Stilettos, feminist? You’re fooling yourself

Culture

23 Jun 2016

I have a pile of press cuttings about women who maim people with shoes; there have been 150 violent crimes committed with stiletto shoes since 2003, and the police fear many are unreported. I am not surprised by this — women buy shoes, and think about shoes, so why wouldn’t we blind people with shoes? Shoes, to paraphrase Harry Enfield, are part of our culture. They might be most of our culture.

I trace this trend to the mid-1990s and the moronic television show Sex and the City, which pretended to be about feminism but was really about greed and wanting to shag your daddy, because Daddy pays for the stilettos. (It means ‘little knives’ in Italian.) That Sex and the City was ever thought to be feminist was due, I think, simply to its amazing prescience in actually having women in it; I would have preferred to call it Electra Goes Shoe Shopping. It begat the worst wave of feminism, maybe even the final wave, the wave goodbye. It begat the stiletto wave.
For some reason related to stupidity, which is the only human resource that is inexhaustible, stilettos are now identified with female ‘power’. Not only do women maim men with them, you can attend self-defence classes that show you how to do it. (When mauled, you should kick them in the shin and crawl away.)
This is of course absurd. Stilettos hurt. They make fat women look like chickens and thin women look like giants; more credulous children, when faced with a stiletto, think that women’s feet are actually shaped like that. Even when I was young, and considered putting together a ‘sex uniform’ for the office, because I thought then and know now that mere competence in a woman is a disability, it never occurred to me to stick pins on the bottom of my feet and walk around on them, smiling. Stiletto shoes are a supplementary sex organ, no more. And I knew I had sex organs already. And by the time of night when you stretch out your leg and say silently, with your leg — love me, I have pins on my feet, and they are for you, I was usually already naked. There is that.

I know that in the workplace ‘sexiness’ is important, but I couldn’t play that game. I was too fearful of looking like a chicken, although I did once ask for a topless byline photograph because I am not subtle. Because it is obvious: stilettos push the pelvis up and the breasts out. Everything interesting is placed closer to the male; is there anything more to say? Except this, perhaps, to the female ‘stilettos are empowering’ lobby: walking on pins is a very transient kind of power, and I would not trust it. Have you ever tried kicking someone’s head in? And then running away in flat shoes?

So I am not surprised that some women, when pushed to a crisis, whip off the stiletto and do damage with it. If I were a psychopath who watched Sex and the City I might do the same. You look to the tools that are available.

There has been a minor, and less criminal, backlash to the stiletto epidemic; last month a woman was sent home from work for declining to wear them. She was pronounced two inches too short to exist and was cast out. Again, why not? If you can’t look in a state of pre-sexual rapture on your pin feet, the dress code of this terrible firm insisted, what are you for? What gives you the right not to incite lust in random middle managers? Other women posted photographs of their bloodied feet on the internet. The sex war, briefly, went live.

It was a transient burp of rage; after that, nothing happened. Female columnists, or saboteurs, wrote critiques of the women with bloodied feet; it was something along the lines of — you can’t wear a bikini to work, so why shouldn’t you lose a toenail. Really? No feminism without solidarity.

I do not suggest that the bloody-feet incident — or the tendency of rogue women to attack people with shoes, which I consider backwash from a generation of women who have retired, angry, with corns — is important in itself. It is a new telling of an old story: that a woman without sexual possibilities, here expressed by pin feet, or a woman who is not in pain, is unacceptable.

I could admire the honesty of that position but little else. Because — how to put this? — I meet ugly men all the time. I do not resent, I do not judge and I do not care what they wear on their feet, as long as I do not have to engage with their toes. But no one cares what I think, because my feet look normal.


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