Jan 14 2006

In Which the Author Crabs About Patriarchal Control of Female Feet

The natural order has been restored; there are now 200 miles between me and Dallas. It’s a relief to be back in sloppy old Austin. I do the Butt Dance for joy.

I’ll get the catty hair report of the way tout de suite: the honky women (I was in North Dallas, which contains no non-honkys of any kind, except the hired help) no longer have big hair. They all appear to have adopted the close-to-the-cranium helmet, which they accentuate with an emaciated, Prozackian expression of disdain for you and the horse you rode in on. Which is all to the good, I guess, if you live in a hellhole like that; who among us has not deployed the severe countenance as an urban defense mechanism? And one can hardly expect sunny dispositions to result from life in what is essentially one massive mutha of a Gap-infested strip mall.

But what of the shoes?

The sound made by North Dallas women as they tippity-tap along in short, vulnerable little stiletto steps is among the most depressing I have heard since W said whatever he said a hour ago.

There were more very high, very pointy shoes on those Dallas girls than there are Ford Super-Duty F-350s in all of Austin, or possibly the entire Hill Country. Not that high heels are entirely absent inside the Austin city limits, but they are mostly found shoring up the uber-femininity of the mistresses of the Republicans from Sugarland who infest the state lege, or on goth chicks. Down here one sports the flip-flop.

The spectacle of these Dallas women literally teetering on the precipice of despair was such an abrupt departure from the chill human landscape to which I am accustomed that I was moved to cast a fretful eye at the sky. Sure enough, dark clouds of patriarchy swirled ominously o’er the whole metroplex. Clearly these were effecting horrific affective disorders threatening to cleave asunder our Metroplexian sisters. For above the waist the Dallas woman says, “come near me and I will rip your face off,” but her idiotic shoes say “I adopt this crippling footwear as an homage to male fantasy and, in compliance with the will of patriarchy, to express my submission to the feminine construct and the possibility that I will blow you if you’re rich enough.”

High heels must go. A culture that can so brutally subjugate its citizens’ feet won’t say boo when its Supreme Court votes to enslave their uteruses.


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  1. SneakySnu

    I’ll admit I like the look of high-heeled shoes and I own a few pairs. But I never wear them. Sorry, patriarchy, but comfort wins out with me every time.

    While in grad school in the mid-’90s, I did a couple of years of research in Rome. You’ve never seen women wear tighter pants or higher heels. I can’t tell you how happy I was to get back to the States to see women on my univ. campus wearing flip flops, tennis shoes and other comfy footwear.

    Unfortunately, things have changed in the last 6-7 years, on the path described by “Sex in the City” and “Desperate Housewives”. Wearing stilettos is now seen by some as an in-your-face gesture asserting both independence and an ironic sexbot-ishness. I do not subscribe to this belief (that is, that shoes are a sign either of independence or that wearing them could be understood as ironic).

  2. Steph

    This is one aspect of patriarchy I find totally simple to resist. I got shit to do and I can’t do it in high heels.

    Glad you’re back from Stepford Land.

  3. shoefreak

    Wow, they’ve got “helmet-heads” in Dallas? Fancy that! Welcome back, Twisty!

    As a card-carrying shoe freak I disagree with the feminist statement that high heels are inherently evil and that the wearers are ALWAYS caving in to the patriarchy. The BitchPhD site generated a record-setting debate on this topic last fall.

    Of course, wearing high heels to the goddamn MALL is caving. Or wearing them anywhere that requires walking or standing for any length of time. Making onesself uncomfortable to appeal to the generic male gaze is obviously an anti-feminist act,.

    Logic is not my strong suit, but I THINK the heels-as-tools-of-the-patriarchy argument falls apart when one of the premises turns out not to be true: The premise that shoes with heels are always uncomfortable. Actually, a well-crafted (and correspondingly expensive) shoe of any heel height up to 3 1/2 inches IS comfortable and, to shoe fetishists like myself, a glory to behold.

    I love my shoes, all 200 pair, from my real Sorrel pac boots to my bunny slippers to my flip-flops to my Birkenstocks to my thigh-high stilletto boots that have never seen the light of day (or a man, for that matter). I have shoe art on my wall and shoe books in my library, and Manolos in my closet (bought cheep-cheep on EBay). I’m not looking for approval here; rather, I’m such a shoe fetishist that I jump at the opportunity to write about shoes, shoes shoes, and BitchPhD hasn’t talked about shoes lately, and think I’m jonesin’ for another shoe-related thread (laughing). If the other shoe-freak-feminists find your post, Twisty, look out, it’s gonna be a field day ;-)

  4. Liz

    Excellent hair report! I feel the need for a field trip coming on: I have an anthropological fascination with the correlation between hair styles and attitudes towards nature, and I must go observe this new helmet hair pehnomenon for myself. I suspect it all boils down to control issues. As for the stilletos, I used to think nobdy should ever wear them any place except in bed. But lately I’ve developed a theory that they’re great for building up calf hypertrophy, especially the gastocnemeus muscle, so now I’ve got all the boy bodybuilders at the gym prancing around in them. Calves are just about every guy’s nemesis.

    As for the Dallas Defenders on another blog who took great umbrage at Twisty’s Big-D bashing: yeah, I know. I live in the Deep South, as well as in the US of A, and we get bashed a lot by outsiders too. I know how it feels. Sometimes the truth hurts. But there’s no point shooting the messenger.

    Anyway, THANK DOG Twisty is back!

  5. Betsy

    In the category of “self-torture for the patriarchy,” I’ll see your high heels and raise you a brazillian wax.

