I wrote this a couple of weeks ago in response to a discussion about high heels and the patriarchy on Tumblr:
Yes, it is important to remember that high heels have all kinds of problems. In addition to the health problems mentioned, it’s hard to run away from predators in them. It’s hard to move nimbly at all, unless you have a lot of practice with them. Some people wear them every day and never manage to be graceful in them.
But there is that fantasy. When I’m sitting by the window and I hear heels clicking on the pavement below, I imagine a slim, elegant, sexy young woman outside on her way to an editing job at Conde Nast, or a fancy cocktail party. I imagine myself in those heels, strutting down the sidewalk, turning heads, instead of sitting at my computer grading homeworks or debugging code.
And then sometimes I get a chance to put on my own heels and go clicking down the sidewalk in Greenwich Village. At first I feel elegant and sexy and I see men and women looking at me, but are they looking because they think I’m elegant, or because they think I look silly? Are the heels making too much noise? I want to go faster but I can’t without worrying about slipping or losing my balance. Watch out for those cobblestones! One of my heels just got stuck in the subway grate. And then my feet start to hurt. I have to walk even slower. Can I still look elegant with my feet hurting so much? Fortunately the creepy guy who was following me and saying “hey baby” seems to have given up and gone away.
So I take the shoes off at the end of the day and my feet are sore for days. I’m glad I don’t have to wear those every day! I would get used to them to a degree, but never completely. Imagine if I had a job where they expected it? But in a few days I hear heels clicking outside my window again and I don’t think about how much of the attention was unwelcome. I don’t think about how physically painful it was to walk in them. I don’t think about how limited my movement felt. I just think about how elegant and sexy the wearer of those shoes must be.
The disconnect doesn’t just apply to the person who’s wearing heels. I fantasize about dating or kissing elegant women in heels, but I know plenty of women who wear heels that I have absolutely no desire to kiss. I’ve been on dates with women who were sexy, even elegant, but distracted and uncomfortable in their heels. I’ve been on dates with women who were sexier and more elegant in flats. I’ve gone on long, romantic walks that wouldn’t have been possible if either of us had been wearing heels. And I’ve had fabulous sex with women who’ve worn heels maybe five days in their entire lives.
That disconnect between fantasy and reality is a perfect example of glamour. It’s a fantasy that persists, sometimes in the face of massive evidence. It’s important to acknowledge it and examine it, but a massive guilt trip is not the way to stop it.