Oh my, is the history of high heels (in fifteen minutes on wikipedia) more interesting than you’d expect.
And it leads me to the get out clause ‘no, they were invented by Egyptian butchers to avoid getting blood and entrails in their feet’.
From now on, blood and entrails is the only acceptable reason to wear high heels, right?
Well. Probably not. People should make their own decisions.
But that’s the problem with patriarchy (okay, there are lots of problems with patriarchy, but one of the reason it’s a problem is the following). Inculcation. Ideas that have built up over time through repetition throughout culture. Notions that are learnt somewhat unintentionally. These are the most dangerous learnings, because they appear to be natural/common sense/just the way things are.
High heels have historically, largely been associated with class status. Romans used them to identify female prostitutes, the Venetians used them to make it harder for women to cheat on them, Catherine De Medici just wanted to be taller and cooler, the 1950s just wanted to cancel out the unsexiness of the war (or something), the 1980s wanted to cancel out feminism and the 2000s just wanted to cancel out the 2000s.
These days, high heels remain impractical (apart from on the killing floor, natch) but pretty. You can’t walk but your legs look better.
I mean, I’m convinced by that, but then, I would be. I just want my legs to look better, and could probably bear abit of impracticality. But it bothers me that in rejecting masculinity I often fall for the option of reasserting ridiculous norms about femininity. Unless I’m carving out my own particular inity, which would mostly be the point.
In theory, as long as you don’t feel forced into heels, are doing it for yourself rather than for societal expectation, then everything’s fine, right? I mean. That makes a lot of sense. We want all our politics these days to be about freedom of choice. I can be the me I want to be, that’s certainly a large part of my choices.
But as objects, they’ve become so bound up in oppression, expectation and the beauty myth that they feel somehow poisoned. To make that choice is to accept the expectations, to live up to them.
I mean. Fuck that shit.
The key here really must be to fuck with expectations in every way you can. If you want to wear high heels and be radically feminist, then you sure as hell can, and you wouldn’t do it if you didn’t want to. You can challenge norms of feminism as well as femininity. Make yourself a statement.
IF YOU WANT TO.
I’m not here to decide what’s okay or what isn’t. I’m just trying to feel my way around a bit of a quagmire.
We need to sum up a little. My short answer is basically, yes. But that doesn’t mean they have to stay that way forever.
You just need a new why.
Illustration by Jaime