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Commentary: Burning bras, still wearing heels: Feminism's unfinished work
Published on January 17, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Anthony L Hall

High heels have long been seen as a key hallmark of womanhood, a symbol of sophistication that sets women apart from men and signals a female’s sense of style and grace.

(Huffington Post, January 12, 2014)

Only a willing suspension of common sense explains why women do the things they do to look beautiful. And only this suspension explains why they will find nothing insulting or contradictory in the Huffington Post hailing high heels as the “hallmark of womanhood;” and then quoting sophisticated, stylish, and graceful women complaining about how stupid, degrading, and painful wearing them is:

‘[Please let my daughter] not have to wear high heels.’ -- Tina Fey

‘Satan’s shoes.’ -- Jennifer Lawrence

‘When I’m wearing heels at events, my feet feel like they’re sitting in pools of blood.’ -- Elizabeth Olsen

Imagine the liberated Tina Fey pleading, like a 1950s housewife, for her daughter to be spared the beauty imperative of adorning herself in a traditional prop that doesn’t just objectify but injure women. And, incidentally, this would be laughable if it were not so pitiable.

In any event, these quotes clearly show how much work feminism has left to do. After all, despite their protestations, all of these women still wear high heels.

The desire to be beautiful is as old as civilization, as is the pain that it can cause. In his autobiography, Charles Darwin noted a ‘universal passion for adornment,’ often involving ‘wonderfully great’ suffering.

(“Pots of Promise,” The Economist, May 22, 2003)

In other words, when it comes to the pursuit of beauty, women are no more evolved than Neanderthal men….

But it’s the liberated Emma Thompson who has begun the twenty-first century equivalent of burning bras. She did it before a relatively small audience at the National Board of Review awards last week when she ended her acceptance speech for the Best Actress award with this clarion call:

I’ve taken my heels off as a feminist statement really, because why do we wear them? They’re so painful and pointless, really. You know, I really would like to urge everyone to stop it … don’t wear them anymore.

(Vanity Fair, January 8, 2014)

She continued her one-woman crusade on Sunday night when she provided “the best moment” of the Golden Globes by prancing onstage barefoot, holding a martini in one hand and her Christian Louboutin high heels, like a stylistic ball and chain, in the other. She then made quite a show of tossing aside her heels before presenting the award for Best Screenplay.

Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian who descends from the Turks and Caicos Islands. He is an international lawyer and political consultant - headquartered in Washington DC - who also publishes a current events weblog, The iPINIONS Journal, at
Unfortunately, she gave the infinitely larger audience tuning in the impression that she was just performing a drunken gag.

In point of fact, her feminist statement about high heels would’ve been far more effective on this occasion if she had sauntered gracefully onstage in sensible shoes. Then she could have dared the trendsetters and arbiters of style to declare whether high heels would have, or could have, made her look any more beautiful.

Nonetheless, tossing aside high heels, as Thompson did, will cure one of the many physical and psychological wounds women are still inflicting upon themselves for the sake of beauty. Never mind the distressing irony that the “second wave” of the feminist movement way back in the 1960s was supposed to inoculate women against all such wounds for all eternity.

Even worse, though, is the self-subjugating irony inherent in liberated women (as opposed to traditional patriarchy) now perpetuating this fatuous notion that high heels are a key hallmark of womanhood, etc.

After all, I can personally attest that (heterosexual) men would have no difficulty determining if a woman is attractive -- complete with nice tits and ass -- even if she’s strutting her stuff in flip flops (i.e., instead of teetering along in high heels).

But you don’t have to take my word, because here’s the finding of a seminal study by experts at Northumbria University, which the September 21, 2010 edition of the Daily Mail reported under the instructive headline, “Don’t Bother with the High Heels Ladies, Men Don’t Even Notice:”

Women who hope a pair of killer heels will help them attract a man are wasting their time, it is claimed… Obsession with high-heels could be pointless as research shows it makes no difference to attractiveness.

What’s more, I hope it’s not betraying some unwritten man code of secrecy to inform women that, far from enhancing their beauty, sophistication, style, and grace, high heels only make them look more like parading sex objects for the few men who actually notice them.

That said, I would be remiss not to decry the makeup tips/tricks and cosmetic nips/tucks that have created pandemic illusions of beauty, which airbrushed images and fake boobs blithely propagate.

In fact, women have become such junkies for beauty products that beauty cartels are now padding their $160 billion-a-year in revenues by manufacturing “beauty pills.” And, sadly enough, they are selling like crack cocaine; no doubt because the cartels have hired natural beauties like actress Jessica Biel and supermodel Christy Turlington as high-paid peddlers.

Surely, if handsome George Clooney were peddling “handsome pills,” we would deride him as a snake oil salesman and the men who bought them as pathetic fools. Shouldn’t we deride beautiful women who peddle beauty pills and the women who buy them in similar fashion?

But, before I digress too much, I shall end by reprising this remonstration on makeup in solidarity with Thompson’s on high heels:

Every few months or so some tabloid publishes images of celebrity women ‘caught’ in public without their makeup.

The implied notion is that a woman walking around without makeup provides as much fodder for ridicule and shame as one walking around with a trail of toilet paper hanging from her panties. And, regrettably, the mocking crowd (of mostly liberated women deriving guilty pleasure) who buy these tabloids never fail to affirm this notion.

Is this what the feminist tome, Our Bodies, Ourselves, has wrought…?

(“PSA: Unmask Your Woman Before You Tell Her She’s Beautiful,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 16, 2013)

NOTE: I know women say they wear high heels to impress other women as much as to attract men. But I find this every bit as specious as men saying they get in shape to impress other men as much as to attract women. Each may contain a kernel of truth, but we all know the real (heterosexual) deal.

After all, there’s only one reason why women themselves often refer to their high heels as CFM’s (come f*ck me shoes).

Related commentaries:
Unmask your woman

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Hudson George:

Mr. Hall, are you generalising all the women of the world, or are you telling your readers a story about some independent educated women in those wealthy western countries?

Feminism is cool for women in highly industrialise societies, where men create modern technology and jobs opportunity for women.

Basically a woman does not really need a man, as much a man need woman. Most of the time a woman lives with man for economic reasons. The average woman market herself as a business. She selects her male partner to be her children biological father for economic reasons. She has to survive in a male dominated world.

And do not fool yourself. Women compete against each other by beautifying themselves. As for us men, we see them as crazy because we are men. So just leave them women alone. They are human beings dominated by men and feminism is just a protest.

As one of Grenada's best calypsoian, the Black Wizard, keep telling men in a song, Don't Put Your Mouth in Woman Business. So Mr. Hall women business is not men business. As long as you have material things women will be attracted to you. Do not focus on the feminists. They are in the minority.

Oh! don't forget that the bra was invented by a male French designer. Do you ever ask yourself the question, why that Frenchman invented women bra?


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