can not see any man wearing heels or uncomfortable shoes, ever, just to look nice.

  5. Yesterday, sittting with the girls in an icecream shop watching the human parade. And I laughed and they asked why…I pointed outside and said watch the women walk. There are people like me who can walk forever, or you can watch women walk really funny in their high heels.

    Have not worn true heels in years. Clogs are my salvation.

  6. I’m in. ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Hey, you know the shoes I wear for my weeding: comfortable MBT-sandals!

  7. Two years ago I twisted my ankle and had to stop wearing heels. For a while I felt like a flat footed duck but after a while I started enjoying having my feet planted solidly on mother earth.

    A year later when my ankle was finally healed I excitedly fetch the very expensive pair of delicate stilettos, purchased two days before fate decided to interfere with my footwear, and slipped them on.

    I never even made it to the front door…

  8. Hoorah to you. I love pretty shoes but if i wear for for longer than the journey from the bedroom to the back door i am crippled. I look great in them, my legs look great in them, but i am in pain. I live in black trainers (flats) and my birks.
    Still love to look at my green heels though they are very pretty

  9. i am already in, almost all of the time. i have a few pairs of heels, otherwise, it’s flats.

  10. ohhh I just bought six pairs of high heel sandals.. they were on sale for five/ten euros each and that was an incredible deal (I am in France) They are all Aerosole which is a very comfortable brand.. like walking on air.. really… so no boycotting for me.. I have to try out all my new shoes before the snow comes!

  11. I’m not in. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I love heels! Love them! My highest pair have five inch heels, although normally I stick to a more reasonable 3-to-4 inch heel. And NO, I can’t run a marathon in them and NO, they’re not for walking any distance, but they’re fantastic for walking into a room. I am really not into sensible footwear.

  12. I’m really happy that so many of you don’t like high heels either. Also that my very own sister posted a comment. I’m honored.

    I’m glad, too, that some of you were not afraid of posting dissenting comments. I wish I had written the post more like the start of a discussion than like a manifesto…

  13. With the exception of my childhood dressup days, I’ve always rejected heels. Though my mother and girlfriends persisted in their attempts to convert me to a heel-wearer, I refused to give in. I attended dinners,plays, the opera, etc. flat footed. I’ve always found unique, simple and practical alternatives, though it took a little extra shopping.
    I simply require the freedom to run at a moment’s notice, to cross the street when the crosswalk signal flashes, to chase friends (or moths or whatever) and now to keep up with a very active daughter. I’ve been baffled by the numerous women whose heels get stuck in the bus steps, who fall on small hills, whose ankles wobble and faces cringe with each step.
    I’ve always wondered….why?
    It makes women look good?
    I think good looking legs come, not from women perched unnaturally in high heels, but from those who are fit. The most enjoyable women are those who can function and are not limited by their ailing feet. Women are beautiful in their moments. Women who must cautiously wobble along the streets on spiked plastic limit their exercise time, damage their feet for perceived beauty, and also ruin the enjoyment of their lives and if they tend to complain (which some of my girlfriends do) they ruin the time for those around them.

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