  6. Twisty


    To be clear, I don’t think that the shoes themselves, as inanimate objects, are, as you say, “inherently evil.” I merely believe that in a patriarchy, wearing them telegraphs a message of complicity with the forces of patriarchy in the preservation of the fragile-feminine myth.

    Which is not to say that high heels haven’t become so deeply entwined with female experience that it is next to impossible for modern humans–particularly the connoisseur of footwear– to view them as anything but the symbol of patriarchal control that they really are.

    That’s right. Beautiful or no, high heels are symbols of patriarchal control. If they weren’t, men would be wearin’ em. And don’t nobody talk to me of drag queens. That’s a whole nother argument.

  7. drublood

    Sorry about that trackback! It was a mistake! I meant to link to your main page.

  8. Twisty

    Liz, you can tell the be-umbraged at the other blog, whatever it is, that I was born and raised in Dallas, and that I know of what I speak.

  9. shoefreak

    Twisty – – yes, I get it! ;-) I also notice I contradicted myself in my earlier post: I presumed the mall women were uncomfortable in their shoes when actually they may have been card-carrying members of the shoe-freak sisterhood, and quite comfortable, thank you.

  10. nina

    Damn, Twisty it’s good to have you back.

    Shoefreak, I’m having a hard time believing that high heels are ever comfortable. Perhaps it is a factor of money as you say, but the balls of my feet ain’t buying it.

  11. san antone rose

    Was just referred to your wonderful site! To go along with this post, I thought you might take interest in a new bit of scientific research on the armpit odour of women. Seems our odours give clues to men as to when we are at their most fertile and ready to receive His Love. I can just hear the protests now:


  12. Hattie

    Shoes, schmoos. What about Alito and the death of affirmative action?

  13. NancyMc

    Thank you Twisty. I’ve been telling the “but I like how they look” feminists that high heels are nasty torture devices for eons, but now that you’re saying it maybe they’ll actually listen.

    It’s funny, this Patriarchy. It not only tells women to wear high heels, it makes them think wearing them is an independent, fun, kicky, free-will kind of thing to do to please oneself.

  14. lindsey

    LOL I always thought the only thing high-heeled shoes would be good for are as weapons, the nice little pointy end there. Me no likey to wear them!

  15. Meganann

    I can’t walk very fast in high heels. I fall over. I totter like a little old lady. I slip. I skid. I can’t dance. I get blisters and sore shins and calves.

    How can something that is sheerly incapacitating be seen as Sexy! Flirty! Fun! To me it screams “I can’t run if you try to mug me or rape me!” I know that there are a lot of people out there who feel all Powerful! in their heels, but it is a ruse. I am not even sure that Average Joe actually finds them at all attractive, he has just been told they are. They are also Expensive!

    I watched a rich, fancy sort of woman step on the wrong part of a sewer grate in NYC and take a mean header. By the time the ambulance got there to deal with her broken ankle, head gash, concussion, and scraped palms and knees; I had sworn off high heels forever. Not worth the torture. Makes a mockery of bipedalism.

    But lots of things women do serve the patriarchy. There would be no patriarchy without the complicit support of women. If we all refused it, the patriarchy would fall. It is because the patriarchy is an sub-conscious hegemony that it can exist.

  16. Anne

    I knew there would be something more than hair to gaze at while on your trip.

    The last time I wore heels was in 1999 for my high school senior prom (also the last time for me to wear a dress and makeup). I lasted maybe four hours before the pain became too much to bear.

    Since then I’ve taken up watching other women try to walk in heels. The best for me is on campus, watching all the gals trekking across campus in heels. Why the fuck would you wear high heels when you have to walk around a (fairly large) college campus? I will never understand.

    Twisty, your wit is enamoring.

  17. Ms Kate

    As with any fad or fashion, there will be two types of people sporting it: people who always do that, and people who are sheep.

    I’d bet that most of the North Dallas types would not be wearing heels if birkenstocks were what women like that were all supposed to be wearing. Mooo. Baaahhh. Some of your readers would wear heels if birkenstocks were what all the tracksuits had to wear. Therin lies the difference.

    Speaking of which, I saw a local suburboborg in a tracksuit, heavy makeup, and pointy heeled boots the other day. Said nylon shiny thang was hemmed just right for the heels. ARRRGGGGHHHHH! Now I see people who never got near a bike wearing what looks like cycling shirts. ARRRGGGHHHH. Add in the women in the shirt and shorts set labeled “lifeguard” – the one I know cannot swim to save her life? ARRRRGGGGHHHH! It is kind of like going to a “western steakhouse” nearby and seeing all these old gomers answering to “Vinny” who ain’t never been within 50 yards of a horse or cow (aside from the racetrack) wearing the Glenn Campbell look. ARRRRGGGHHHH.

    Sort of like watching life on television. All the let’s pretend without the sensory experince, risk, or risk of having a life-changing event either. ARRRGGGHHH.

  18. Ykcir

    “…since W said whatever he said a hour ago.”

    That would be an hour ago.

  19. Twisty

    That would be an hour ago.

    Yeah, whatever. My proof reader’s off taking tea with the Queen.

  20. Violet Socks

    Twisty, I’m so glad you’re back from the Dallasian hellhole. I’ve been missing my Twisty fix.

    This discussion reminds me of when I had to make a flight connection in some alarmingly Southern airport (alas, I no longer remember the city). I was astonished to see women — real, live women, actually walking and talking! — wearing tight jeans with white high-heeled pumps. White! Heels! And with bleached blond hair teased to the skies. It was traumatizing.

  21. emjay

    At age 24, I wore heels to a conference, thinking I had to do it to be successful at work. I damaged a ligament in my foot that took over a year to heal. Now my footwear consists of Birkenstock loafers and sandals for work, and hiking boots or sneakers for play. Oh, and hockey skates, natch.

