Stop glamourizing the pain of high heels

High heels are harmful and painful, but the pressures of femininity and marketing ensure women continue to suffer for “beauty.”

This is not a photo of my dead grandmother’s feet, but it matches the image I have of hers in my mind. She was a practicing podiatrist in Georgia in the 1940s — one of a handful of female physicians of any sort in that state, a feminist success story in her own way. At just under 4’11”, she wore heels every day of her adult life while treating the disfigured feet of her female patients who did the same. The irony did not escape her, as she self-castigated on this particular topic routinely within earshot.

Bunions, hammertoes, neuromas, calluses, pinched nerves, and oozing blisters were a small price to pay for height, fashion, and sex appeal, but when she could barely hobble at the end of her life, she told me, “Never wear heels. The pain isn’t worth it, and neither are the men.” How little has changed in 50 years.

Ontario recently passed the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, which bans employers from forcing female workers to wear high heels, though similar legislation failed to pass in the U.K. In these modern times, shouldn’t the mere idea that women be made to suffer in painful, harmful, dangerous, and sexist clothing simply in order to hold down a job be considered archaic? Clearly, the idea that women are to-be-seen above all else remains powerfully central in our culture.

I remember being a little girl and asking my grandmother why her toes crossed over each other and wouldn’t uncross, and she said, “Never try to wedge your feet into shoes that are too small. It’s vanity.” She tried surgery, but surgery could not undo the damage she’d done to herself anymore than it could fix the ravages of Chinese foot binding.

Digressing from the topic of my grandmother for a moment, I can’t help but recall a comment made by my first husband while on vacation in Italy. We were eating lunch at an outdoor café on the Piazza del Campo in Siena, people-watching as businesswomen out for their lunch breaks teetered in stilettos across the cobblestones. “One of them is going to twist an ankle any second now. That looks incredibly painful,” I said.

My then-husband, sipping his espresso, mumbled something about fashion and how I didn’t understand it.

In retrospect, was that a turning point in my marriage? Maybe. It definitely turned my GI tract into a seething lava flow with the ensuing futility of trying to explain to him where certain “fashions” come from in patriarchal cultures.

I’ve never worn heels, mostly because my threshold for pain is even lower than my threshold for gender oppression. I stroll through life in flats on the icy, uneven brick sidewalks of my small New England town and watch my step as if I were in Jimmy Choo slingbacks. No death wish here. No death wish in Italy or anywhere else for that matter.

I know a lot of women love their heels. They love them the way they love underwire bras that leave angry red welts but make their breasts look fantastic. They love them the way they love pubic hair waxing that provides baby-softness and baby-optics at the price of brief but searing agony. Fashion! It’s not for the pleasure of men. Nope, not at all.

Heels are sexy and sexiness is empowerment and worth any amount of money or pain in the world and anyway they really aren’t that painful and this has nothing to do with men or patriarchy and is merely self-expression and is definitely not conformity so don’t tell women not to be feminine and don’t tell us what to do because this is why we’re not feminists since we make our own choices and will wear whatever we like even if it deforms our bones because we look better a few inches taller with our asses thrust upward so who are you to tell us otherwise since it’s fun for us and we just love shoes!

Pop icons teach us to view the absurd as feminine triumph. Lady Gaga wears heels on the beach. Kate Upton volleys in hers on the tennis court. Rap sensation Cardi B loves her red soled Louboutins so much she provided the designer an unsolicited 217 per cent sales boost with her song “Bodak Yellow.” He doesn’t even know who she is.

Before rap and hip hop, before Sports Illustrated swimsuit models, before social media, and before the Internet of Things, women took their cues from fashion magazines and television. My grandmother with gnarled feet was like a dentist with rotten teeth. Think about that. What must it take to spend so much money and so many years gaining an education that you yourself cannot embrace because society is more influential than everything you have learned to be true? “I do it for myself” is a powerful potion. Drink me.

I am perhaps most piqued by the assertion that media and marketing might affect others, but not oneself. So many people believe they are uniquely inoculated against advertising due to some innate strength of character, unlike their stupider and more susceptible peers. This is called the Third-Person Effect and it’s one of the reasons that mass communications are so effective. But marketing would not be a multi-billion dollar industry if people were immune to its messaging. If it didn’t work, there would be no fashion trends or materialism or consumerism, period.

But aren’t there more important issues to focus on and don’t I have better things to do with my time? Yes and no to both questions. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Better yet: How do you liberate women? One step at a time, in shoes that can go the distance.

Lori Day is an educational psychologist with Lori Day Consulting in Newburyport, MA. She is the author of Her Next Chapter and the President of the Board of Directors of the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center. You can connect with Lori on Facebook or Twitter.

