shoes!

Pandagon has an article about high-heels, and I’ve got to say I very much agree that this is a severely under-discussed issue. Especially the point about how shaving and make-up are freely and commonly decried, despite the fact that neither poses even remotely the same health-hazard high-heeled shoes do.

Especially nasty in this context is that apparently a lot of workplaces have high-heels as part of the dress-code, either directly or indirectly (i.e. the dress-code says “professional and elegant”, but the only soe that would pass that muster would be a heeled one). I guess I’ve been lucky that so far, that shit hasn’t been a problem. I do know what a massive pain in the ass that would be, though, because for 6 months I wore heels voluntarily to work, because the dress-code said “elegant”, and the only thing even close to that that I already had was a pair of winter boots with 2-inch heels, and I refused to buy new shoes for a minimum-wage job that I knew I was only going to have for a few months. For that reason, I was pretty frustrated when I read (via that thread on pandagon) an attempt by some unions in the U.K. to pass a motion that would make it possible for women in jobs where heels would be a health-hazard (i.e. those that involve lots of standing and/or walking around) to opt out of heels. It sparked a shitload of controversy and headlines along the lines of “unions want to ban high-heels”; which, as far as I can tell, wasn’t the case at all. Fucking frustrating that it fell flat, and now health-damaging dress-codes continue on. And feminists don’t even talk about this issue, so it’s not likely that another such attempt will be made anytime soon, nevermind succeed.

If I ever end up having to take an office job, I will move back to the PNW, since people there even to to the opera in jeans, fleece, and sandals. I don’t remember what the dress-codes in Germany are… my mom works in IT so they don’t have a dress-code at all, and I don’t know what my aunts wear to work. I shall have to ask my cousin when I get back, to ask if the women in the banking industry wear heels… maybe he’s been staring at their legs often and long enough to remember.

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22 comments on “shoes!

  1. David Marjanović says:

    So I went over to Pandagon (first time ever), read the article there, noticed I can’t comment, and noticed that copying & pasting is not an option either – as soon as I drag the cursor over the text, the screen jumps to the top of the page, and everything up to there is highlighted.

    Anyway, it says there: “Neither she nor I am denying that high heels are sexy or fun to wear.”

    I absolutely deny that they’re sexy. The 19th century is over, I don’t get any hormonal reaction at the sight of *gasp* a lady’s ankle. As a rule of thumb, all I react to would be covered by a sleeveless minidress, and I have little reason to assume that’s just me. (It’s therefore unlikely that your cousin knows by heart what shoes his colleagues wear; he may well have stared at their legs, but at the other end. He might be able to tell you exactly where each one’s skirt ends.)

    That takes the only reason away that I can imagine for why high heels could be “fun to wear”. Anything that hurts is ipso facto not fun to wear if it doesn’t at least come with that kind of advantage.

    And all this together makes it even more mysterious why high heels aren’t a bigger topic in feminism.

    Is there a general cultural expectation that to wear “beautiful clothes” inevitably comes with suffering? I think so, but then I have unusually sensitive skin, so maybe it’s just me…

    people there even to to the opera in jeans, fleece, and sandals

    That’s spreading. Over here, few people go to the theater in such clothes, but those that do aren’t thrown out or harrassed; assuming I paid enough attention the very few times I’ve been there, they don’t even get strange looks.

  2. Kausik Datta says:

    Looking at your title of today’s post in my RSS reader, I was suddenly afraid that you’ve turned into that Empress of Blah, Isis. Then I read it, and sanity prevailed. I admit that I have never understood the lure of the high heel, given that it is most certainly a health hazard – even the non-stilleto high platform heels. I find the concept very close to the repugnant foot-binding practice in ancient China.

  3. Jadehawk says:

    David, high-heels are a cultural fetish, so yes, they’re “sexy”. Have you ever read writings by the extremist sex-after-wedding-only people who don’t even kiss? They sometimes proudly write about how mere handholding can turn them on. They present it as a sort of virtue (you know, as opposed to us desensitized, hedonistic sex-junkies who need to do horribly icky things just to get turned on), but all it is is mentally connecting something with sex, and then internalizing the connection.