    I also have no desire for the knee and back strain that heels put on the body, or that butt-out, breasts-forward posture they encourage. I’m realize that we all make compromises in order to survive under patriarchy, but I just can’t see how crippling oneself in the name of beauty can be reconciled with feminism. Heels, short skirts, tight clothes, and makeup are only considered attractive because our society says they are.

    I do realize that it’s a lot harder for a heterosexual woman to buck the professional woman’s dress code than it is for me. I know that one of the perks of being a dyke is that I have access to a different aesthetic standard for women. I think I look just fine in pants, an oxford shirt, and loafers. More than once, I’ve shown up for work in the exact same outfit as a male coworker except that he has a tie on too. I’m sure it helps a lot that my boss, her boss, and her boss (company president) are all feminist women, though two of those three wear skirts, makeup, and heels on a daily basis, and the third wears them when dealing with people from outside the company. I am the only woman in my office at the managerial level who dresses like the men, and I wonder if I’d get away with it as easily if I were not an out lesbian. Since my bosses are liberals, all of whom have gay friends, it’s probably seen as cultural, just as the manager from India who sometimes wears a salwar kameez to work.

  22. thebewilderness

    I think high spiky heels are very similar to foot binding in the way they serve the patriarchy. I spent years wearing them because they made me a couple inches taller. That translated to being able to look a man in the eye, or closer to in the eye, than the shirt button. The day I accepted that being taller did not improve my competence I stopped wearing heels. I still love shoes, just not on my feet.

  23. shoefreak

    Nina, when higher heels are well-made they are extremely comfortable, up to a height of about 3 1/2 inches. Also, people with extremely high arches in their feet (like moi) tend to have trouble with flats unless they wear orthotics. My flip-flops KILL me if I wear them more than 20 minutes, but I can wear a good pair of 3-inch heels all day with no problem. Most odd, I tend to injure myself more often in flat shoes than with heels. Go figure!

    Heterosexual feminist women who are still interested in having sex with men do all SORTS of antifeminist things – – – often unwittingly, occasionally on purpose – – – to get laid. Lesbianism might be called the thinking woman’s “choice,” but lesbians are born, not made, so as a born heterosexual I’m stuck making day-to-day-decisions on how far I am willing to go down the sexbot path to attract a mate. C’est la guerre.

    That said, to call things like poledancing and bustier-and-stilleto-wearing “subversive-new-wave-feminist-ironic-choices” rather misses the whole point of patriarchy: The whole system is set up to fuck us over, so we can’t “win” the game, no matter what. The only way to win is not to play. So, whether I choose to be a complicit sexbot or an “new-wave-ironic” one, I’m still screwed. I get it.

  24. sunny in texas

    glad you made it back to austin safe and sound.

    i am often thankful that not only did i chose IT as a career field but that my usually patriarchal boss is completely against me wearing feminine artifices to work since it would prevent me from doing said work.
    in fact, the outfit i wore on my first day induced him to say “never wear that to work again. jeans and work boots for you.” i was so happy to have not gotten myself into a company that valued form over function.

    now, i am in search of the perfect pair of flat boots since my hiking boots wore out.

  25. JenM

    I live in Dallas and being only 5 feet tall I almost always wear heels. Mainly so I can reach things on shelves at the grocery store, and so I don’t have to spend money on having jeans hemmed. I am amazed when I see women at the Greenville St. Pat’s Day party wearing the ultra high strappy type shoes b/c its a mad crush of people stomping on your feet and who wants to brave a Port A Let in anything that exposes your feet to the floor?

    I hate flip-flops b/c there’s no arch support, they chafe my toes, they keep me at my natural height, and they get your feet all dirty. I would never make it in Austin : )

  26. Burrow

    I don’t understand the wearing heels to college either. Got to look good as you run from one side of campus to the other? Anything that I just “have to get used to” is out for me. Although I must say that when I buckled to parental and familial pressure for my cousin’s wedding and wore a pair of heels they weren’t painful. They were low, and they were Stuart Weissman, (I include the name only for shoefreak) i.e. expensive. I wore them through the night without any pain (but the open bar may have helped) and though I still have them I haven’t felt the need or want to wear them since.

    I prefer my shitkickers, thanks.

  27. Buffalo Gal

    There’s all kinds of shoe freaks in this world. Recently I was shopping for clogs to wear to work – the office is always too hot & I like to be able to kick off my shoes under my desk. No suitable clogs, but I found two pair of hiking boots that fit beautifully. I didn’t really need them, but I couldn’t resist. I love hiking boots. I love deciding which boots I will wear today – the scuffed up LL Beans, the worn down New Balance, the no-arch-support-but-cute Land’s Enders, or the sleek new Duck Heads that don’t make my ginormous feet look even ginormouser. Chacun a son gout.

  28. will

    Ok, I may be new here, but I need some clarification.

    How on earth are high heeled shoes, pointy shoes, or any other kind of shoes the fault of men?

    What man ever notices shoes? I thought women wore shoes for other men? If I am incorrect, please correct me.

  29. Christopher

    I don’t really “get” high heels. Are taller women supposed to be more attractive then shorter ones?

  30. QW

    I own one pair of very high, stiletto heeled shoes. I didn’t buy them for myself.

    I wore them once. I was almost ready to commit suicide by jumping off the height of the heels. I’m 5’1″. I stood on the edge of this precipice and wondered…..why?

    The man that bought them for me still lives and breathes. By chance and by love.

    The shoes were horribly painful and reminded me of stories I read of footbinding. One would have to train the foot to wear that type of shoe. It might not involve the immediate rotting of a toe or two, but it would happen eventually, by corn or by callus.