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  • Sherry Brown

    I agree about the heels but take umbrage about underwire bras. When you have a pair of triple D’s on your chest, any brassiere is uncomfortable and so is going bra-less for any length of time. There is a constant search for a bra that will allow your clothing to fit properly while not causing pain. High quality bras have underwires for support…not just to push your boobs into your chin.

  • fragglerock

    The idea that advertising does not affect certain people is ludicrous but HUGELY popular. People will defend their choosey choices to the death, as if admitting you’re influenced by mass media is indicative of some character defect.

    People HATE the idea that our behavior can be influenced by some outside source. Unfortunately, once people have already bought in to a certain idea or trend, they’re that much more likely to defend it and advertisers know this. Advertisers probably know more about how the average person’s brain works than the average person does. The promotion of “choice” and “freedom” alongside sex and consumerism is not an accident and it’s high time people start questioning that.

    Why might advertisers want women to spend thousands of dollars to look a certain way? Why might they want to sell women on the idea of choice? What is there to be gained by women defending their choice to be sex objects? Women remain subservient and they love their subservience and they defend it. Men have to do no work.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Indeed.

  • Maria Gatti

    I disagree with that blanket statement. If I work on my computer at home for more than a short time (checking my e-mail…) without some kind of bra, I get horrible lower-back pain. There is nobody in my flat to pass judgement on my chest, and I don’t even have a mirror in my office. I wear soft, stretchy bras at home (Elita brand), but they are useless for vigorous exercise, even utilitarian cycling.

    This is a matter of bad design. With modern fabrics, it would certainly be possible to devise a comfy bra that provides support that prevents such things as lower-back pain without painful and harmful underwires. Pain caused by large breasts is not a myth. Perhaps that works for you, but it doesn’t for me, or many other women I know who don’t set out to dress “sexy”.

    Leaving sadistic stilettos out of the mix, some people are more comfy in flats, some (men and women) in slight, chunky heels (thinking of riding or cowboy boots). Feet and breasts are different, as are other body parts, and good design accomodates a wide range of people, in comfort. What it doesn’t do is impose sadistic fetishism on daily life and work, as in high heels and push-up bras.

  • FierceMild

    I pointed that out to my 6 year old. She was horrified. I know it’s somewhat controversial to tell your daughter she can’t dance ballet because it’s unhealthy, but I had to tell her some part of the truth. It was that or explaining how ballet was invented for the purpose of showing poor women’s bodies to rich men for money…paid to other men.

  • FierceMild

    They choosedy McChoice doing what men want them to do. Doing what they want isn’t something they even know exists. These women honestly do not have enough sense of self to know what they like.

  • Bleeps3

    The high-heeled snowboots thing is just mind boggling. I can’t believe how accepted it is.

    • Morag999

      Ugh, I know! And most high-heeled “winter” boots don’t even provide protection against snow and cold. If anything, they’re guaranteed to freeze toes more quickly than other footwear; even sneakers would be better. These boots are completely for show. And quite dangerous.

      I live in a winter city, and we’re in the middle of a cold snap right now with temperatures more than 30 degrees below (celsius). Still, I observe so many girls and women wearing flimsy “winter” style jackets and boots, and going without extra layers, and even without hats. Car culture has a LOT to do with this, too: why worry about freezing your ass, fingers, ears and toes, when you can just clickety-click in your cute boots to and from a warm vehicle?

      The other day, after I got off the bus, I saw a woman who had taken a wrong turn while trying to find where she had parked her car. It was -35 and she couldn’t hide the distress on her face, although I think she was trying. Actually, I wasn’t doing so well myself … I felt like crying even while wearing my hat, gloves, scarf, etc. But she had a bare head, a long thin coat, and form-fitting leather boots with a tiny little heel … good god.

      So, I was explaining to her which sidewalk to take to get to the street where she parked, and she could barely concentrate to hear what I was saying. This poor woman was in PAIN. She was probably wondering if her bright red ears were going to fall off and if her numb and aching feet would carry her another block … just terrible, awful.

      And for what? To look a little taller, feminine and elegant in extreme weather which can actually injure — or even kill — a person in a very short time?

      • Maria Gatti

        True, and that is horrible here in Montréal, though fortunately there is a “trend” towards sturdy Sorels. I will point out that it rarely gets so cold in Perugia, though they do get snow and ice, because it is in central Italy, and unlike some REAL mountains a bit east of there in Abruzzo, the high hill or small mountain where Perugia is located isn’t actually very high. The danger there is the inclines and the medieval stone steps and streets, that cause a lot of ankle and leg injuries among people who aren’t dressed properly in the (generally mild) winters.There is a lot of ice on those streets and steps – not thick, as in Montréal or Minneapolis, but quite enough to cause fractures or serious sprains.

        And I certainly agree about car “culture”, which is lethal in so many ways. I’m a boomer and have never owned or driven one of those murderous polluting things in my life. (In fairness I live in a large city with public transport; I assure you that I’m not passing judgement on drivers in smaller towns or rural areas, though there should be safer and more environmentally-friendly options nowadays). Car culture is also a huge driver of machismo and vice-versa.

        Hats off to pioneering cyclofeminist Claire Morissette, as well as to Jane Jacobs…

  • susannunes

    I am short, too, and I don’t need them.

  • Doll Parts

    You could carry a stepladder instead…?

  • Jenjen

    Now I only wear heels a few times a month when I feel like it, usually boots. I wore heels every day for years though. Getting high quality with a proper fit, especially width, (sometimes even adding inserts) can make all the difference. I loved them and found them comfortable. I have no problems from it and my feet show no visible damage. But I’m also glad I don’t have to wear them (or dress up for that matter) everyday any more

    What I have always HATED more than anything, far more than high heels, is pantyhose. I can’t do it. Not even in heels. I hate everything about it but especially the feel. Yuck.

  • Doll Parts

    I am a D and also go braless. The more I did it, the more comfy and natural it felt. Now it’s been years. It took awhile to be okay with how NOT okay a lot of people are with jiggling! and nipples!

    But I do not have a triple F, so I would never try to pry the bra out of the girl that does!

  • Alienigena

    Re: foot fetishists and stilettos

    I would recommend watching some Katy Brand sketch comedy on her self-titled Big Ass Show as she mocks Coco Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld and has a sketch in which they design a shoe that is just a spike (minimalist). Funny and disturbing.

  • Sashimi73

    I’ve only worn high heels once in my life. I used to get a lot of shit from men at work from not wearing them. Now I’m changing careers into something where I notice zero women wear heels (STEM related)

  • Sashimi73

    I was wondering about the exact same thing! I adore my mother, and yet we are taught to despise older women, not to despise the creatures wandering about called men. You said it.

    • BornACrone

      If we admire older women, we might learn something from them and make progress that sticks for longer than 20 years. Can’t have that.

  • Sashimi73

    She probably thinks any woman with an opinion is mad and uppity.

  • Sashimi73

    Well said!! So true!

  • peopleareweird

    See how in fairy tales the bad guy is usually the stepmother/witch/evil queen. This brainwashing starts way before boyfriends.

    • Maria Gatti

      Disney – a horrible man in many ways – seemed to have a particular hatred for older women, often shown as “still attractive” but vain, jealous of younger women and even horrifically cruel to puppies! Yes, bad gals.

  • Tinfoil the Hat

    I understand that, because of COURSE people (men) see short women as “cute” and childlike, infantilizing them.

  • Tinfoil the Hat

    But go back one more step and analyze WHY women are “competing with other women” and it becomes about men, as usual.

  • WolfSister84

    I’ve been lurking on this site for a while and always meant to join a discussion. This seems as good a place to start as any! I once saw a woman carrying her BABY DAUGHTER, couldn’t have been more than 6 months old, and the baby was wearing those soft baby-shoes…BUT the shoes had stuffed, pretend “high heels” on them!

    • Michelle

      My cousin’s wife bought her daughter heels for her birthday, she’s 8. I couldn’t believe they make heels for children, and that there are people who buy them. She spent the rest of her birthday party teetering around in these heels. Because I come from a family where none of the women know anything about feminism, everyone seemed to think it was cute. It wasn’t a small heel either, I was shocked a heel that size would be on a kids shoe. It was disturbing, very disturbing.

      • MotherBear84

        And these shoes are in both the costume aisle and the actual shoe-store. My daughter goes on rants about this (she’s not yet a teen and I hope to God she never changes her loudmothed incredulity at this bullshit), whenever people try to give her anything sparkly or pink or high-heeled. I showed her the photo that opens this article and she freaked out, quite rightly too!

  • Maria Gatti

    I have arthritis though, and I fear I’d find your kickarse shoes extremely uncomfortable, much as I relish the idea. (No, I don’t wear high heels).

  • Maria Gatti

    I think they also promote vaginal infections…

  • Maria Gatti

    Once again, in the 1970s, all my jeans skirts and several of my other skirts had pockets. Nowadays they are most rare (though I have seen tentative comebacks) and even jeans (as in trousers) often lack pockets. Ridiculous.

  • Maria Gatti

    You are right. While not as dangerous as stilettoes, shoes without a proper insole are also extremely bad for the feet. For many people, a slight but not narrow heel is more comfortable.

  • Maria Gatti

    sole sisters! I also have “duck feet”; wide in the front, narrow in the back.

  • etoffe

    Angela Merkel is a far better role model. Unlike the self-declared Pantsuit Aficionado, she shows no interest in any of this oppressive garbage. And there have been other powerful crones. The demise of Hillary Clinton is not the end of the world.

    • Um, is there any point to telling you H. Clinton has a 30-year record of working and fighting on behalf of women and children? Or does that not count because she was a little too right of centre for you? You’re right, Merkel is a great role model. I think Clinton was naturally inclined to go left and would have (in fact did over the course of her campaign) go left again. Don’t say she had no interest in “this oppressive garbage” because she devoted her life to the oppressed.

      • etoffe

        You completely misread my comment. By “oppressive garbage” I meant high heels and the like – the topic of the article we’re commenting on. Merkel is a shining example of the fact that women don’t need to be defined by appearance as important public figures. In this day and age, where we have not only the scourge of stilettos but new, oppressive phenomena like cosmetic labiaplasty, girls and young women desperately need role models like this.

        I respectfully and profoundly disagree that Clinton has devoted her life to the oppressed, but that wasn’t the point of my comment.

  • corvid

    Patriarchal “femininity” (i.e. heels) exists so that men can have a perfect closed-loop justification for dominating us. So they can ascribe to us the traits of vanity, frivolity, pettiness, vapidity, narcissism, hypersexuality, fashion victimhood and general stupidity. This is all about dehumanizing us, to service their pathological obsession with being “better” than us, and to ensure that we are forever in service to them. They have conditioned each other to be sexually attracted to the instruments of our dehumanization, while also loudly proclaiming their disdain and hatred for the very same things. Their so-called “sexuality” is intertwined with sadism.

  • I know you almost had a crone in power down there! It was so awesome, so awesome. But of course the U.S., as an imperialist nation, is extremely patriarchal. Even though it’s not obvious anymore, not out in the open, American male hatred of women and of the feminine is probably greater than in any other “advanced democracy.” The shell, or the facade of equality has split open, though, as a result of that election, and the hideousness of this male hatred and contempt is suddenly in full view. That is a good thing.

    • FierceMild

      I think it was made very evident!

  • Morag999

    Agreed. Flats are just awful for me. Hate ’em! They’re as bad as high heels, but in a different way.

  • Sherry Brown

    Yes…my back hurts if I go braless for too long. And monoboob is awful. I need to get fitted again and find a bra I like.

  • Sherry Brown

    Well…every woman can decide for herself. I have owned underwire bras that are comfortable. I just don’t seem to own any right now. The good ones are pricy but I’m treating myself to a fitting at a specialty shop for the New Year. I am short, busty and not thin. Letting the girls hang low makes me look kinda sad and sloppy. Maybe when I retire….

  • This? (Requires proof of age)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuwoUM4oYe0

    • corvid

      Thanks for that. Just perfect in every way.
      I wonder if the libfems would explain to us why these young women reacted so fiercely? Would they claim it was “whorephobia” or some bullshit…. or could it be…. that girls and women in Thailand don’t WANT to be prostituted?? Tell us libfems!

  • I don’t find inflicting pain on women to be sexy. I guess I’m not a real man.

  • Michelle

    My mom just had painful foot surgery this year to remove her massive bunions and uncross her toes, caused by wearing heels most of her adult life. They had to break her toes to realign them. She was off work for 5 months and stuck in bed for 2 months, while her poor, painful feet healed. Thank you for this article, I know lots of women who don’t know the long term damage of wearing heels, I have a few friends I’m going to send this article to, including my mom.

    • Leo

      I don’t think heels alone cause bunions, though they may not help, it’s mostly genetic.
      https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/20/high-heels-bunions_n_3307502.html
      Mine are awful though I’ve only won small heels a few times in my life, it’s my connective tissue disorder. My aunt had hers broken and realigned like your mum, I might get it done too but it did indeed seem very painful.

      • Maria Gatti

        I have a friend who has never worn heels in her life – well, perhaps once or twice for a special event in her long-ago youth, but who has the toe problems shown in the top photo. She has always worn “sensible” or athletic-outoors type footwear. But heels and pointy toes certainly don’t help.

      • Wombat

        I’d suggest googling “correct toes”… consider throwing away all your shoes and working on strengthening and re-aligning your feet. I don’t know if your feet are so badly deformed that only surgery will help, but these toe-aligners worked wonders for me, they’re extremely cheap compared to surgery and there’s none of the associated risks or recovery time.

        As a researcher, I have some questions about that study. If bunions are “mostly genetic” then why do they affect women so much more than men? I had a look at the article, it’s annoyingly light on detail. And bizarrely, the press release for the actual study doesn’t break down findings by sex, e.g. “bunions affect 23% of individuals 18 to 65 years of age and 36% of those
        over 65 years according to a study by Nix et al. While experts suggest
        that women, older adults and those with a higher body mass index (BMI)
        are at greater risk for foot disorders”. So what percentage of that 23% are women? And if these disorders are “mostly heritable”, then why are women at higher risk? etc. etc.

        • Leo

          It’s good advice and thanks, but I think mine are a bit beyond that unfortunately. I used toe aligners all the time as a teen to try to stop the toe curving over, even slept with them on. I never wear shoes at home now.

          It does seem strangely* hard to find information on the cause. Some sites sab women have ‘looser ligaments’ and that hormonal changes such as during pregnancy can affect it, but that’s not really in any detail. My assumption was that women are more affected by genetic connective tissue disorders and autoimmune connective tissue issues, and perhaps also other conditions. Women are certainly more prone to scoliosis -often due to a genetic connective tissue disorder- and rheumatoid arthritis, and bunions can go along with both, or all three together.

          * I say strangely, but conditions that mostly affect women not being properly understood by medical science is so typical…

  • corvid

    Yep. Goes back to what Hekate always says about men holding all positions at once. Nothing they do has to make sense, because they’re running the place.

  • Maria Gatti

    Actually, nobody said that.

    Feminists must have the right to hate Margaret Thatcher, who caused such harm to women in her country. Not to hate her more than Ronald Reagan, though Thatcher was the BRAINS behind neoconservative horror. A woman with Reagan’s lack of knowledge and intelligence would never have become PM or President.

    • Absolutely, Thatcher was far right and had zero interest in the plight of “losers”, (people who need government assistance of any sort whatsoever) which of course is a category largely made up of women. Clinton was, I think, a pragmatist rather than an ideologue and has a long long record of fighting for women and children. One might believe some of her policies were wrong, but to hate her smacks of misogyny, I think.

    • Tinfoil the Hat

      Hillary Clinton is no Margaret Thatcher. For crying out loud. “Oh, Margaret Thatcher sucked, so misogyny had nothing to do with the Trump being elected over a brilliant, accomplished, experienced, FEMINIST candidate.”

  • Wombat

    Platforms are also bad for feet, bad for ankles, dangerous to walk in etc. (and yep I’ve owned them too). Shoes need to be flexible – feet are not hooves and making them work as hooves puts strain on the whole rest of the body.

    If you’re insecure about your height, working on that insecurity is going to be more effective in the long run than buying props.

    I’m pretty short too – and I’ve ditched all shoes with even the tiniest heel in order to avoid surgery.

    • Leo

      I’m short too, and, as with being a woman, it’s hard to know out how to work on the insecurity about height when it constantly affects how you’re treated, though. And also with getting things off supermarket shelves. It’s a challenge to look like a dignified grown-up while hopping desperately up and down, or having to ask someone to get it for you. Being short often means being treated like a child and never taken seriously and ending up looking ridiculous because the world is apparently designed for huge men – it’s the practical consequences the issue rather than just not liking being short. How did you approach how you felt about it, yourself?

      Though I’d have been small anyway, I lost height due to my disability and back operation, too, so there’s being short, a woman, and disabled, all overlapping and affecting how people see me and apparently making them think it’s fine to treat me like a small, dim, child. So I guess that aspect does make me especially insecure.

      I know they’re not a good idea, but might still wear heels sometimes if I could afford a vegan pair that fitted someday -feet are tiny too, no one even makes my size-, I’ve never found any uncomfortable to walk in, at least.

      • Wombat

        How did I approach how I felt about being short? Interesting question… I think probably I gradually identified into being short – when people teased me, the response gradually became “yes I’m short, so fucking what?”. After all, what’s bad about being short? Sure there are some things you can’t reach so easily, but when was the last time you smacked your head on a doorframe or couldn’t get comfy in a seat?

        I’ve never been able to loom over people but I’ve often been told I’m scary, so clearly it’s possible to be imposing from down here, and loom under people 😉 😉 😉

  • Wombat

    I remember years ago him proudly identifying as an “action transvestite” – and saying that his dresses weren’t “womens’ dresses” – because he bought them. So what changed?

    • BornACrone

      What changed is just that he realized he could get more attention for his damned self by glomming onto the Trendy Faux Victim Movement of the Hour.

