High heels and diet? The western foot binding and FGM.

Thank God we live in the lovely civilized western world where we can look at photos of Victoria Beckham, emaciated, scowling in pain at the nightmarish shoes she staggers around in – though mainly she remains motionless (apparently), one leg coquettishly (really?) poked out in front of the other, hips twisted for maximum photographic thinness.

No hideous torture of young girls for us in form of FGM or, you know, foot binding or anything! No repulsive ways of keeping women under control like confining them to the house without escort, having them concealed from view at all times by means of much sacking, subjecting them to multiple pregnancies and generally beating the crap out of them when they’re annoying. SUCH a relief.  Me, I can dance naked in the streets, do any job I like and….well…you get the picture.

And yet…I was walking around a holiday resort with my daughter the other night and she pointed out a woman who was hobbling about in high heels that were clearly painful, gripping the arm of a man who was wearing flat comfortable shoes as men very sensibly do. ‘Look at her!’ my daughter nudged me in the ribs. I looked, though I’d already seen (half naked, hair elaborately done, shaved almost to raw flesh etc). I have been that woman, plucked and trussed, having to hold on to a man for support.

Women routinely cripple themselves for the evening in order to seem..what? Vulnerable? Is that what’s sexy about high heels? That the women is very vulnerable, couldn’t run away? Very possibly. Is it that she’s in pain? Is that the sexy thing? Or just that she’s obviously up for it otherwise why would she put herself through that?

I mean, okay, it’s not as painful as foot binding or as cruel, not least because it is a choice and, clearly, we can at some point take them off again.  But it’s not much of a choice. If you’re going out for the evening and dressing up it would be odd, as a woman, to wear flat shoes.  All the women at, say, the Oscars are hobbling up the red carpet in pain, grinning through the agony and pretending they love it. ‘I love these shoes but I can’t walk in them,’ we say. Well, I’ve certainly said it. Fool!

So, here we are in the lovely liberal west, still feeling that in order to be the ideal male accessory we must seem actually not to be able to WALK. Staggering. Literally.

And when we DO finally sit down to dinner and kick the monstrous torture devices off under the table we’ve got another problem. We’re not supposed to eat the whole dinner. Not with gusto. Not with seconds, not the cheese course too…We’re not meant to enjoy it! Not if we’re trying to be alluring to some man (who’s tucking in gleefully).

We might (and do) shout about how terrible female circumcision is and be very smug that we don’t do it in our culture but we do make very sure our daughters know their place (as sex objects at the bottom of the ladder) in other ways. We make sure that we and our daughters spend our whole lives thinking about food and our relationship with it, so that they are absolutely unable to concentrate on …I don’t know…reading, writing, learning, sport, achieving in general.

It’s yet another social convention that most women whole-heartedly embrace, that makes them seem stupid and trivial (‘Oh, just a side salad for me’), often putting their own daughters on diets (while popping out to buy them some high heels), subjecting the family (not sons or husbands) to their starvation diet and becoming overwhelmed with guilt when they inevitably overeat as a side effect of being fucking starving. We are hugely supportive of the weight loss of other women and hugely sympathetic about their weight gain (the worst).

So here we are, smugly western, absolutely subjugated, apparently willingly, hobbling ourselves, starving ourselves and calling ourselves free of the patriarchal yoke. Pah! We might as WELL bind our feet and hack at our genitals at this rate.

Party tonight…which shoes…? And will I get into that dress….?

About Anna Blundy

Honorary psychotherapist with a Masters in Psychoanalytic Theory and another in Psychodynamic Clinical Psychotherapy. Novelist - Author of the Faith Zanetti quintet - The Bad News Bible, Faith Without Doubt, Neat Vodka (US - Vodka Neat), Breaking Faith, My Favourite Poison. Also a memoir of my father, Every Time We Say Goodbye and my most recent thriller - The Oligarch's Wife
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3 Responses to High heels and diet? The western foot binding and FGM.

  1. H. E. Lexus says:

    I do not see the negative things with heels as described above as attractive. When comfort is in play, it is all very sexy. Ones choice to wear heels causing discomfort is a choice they make and I would agree a poor one. I always stress make sure the heels fit well. That can depend on several things and may cause one to not get the heels they want. When that is avoided and the choice to get poor fitting shoes is made for the look, than I feel that is a personal level of acceptance. In the end, heels are sexy to me for how the shoe looks, the foot looks in the shoe, the accenting they have on ones body, the movements of the body with them and the attitude one has wearing them. 😉

  2. Judith Johnson says:

    …and smartly dressed working women wear one pair of shoes for commuting by train and carry another pair for when they arrive near their office. Ludicrous! Men manage to look smart whilst being able to comfortably walk from home – station – office ALL DAY in one pair of shoes that don’t fall to pieces after a few miles. It starts at the school bus stop. Boys: sturdy, comfy, hard wearing shoes. Girls: flimsy slip-ons that mean their feet freeze in winter.

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