“Oh, you must have one more pair …”
“No, not one more pair…Well, we have the cruel shoes, but no one would want…”
Anna interrupted, “Oh yes, let me see the cruel shoes!”
—Steve Martin, The Cruel Shoes
In the span of about two months, my footwear tried to kill me. My ordeal began when I spotted these very pretty sandals at Urban Outfitters maybe three or four months ago. They were strappy, inexpensive, and, I thought, made me look graceful and elegant.
The first mishap took place the morning of my sister’s graduation. I was rushing down the T steps of the Alewife station in Cambridge, and fell, scraping the skin off the tops of my toes in the process. I got up, and a minute later when the train came, rushed aboard with my parents. A few seconds later, I passed out in my seat, and awoke to my very worried mother calling my name.
The second accident was two days ago in Albany. I was walking down the steps of a restaurant, about to get on a bus bound for Boston, when I tripped again. Because I was wearing shorts, this time I scrapped the skin off my knees. I now look like a third-grader who got into a bike accident. Classy, right? And elegant.
But aside from sharing a few episodes of gracelessness, I have a larger point to make about the quality of women’s footwear (or lack thereof). One website, Women’s Issues Then & Now: A Feminist Issue of the Past 2 Centuries, blithely asserts that women have a myriad of shoes to choose from, as diverse as they are, in contrast to the Victorian era. True, women today are free to wear (gasp!) sneakers in a variety of setting, including, of course, the gym. But how many corporate settings are going to tolerate them for eight to ten hours per day? How many women are going to wear them on an interview? Or on a date?
As noted feminist George Carlin opines in When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops, “High heels. High heels that damage a woman’s feet, ankles and knees, but make her ass and legs look great, so how can you blame a guy for the occasional rape?”
The man has a point. In an article evocatively titled “High heel horrors! The hidden cost to your body of those crucial extra inches,” from a 2008 edition of the The Daily Mail, argues that there are health risks posed by heels. But the insidiousness hardly stops there. As author Pat Hagan notes, “High heels first became popular in the form of stilettos in the Thirties, but while heels used to be largely ‘special occasion’ wear, thanks to the success of shows like ‘Sex and the City,’ they have become de rigueur for every day.” I told you that franchise was evil…
No one is forcing women to wear heels. But fashion choices — from burqas to bikinis to fuck-me pumps — are rarely made in a vacuum.
And in case you were wondering about my own ill-thought out purchase, I simply threw them away. Giving them to Salvation Army would have been the opposite of charity.