Sorry, wearing heels doesn’t help women with anything

From Walk a Mile in Her Shoes to #‎manupandmakeup‬, to music video director, David Wilson’s recent appearance at the Grammy awards in black pumps, there seems to be some confusion about what actually helps “transgress gender norms” and what actually helps women…

David Wilson at the Grammys
David Wilson at the Grammys

High heels are, for starters, not something innate to womanhood. They are part of a performance of femininity that women are socialized to engage in. They are bad for our backs, our knees, and our feet. They can be very pretty, but being pretty and wearing pretty things has yet to liberate women from male violence, alas.

While I understand that men are trying to come up with ways to “help,” they’re missing the point.

Similar to the “men-wearing-heels-makes-a-statement-about… something…womasexismish…?” notion, Turkish men took selfies of themselves in skirts in February to “raise awareness” about a 20-year-old woman who was murdered when she resisted an attempted rape. I appreciate that some of these men want to point out that, regardless of what a woman is wearing, she doesn’t deserve to be raped, but, in general, I fail to see how exaggerated displays of femininity, performed by men who can simply take off their “womanhood” and go back to having male privilege, is supposed to have any impact on women’s marginalized status.

While I do wear makeup and sometimes wear skirts or heels, most days I wear ripped jeans and sneakers… Certainly I have never dressed anything like this:

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

Why doesn’t dressing like “normal women” dress work for this kind of activism? Why not put on a dirty pair of Chucks and a leather jacket? Am I not a woman when I’m dressed like that? Am I not rapeable? Am I somehow safe from sexism in my most-days outfit?

Take a walk in my Roots t-shirt
I just went in the bathroom to take a quick & grainy #nomakeupselfie for you guys. Did the violence stop? #takeawalkinmyrootstshirt

I think that, in fact, part of the problem is that we connect performances of femininity and superficial things like lipstick and stilettos with femaleness, when really, these things are imposed on us by a patriarchal society that thinks our primary role is to look pretty.

Why is it brave for David Wilson to put on a pair of heels? Why are drag queens applauded for faking and imitating exaggerated  femininity? How does putting on a mini skirt stop men from trying to rape women? I want solidarity from men, but this feels like a mockery…

I don’t “identify” with high heels or mini-skirts. And “dressing up to feel beautiful” isn’t “transformative” or “powerful.” It feels good sometimes, sure. I like to feel attractive, I’ll admit to that no problem. But feeling or looking “beautiful” changes absolutely nothing in terms of women’s status, globally.

Women on the red carpet really have no choice but to wear horribly uncomfortable stilettos they can’t even walk in, and Wilson is applauded as some kind of brave gender-transgressing soldier? Because he volunteered to wear uncomfortable shoes? I don’t get it. It’s all so insulting I can hardly bear it.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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