It is obligatory for all women to wear high-heels


Annals of Gender Policing. Anna Merlan at Jezebel reports:

The Cannes Film Festival is reportedly not allowing women into screenings if they’re wearing flat shoes.

Into screenings. It would be bad enough if it were the Top Gala Codfish Ball, but it’s screenings. People go to screenings as part of their work, as well as for entertainment and enlightenment. The Cannes Film Festival is a professional event as well as social and festive and so on.

And then there’s the issue of what high heels are, which is a form of temporary and comparatively mild foot-binding. The bones aren’t actually broken as they are in footbinding (although high heels can easily cause broken bones in the feet and anywhere else, because they’re highly unstable – that’s the whole point of them), but they are pinched and bent.

A few days ago I saw a pair of woman-man couples cross the street on their way to a wedding in a local park. The street there is pocked and lumpy, as city streets so often are. Both women looked all but disabled by the task – their posture was hunched and distorted as they picked each step carefully in their towering heels. The men of course were just walking in a normal confident manner. It creeps me out that this is just normal. I think most people consider foot-binding (if they’re aware of it) grotesque and deeply misogynist, yet high heels are a close relative of foot-binding but they’re seen as normal…and in Cannes, actively mandated.

Flatgate erupted on Twitter this week after several women were apparently turned away from a red carpet screening of Cate Blanchett’s new movie Carol because they were in the demon flats. According to Screen Daily, the screening was on a Sunday night and the women weren’t exactly wearing Keds:

Multiple guests, some older with medical conditions, were denied access to the anticipated world-premiere screening for wearing rhinestone flats.

The festival declined to comment on the matter, but did confirm that it is obligatory for all women to wear high-heels to red-carpet screenings.

That’s just sick. High heels are a body-deforming article of clothing, just as tight corsets are. Nobody should be making them obligatory for anyone.

And as Village Voice film critic Stephanie Zacharek notes, heels are always red carpet-appropriate (Full disclosure: Zacharek is a friend and former coworker, and possibly the most stylish woman in journalism).

Stephanie Zacharek ‏@szacharek
So let me get this straight: I could wear these on the red carpet at Cannes… (1/2)

Embedded image permalink

But not a gorgeous pair of Manolo Blahnik flats she shows next.

I have to say though, I would love to see someone wear those.

(And then take them off and wear a gorgeous pair of flats.)

Comments

  1. says

    There was apparently one woman who had a partially amputated foot – they gave her static for not wearing heels.

    I’m not ever likely to go to Cannes, but if I did I’d see if I could rock a pair of 6″ platform heels on my great big guy-feet. Maybe with LEDs in ’em.

  2. xyz says

    YIKES! The ableism is particularly odious to me. Elders with medical issues were refused for wearing flat shoes? That’s horrible, just horrible.

    A few years back I had a foot injury that had me spending lots of time in the podiatrist’s office, chatting with other people who also had foot problems and looking at a big skeletal chart in the waiting room which depicted various foot problems. I learned a lot about what heels can do to your feet on a structural level. I met women, some of them only in their 30s and 40s, who were getting surgery to ameliorate the bone spurs, hammer toes and bunions caused or exacerbated by feminine shoe styles – not just high heels even, but flimsy, unsupportive ballet flats and such, too. A few of these women would have to spend weeks in the hospital recuperating before they could get back on their feet. And of course, so many of us had sprained ankles, torn ligaments or broken bones partly caused by unsupportive footwear. It was an eye-opening couple of months. I proceeded to spend the next year wearing combat boots and Birkenstocks only. I was so terrified of the foot deformations I’d witnessed. I swore to be kinder to my feet.

    Have I stopped wearing high heels? Not entirely, actually. But I don’t think they should be required footwear in any context. Let’s face it, an older Parisian woman who chooses rhinestone flats? She may well have stumbled down cobblestone streets one too many times, taken a serious fall, or had to have her feet cut open to shave away bone spurs due to glamorous shoes. Whether she physically can’t wear heels or can’t be arsed to do so, let her have her flats. And let us younger women avoid unnecessary foot pain, too!

  3. Jean says

    I see that Denis Villleneuve and the cast of Sicario (which is in the running for the Palme D’or) will protest against this.

  4. Jenora Feuer says

    I would think one obvious response to this would be to have a woman walk in to a film she was involved with (as actor, director, producer, whatever) wearing flats. Are the fashion police really going to keep a director from attending her own movie screening?

    Granted, by this point it’s already all over the news, so it would take active work for Cannes to make this any worse.

  5. yazikus says

    Ugh. I support women who want to wear heels, but to mandate it? Utter bullshit. I wore heels a lot when I was young, and then had a number of years where I didn’t. My feet loved it. When I decided to try to start wearing them again? My feet hated it! They hurt!

  6. says

    What does it mean to “support women who want to wear heels”? Are such women under attack?