  • Wombat

    True, but it all makes me sad. As someone said above, “we all navigate Patriarchy as best we can”. I think it’s important to extend that to these women even when they’re being nasty. After all, it’s not as though their words have any impact whatsoever on my self-esteem.

    My Grandmother was the worst for enforcing body-hatred – she was always complaining to my Mum that if we were allowed to go barefoot in the house, or feet would get huge (with a racist comment about the sort of people who traditionally go barefoot). She regularly reminded us that “pride’s painful”, and fat-shamed me at the age of 11 for being over the 5th percentile of weight for my height (I looked it up recently. 5th percentile!). To the best of my knowledge, she spent most of her adult life bound in corsets (and wow apparently women are doing that again!).

    IMO buying into the “feminine beauty” shit wholesale, and shaming women who don’t, is one of the ways women stay “sane” in the face of the pressure to body-hate. At least if you’re being “good”, and playing along with the rules just as hard as you can, then you can tell yourself that you have self-respect – and we all know that self-respect is a good thing. But when women come cruising along uncorseted, in comfy shoes and with body-hair unplucked, no make-up, giving no fucks, getting laid anyway, and spending all that time, money and energy on more interesting things than bunion plasters and bikini wax… it must be terribly threatening to the carefully-constructed worldview. Hence it’s really important to believe as hard as you can that these uncorseted women have no self-respect, and that no-man will want them (and that if no man wants you, then your life’s worthless). Because all that effort, all that binding and restriction and pain – it all has to be necessary and justified and WORTH IT, right??

    • Jani

      I was fortunate in that I was raised by a mother who wore flats and didn’t wear make up because she thought it was all so unnecessary. She also instilled a kind of ‘body confidence’ in me and never once commented on my weight or my sisters either. If anything, her generation saw ‘modesty’ as some kind of virtue, which I suppose is quite laughable now especially in today’s culture which is oversaturated with sexualised imagery. Nevertheless, I am grateful for being raised with the perspective that all this primping and preening is all such superficial garbage.

      However, we are also subjected to the imagery and pressures of the society in which we live, and even now that I’m older I am painfully aware of the more and more exacting these patriarchal standards — demands, even — have become. Women are judged on their appearance more than ever before, and the accepted ‘norms’ have become more difficult and expensive to ‘achieve’ and the freedoms to reject or deviate from these norms is also made more difficult.

      So we have this cult of ‘heels’ (and women are supposed to be crazy about buying shoes) and even workplaces can insist on their female staff wearing heels. I used to work in those offices but there was no pressure to wear heels back then. There was a dress code of sorts but I always wore flats. I’d be about 6’2”in heels and I don’t want to clatter around on stilts all day. I just won’t do it. I’d far rather wear men’s boots than women’s shoes. When I was young my mother was happy for me to wear DMs because they were ‘sensible’ and were better for my feet.

      But you’re also right about how nasty and judgmental some women can be towards other women who reject whatever beauty practice they uphold. If you look at the backlash against Madonna’s daughter for displaying her armpit hair, much of the “disgust” is from women. I just don’t get it. Firstly, why the taboo about body hair, and secondly why the need to be so harsh about those who don’t remove it. As you say, it doesn’t exactly put men off (some perhaps, but most potential suitors wouldn’t turn down Lourdes just because of a bit of armpit hair). In truth, I suspect many of these critical women would love to be free from all this tyranny and give up many of their beauty practices.

  • Wombat

    Thanks for the reading suggestions. Great comments section, this.

    • Can’tUnseeIt

      You’re welcome and right you are about the many great comments on this site.

  • MotherBear84

    Heh, this mostly-bald baby also had a…I guess I should say a “hairpiece headband”. It was a soft band of fabric that went around her head, and on one side was this cascade of plasticky curls. Fake hair. On a baby.

    I mean, why not just coat her in foundation, blush, and false eyelashes too?

    • catlogic

      Words fail. Like those headbands with the fabric flowers or whatever on them aren’t hideous/tacky/sexist enough! Fake curls and fake high heels might be “cute” or a joke or whatever to the mother, but to me that’s heading into “hey, paedos, here’s an infant being groomed for you!” territory.

  • MotherBear84

    Weirdly, I can’t see your response on FC, just on DIsqus. But yes, headbands = stupid. Also, I read an article about a baby who smothered when one of those wide bands slipped over her nose and mouth while she was sleeping. Fucking tragic.

  • MotherBear84

    I only saw them once but clearly they left me scarred for life. SO wrong.

  • Can’tUnseeIt

    Your ignorance of the actual process is reflected in your comment. Pages 99-101 in chapter six of Andrea Dworkin’s, Woman Hating has a first hand account given in 1934 by an elderly Chinese woman. Maybe read that and tell us again how much a six year-old “loved her footbinding” because she was already then in the market for a wealthy husband.

