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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

To Heel or Not to Heel

When’s the last time you saw a man (who wasn’t a drag queen) with his feet wedged into high heels, altering his natural gait to balance on stilettos? Or knew an older man whose feet, after decades of being forced into heels with pointed toes, had become permanently misshapen and hurt, daily, to walk on? Or even heard a man complain after a night out dressed up for his ladylove, that his feet were blistered and sore and killing him?

The other day I came across this article on Jezebel called “Summer Shoes and the War on Women’s Feet.” The article is about this other piece in the Wall Street Journal, aptly titled “Wanted for Assault,” which was about strategies women can use to ease the blistering and bloodshed caused by tortuous footware.

When I was younger, especially when I was a “career professional” at a major corporation, I wore heels to work daily. Like many of my female coworkers, I stashed comfy shoes under my desk to wear when I was at my computer, but put on the heels if I was out and about in the office, even just to go to the restroom or up to the cafeteria for lunch. By the end of the day, even wearing my most comfortable heels, my feet ached and burned. Thankfully for my feet, we moved to Seattle, Land of Comfortable Women’s Shoes; I promptly liberated myself from painful footwear, and haven’t gone back since.

I find it interesting that by far the majority of the high-heel-wearing women of my acquaintance live in New York City, where people walk a LOT. I know many New Yorker women who pride themselves on their ability to walk on miles of concrete while wearing heels, and I’m sure they look great while they’re wearing them. Or at least, they look “great” relative to what the fashion industry has sold them as what “great” has to look like: A woman looks best in sexy high heels, right? But who decided that? And why are women permanently causing damage to their feet in the name of what someone else decided constitutes “sexy?”

Some of my higher-heeled friends have said to me — half-jokingly and half, I fancy, enviously — that Seattle women have no sense of fashion, but I maintain that we most certainly do have a very particular, Seattle sense of fashion. We pride ourselves on living in a casual city, the sort of place where you can go just about anywhere in a pair of decent jeans, a clean t-shirt, and Danish clogs or comfortable sandals. Heck, when my ex worked at Microsoft, I don’t think they’d have cared if he showed up for work in a mankini, so long as he churned through whatever technical tasks were required of him on any given day. In the summer, you see an abundance of Microsoft techies schlepping to work in cutoffs, flip-flops and Dilbert t-shirts. Even downtown, guys in suits, crisp dress shirts and ties are more the anomaly than the norm here, and a woman wearing heels here pegs herself as a visitor or recent transplant almost as surely as if she was carrying an umbrella around. (Real Seattleites don’t use umbrellas except in genuine, rare downpours; we know that our hoodies were made for Seattle’s awesomely-good-for-the-skin perma-mist.)

The thing is, nobody’s forcing women to plunk down hundreds of dollars on pricey designer high heels, or to strap said torture devices onto their feet. And I’m talking about regular women, not just those of you who moonlight in the dominatrix industry, where I understand such footwear is part of the required uniform. Really think about that for a minute: Women choose to trade hours of time for work to earn money, which they then turn around and exchange with merchants, so that they can deliberately choose to wear devices that blister and cut, and even cause deformity and permanent nerve damage, on their helpless feet — which, lacking somewhat in free will and sentience, are unable to escape bearing the brunt of this masochism.

Feet unite!

Women wear high heels for the same reasons that women have worn any number of tortuous fashion devices — from corsets to render young women breathless and in peril of fainting for the sake of compressing waistlines to unnaturally tiny proportions (because men dig it when they get to catch you when you faint, o fair damsel in distress!), to foot binding to break and deform young girls’ toes and arches to reshape them completely (all the better to keep you from leaving, my dear) … are we seeing a theme here, chicas?

And we women do this to ourselves, because of … what exactly? Peer pressure, sure. Fear of being seen as unattractive, or because all our friends wear shoes like that and they look sooooo darn cute, even if they do kill our feet. Besides, if we showed up for post-work happy hour in comfy shoes instead of fuck-me heels — then what? We might not get picked up by some half-drunken lout whose own feet are comfortably ensconced in his Chucks or loafers or Docs (depending on your taste in men)? If that’s the reason you’re putting on painful footwear, ladies … do yourselves a big favor and spend that money on a field trip over to Babeland instead. Your feet will feel better, you’ll be sexually satisfied, and you’ll be less likely to wake up in the morning next to some guy you never would have gone home with in the first place if all the blood hadn’t rushed out of your brain to try to heal the damage caused by your high heels.

In all fairness, I know a lot of women don’t agree with me on this. You love your high heels. I hear you. You love them so much, you’ll gladly suffer the pain in exchange for feeling fun or sexy or whatever in your shoes. So you tell me, ladies — especially if you really do love your stilettos more than you love your boyfriend or your mother … why DO you wear high heels?

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4 Responses to “To Heel or Not to Heel”

  1. Rob says:

    I don’t care one way or another what women wear on their feet, but I’m told that high heels alter the stance so as to angle the butt pleasingly. Hence the appeal, I suppose. Then there are the heel fetishists, some of whom invest heels and their wearers with a sort of dominatrix power. So, not speaking from experience, it doesn’t appear to be about making women wear uncomfortable things so much as (A) the booty or (B) an early attraction to some heel-wearing dame that develops into a fetish. Why some women dig wearing them may be because they sense the power it gives them over some men.

    I’m a guy. I don’t get the shoe thing.

  2. Claire says:

    Something about flat shoes, no matter how they are designed or adorned, do not make me feel as sexy and confident as a good pair of pumps. I’ve found some pretty comfy heels too! Although, I never wear heels as an all-day affair, I usually reserve them for the night time fun.

  3. Kim Voynar says:

    Claire, is there a particular brand of comfy heels you favor? Spread the word so your heel-loving sisters can be comfy AND feel sexy and confident.

  4. main roadly says:

    great thanks \o/

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon