Voluntary Foot Binding: The Millennial Edition
After saying I needed another account like I need exposure to Ecoli, I signed up for Pinterest. Call it peer pressure, or my mind’s need to indulge in the very visual after hours of wrestling with words, I’ve been pinning my heart away. My boards (the groupings of images I select) reflect my interests or intended projects: a Yum-o! list of recipes I’d love to try for my well deserving family, a Family Wedding collage of ideas for an upcoming celebration, and a Writing Projects smatter of snapshots of dresses,and faces (including Robert Downy Jr.) who remind me of my characters. Getting slightly into it, I created a few more: one for research about Laos for an upcoming novel, another with Books Worth Reading in my heaps of free time, and Word! (Sayings I Love) for those times I need to dwell on the positive.
Revealing my Type-A personality, there’s this other board, Random, where I capture things that are interesting but don’t fit any of the others. “Random” for things that don’t On this board, I put a fairly innocuous image but one that stood out to me nonetheless (left).
I was respondent number three after two other women who commented on how much looking at photo itself made their feet hurt. I pulled together the sum of my feminine experiences and threw in a drop of my feminist inclinations: “So bad for you! Modern foot binding anyone?”
Someone said “this makes me dizzy,” which made me laugh, because if you have ever worn shoes like this, it is difficult to balance while walking. Then a male then commented: “Yes but we all know that in the flesh they probably look awesome.” Six people later, one woman said exactly what I was thinking: “Only the man comments that they look good, figures:).”
The deluge of comments that followed was astonishing; I almost left Pinterest because of the volume of notifications that flooded my inbox. Not because everyone took issue with the male, or agreed that his sentiment was why millions of us wore such high heels calling it fashion. There were many, many women who agreed, some who even defended him, that it wasn’t just men’s fault that we wear things regularly that are chipping away at the bones of our hips, legs, and knees.
And not to be left out of the debate, he felt emboldened enough to comment again: I am sorry you think it’s all men’s fault. I guess I must say I don’t really agree. Pintrest is conservatively 80 percent women posters and I would venture to guess that in the women’s fashion section 90 percent of the posters are women… Lots and lots of :3 posts on shoes that seem pretty tall… But yep it’s all because men like them. Ok. My whole gender is screwing up yours. I apologize for the collective. He deserves an award for exhibiting that special ability men have to turn around something that they are implicated in and blame it on women’s complicity.
Which of course we are. As someone else pointed out even later in the chain: “Statistically, for office jobs, a majority of interviewers prefer women in heels to women in flats. (Same for women with make up vs no make up). First World Problem eh?”
As a professional woman living in the Arabian Gulf, I do wear heels, though many around me wouldn’t consider them as heels because they are under the five inch height at which many female nationals use for their everyday wear. That’s not to say everyone wears them, but Qatari women who don’t wear heels are often thought of different or not interested in fashion. A friend of mine was even told by her boss to wear heels to the office, so entrenched in his mind was the connection between Qatari women and high heels. She carried on in her loafers.
Since the days of working at the national university, where you have to trek between buildings in the hot sun, my everyday wares are more like one or two inches; I draw the line at three (I do have a pair of the size in this photograph, but I last only about ten minutes standing up). I’m in flats as I write this because today I have no one to impress and I want to get where I’m going quickly. But when I dress up? Heels, without a doubt. And I’m short, so in most cases when you see me at home, you’re surprised at my real height.
Even though I know from experience you can’t do any kind of heavy labor, or even walk long distances or stand for long hours in heels (nor squeeze pregnant feet into them), they’re the first thing I dig out if I have an important meeting. So is it okay to pick and choose when we use these prescriptions of beauty?
Can we, as some of the other posters said, wear them because they make us feel sexy, good, dressed up, without participating in the other ideas that restrict women’s movement?
Can we ever escape the cult of beauty? Or is beauty, as someone said on this ever increasing chain, inextricably linked to pain?