And that’s a weird question to ask- especially coming from me.
Yours truly, for any new readers, is a dude. I’ve never worn high heels, and with my long and elegant (if somewhat hairy) legs, I’ve never had cause to.
In spite of my obvious lack of experience, compounded with a whole gamut of cultural-historial-societal variables, I’d still wholeheartedly call myself a feminist. As such, I still feel compelled to ask-
Can a feminist wear high heels?
And I know this isn’t a new issue. For years, folks have generally agreed that high heels are uncomfortable and impractical. There’s not shortage of studies demonstrating the range of health issues they can cause: calf cramps, chronic (and permanent) pain, pelvic issues, callouses and corns, inflammation, pinched nerves, tendinitis, and a host of others which I could spend this entire post just listing.
I’m not going to do that.
High heels are bad for you. That’s a cold, hard medical fact, and one that most everyone’s familiar with by now. Still, women continue to wear ’em, which again begs the question of “Why in heaven’s name would they put themselves through this?”
While actually starting off as male-specific footwear (ancient Persians used a variation of ’em to assist in horse riding), the shoe has become marketed exclusively to women over the past few centuries. Whatever functionality they once had died with their Central Asian inventors and the shoes have since become the dearly-beloved/hated accessories we know today.
Of course, their existence has not been without controversy. Women, 2nd wave feminists in particular, have spoken out against ’em, arguing that high-heeled shoes are designed by men with the sole purpose of making women more appealing to the male gaze (with no thought to comfort, safety, or convenience). While that’s a decent argument, proponents are swift to invoke the names of Miuccia Prada or Dontella Versace. While it’s true that these are women making clothes (and shoes) for women, that really doesn’t mean anything. Cosmopolitan magazine has been run by women since 1965- that doesn’t stop it from being some of the most vacuous, degrading, insidious, misogynistic **** put to the presses.
The whole “by-women” argument is as wobbly as the stilettos they walk on- but what about the “for-women” idea?
After seeing some female friends of mine grimace in agony and peel their crushed toes out of those patent-leather coffins, I’ve straight up asked why they even wear heels if it hurts so much. While their answers varied, the gist that I got was typically that “Heels are attractive” or “Heels make me feel good- it’s a confidence thing”.
I’m not sure that I get that.
I can’t speak for all guys, but for myself, the only time I notice a woman’s shoes is when she comes precariously close to falling over. You can insist that they make you attractive, but I’d assert that I’d never even notice. Even if I did, that’s still a lousy argument for ’em. I don’t have anything against looking sharp, but I don’t think anybody should put themselves through discomfort for the benefit of anyone else. You should be you and folks should just have to deal with it.
And I don’t really buy the whole “I do it for me” statement either. If I put a thousand women on some little rock in the ocean, Island of the Blue Dolphins-style, I don’t think anyone of ’em would ever fashion anything even remotely like high heels. Put me in isolation for ten thousand years and in all that time I don’t think I’d come up with a pair of pants that made me feel like I was getting jabbed in the junk with every step.
Yet still, the arguments persist- most popularly, the argument of individual choice. Folks on Jezebel and The Guardian have asserted that, at the end of the day, heels should simply be seen as an individual choice. Not something mandatory, but certainly not something that a person should be labeled a “bad” feminist over. Women- heck, people– should be allowed to wear what they want, how they want, when they want and not have to be judged for it.
It’s not enough.
Yeah, you can try to smother the argument with some blanket-truisms about choice and individualism, but the issues remain. What person would choose to do this to themselves? If a person chose to do foot-binding, would you for a second accept their claims of “Hey, I can do what I want!” or “If it makes me feel confident/powerful, what it to you?”
No, that’s not a perfect analogy, but it still keeps the question viable. Why would a person do something so uncomfortable unless they were compelled to do it? I mean, I’ve sat down for the past couple days and tried to think of anything analogous in either my life or the daily lives of most men, and the closest thing I could come up with are neckties.
But while these things are a teensy bit uncomfortable, they’re hardly causing permanent spinal damage or affecting my ability to do… well, anything. If I wore anything that caused my repeated physical pain and actual damage to my body, I think those around me would have some pretty legitimate concerns about my well-being, my priorities, and my sense of self-esteem. And again, I could make much the same arguments on the subject of perfume, jewelry, lipstick, and a metric ****-ton of cosmetics, almost all of which exclusively target women.
With all that in mind, I don’t think it’s unfair or uncharitable to cite a propagandized “norm” as the reason for the existence of most of this stuff. No matter what TV and billboards would have you think, I genuinely believe there’s nothing inherent to women that makes ’em want this junk. The proponents can argue that it’s just about what makes them feel happy, but I gotta ask- did you come up with that idea of happiness, or was it sold?
Can a feminist wear high heels?
I’d like to hear what you think.