Monday, July 14, 2014

My Feminist Heels

The heels in question. With my dog photobombing.

As someone who openly and loudly identifies as a feminist to friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike, people often assume that I eschew articles of traditional femininity, such as high-heeled shoes. However, I’ve never been morally opposed to those sorts of things. I don’t believe that wearing them is an inherently anti-feminist act, or that an inherently anti-feminist act even exists.

Although I’m certainly not against the existence of heels, I have always been vocal in my personal opposition to wearing heels. Shoe shopping has never been fun for me, since I’ve always found it incredibly difficult to find comfortable shoes. I’ve tried on and discarded the entire stock of many a small, local shoe store, been reduced to tears when unable to find a single pair of flats in large corporate stores, and simply shrugged my shoulders and tried not to care when all of my friends were wearing cute shoes and I was stuck in the only overpriced pair I could find that I was able to tolerate.

Because of my own difficulty finding wearable shoes, I very strongly believe that nobody should ever wear uncomfortable footwear. What you put on your feet determines your mobility; an uncomfortable shoe can ruin an entire day, and can hold you back from accomplishing what you want to do. This is why I never even tried to put a pair of high heels on in a shoe store, and was deeply suspicious of my friends’ insistence that not every heel is uncomfortable.

This was all true until a few weeks ago, when a local shoe store was going out of business and slashed its prices drastically. I went in; I saw a cute pair of heels; I tried them on; they were comfortable. I was shocked. There had literally never been a time in my life when I had just walked into a store and liked the first pair of flats that I tried on, and I had certainly never expected to have that sort of reaction to three-inch heels. But nope. They were comfortable, quality, and bizarrely inexpensive, so I bought them.

Why did I even think to try them on, you ask? In May, my future roommates and I went to my future dorm’s end-of-the-year formal, and we had a professional photo taken together. Although I love the picture and all the people in it, I was – amused? embarrassed? – by the noticeable height disparity caused by my roommates’ heels and my flats.

When it comes to things like wearing heels, putting on make up, and engaging in other activities established and nurtured by the patriarchy and sexist beauty standards, I believe that it is important for women to do what they feel comfortable. If a woman wants to wear uncomfortable heels and spend an hour doing her make up every morning, I think it’s crazy, but if it makes her feel happy and confident, I say go for it; it’s a feminist act. Such actions would be anti-feminist, however, if a woman does it not for her own enjoyment, but because she is simply knuckling under to masculine expectations of the attractiveness and desirability of women’s bodies.

It is for this reason that I have never worn heels. I would not have enjoyed them, and only would have worn them for the benefit of others. Wearing these heels that I bought is not an anti-feminist act, though, since I have made a conscious decision that I wish to wear heels for my own purposes and have found a pair that I feel comfortable and confident in. On the contrary, I believe that they are feminist heels.

If nothing else, at least I’ll break 5’ while wearing them.

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