Archive for February 24th, 2008

February 24, 2008


(a post for Teleute)

There’s a post on Feministe about high heeled shoes (apparently some scientist somewhere has proved that they’re ‘good’ for you) and in the comments there’s (inevitably, I suppose) a debate on beauty rituals in general and the extent to which those of us who comment on such an issue pander to the patriarchy in our personal lives.

My own relationship with high heels began relatively recently and is really quite odd.

In many ways, I am completely brainwashed by socially received messages about how I’m supposed to look. I wax most of the visible parts of my body. Without putting huge amounts of effort into how I look (the patriarchy quails in the face of my awesome laziness!) I do try to wear things that flatter and so forth. I agonise over my excess weight. And yes, I do like the way my legs look in stilettos.

But here’s the thing. All my life I’ve been fed the idea that women are supposed to be small and finely built (and most of the time I would love to be small and finely built) and dainty and lightweight enough to be swept up into the strong manly arms of tall men (who would spend a lot of their time looking down adoringly at me).

I’m 5’8”. That isn’t tall enough to be particularly remarkable, but it’s still pretty tall. I can’t find any reliable statistics on the average height of the Indian man, but 5’8” seems to be widely accepted by random commenters on the internet (this guy says 5’6” but I suspect those stats are outdated). My point being, I’m about as tall as or taller than the majority of the men I meet. Plus there’s that weight thing again that further keeps me from ever being seen as diminutive. It is actually, physically impossible for me to ever fit this absurd notion I retain of what women *should* be. Which is really not fun; even when one is a brilliant, witty feminist who can see through this rubbish, it’s still deeply ingrained rubbish.

But there are high heels. And I don’t know if I’m just rationalizing all this after the fact because I like the way my legs look in stilettos, but when I’m wearing heels* and I’m taller than everyone, I don’t feel like I’m failing at being What Women Should Be. I feel like I’ve deliberately moved out of that narrow little system and am something alien and other and it’s a good feeling.

*I’m speaking as a person who has the luxury of not being expected to wear high heels regularly or even often. Some of the comments on the Feministe thread about what frequently wearing heels can do to your body are rather terrifying. My heels are wielded maybe once a month.