High-heeled shoes are synonyms with women’s fashion and femininity. They have, along with other styles of clothes, make-up, and more transformed throughout history. These ideals of beauty range from styles of clothing to the more sever; like Chinese foot binding, neck rings, and even Kardashian inspired butt implants.
The first heeled shoe is believed to be from Venice. It was a high platform shoe which courtesans wore. However heels really became popular in the French court, especially as King Louis XIV, the sun king, wore them regularly. They were seen as a symbol of power and authority. The trend eventually filtered down to the women of the court. It indicated status but not necessarily power. (Shawcross, Rebecca (2015))
Isn’t it odd how women’s style is closely linked to her specific time period? Of course men’s fashion is too, but it does not alter as quickly. Perhaps this is because women’s fashion is a direct reflection of the power and political structure of the times, a certain snapshot of history through the norms of femininity.
We can agree that when we look back at pictures of ourselves in 20 odd years we’ll probably cringe at our current style choices, but what is different now, is that women are less and less limited in their styles of clothing. However, high-heeled shoes are still regarded as the appropriate style in both professional and more glamorous settings. Some find the shoes empowering, as it literally elevates them from the ground. A famous example is the iconic Marilyn Monroe “I don’t know who invented high heels, but all women owe him a lot.” Nonetheless we all find them uncomfortable after a while, if not the whole time! So then how is it possible that in the year 2015 we require women to wear them to certain events?
In Hollywood’s blockbuster movies, most women wear seemingly impractical clothing. Yes, we know it’s a movie about talking robots but you would think the leading lady would wear more athletic shoes when facing death traps. In the recent Jurassic World film, the main female character, Claire, is an example of containment through shoes. Picture a women running around a dinosaur park with a white skirt and jacket reminisces of the 80’s power suit and sky-high pumps. The plot revolves around saving her nephews, as the dinosaurs have broken free, and she does so never missing a step in her 4-inch cream-colored heels. Right until the end, when she is literally running from the biologically enhanced T-Rex does she dump her heels. (Sandhani, Radhika (2015)) What message is that sending? Do not take off your heels unless faced by certain death, ladies!? As ridiculous as this is, the disparity of holistic characters is increasing between male and female actors. How surprising could this be if only 6% of film directors (reported by Guardian) are women? We may find the treatment of these characters ridiculous, but young viewers are very receptacle, and backing up one dimensional stereotypes of what it means to be a women and how she should interact with men and other women can narrow their perception by identify these attitudes as acceptable.
Another example of the film industry imposing beauty standards happened in Cannes in 2015. It was reported by the BBC that in some festival events women were denied entry because they were not wearing high-heeled shows, even though the dress code never stated heels were obligatory. These women were not just regular invitees or plus ones, a lot of them where producers, and actresses! Isn’t it hard to believe that a male producer would be kept out of an event over his choice of formal footwear? Even in many bars and nigh clubs women are specifically told to wear heels, and have to if they want to get in with without paying an entrance fee. It is reward system, if the women wear the “beautiful” and uncomfortable shoes and outfit than they do not necessarily pay an entrance fee.
These ideas of what a women should be are Patriarchal, (Superson, Anita, 2015)) but some women also reinforce these archaic notions. Queen Victoria condemned the use of make-up, making it unpopular and risqué. Men telling women how they should dress is not all right and Women telling others the same is just as bad. Women are capable and deserve to make up their own minds. The fact that this so prevalent in the media, especially in big Hollywood movies is harmful as it trickles down through celebrity culture. Nobody is saying heels aren’t great, but they should be an option. Frankly, making this rather impractical choice of footwear seem like the only option, specially in the most unlikely of circumstances like car chases, spy missions or facing a T-Rex, is truly stranger than fiction.
Ana Sofia de la Camara
BBC NEWS. (2015) Cannes Film Festival red carpet ‘bans’ for women not in high heels
[Online] Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/32793630/cannes-film-festival-red-carpet-bans-for-women-not-in-high-heels
[Accessed: 11th November 2015]
The Guardian (2014) Female filmmakers still locked out of big Hollywood productions, study finds [Online] Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/may/06/women-film-independent-hollywood-cate-blanchett-study
[Accessed: 10th November 2015]
Sanghani, Radhika (2015) Jurassic World: Fighting dinosaurs in your feels? Sounds like real life to me. The Telegraph [Online] 17th June.
http://thetelegraph.co.uk. [Accessed: 12th November 2015].
Showcross, Rebecca (2015) Shoes: An Illustrated History Bloomsbury
Superson, Anita, “Feminist Moral Psychology”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2014), Edward N. Zalta (ed.) <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2014/entries/feminism-moralpsych/>. [Accessed the 13th November 2015]