    I wouldn’t imagine someone who doesn’t take any clues from society at all to find heels sexy (unless they developed a foot fetish independently, and efen then they might prefer non-damaged feet), but in society as a whole, yes, high-heels are considered sexy.

    And men do notice. I forgot to link to these things in the article, but here are some examples of men noticing:
    from slacktivist’s deconstruction of the Left Behind series: Verna, the uppity woman in “sensible shoes”
    from some Canadian Conservative: Conservative women are sexier because all their shoes have 3-inch-heels
    There’s also a fuckton of articles by d00dz hating on flip-flops because they make women ugly; I read an article once from a dude comparing the noise high-heels make (sexy) to the noise flip-flops make (gross) when women walk in them. Not that flip-flops are much healthier, but they’re voluntary masochism, as opposed to high-heels which are society-enforced sadism

  4. Jadehawk says:

    KD, I was kinda thinking about Isis when I chose the title. She’s the poster-child of feminists who don’t care about foot health; amazing, considering she’s a doctor. But then, very little makes sense about her.

  5. David Marjanović says:

    Have you ever read writings by the extremist sex-after-wedding-only people who don’t even kiss?

    Nope. Fortunately, I haven’t needed to, because I haven’t lived in places where that mindset has visible numbers of supporters.

    Of course, those people may actually have grown up in places where the 19th century is not over. When all women around them wear prairie dresses at all times, it’s not surprising they gasp at the thought of a lady’s ankle.

    They present it as a sort of virtue (you know, as opposed to us desensitized, hedonistic sex-junkies who need to do horribly icky things just to get turned on)

    …and don’t notice the irony that they’re perpetuating the toxic culture of “thank you for not provoking my uncontrollable lust”. As soon as they’re out of a place with all-prairie-dress-all-the-time, they must be thinking of not thinking of sex all day long! TSIB.

    someone who doesn’t take any clues from society at all

    I think you caught me again X-)

    in society as a whole, yes, high-heels are considered sexy

    I’m trying to change that, one blog comment at a time. :-þ

    from slacktivist’s deconstruction of the Left Behind series: Verna, the uppity woman in “sensible shoes”

    That one leaves me scratching my head. There are three stereotypes in the culture: 1) Ladylike ladies ought to wear high heels; 2) high heels are sexy; 3) ladylike ladies are not too sexy. Together they form a nice little paradox. LaHaye & Jenkins evidently try to get out of it by flat-out denying 2), which turns Left Behind into a very, very weird example of the opposite of one of your points. I’ve never seen that before. As the slacktivist spells out, it simply doesn’t make sense that the women in “sensible shoes” are the whores in that story, while the madonnas all wear high heels.

    I’m left to wonder if they actually accept 2) (and don’t notice it’s ultimately the reason why 1) is so widespread!), but they’re not the kind of nonconformist who would say so openly, are they!?!

    a dude comparing the noise high-heels make (sexy) to the noise flip-flops make (gross) when women walk in them

    LOL! Didn’t he notice he had got cause and effect the wrong way around! :-D

    But then, very little makes sense about her.

    *clenched-tentacle salute*

  6. Jadehawk says:

    I’m left to wonder if they actually accept 2) (and don’t notice it’s ultimately the reason why 1) is so widespread!), but they’re not the kind of nonconformist who would say so openly, are they!?!

    no; you see, at least Jenkins is pretty much still a standard American Macho, who does believe women should be on display; women who don’t put themselves on display are feminists, and everybody knows feminists are whores. Keep in mind, he’s writing about his own half of the world there, i.e. the secular world, which looks more like what tha Canadian dude described: conservative women are eye-candy, liberal women are practical.

    That this clashes with LaHaye’s world is just a consequence of these being the Worlds Worst Books.

  7. Kausik Datta says:

    This article from today’s NY Times has relevance to your discussion here.

  8. Jadehawk says:

    great article, but let’s face it: any REAL feminist who would enter the political scene would just be bludgeoned into nonexistence; certainly she wouldn’t be able to achieve vice-presidential-candidate status. The reason the pseudo-feminists around Palin can do this is because they don’t actually do anything to endanger the Patriarchy as-is, so it lets them be.

    Not that I don’t think the U.S. desperately needs real feminist politicians, but that, at the moment, will be only possible on local levels. It will tke a long time before these women would be able to fight their way thru the resentment of the conservatives (with no help from the spineless section of the liberals)

  9. Martin says:

    you know, as opposed to us desensitized, hedonistic sex-junkies who need to do horribly icky things just to get turned on

    *giggles*

    Oh, and I love women in heels, but there’s a time and place for everything I guess, and some workplaces definetely wouldn’t be it.

  10. David Marjanović says:

    who does believe women should be on display; women who don’t put themselves on display are feminists, and everybody knows feminists are whores.

    So, that’s Jenkins, and for LaHaye whores put themselves on display? And they didn’t read each other’s contributions to the same book? ~:-|

    (I’m here to learn.)

  11. Jadehawk says:

    they didn’t both write the book; LaHaye provided the “biblical” storyline, and Jenkins wrote the book. And apparently LaHaye didn’t mind what Jenkins wrote.

  12. David Marjanović says:

    …OK… I suppose there is nothing to learn here, and I have to resign to saying “TSIB”.

  13. Kausik Datta says:

    Since Martin brought up the context of the workplace, let me – with trepidation – put forth a few questions that have me confused for a little while. At my workplace, in the laboratory next door, there is a young woman who comes to work every day wearing tops that are – while doubtlessly comfortable in the summer – cut dangerously low (ahem!) in the front. The woman is quite curvaceous and attractive, and the great thing is that she is very comfortable in her clothes without a trace of self-consciousness.
    I understand that the woman is perfectly within her rights to wear any kind of clothing she wants, and that it is her business and hers alone. My questions are:
    1. Is it an appropriate attire for the workplace? Who does (or should) determine the appropriateness, and who draws the line?
    2. If she wears such an attire, is it acceptable for a man to stare (or generally enjoy the sight) without feeling guilty or vicariously misogynistic about it?
    3. If someone were to comment to her about her attire, would it be considered inherently misogynistic or anti-feministic?
    To clarify, I cast no aspersions about her as an individual. She is a fun person, obviously intelligent and a good researcher. I have had these question posed to me by other people, and I found I had no good answer for them. Hence, I ask.

  14. David Marjanović says:

    Is it an appropriate attire for the workplace?

    As long as her colleagues, you included, don’t freak out or aren’t too distracted from their work, I can’t see a problem…

    Except maybe a practical one. What kind of laboratory is it? Are substances spilled around that shouldn’t contact skin? But in that case she’d (have to) wear a lab coat anyway, wouldn’t she?

    is it acceptable for a man to stare (or generally enjoy the sight)

    Those are two different things. I can’t see anything wrong with the latter alone – but the former implies making her uncomfortable.

    If someone were to comment to her about her attire, would it be considered inherently misogynistic or anti-feministic?

    Depends, rather obviously, on what the comment is.

    If you can muster the courage to say “I can’t concentrate when I see you dressed like this, I need to focus on my work a bit more”, I can’t find anything wrong about that… :-)

  15. Kausik Datta says:

    Trust you, David, to come up with the most simple and elegant solutions! :)

    To allay your concern, I have seen her wear a lab-coat when she is working in the lab. But outside the lab, in the corridor, to and from the in-house coffee shop, in the elevator – these are different things/times altogether. But I believe you have hit upon an important distinction when you said – As long as her colleagues, you included, don’t freak out or aren’t too distracted from their work…

    Of course, whether one gets distracted from work depends a lot on one’s ability for self- or impulse-control. At the same time, these are also – to a large extent – culturally conditioned. I understand that. But my question remains. Given the context of the situation (say, in the workplace), at what point does an attire becomes unacceptable, and who determines that line? Is it simply the necessities of the type of work (e.g. as you mentioned, no open skin in areas with harsh chemicals) – which can be remedied (e.g. by wearing a lab coat), or is it also a consideration towards the sensibilities of other around you?

    On the contrary, is it at all possible to consider the sensibilities of everyone – given the diverse background of the people working in an educational institution like this?

    The same argument goes for a man also, of course. Is it okay for a man to dress with his jeans near his knees and the underwear for the world to see (very common sight here in Baltimore), and come to work like that? Would it make a difference in the man happens to be handsome and muscular and buff, and generally easy on the eye?

    Jadehawk, you listening? I am very interested to learn about a woman’s view on this.

  16. David Marjanović says:

    On the contrary, is it at all possible to consider the sensibilities of everyone –

    At the extremes, no. On the one hand, there are some really weird fetishes out there. On the other, to my great surprise, I’ve learned on Pharyngula that at least two of the female regulars find the sight of a man’s hands sexy, and that this is apparently common – that’s their problem, not mine, I’m not going to wear gloves at all times just to avoid that!

    Given the context of the situation (say, in the workplace), at what point does an attire becomes unacceptable, and who determines that line?

    The necessities of the type of work, and the people in that workplace. There is no global standard, and there shouldn’t be.

    I am very interested to learn about a woman’s view on this.

    So am I.

    The context in which I was told about the hands? That was a male-privilege thread. The issue of women “dressing provocatively” came up, and I noted that I actually have no fucking idea if I “dress (mildly) provocatively”. The concept of telling a man he’s dressing too provocatively, let alone despising him because he dresses “like a slut”, doesn’t seem to exist in Western culture. Now, does that mean it’s just a taboo for women to say anything about men (let alone wolf-whistling or the like) when they’re not seriously drunk, or does it mean men generally overdress because men’s fashion simply is less revealing and “provocative” clothes aren’t even easily available, or does it mean that women prefer to sit back and enjoy the sight in silence?

    Personally, I’m not losing any sleep over this; my attire doesn’t generate any reactions that I can notice, so I feel like everything is fine. But sometimes it would be useful to have such knowledge. :-)

  17. Paul says:

    Of course, those people may actually have grown up in places where the 19th century is not over. When all women around them wear prairie dresses at all times, it’s not surprising they gasp at the thought of a lady’s ankle.

    If you’re referring to the US as a whole, you’re perhaps right. If you’re trying to say that it’s confined to certain areas in the US that are stuck in the 19th century, not so much. You see these types of people in even the most liberal areas in the US (although most of my personal experience is in California), although they normally do most of their socializing specifically with people of their own religion (or taking trips into Watts to spread Jesus love to the poor unwashed for a day so they can feel like they’re fighting the good fight without having to actually have ongoing discussions and interactions where the flock might be led astray by nonbelievers and their relentless logic).

  18. David Marjanović says:

    If you’re referring to the US as a whole, you’re perhaps right. If you’re trying to say that it’s confined to certain areas in the US that are stuck in the 19th century, not so much.

    I specified “grown up in [such] places”. Is it still not true with that qualifier?

    (And where in California? Orange County? ;-þ )

  19. Paul says:

    Is it still not true with that qualifier?

    Well, I was rather sloppily pointing out that “those people” consist of some Americans in any place in the US, not some subset in some limited areas. Anywhere you go in America you can find Christians of the type Jadehawk described, who tell women not to wear certain things because they would become unduly aroused (like messenger bags, /sigh). If you never intended to merely apply it to a subset of places in America, I’ll agree it was true all along.

    (And where in California? Orange County? ;-þ )

    Hey, you’re good for one of those yurupeans. That is where I grew up, although I’ve seen the type in other areas as well (even in San Francisco, ffs). I had to get out of Orange County, and somehow managed to end up in the one other raging right-wing part of California by accident. If I ever move again for a job I’m researching the area first…

  20. David Marjanović says:

    messenger bags

    You’re kidding.

    I knew Orange County is the conservative place that gave us Ronald Raygun – what is “the one other raging right-wing part of California”?

  21. Paul says:

    You’re kidding.

    Not in the least. They emphasize the breasts, you know.

    I knew Orange County is the conservative place that gave us Ronald Raygun – what is “the one other raging right-wing part of California”?

    Central Coast area. I wish I had noted Zeno’s posts about the area before moving here…it would have at least lowered expectations.

  22. David Marjanović says:

    Not in the least. They emphasize the breasts, you know.

    What a way to begin the day — by headdesking…

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