“If a woman never takes off her high-heeled shoes, how will she ever know how far she could walk or how fast she could run.” – Germaine Greer
As a young girl of nine, I remember sitting at the back of my class, and watching my teacher strut up and down the aisle between our desks. The click of her three-inch heels reverberated around the room and punctured the silence that hung over our heads.
I wondered how she managed to stay upright and whether her toes hurt because of the point of the front of her shoes. I felt completely unimpressed that, one day, I would have to wear high heels too.
Why? Why would a young girl of nine believe that being a woman meant she would have to wear shoes that restricted her movement and damaged her body?
That her femininity was directly linked to her physical appearance including the clothes on her body and the shoes on her feet?
The beauty myth is why. The beauty myth is a belief system that encourages women to value themselves on their outer appearance and the possessions they own. A set of rules that undermine a woman’s self-confidence and esteem, as she is faced with the constant quest for a level of perfection that she will never achieve.
A belief system that teaches women to act outwardly sexy instead of embracing their inner sensuality.
Which is why high-heels are the perfect symbol of the beauty myth. Women wear them to add the illusion of length to their legs while high-heels play a part in male fantasies of a sexy woman.
I can be honest and say that wearing heels gave me a false sense of powerful femininity, as I clicked my way down the corridor of a law court, or strutted my way to the bar on a night out, knowing that men were watching my moves.
Did it matter that my feet hurt like hell at the end of the day? That my back would grumble and groan under the pressure of walking in an unnatural way? No. Of course not. It was normal for a woman to experience discomfort in order to look good on the outside in the name of beauty.
When I was 28-years-old, I took a tumble on the stairs at home while bare-footed, and broke my fifth metatarsal in my left foot in three places. While I managed to avoid surgery to insert a metal pin, my recovery was slow due to the severity of the breaks. After 12 weeks, I was back up on my feet in flat shoes, only to realise that I would never wear a heel of one inch or more again.
That´s right. I can’t wear high-heels. Even after 14 years, my foot still cramps up within seconds, and I have to kick them right off.
As I wore heels for work, I felt as if I had lost three inches in height at the click of my fingertips. I was devastated yet breaking my foot was one of the best things that could have happened to me.
I soon adapted to flats or shoes with a little heel for Court hearings to give me a little extra boost. I found life without heels gave me the freedom to walk and move properly without having to carry myself in a certain way to keep my balance. I felt so much more confident in my body as a result.
My chiropractor was delighted, as he told me that so many women came for treatment to repair the damage caused by wearing high-heels.
I guess losing my heels had a surprising effect, as I gained body confidence in how naturally I could move. There was a silver lining to breaking my foot. I kicked off my heels as part of the process of disengaging from the beauty myth for good.
(c) Samantha Wilson 2020. All Rights Reserved.