    • shy virago

      cheers 🙂

  • Leo

    I couldn’t have supported Clinton. As one of these Millennial women, it just looks like the same kind of mistake, to me, a compromise with the status quo that’s not worth making. If anything I think porn-culture is the preferable one – the young women absorbing that are primarily harming themselves, though other women are indirectly affected. Militarism is more widely and directly harmful. The idea the same old patriarchal things become Ok because a woman is the one doing it, that they’re empowering, we know that’s not the case with porn culture, same applies here.

    I’m all for listening to older women, we need to, it’s so sad seeing my generation not learn from our history. But I really want older women to listen to us, as well. I feel like my generation is getting some things right at least and the older generation haven’t seen it.

    • Tinfoil the Hat

      Yeah, well, you’re young and naive. You think we can work *with* the men who have destroyed the environment, murdered countless people in wars, raped their way across the world, and caused untold women and children to suffer since the beginning if humanity. Name me one U.S. president who has NOT done all the things you so smugly insist Hillary Clinton *might* have done.

      Internalized misogyny is a hell of a drug.

      • Leo

        Yes, but the fact those male Presidents started wars and promoted militarism is an issue because doing that is a bad thing. It wouldn’t become any better if a woman did it. Plenty of women have seemingly absorbed a patriarchal value system, so they won’t change the system. I could understand feeling Clinton was the better option, but not enthusiastic support for her.

        I’d prefer men to work with us than the the way around, but to me it’s about consistency in values, so it’s not really so different to work with a feminist who isn’t focused on the issue of militarism, as it is with an environmentalist vegan man who isn’t focused on the issue of sexism.

        • Tinfoil the Hat

          Who said women would be “better” than men at destroying the world? Nobody here. You seem to be operating under the assumption that women should/will govern just as men have. I believe they do not/will not. The fact is, when the number of women reaches a certain percentage in organizations, both business and political, everyone does better. Why do you think the male way is the only possible way to do things?

          Of course, I doubt the U.S. will ever have a woman for president. Or if it does, she will be a Republican, just so the Republicans can “prove” that Hillary Clinton was a horrible choice, not that there was a systematic, planned campaign, here and abroad, to keep OUT the most qualified candidate for president in U.S. history.

          • Leo

            Ok, I think I understand where you’re coming from better now, thanks. I think that things might be a bit better with more women in charge -I’m not confident it would be that much better or last long, though. Women are not different enough. Lots of rightwing women around, and power really does seem to corrupt-, but I think women who rise to power under the current patriarchal system are not going to be those who will do things significantly differently, and I would judge whether to support a specific woman or not based on that likelihood. Eg. voting for Margaret Thatcher wouldn’t have helped any. I’m not convinced the strongly hierarchical current political system works at all, or ever will.

            I can still definitely understand the desire to see a female President. It was a weird feeling when Theresa May was elected, thinking I’d never actually expected to see another female Prime Minister. But she is just another Tory.

  • compass96

    I say I like my heels and suddenly I’m doing it for a man?

  • Retorter

    Sadly, most women who say that they practice femininity ‘for themselves’ are lying, not truly deluded. It’s an easy way to rebuff the shame they might feel when someone points out that they are catering to men’s desires. Sometimes pointing out that all women have made a patriarchal bargain at some point (and most of us, many)& that I understand the urge to pretend that it was something one really *wanted* to do could be a relief for another woman to hear, I think. I know that, when I was much younger, reading that other women had pretended to be the “cool girl” & stopped pretending they were choosing that path, and showed *me* how to stop(escape, really), it was like coming home, and I’m determined to share these ‘secrets’ with any woman who seems like she could benefit from hearing them.

  • Retorter

    I danced en pointe for 7 years, through my entire adolescence. I lost all of my toenails, got planters warts, and had more blisters on my feet than I could count most of my teenage days. That being said, pointe shoes weren’t *nearly* as painful as wearing high heels for loooong nights out clubbing, or walking to and from work, waiting on buses or subway platforms in winter(or having to standing public transport the whole way!)
    I now have to have surgery to replace the joint of my big toe. Even though I stopped wearing high heels some 10 years ago, they are what caused the problem, a basic wearing down of all the cartilage in my joint. The kicker (no pun intended): my insurance may not cover it, because having full movement returned to my feet, as opposed to, more cheaply, just fusing the bones together, is considered COSMETIC.