    I probably wouldn’t personally hassle a woman who was wearing heels, because that would be intrusive and rude, but do I have to support her (and her wearing of heels)? I don’t want to, because I think it would be better if women stopped wearing them, just as it was better when foot-binding stopped in China.

    I know we’re all supposed to agree that it’s a “choice” and that no choice can be criticized, but if we can’t criticize choices there is no feminism.

  7. John Morales says

    Ophelia @7,

    I know we’re all supposed to agree that it’s a “choice” and that no choice can be criticized, but if we can’t criticize choices there is no feminism.

    There’s a clear difference between personal choice and circumstantial necessity, and I can’t think of a good reason to criticise the former if the wearer is sufficiently informed*.

    What does it mean to “support women who want to wear heels”? Are such women under attack?

    I think they are from those who argue that they necessarily do a bad thing if they wear heels, regardless of circumstances.

    * and obviously, compos mentis.

  8. xyz says

    We can’t have feminism without criticizing choices? Seems you managed to make an effective feminist point about criticizing compulsory high heels rather than anyone’s choices. But ok, sure, cling onto those foot-binding comparisons cause we all know noone is capable of comprehending Thing 1 without sloppy analogies to Thing 2. It’s all just 2feminist4me I suppose. Bye.

  9. Barb B. says

    I can’t think of a single circumstance where high heals be considered “the right thing”, as opposed to just a thing.

    They are male-created fashion that act as modern mild form of foot binding, and are disabling when worn, restricting walking and make running impossible, and can disable feet, joints and backs permanently, over time.

  10. John Morales says

    Barb,

    I can’t think of a single circumstance where high heals be considered “the right thing”, as opposed to just a thing.

    Exactly. Sometimes, they are just a thing.

    They are male-created fashion that act as modern mild form of foot binding, and are disabling when worn, restricting walking and make running impossible, and can disable feet, joints and backs permanently, over time.

    Stilettoes, maybe; high heels in general, no.

  11. iknklast says

    John Morales – you don’t think ordinary high heels restrict walking and make running impossible? Have you ever worn them? My experience is that they slow you down, make walking much more difficult, and are prone to get stuck in tiny unseen holes in carpeting, pitching you headfirst into whatever happens to be in front of you. And yes, they can disable feet, joints, and backs if worn over time, even if they are not stilettos.

    One exception might be the wedgie – I’m not sure about them, since I never wore those.

  12. yazikus says

    Ophelia,

    By support I mean that I will not hold it against a person if they choose to wear heels. I get what you mean about criticizing choices. I feel much the same way about leg-shaving and makeup wearing.

    As for the discussion on heels, not all are equally terrible. A low, thick heel of a well made shoe may not inhibit movement, especially if the wearer has practice. My favorite shoes are clogs, which have a ‘heel’, so to speak, but are excellent, comfortable and dare I say stylish as well? I guess that is the PNW in me- letting a conversation about heels drift to clogs.

  13. John Morales says

    iknklast, what I think is that if the wearer is aware of all that and still chooses to wear such, it’s their prerogative.

    I too think that the reason is for this ridiculous restriction is probably the cultural expectation of what being “dressed up” entails for a woman.

    (FWIW, I consider fashion itself to be a ridiculous conceit, never mind its particular manifestations)

  14. says

    I have a bone deformity in both of my heels called Haglund’s Deformity, but it is commonly referred to as “pump bump” because it often is the result of that kind of shoe, or other kinds of shoes that impinge on the place where the achilles tendon meets the heel bone.

    It flares up and causes me to be unable to walk for days at a time – it became worse after I broke my ankle, and about 2 years ago I spent almost three months unable to even make meals for myself, had to crawl to the bathroom, etc.

    The “fix” is surgery to detach the Achilles tendon from the heel bone, cut out a large wedge of bone, and then reattach the tendon. Recovery time is 18 months to 2 years during which you will not be walking normally. THEN – they do the OTHER foot… and the surgery results are spotty at best, some people never fully recover, and in some the relief is temporary.

    No idea, in my case, what caused it… but when a disability this severe is most commonly known by the name of a style of shoe – women’s shoes – that tells you something and it’s not good.

  15. angharad says

    John Morales @ 14:

    I would think that was because high heels are decorative and men stopped wearing them around the time they stopped wearing decorative clothing more generally. In particular, around the time of the Regency there was a significant simplification in both men and women’s clothing styles (compared to the 18th century) and they both started wearing flat shoes around then. Women began wearing heels again in the later Victorian period (around the time they started wearing bustles) but men’s clothing and footwear remained relatively simple.

    I have always liked wearing heels when I know I don’t have to do a lot of walking or other sorts of vigorous activity, but a series of ankle and knee injuries recently have caused me to give them up. Were those injuries related to wearing heels? Not 100%, but not 0% either…

  16. John Morales says

    Jafafa, I am sorry to hear about your experience, and I wish to confirm that I have read you, as well as perhaps reassure you that I don’t dispute its truthfulness.

    However:

    You’re wrong here.