  31. Ron Sullivan

    Damn, I can’t cut-n-paste here with my antique browser.

    But, Shoefreak — “how far to go down the sexbot path to attract a mate”?? You don’t have to. At all. I’m witnessing here. I’m (modestly) not exactly a 100% born het, but Joe is male and rather butch so I figure he counts. I wore my last-ever pair of heels to my sister’s wedding before I met him. I don’t wear makeup because it annoys me. I’m homely as a mud fence. I started wearing bras again when we bought a truck with a stiff suspension. I started buying skirts — ankle-length so I don’t have to shave my legs — just a few years ago to fuck with people’s heads at book signings. I don’t even style my hair. I am a sex fiend; I’m talking about actual sex, not the ‘bot costumes. That’s worked out just fine. It’s been over 30 years. Haven’t quite worn him out.

    If you have to use sexbot shit to “attract” a guy, he’s not a mate.

  32. MzNicky

    Twisty: If I may.

    will: “How on earth are high heeled shoes, pointy shoes, or any other kind of shoes the fault of men? What man ever notices shoes?”

    Assuming your inquiry is not disingenuous: While men, in their slathering obtuseness, may not notice the particular brand, color, or heel height of women’s shoes, they definitely notice the constrained intent: Women’s ankles and legs are propped up, defined, and sexually primed for men’s sexual appreciation.

    That’s how it’s “the fault of men.”

  33. bitchphd

    Noooooooo! Not heels!

    The weird thing is that men DID used to wear heels, back in the day when men were the fashionplates. And then once we introduced the capitalist city man of business, with his drab suit and his tie, out went the heels. (Except on cowboys.)

    So I dunno. I do buy the patriarchy argument. And despite my rep, I actually wear flats most of the time. But I also think that, deep down, there’s a latent possibility that heels and other ridiculous fashion frivoloties might not, someday, be restored to their rightful place as joyous celebrations of the capacity to make everyday objects into art.

    (Sadly, this will probably never escape the inevitable class and status issues involved, but let me be optimistic just this once.)

  34. bitchphd

    (Oh, and truly: bad shoes of whatever stripe are uncomfortable. But good heels aren’t, honestly.)

  35. Teenagecatgirl

    I’m with Ron Sullivan.
    My partner still fancies me first thing in the morning, with my hair stuck out at all angles, my face all puffy and pallid, my legs all fuzzy and scratchy, when I’ve been farting incessantly, and my breath stinks.
    If you have to wear fuck-me shoes to attract them, it aint YOU they want.

    I bought some new shoes recently, I got a funny look off the (male) assistant firstly because I was trying on the biggest, clumpiest pair of boots in the place, and then when my usual size didn’t fit, I , shock horror, asked for bigger ones!
    My aunt, however, was loathe to admit the size of her feet, and so squashed herself into smaller sizes and made her toenails fall out. Sexy.

  36. Twisty

    BitchPhD said: there’s a latent possibility that heels and other ridiculous fashion frivoloties might not, someday, be restored to their rightful place as joyous celebrations of the capacity to make everyday objects into art.

    This, if I can hijack my own thread, is kind of my hypothesis about post-patriarchal rape and porn and sex and gender and health care all the other stuff that’s currently “different” for women: that if the global class/status fetish can be excised from the good old human narrative, cramming the feet into a pair of Manolos–assuming $400 shoes could survive the revolution–would no longer be construed as an act of submission.

  37. Twisty

    will: “How on earth are high heeled shoes, pointy shoes, or any other kind of shoes the fault of men? What man ever notices shoes?”

    By all means, MzNicky. I might also point out to will, although I’m breaking my own rule in doing so, that “men” is not a synonym for “patriarchy,” and, for the gazillionth time, as it says on the top of the page and elsewhere on the blog, I blame the patriarchy. Not men.

    Although some men really piss me the fuck off.

  38. Twisty

    Shoefreak, I just want to say how much I appreciate your commentary. It is not generally known (and isn’t likely to be, this far down in the comments) but I own about a million pairs of shoes myself. They are left over from happy-go-luckier days when I was in blissful denial about the extent of my sartorial complicity in my own oppression. These days I pretty much only sport lime green Crocs, but every now and then I pull a pair of plaid Dolce & Gabbana kitten heels out of their box and gaze at them yearningly. And Manolo’s Shoe Blog (“Gay is the new black!”) remains one of my guilty pleasures.

    But don’t tell anyone.

  39. Ms Kate

    There are a couple of reasons that heels would be for men.

    1) They make the butt and boobs stick out. If you already have a big round bootay and good size knockers I can tell you from experience men notice!.

    I seem to remember a study of women walking through an airport in flats and heels and observers counting men noticing and how long they stared.

    That’s the men part.

    2) Submission to fashion and ideals of femininity. My MIL only recently restretched her tendons to wear flats. She worked at a bank, in heels, for a very long time. She knows other women who cannot now wear flats because of their foot binding. Why?

    Most of these women worked and felt compelled to make concessions to womanliness so as to be perceived as less threatening by the men they damn well should have been promoted over. They also had public face front positions and wanted to look as expected of a professional woman.

    Therein lies the patriarchy.

  40. oudemia

    But, Twisty, you told everyone yourself! :)


  41. Twisty

    Ah, so I did. But nobody’s ever read that post. It was written before my anti-Kos pie-fight essay catapulted me to the 12-pageviews-a-day fame I enjoy today.

  42. Sam

    Timely post, Twisty. The past four days I have been out of work and incapacitated due to awful low back pain brought on by a pair of shoes. Not the stiletto kind, the super-platorm kind that makes this 5’1′ lass feel normal-sized and more trendy than I usually feel in the simple black vegetarian boots I usually wear.

    A friend was giving away a sweet pair of deep purple platform boots and by coincidence they fit me perfectly, so I took them and wore them around town the past two weeks. Now I’m paying for bowing down to the gods of frugality (they were FREE shoes!) and the gods of fashion by hobbling around like an 80-year-old woman when I’m not glued to the couch with a heating pad on my back and the bottle of Tylenol with codeine by my side. You don’t have to wear stilettos to fuck your body up with ill-designed women’s footwear.

  43. drumgurl

    Here is an article explaining what kind of damage wearing heels can do to your body. And this is from mainstream media!

    I love how heels make me look super-tall and intimidating, but they are just not comfortable enough to wear. So I wear flats or low heels to the office. I only drum in sneakers, and even then I am very particular about which sneakers I’ll wear. I don’t know how the Kiss drummer could ever play in platform shoes.

  44. sunny in texas

    emjay said: “I do realize that it’s a lot harder for a heterosexual woman to buck the professional woman’s dress code than it is for me. I know that one of the perks of being a dyke is that I have access to a different aesthetic standard for women.”

    it sucks when the mostly patriarchal boss says in the middle of the open office, “you have your wallet in your back pocket! how butch!” i was crawling under a users desk connecting some cables at the time. i was mortified, but i didn’t know what to say. i still don’t know what to say. he was 1) watching my ass with other people watching him watch my ass, and 2) commenting on my sexuality(although i am hetero) out loud with other people listening, and lastly 3) i remember my mom coming home from work crying because the other women at her job were calling her a dyke even though she was also hetero, she just didn’t go in for frilliness.

  45. shoefreak

    Hey I’m back: Today I found a pair of Marc Jacobs chunky-heeled wooden clogs at DSW in the back, on clearance. HEH!

    Burrow, I know the shoes of which you speak: Stuart Weitzman, they are very well-made, and most of them have heels that are only 1 1/2 or 2 inches high, and they are very comfortable! So if any readers out there decide to make the deliberate choice to cave to patriarchal sartorial standards (say, for wedding or whatever) you can’t go wrong with Stuart Weitzman shoes.

    Ron and TeenageCatGirl I agree – – my ex-husband didn’t care one whit about shoes and preferred me any way he could get me, LOL . . . unfortunately, one of the many things that contributed to the demise of our relationship was his financial control issues: In short, he interfered with my ability to buy shoes! (he figured, since he needed only three pair, I only needed three pair: One black, one brown, and a pair of tennis shoes. Idiot.)

    Twisty, how wonderful to know you’re a closet shoe freak (pun intended)! So, don’t you even wear those kitten heels around the house, just for fun? I know kitten heels don’t exactly present a powerful image: Nothing called “kitten” ever could, LOL, so you certainly can’t be caught dead wearing them in public!

    As to why (many) men love heels . . . I don’t believe it’s because it makes us “vulnerable,” I don’t know who made that up, but it seems to be the feminist story and I guess we’re gonna have ta stick with it. Personal experience tells a different story: The only men I know who loooooooooove women in high heels are die-hard “Leg Men.” High heels make a woman look like a gazelle: Slender and leggy, basically Leg-Man-Candy. Leg Men get into watching me walk 3 paces ahead of them. On the other hand, the “Breast Men” I know couldn’t give two shits what I wear on my feet; in fact, they prefer me barefoot, boobs within arm’s reach.

  46. shoefreak

    (By the way, Twisty, those multi-colored satin Pradas WERE pretty awesome . . . but only on clearance, only on clearance!)

  47. Julian Elson

    sunny — this is probably the kind of line that one can come up with later, and it’s generally tough to come up with comebacks when you’re confronted with a statement so inappropriate, but how ’bout, “you’re noticing minor details of my style and dress! How femme!”

    Personally, I find high-heels a minor turn off in women. Although some of them may, in fact, be comfortable, I always imagine that they’re uncomfortable, and discomfort in other sentient creatures causes an echo of that discomfort in me, and discomfort in me isn’t good for my libido.

    Hey, though, no one’s obliged to dress in shoes that I find sexy, some heeled shoes may be more comfortable or healthy than they appear, and I’m not about to judge someone based on their shoes.

  48. M

    I don’t doubt that heels can be comfy – but at the same time they are doing you damage. I’ve got flat feet and I couldn’t wear totally flat shoes. But look at most shoes and they all have the tinyest heels on them, because it is comfier. I’m wearing workboots at the mo, and they’ve got about a 1/2 cm heel on them. My hiking boots have about a 1cm heel on them. Just because you can’t walk in flip-flops doesn’t mean that you need to wear huge heels.

    And not only do stilettoes damage you, they damage property. Almost all historic buildings I’ve visited that have original flooring ban stilettoes, because they punch holes in carpets and wooden floors.

    Shoe excitement is not just about the femininity. I was in an industrial supplies shop over Christmas, and spent about five minutes with my brother going ‘Kevlar toecaps! They have boots with Kevlar toecaps!’. Before deciding that neither of us really needed kevlar toecaps, however cool that may be.

  49. Twisty

    Quoth Sam: The past four days I have been out of work and incapacitated due to awful low back pain brought on by a pair of shoes.

    See? See?

  50. Twisty

    Quoth Shoefreak: As to why (many) men love heels . . . I don’t believe it’s because it makes us “vulnerable,” I don’t know who made that up, but it seems to be the feminist story and I guess we’re gonna have ta stick with it. Personal experience tells a different story: The only men I know who loooooooooove women in high heels are die-hard “Leg Men.” High heels make a woman look like a gazelle: Slender and leggy, basically Leg-Man-Candy.

    This illustrates perfectly my point that patriarchal oppression is invisible, often even to feminists. A woman on stilts, particularly delicate satin ones that cost half a paycheck, is announcing that she embraces with wild abandon the patriarchal construct of femininity, which construct implies, among other things, submissiveness. It is one of patriarchy’s greatest triumphs that women are not only willing to endure for the sake of femininity both hours wasted on beauty rituals and fabulous sums wasted on painful fashion accessories, but will also defend these choices, such as the choice to pursue a career as Leg-Man-Candy, as personally gratifying.

    Not picking on you personally, Shoefreak. We all do what we gotta do. It’s patriarchy I blame, not individual women.

  51. shoefreak

    no problemo Twisty, I’m well aware of my antifeminist bad habits, and shoes ain’t the half of ’em . . .

  52. Teenagecatgirl

    Shoefreak> So you think ‘leg men’ are actually into bestiality?!

    Personally, I don’t give a fuck why they like high heels, they’re uncomfortable, you can’t walk in them (so you ARE vulnerable), and any man in the vicinity takes them as an announcement you’re a nymphomanaiac and you’re hot for THEM.

    M> I got stood on by a stiletto (with a woman in it, obviously) once in a nightclub, fortunately I was too drunk to feel it, but you should have seen the bruising! Spectacular!

  53. Rana

    It’s really interesting seeing the ways that women are pulled between the lure of the beautiful and the desire to be comfortable — as if the two can’t ever be the same thing.

    I have high-arched, narrow-heeled, wide-toed feet. As a result, there is no way for me to wear most “trendy” shoes without pain — the pointy-pointy “witch” shoes cramp my toes, most pumps pinch or bruise the tops of my feet, and stiff leather rubs the back part raw. Plus I have my mother’s feet — brutally deformed from wearing high-heeled, narrow-toed shoes during her twenties — to warn me off.

    As a result, most of my shoes are either boots, sneakers, or Birks, or sandals, or flip-flops.

    Yet for most corporate jobs, all of the above are “unprofessional.” The boots because they’re not dainty enough to wear with skirt-suits, the sneakers because they are too informal, and the Birks and sandals because they’re either informal or open-toed. The standard seems to be “shoes you can wear with nylons” (and those are worthy of an entire rant on their own).

    So I do have a few pairs of heels. My favorite, which has been resolved and reheeled many times over the years, is a pair of Australian shoes with a thick chunky heel that meet my two basic requirements of shoes: they cannot rub blisters in my feet, and I must be able to run in them.

    Stillettoes fail both tests; they may be pretty _objects_ but they are LOUSY footwear.

  54. will


    I realized my error is substituting “men” as the exact equivilent of “Patriarchy” but I couldnt edit my post. (That is what I get for hitting post too fast.)

    In 1992, I worked with a female lawyer who dared to wear a pants suit to the office. It was a big event, much debated, by both men and women. It was as if men and women owned stock in pantyhose and skirts!

    It was also a time when women had two sets of shoes. One set of sneakers to walk from the car with and one set of heels to wear around the office. I do not see this as much, but I suspect it still happens.

  55. bitchphd

    Twisty, I’m buying a plane ticket to Austin and you and I are going out taco-eating and drinky-drink-drinking, and you can wear the kitten heels and we’ll pretend we live in the post-patriarchy nirvana, okay?

  56. Joolya

    I like chunky-heeled boots that I can run in (I swear, it’s possible, although not as easy as in sneakers) but that make me look really tall. I mean, taller than average. ;) Tall enough to look the patriarchy in the eye and see over other people’s heads, at least.
    But I also like pretty shoes that give me blisters – someday I will learn not to wear them when I have to WALK to where I am going . . .

  57. NancyMc

    Twisty, how wonderful to know you’re a closet shoe freak (pun intended)! So, don’t you even wear those kitten heels around the house, just for fun? I know kitten heels don’t exactly present a powerful image: Nothing called “kitten” ever could, LOL, so you certainly can’t be caught dead wearing them in public!

    That seems like such an odd question to me. It sounds like “don’t you even wear torture devices around the house, just for fun?”

    There seems to be a consensus here that high-heeled shoes have some sort of inherent beauty as objects in themselves. I just don’t see that myself, but then tastes vary.

    But if these objects are such works of art, why not put them on one of those tall white art gallery pedestals where you can look at them good and proper? You can’t see them nearly as well when they’re on your feet. And on the pedestal they can inflict neither pain nor permanent spinal injury.

  58. drumgurl

    It makes me very uncomfortable when people stare at me — both men and women. It particularly makes me uncomfortable at work.

    So whenever I wear heels, I feel that people can not only see me coming, but they can HEAR me. I hate that. I already feel like I’m under everyone’s microscope, so I don’t want to bring more attention to myself. I’m not ashamed of my sexuality or whatever, I just don’t like the feeling of not being able to walk to the bathroom without all those eyes watching and whispering.

    I’m not even shy. I like to give presentations at work, and HELLO, I play in a rock band. I guess I don’t mind the attention if I’m actually doing something — like playing a kickass solo or coming up a with a mean business idea. But to have everyone look when I’m just walking… I hate that. It makes me want to be invisible.

    It’s bad enough that women have to walk the gauntlet every day. It is a personal choice, of course, but I can’t understand walking the gauntlet in heels. Not that I think those who do are “asking for it”.

  59. Jennifer

    I don’t wear skirts to work any more (yes I have a corporate job) because there are no shoes that I can wear with them that look appropriate. Lace up shoes are the only ones that are comfortable for me. I made the mistake of wearing a skirt the other day, with the (low) pumps that go with it, and my feet were acheing by the end of the day.

  60. Burrow

    What I really hate is seeing women who have pants that are hemmed so that they require you to wear heels. Why buy these? What if you want to wear those pants without heels one day? Too bad! You can’t! (I generally end up cursing when I see this and nearby people (including friends) look at me as though I am insane. I am not, the whole idea of having pants that are too long and therefore require heels is insane.)

    (oh and shoefreak….if I ever buy heels again they will be Stuart Weitzman. He’s got some nice flats too)

  61. Joanna

    Here in Minneapolis, I just wear the same pair of snow boots for about, oh, five months. Then, come summer, I have to figure out which shoes will not give my poor tender feet blisters if i don’t wear dorky socks. The shoes that made me trip and break a bone in my foot were clogs. I’ll NEVER wear clogs with socks again…

  62. Julian Elson

    BTW, with regard to the “men find women in heels sexy because it means they can’t run away” theory, I don’t know if this has origins elsewhere, but I think that it’s most famously attributed to the decidedly non-feminist evo-psych fan and law and economics guru Judge Richard Posner.

  63. Nancymc

    BTW, with regard to the “men find women in heels sexy because it means they can’t run away” theory, I don’t know if this has origins elsewhere, but I think that it’s most famously attributed to the decidedly non-feminist evo-psych fan and law and economics guru Judge Richard Posner.

    But just because an ev-psych says something doesn’t automatically make it wrong, as counter-intuitive as that sounds.

    I don’t think it’s literally “can’t run away” but more about making women look dainty and vulnerable and non-threatening and “kept.”. But unlike an ev-psych I don’t think there’s any evidence that this is a built-in requirement for male arousal. Like Chinese foot-binding it is strictly a custom designed to please the Patriarchy.

    And someone previously noted here that men used to wear heels – this was of course to indicate that the wearer didn’t have to travel for practical work-related reasons, but was of the leisure class, literally above the mud that everybody else had to walk in – before the wide use of concrete (pre-20th century) you couldn’t do much outdoor walking in heels.

    Once industrialization hit, only the wives of the monied classes were blatantly devoted to leisure – to show a man was rich enough to keep a fashion-doll wife who didn’t have to do strenuous work but could hobble around all day on tippy toes.

    Old attitudes die hard. The high heel “looks good” because it’s long been considered something that a “lady” wears. It looks good because it was traditionally associated with wealth.

    Just as plumpness once looked good, because it was assocated with wealth, and now thinness is beautiful because it is associated with wealth. It’s all about wealth and class people – which is inexorably tied in with the ubiquitous Patriarchy, but of course.

  64. Julian Elson

    It wasn’t my intention to claim something like “Posner claims heels are sexy because they make women look vulnerable –> Posner’s an naïve evo-psych/law & econ pusher –> the “heels are sexy because they make a woman look vulnerable” theory is wrong.” Personally, I have no idea about how right it is: I was just responding to Shoefreak’s “As to why (many) men love heels . . . I don’t believe it’s because it makes us “vulnerable,” I don’t know who made that up, but it seems to be the feminist story and I guess we’re gonna have ta stick with it.” She doesn’t know who made that up, and neither do I, but I was just pointing out that Posner’s the most famous person to espouse the view, and he might be the one who made it up.

  65. Ledasmom

    It irritates the hell out of me that most shoes – sneakers, dress shoes, boots, everything – have an elevated heel. What’s even more bizarre is that most people don’t notice this – just because it’s not a dress pump, they can’t see that the damn heel is higher than the toe. “No, it’s a flat! There’s no heel!” Argggghhh. I did know one woman in college who couldn’t wear flats – something to do with the Achilles tendon. I don’t think arch height has much to do, in general, with the comfort of heels versus flats, as my arches are high enough that the foot doesn’t touch the ground from one side to the other and I prefer, when possible, barefoot. Barring that, hiking sandals, until the weather gets too cold for even two pairs of socks under the sandals to be warm enough, and then snow boots. I admit to not understanding arch support and why it should be necessary for a healthy foot. The arch is supposed to flex and compress, isn’t it?

  66. shoefreak

    Teenagecatgirl, do I think “leg men” are into bestiality? Not necessarily, ALTHOUGH – – I do find them to be more bestial than the other type. HM. Interesting question.

  67. shoefreak

    oh and NancyMC, Twisty’s lovely D&G’s are probably very comfortable, and they have low heels, so they are not torture devices; they’re just too femme for the look Twisty is going for these days ;-)

  68. NancyMc

    OK, well I freely admit I’m a shoe ignoramus and have no idea exactly how high “kitten heels” are, but the name makes them sound uncomfortable and vulnerable. By some miracle I do know that D&G stands for Dolce & Gabbana, so I guess I could look them up, but I’ll take your word about them.

    I’m not a big fan of fashion obsession, mainly because while men can be clueless about fashion and designers and all that and still be considered a person in society’s good standing, a regular guy, women are obliged to know about that shit or be considered a big ole freak, not a regular gal like the pointy stiletto chicks on Sex in the City.

    But if it wasn’t for the Patriarchy….

  69. zuzu

    Plus I have my mother’s feet — brutally deformed from wearing high-heeled, narrow-toed shoes during her twenties — to warn me off.

    Mine too. God, those feet were horrifying. Her nails had turned into claws from having been compressed and squashed together. Bunions and hammertoes on top of it all.

    Ledasmom, let me tell you that arch support is very important, particularly for the flat-footed. I have flexible arches, which means that I have a normal arch that flattens when I put weight on it. Your arch is supposed to flex, but it also has to support your body weight.

    What happens to me when I do not support my arches is that my plantar fascia — a tendon that runs up the sole of the foot all the way up the leg — gets little tears in it over the course of the day. Those tears heal up at night, but since the foot is in a pointed rather than flexed position while you sleep, the fascia is shorter. Which means that when you stand up in the morning, your foot flexes and the healed bits both resist stretching and tear anew. Which means pain and tightness on the sole of the foot and a feeling much like walking on cobblestones.