  • Alienigena

    I don’t know why Coco Chanel. She was a big name in the fashion industry – easy target? Katy played Coco and another actress played Karl Lagerfeld. She also had sketches in which she played Kate Moss, another actress played Stella McCartney and a third actress played another semi-famous British woman – as teenagers. Kate incessantly bullied teen Stella for being intellectual and compliant (to parental and school authority). Completely fictional. Katy also played a number of popular singers including Amy Winehouse (not a sympathetic depiction). She also has sketches in which she plays Jesus Christ’s girlfriend and Princess Beatrice. Katy is a satirist.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHd3GI5R5tw

    Most of the series is only available by purchasing a DVD or episodes on iTunes.

  • etoffe

    That was exactly what I was trying to say. You did it very well.

  • Germaine

    A good advice from one feminist to another: Lay a piece of soap on the foot-end in your bed and you will never have cramps in your legs again. I use sunlight.
    Better a piece of soap in your bed than a man !

  • BornACrone

    I’m on the other end of things: haven’t worn heels in about 15 years, and never habitually, and my feet are still narrow enough to chop wood. If wearing clogs and mules widens your feet, someone forgot to tell mine.

  • BornACrone

    It’s the best way to ensure that we keep having to spend money to keep up. I went without jeans for YEARS because I couldn’t find ones that came up to my actual waist and without ten yards of unnecessary fabric flapping around my ankles.

    Fashion changes so you’re always spending money on it.

  • Kat

    What kind of work do you do where you don’t need to dress up, and are you hiring?

    • Tinfoil the Hat

      Sigh. I wish. For years, I worked as a freelance bookkeeper, in my home, for small companies and nonprofits. That segued into two part time jobs, both of which are in small offices with very little exposure to the public. I wear pants, sweaters or stylish tops, and flat shoes. So I look professional – just not in the traditionally “feminine” sense. My situation is unique, and I am very lucky.

  • I believe even in those shoes they could have done more damage. They didn’t even go for his groin.

  • Tinfoil the Hat

    Sanders is a misogynist, racist asshole. Re-examine your “Oh but Hillary was so bad! Bernie was robbed! He would have won!” position, and you’ll find your beliefs are absolutely rooted in sexism. The fact that you even had to mention Hillary Clinton’s “trouser suits” speaks volumes.

    Sanders isn’t even a Democrat. He admitted running as one solely for the funding, and then he was *outraged* that the Democratic party didn’t throw their support behind him.

  • yummymoussaka

    For the longest time I thought there was something wrong with me for finding heels awkward and painful. I’d keep hearing that I just have to get heels that are better quality, or learn how to “walk properly” in heels, and there are all these women who claim they are comfortable in their heels. Surely that meant the problem was me?

    I still have quite a few pair of heels from when I was still trying to find these elusive “comfortable” high heel shoes. Some of them might feel okay at first, but they would still hurt after an hour or so, and I’d get fooled into buying them, because who tries shoes on at the store for that long, with real world road conditions to test them on? No one, that’s who.

    I wonder if by “comfortable”, people just mean “more comfortable than getting maimed”. Because I do have heels that don’t restrict my movement by a lot, they “only” make me a little bit sore. That’s relatively more “comfortable” than the heels that make my feet bleed. Or the ones that almost cripple me. So there are different levels to how uncomfortable various heels are. Some might see the least uncomfortable level as actual “comfort”.

    Here’s an interesting article about why men stopped wearing high heels:
    http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-21151350

  • yummymoussaka

    I think you’re right that style does play a part in women’s liberation. It has made a difference before, when women started wearing pants, and when skirts started being hemmed shorter than “dragging on the floor”.

    Though one significant difference is, it was scandalous for women back in the day to wear pants and have higher than ankle-length hems. it’s not scandalous for us to have dressy shoes without high heels (but with some arch support!). Or have clothing with pockets. Seems like every woman I know would love to have these things. Yet these things are not readily available.

    I used to buy things just because “it’s cute!” I was part of the reason mainstream manufacturers decided they could cut corners on women’s apparel and we would still buy it. Now I flat out refuse to buy any shoes with heels too high or clothes with no pockets, no matter how cute it looks.

    Nothing makes me open up my wallet faster than “Ohh, it has pockets my gigantic phone can fit into! Shut up and take my money!”

    There are women out there designing clothes with pockets and dressy shoes with low heels. It still takes extra effort to find them, though, instead of all their stuff being in my face every time I enter a store. But maybe these bits of extra effort can all add up to help change the market.

  • Germaine

    Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Asteire did, but backwards and in high heels.

  • Leo

    I’m a woman – actual female. I just think that under the current system, it’s difficult for anyone who’d do things really differently to rise to power. I will of course support some female politicians and have done so.