    I do tend to be pedantic and literal, so be aware I you quoted me responding to Barb’s contention that “They are male-created fashion that act as modern mild form of foot binding, and are disabling when worn, restricting walking and make running impossible, and can disable feet, joints and backs permanently, over time.” and wrote “in general”, I was addressing the general claim consisting of the conjunction of both clauses (my emphasis on the conjunctive).

  17. John Morales says

    Um. Sorry Jafafa, I just realised I’m arguing in the abstract about real things.

    (I shan’t comment further on this thread)

  18. Silentbob says

    Where I live — an area with a lot of nightlife, nightclubs, etc. — it’s not unusual, on a Friday or Saturday night, to see young women walking down the street barefoot carrying their shoes. The damned things are so impractical they have to take them off to walk from A to B, and slip them on when they get to whatever venue they’re going to.

    I kid you not.

  19. yazikus says

    I kid you not.

    Drunken walks home aside, how about the bank tellers in my town, who I see trucking to work in their heels, only to find them barefoot behind the counter when I go in to do business. I’m quite sure it is an unwritten rule that the tellers present themselves in a traditionally western feminine way (aka- heels, prom hair and a skirt) but doing their job requires many hours on their poor beleaguered feet.

  20. chigau (違う) says

    John Morales #20

    I just realised I’m arguing in the abstract about real things.

    Oh, John Morales.
    Oh, good.

  21. Silentbob says

    @ 13 John Morales

    (FWIW, I consider fashion itself to be a ridiculous conceit, never mind its particular manifestations)

    I’m no fashionista myself, but I think that’s too dismissive. I agree with Greta that for many people fashion can be a form of self-expression. No more a ridiculous conceit then than, say, rapping.

  22. Silentbob says

    @ 22 yazikus

    Nah, I wasn’t even talking about drunken walks home. I mean like at 8 o’clock at night, heading out to a nightclub. They carry their shoes to the club and slip them on at the door. It’s bizarre.

  23. chigau (違う) says

    Silentbob
    On another hand, I wear cheap sneakers on the airplane and
    put on my steel-toes when I get to the job-site.

  24. latsot says

    To her credit, the BBC Newsreader Naga Munchetty was *outraged* by this story. She was practically speechless. It was a pleasure to watch. I think we need to see a lot more of newsreaders getting mad at the news.

  25. says

    yazikus @ 13 – ah, in that sense so do I.

    [thinks]

    Or do I. Yes and no, I guess – because ideally, they would just stop being The Custom, and the more women go on wearing them, the less that’s going to happen. Again, it’s like foot-binding (and FGM) – it was The Custom, it was mothers who bound their daughters’ feet (because it was The Custom). The more women who wear them, the less easy it is for other women to refuse (cf what happened in Cannes). It’s the same with hijab – when most women are wearing it, it becomes very difficult for girls and women who don’t want to wear it.

    But at the same time it’s none of my business what other people wear etc etc.

  26. says

    I get why people like them. It’s the same reason people like ballet, and en pointe most of all – it makes a very graceful delicate pretty look – plus it looks sexy, hawt, all that. But then that’s why people liked bound feet, too.

  27. johnthedrunkard says

    I’m used to seeing commute trains full of women in ‘running’ shoes, who’ll pull out the heels before entering their workplace. Like passengers on a jet to Ryadh, pulling niqabs over themselves before landing.

    Its one thing for heels to be so normalized that their absence draws attention. But by what process did anyone decide to make a rule REQUIRING them? And if such a rule has been in place, how many other choices are ‘haram’ in Cannes? Is there a checklist?
    Skirt length—pushup altitude–degree of waist-cinching—navel exposure…..

  28. iknklast says

    Drunken walks home aside, how about the bank tellers in my town, who I see trucking to work in their heels, only to find them barefoot behind the counter when I go in to do business

    I tried this at work. I always wear flats, and extremely comfortable shoes, but still, being on my feet all day can still make my feet hurt. I grew up on a farm, and find any shoes other than running shoes to be way more confining than the bare feet I wore my entire childhood (and even running shoes can get hot, even if not confining).

    One of my students complained about my kicking off my shoes and teaching in my stocking feet! I kid you not (to use a popular phrase here :-) ). I was breaking no school rules, but still was ordered not to teach in stocking feet because “some people have a problem with feet”. Yeah, me. I have a problem with MY feet that makes shoes uncomfortable if worn too long. And my feet weren’t showing. I had on perfectly good socks.

    Shoes are a strange thing. People have all sorts of obsessions about them.

  29. wondering says

    I used to work in home care. I supported a number of senior women who had spent most of their lives wearing heels. In addition to the medical interventions mentioned above, some of my clients had missing toes. They had to be amputated due to the damaged caused by narrow toed, high heeled shoes. Others had their leg muscles damaged so badly that wearing flats was now excruciating, but they no longer had the balance for heels.

    Tell me again that high heels are just a fashion choice that have no impact on women’s health and well-being.

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