    Since I do enjoy walking without pain, I need to wear shoes that can accommodate an arch support. Except in summer, when the need to have feet that are not hot outweighs the pain thing. OTOH, by the time I put my sandals away for the fall, my ankle is usually a bit sprained because it did a lot of wobbling as my archless foot moved around trying to find its center.

  70. Ledasmom

    I accept that arch support is necessary for some people, but for everyone? We’ve been walking upright since long before we were Homo sapiens, for heavens’ sake. Surely the average foot is not so dysfunctional that it can’t provide at least forty years of decent service?
    Of course, there really isn’t such a thing as a shoe that actually supports my arch, so what do I know?

  71. larkspur

    I am totally and exclusively about comfort in regard to my own feet. That means, primarily, no pointy toes. I mean, OW. I wouldn’t rule out a lowish heel, but I’d never do stilettos or super high heels. (Because I currently have NO MONEY, I am spared any shopping dilemmas. Yay me.)

    However, I have some good friends who like their girl-shoes, and they’ve ‘splained to me that a carefully chosen pointy-toe shoe *can* be comfy if it’s built right. And I used to know a woman who worked at Nordstrom as a personal shopper. She always brought at least three pairs of shoes to work with her, each with a different heel height. She’d switch off throughout the day, and she said that most of the time she was comfortable.

    As for cultural significance, I think there’s some truth to what all of the commenters have said. Another component of high-heel-wearing is similar to make-up wearing (not to mention other grooming rituals): it says “Okay, here’s what I’m willing to do for the patriarchy. Here’s the evidence of my willingness to spend time and money, and to endure discomfort and inconvenience, in order to be an acceptable feminine-type woman.”

    Obviously, that’s not all it says, and obviously even though it *can* say that, it doesn’t follow that a woman must not wear cosmetics and must disavow girl-shoes if she wants to be a Genuine Woman-Identified Woman. Feh. I don’t want to substitute a different orthodoxy. I just want the same old thing we all want – the right to choose.

    Usually I choose running shoes, a little eye-shadow (because my eyelids look weirdly bald otherwise) and strategically applied concealer. I have 1,000,000 tubes of lipstick in a big woven basket on my dresser, and not one single shade looks good on me. (Some, if not most, are probably rancid now – see above re No Money: these are old lipsticks – but I can’t bring myself to toss them. I want to make them into some kind of bandolier, or possibly a chandelier.)

  72. innocentbystander

    Not just shoes and other accessories that show, but what about underwear? Not bras especially but underpants, “panties” their manufacture and sale?
    Why are women’s underpants flimsy, lacy, tiny, often see-through, cheaply made to fall apart faster than men’s but often costing lots more? If women are wearing high heels for men who are they wearing theri underpants for? That is, assuming they are wearing some.
    Check prices of men and women’s underwear and tee shirts, etc. in catalogs and both price and materials are better in the men’s section. Why?
    This is not the stiletto heel, garter belt, lacy-wacy stuff of the Victoria’s Secret crowd. But for those already wearing comfortable, not-all-that-stylish shoes, what about the patriarchal nature of underpants?

  73. zuzu

    Arch support probably wouldn’t be necessary if we allowed our feet to develop naturally by never wearing shoes.

  74. Chris Clarke

    Arch support probably wouldn’t be necessary if we allowed our feet to develop naturally by never wearing shoes.

    Because every naturally occurring process or condition is not only benign but incapable of being augmented by technology. Which is why menstrual cramps don’t exist. Or at least they wouldn’t exist if y’all would stop taking Midol. And that so-called “corrective lenses” industry? Superstition-peddling quacks. Free yourself of those contact lenses and get out on that freeway!

  75. Rana

    zuzu — the worst thing about my mother’s feet is how horribly self-conscious she is about them. I didn’t think much about them one way or the other when I was a kid (though I now deeply regret the times my brother and I teased her about her “ugly” (comfortable) shoes). Now, I look at them and I feel pity and tenderness and rage — they are my mother’s feet, they have been hurt and continue to hurt her, and this upsets me.

  76. Miranda

    A fellow patriarchy-blamer sent me this link with some of the most bizarre footwear I have ever seen. I, being rather unclever, am speechless. You and the many other way more erudite posters here could better do this foot nighmare justice.

  77. Twisty

    Yipes. Stainless steel 7″ heels are nearly the pinnacle of sartorial violence. One wonders why they neglected to include razor blades on the insole.

  78. Ledasmom

    I don’t think the stainless heels are nearly as disturbing as the woman in the non-metal shoe section who is apparently having sex with a motorcycle.

  79. Kerri aka Imelda

    I have recently freed myself of my shoe fetish. Shrinking my shoe collection to 10 pairs of shoes. What brought about this tranformation? Pregancy and motherhood. While pregnant the only shoes I could wear comfortably were Birkenstocks and when those became unbearable I switched to scuffs or for those of the southern persuasion “House shoes”.
    After birth of “Especially gifted angel genius”, I could not generate any interest in shoes which could not be worn with a 40 lb pack on your back.
    I blame the patriarchy.

  80. shoefreak

    Awwwww, that’s just sleep deprivation talkin.’ I remember those days! As soon as the angel genius is self-maintaining you’ll be lusting again, for shoes and . . . well, other things, too! ;-) Your tastes might change though, so it’s just as well that you got rid of your old ones, makes more room for the new ones, LOL . . .

    My ex used to call me Imelda too . . .

  1. Dru Blood - I believe in the inherent goodness of all beings

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