Heels hurt my feet, but make my soul happy

2014-12-18 14:00

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A French study doing the rounds proves that men are attracted to women in high heels. As a piece of empirical research, this is not rocket science.

A more useful study would have been to find out why the French are such awful people. I spent a month in their country once and encountered some of the iciest humans to walk on this earth. No matter: studies come and studies go.

What does remain a fact is that high heels are here to stay and their lasting allure has become feminism’s “WTF! moment”. I’ve spent most of my life shunning traditional feminine trappings, and heels have always been my undoing.

Does being a feminist mean you cannot wear high heels?
PHOTO: Adrianna Williams /
Getty images

When it comes to heels, I’m no different than a cross-dresser husband who tries on his wife’s intimate clothing when she’s not at home. When I visit shopping centres, I have a habit of trying on high heels I have no intention of buying. I’m like Muriel from Muriel’s Wedding, who can’t pass by a wedding boutique without trying on a bridal gown.

At some point this year, I spent more than an hour at a shop trying on shoe after shoe. I had two assistants flapping around thinking I was going to cash in on their “buy-two-get-one-free” special.

Like a true fiend, I believed I was going to walk out of there with three pairs of heels.

In the end, and mostly out of guilt, I left the store with one pair of heels of a manageable height I’ve worn maybe thrice in total.

I have a few of these sensible heels but, like Michelle Obama, I’m a flats woman. Although her presence in the White House has come to validate my shoe choices, it’s done nothing to help my habit. The shoes I’m drawn to are sparkly, girlie things and structured monstrosities that bind my feet.

So the French have a point. What they have done is prove the obvious, as well as the fact that they really are clumsy with the English language.

The document in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour reads like something Officer Crabtree from the TV series ’Allo ’Allo! would say.

The researchers have found “that the appearance of women’s apparel helps increase their attractiveness as rated by men and that men care more about physical features in potential opposite-sex mates”.

They conducted a few experiments. “In Study 3, men and women in the street were observed while walking in back of the female confederate who dropped a glove, apparently unaware of her loss.”

According to the study, men’s “helping behaviour” increased with the height of the heel the women wore. Fine, but did they conduct this experiment in 18th-century Europe because, really, which woman wears gloves in this day and age?

But more importantly, I wish their study had focused less on what men think and delved deeper into the thoughts and feelings of women.

What’s the appeal of tottering around on high heels? It’s not the fact that my man says, “I like it when you wear heels”, that I wonder about.

It’s that I’m so keen to oblige even though I know stilettos make me buckle at the knees. That although they make me feel empowered at the beginning, I’m defeated at the end and that a night of wearing even the most modest of heels feels like a near-death experience. And what about the contradictions they hold for feminists?

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote in an article for Elle that she became tired of pretending she did not love high, sparkly shoes so she could be taken seriously. The French research would have served a better purpose if it had spent more time searching deeper into women’s souls.

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