I don't move fast in four-inch heels.
It's a concept that I've been turning 'round in my head, for a couple of reasons. First, I'm a writer, and so I'm concerned with imagery. The details that I layer on my characters are what make them come alive, from their hairstyles to the cars they drive to the shoes they wear.
The other thing I've been thinking about is that, when it comes to high heels, there's definitely two camps: those who wear them and those who don't. Those who wear them find that they're a sassy symbol of strength, as described in this post by Abigail Posner on the blog Beauty Skew, and in this post by Sherry Isaac on her blog Psychological Sizzle.
Then there are those who think they symbolize women's oppression, though it sounds so heavy when you put it that way. The logic goes something like this: men invented high heels and decided they were beautiful as another way for women to torture themselves, just like they did with corsets and bound feet. And actually, if you'd asked me last Saturday night as I was mincing around in my 4" stiletto heeled black patent leather pumps, I might have agreed with that view, although I was the only one who kicked her shoes off as soon as she'd made one promenade around the room.
I found an older article (2009) from MSNBC's TodayStyle that summarized concerns like this. High heels:
- can boost your career by transforming you into a confident, strident force to be reckoned with;
- can hamper your career by putting too much emphasis on your sex appeal rather than your brains;
- can wreak permanent damage on your feet and ankles, including — but not limited to — bunions, corns, calluses, shortening of the Achilles tendon, ankle fractures and nerve damage, and
- can improve your sex life because the act of wearing them makes you feel sexy and strengthens core abdominal and pelvic muscles at the same time.
I can understand that wearing heels gives women confidence and increases the level of their authority, and I agree that criticizing those who wear heels for that reason is somewhat subversive, comparable to discounting women's gymnastics when it's one of the only sports where a petite woman can succeed. The logic seems to be that girls who are short AND strong are too threatening, so we need to undermine their power through subtle (and not so subtle) condemnation.
The shoes I wore the other night were relatively conservative compared with some that I saw. The most extreme pair probably had about a seven inch heel, with a two to three inch platform sole. They were crazy cute, but this is where I think the oppression argument gains some traction. While I can get on board the heels = strength train, when I look at some of the shoes that are out there, I still have to wonder if there isn't some underlying impulse to hold women to an unrealistic standard. The more extreme styles must limit your mobility, and what starts out as a bid for strength becomes an issue of safety. In the wake of the rabid anti-woman outburst from a certain radio personality troll, how much safety can we afford to give up?
In the end I think it's really about personal choice. I just hope that women put some thought into how their choices are affecting the image they put out there. I recently created a character who's about five feet, two inches tall, and I had to really think about what heels would mean for her - certainly something different than they do for me, since I'm closer to five feet, nine inches tall. I put Molly in high heels to offset the power differential with her much-taller ex-husband. I put her teenage daughter in higher heels to play up her dangerous impulses. Be careful out there, ladies. There are trolls waiting to take you down, and if you're wearing stilts, they might have an easier time of it.
PS...if you've got a minute, check out today's stop on the Proudly Paranormal Blog Hop...author Krista Ball...