Sunday, July 8, 2012


Heels do a lot for a woman. They elongate and thin the legs and ankles. They make a woman appear taller and more confident and "stately," and because of all of this, women wearing heels in the workplace are seen as more sophisticated and higher class. It's a status symbol. A woman wearing heels (and makeup) to a job interview is more likely to get hired than a woman who chooses to avoid dangerous footwear and slapping dirt on her face. Ironic?

What else do heels do for women?

They vastly increase pressure put on the knees and toes. With just a three inch heel, the pressure is increased up to 76%. How many women wear 4 or 5 inch heels? This increases their chance of developing a debilitating condition - osteoarthritis. And women already have a higher susceptibility to bone problems like osteoporosis. The spine is forced to readjust to the change in alignment, causing increased stress on the back, and negatively affecting posture. Since the calf muscle of a woman in heels is shortened, contracted, the muscle can remain tight even after changing footwear. Eventually, a woman who wears heels regularly may experience pain when switching to flats, or even barefoot. 

And how about those gorgeous pointy tips? You know, shoes like this one:

Where the toes are nicely crunched together? Just looks so damn comfortable doesn't it? It can cause bunions, which are bony outgrowths on the foot. That way, even if you think your foot looks oh-so-pretty in those glorified elf shoes, they're gonna look pretty destroyed once that shoe comes off, what with your toes permanently cramped together. It can even cause your toes to become bent (called hammertoes). The foot is now disfigured, regardless of footwear. 

There's even more - all of which can be seen here: On Your Feet: High Heels' Effects on the Body

So why do women continue to wear these painful and dangerous footwear? Style? Fashion? Impress the opposite sex? Many women will say they genuinely enjoy wearing them. I love the way they look! They make you feel elegant. At what price?

Years ago (but as recently as the early 1900's), the Chinese used to bind the feet of women from the time they were small children. Their feet wouldn't grow, and the smaller the foot, the more attractive the woman. It was an obviously painful process which started with breaking the arch of the foot and binding the toes to the ankle. The foot grew into itself. It was designed to make women more feminine. They were unable to walk normally - only able to shuffle along. It's believed to have been started by the upper-class, showcasing that they didn't have to work, and of course, middle and lower class began emulating that. The lower class families would bind only the foot of the eldest daughter (since the rest did have to work). 

Eventually, foot binding was outlawed. So the Chinese found a way around that. They created shoes that caused women to walk in much the same way those with bound feet did. 

I am certainly not suggesting that the feet binding practices are in any way comparable to heels, as one requires breaking the bone of a child no older than 5 while the other is a fashion choice women make on their own. What I am saying is that the idea behind the two are the same. It's designed to hold women back, to make them more feminine, and in both cases the belief was/is that they became more attractive. In both cases it causes severe strain on the body (obviously foot binding vastly more so). 

I don't expect high heels to be outlawed, or even want them to be. I think in a free country, such personal choices should not be criminal. I only draw the comparison to show that women are hurting themselves, causing bodily harm for fashion. For style, for grace, for elegance, for things that men don't need to worry about.

Men wear ties. Which are uncomfortable sure, but is there lasting harm done to the body? No. And is there anything else men are expected to do that is at all comparable to the myriad things expected of women? 

I think my legs look great in heels. I think my face looks prettier with makeup on. And so I do wear them both occasionally (once a month perhaps). So perhaps I'm a hypocrite when I talk about these things. Because every time I wear either, I'm buying into a patriarchal society that values women's beauty over women's health. 

We all are. 

I see no reason for women to put themselves at harm, while men do not. And for beauty no less. 

Health and well-being should always trump everything. Especially beauty.

No comments:

Post a Comment