Wednesday, 31 October 2012

If the shoe fits? Feminism and feet

Women have it pretty good in the Western world of the 21st century, our culture is far more equal and alleviated from sexism than other parts of the globe, yet it’s still not perfect (and possibly never will be). The trouble with using the term ‘sexism’ is people think it refers to something men impose on women, or vice versa. But sometimes we inflict it on ourselves. 

I have a bone to pick and it is with high heeled shoes. Wearers, we put ourselves at risk of sprained ankles and injured dignity if we lose balance in them, but the damage doesn’t stop there. The downward pressure on the toes impacts the joints at the front of the foot and over years of continued wear can lead to horribly deformed feet in unnatural triangular shapes.

The question to ask is whether men are doing it too. If heels were so great, men would be wearing them too (ok, a few men do, generally on stage, at home or sometimes to the local cafe).

Christian Louboutin is well known to ridicule the concept of comfort, claiming it "is not part of [his] creative process". Sure, a woman can afford to wear impossible heels if she has driven to work and sits behind a desk all day. Some heels are really only for sitting down in.

Another quote from Louboutin says "'The core of my work is dedicated not to pleasing women, but to pleasing men" – hence the eye-catching red soles trademarked in 2008. 
A Chinese woman shows how 
her feet have been re-shaped

This attitude and the resulting abuses we are doing unto our feet for the sake of fashion is not nearly as bad as yet not worlds better than the old Chinese practise of routinely breaking and binding feet. This was a painful and disabling practise which most likely originated among upper-class court dancers in 900's AD but spread and became common among all classes due to men thinking it highly attractive, feminine and dainty. 

For some reason heels do have a certain appeal and look good, but generally men are more likely to be looking at your bum or legs, not what's on your feet. 

Thankfully foot-binding has now died out despite lasting for about 1000 years. Trouble is, when we are immersed in a culture we can't see that some normal practises and attitudes promote more pain and discomfort than they’re worth. 

Jimmy Choo has said "shoes are like the foundations. If the foundations aren’t right, the building won’t stand upright".

I'm not saying all high heels are bad – a friend of mine recently put together a small Ikea table using a high heeled shoe as a hammer. 

I know that life can often feel like a fashion parade, and sure, I'm far from practising what I've just preached. However we should be kinder to the things we rely on to take us places - don't make the foot fit the shoe.

Picture sources: Google images

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Read the rest of The Stag Issue 51

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