Shoes of Satan

There’s a whole shit-ton of important things going on the world right now, but I want to take a moment out and bitch about something else.

That something else being shoes. Heeled shoes in particular.

For those few readers who have missed previous posts on the subject of female beauty standards: I think they all suck. The fun feminist hit squad may chase after me with pitchforks for this: but the only reason that women do stupid things like slather chemicals on their faces, put flammable shit in their hair, and wear heeled shoes is because we are given some sort of limited power for doing so while being denied that power if we don’t. Fun feminists can swear up and down that the reason they wear heels and makeup is because it “makes them feel good” and it’s “empowering”, and I don’t buy it. Okay, so you feel empowered by hurting yourself. Congratulations. Welcome to the patriarchy, enjoy your stay. If we’re going to play the “I feel this way, which happens to be exactly in line with the patriarchy, because of my innate sense of fashion/empowerment/self-hood, not because of the rewards patriarchy gives me when I comply” game, I’m going to opt out.

Relax people, I’m not trying to take away your shoes, makeup, diets, and impractical clothing. I too do stupid things like put concealer on my face when my pimples dismay me, wear clunky jewelry instead of spending money on more useful things, and enjoy occasionally painting my nails. Of course, I am self-aware enough to realize that the entire reason that I do these things and make an effort to appear feminine in public, even though I don’t wear makeup, is because of cultural values that reward me when I comply, and castigate me when I don’t. Oh, and I’m not the kind of person that can just fuck cultural norms and walk around in a bikini with my flabby stomach, stretch marks, and white ass hanging out. I still carry a deep shame about my body. I am susceptible to praise and disapproving looks. I follow trends out of the corner of my eye and sometimes hypocritically find myself thinking “why is she wearing those shoes with those pants ohmygosh!”

Patriarchy: we’re soaking in it. Me too. This blogmistress is not some god-like figure who poo-poos cultural conventions and doesn’t give a shit about other people. I do give a shit. I give too much of a shit sometimes. And the entire reason that I sometimes cover my pimples, cover my fat and stretch marks, and wear shoes that are really bad for me is because the mental energy it takes to systematically deprogram oneself from poisonous cultural values for every second of every day while squashing self-doubt while going about daily life as if everything is normal while having the courage to demand the same consideration and respect as everyone else when you butt heads with various patriarchal enforcers while battling my disabilities* is just more effort than it’s worth sometimes.

So, back to shoes. Heeled shoes suck. I almost exclusively wear flats, much to the dismay of some others. I’m practically the poster child for “needs heels”. Measuring in at 5’2”, flats mean that finding myself taller than anyone over the age of 12 is a novel occurrence. With height comes privileges: being able to see in concerts and movies, and having people take you more seriously, even if you do have lady bits.

But I caved the other week to the fashion mantra. It’s not often I find myself enamored of fleeting seasonal trends. But then came gladiator sandals. And I was like woah. So here’s a shoe, a sandal no less, that hearkens back to some sort of bad-assery. Typically the designs of women’s shoes are influenced by the want of seriously tiny feet, porn, more porn, and some sort of sadomasochist bullshit. But gladiator sandals were influenced by kicking ass. Oh, and they would look fantastic with the hippie style (read: lazy, loose, long, and comfortable) that I typically sport/slap together in five minutes.

So I found some sandals that looked a bit like the fashion. I really couldn’t justify buying the full out gladiator sandals, because spending $50 some dollars on shoes that only go with two outfits and will be hopelessly out of style in a year is, well, stupid. I bought the shoes you see above. They were strappy, brown (brown goes with everything), and didn’t give me blisters. But they had a heel. Not much of a heel, just 1.5 inches. So I’m figure, “what the hell?” gave into the patriarchal calls of fashion and style and bought some shoes I’d figure would get a lot of use during the summer.

Big mistake. See, these weren’t just sandals. They’re Satan’s shoes.

They’re cute. They go with everything. I put them on and they’re comfortable. My toes aren’t squished. I don’t really notice the heel. I walked miles around campus without feeling like my arch was going to collapse like it does in most cheap flats.

So I go to sleep at night, happy that my superficial shoe purchase was worth it. The next day, I throw on some clothes, five minutes after I’m supposed to leave, and then slip on some black flip-flops I got for $4 at Target.

And Satan’s shoes thus earned their name.

Walking to class was agony. My feet felt like they had anvils dropped on them. My arches were cramping, my calves were burning, and I tripped on the stairs and scrapped my knees when my ankles gave out in flats that I wore without trouble for years.

What the fuck? What the hell was this? I’ve displayed more grace after five Gin and Tonics and suffered less pain after overdoing it in pilates. Satan’s shoes, it seems, had shortened my tendons and altered my gait from their measly 1.5 inch heel and one day of wearing them.

So here I sit, at home with aching calves, thinking to myself that patriarchy fucking sucks. I can’t imagine the pain of wearing shoes like that, or higher, constantly. It must permanently fuck up your legs and feet and back. Thousands of women around the world are required or compelled to wear such shoes daily. For what? The pitiful amount of power that sex appeal grants? A pathetic offering considering how people with dicks get that and more while enjoying nice flat arch-supporting shoes.

So fuck you, Shoes of Satan. Fuck you beauty expectations. Fuck you patriarchy. Fuck you people who insist that such masochism is empowering. Really, when I’m chanting to myself “mind over matter, just half a mile until you’re done” whilst my feet feel like they’re going to fall off from simple walking I could do just fine two days ago, knowing that some dude finds my calves marginally more fuckable when I wear 1.5 inch heels doesn’t help. Even if the shoes are cute.


*I’ve never really posted about it before, but I have persistent debilitating digestive problems, various skin conditions, really shitty vision and sensitivity to light (and I stupidly live in a sunny state), depression, severe ADD, social anxiety, and enough allergies to make label-reading a personal hobby. I’ll blog about what disability means to me sometime.


Posted on June 11, 2009, in Beauty Ideal, Feminism. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Thanks for confirming my suspicion that when my friends tell me “you get used to [heels]” or “[heels] are actually fairly comfortable” what they really are saying is they have hurt their bodies, and were lucky to find a pair that hurt less than usual because they’re now trapped in a cycle.

  2. I understand what you are saying and I don’t think any woman should suffer because she thinks that she has to dress a certain way to gain some sort of power but I am curious as to what you think a feminist should wear. Should she wear deliberately ugly clothes?

    • What a feminist should and should not do is much more complicated than deliberately eschewing damaging fashion trends or not. Someone who tirelessly fights for abortion rights, for example, while sporting high heels and a mani/pedi is still a feminist, and a very active one at that. It’s my opinion (take this with reservation, I’m not the Feminist Gatekeeper) that feminism is more of what you do than what you don’t do, and that fitting in with the patriarchy is something that many women *have to* do, or don’t have the mental energy to resist doing, to have happy productive lives. There are many anti-feminist acts, and wearing heels might be one of them. But that act is something that only hurts yourself, and sometimes it might even hurt you in order for you to fit in better and be more successful in changing policies in a way that a non-shaving non-makeup wearing feminist couldn’t.

      But it’s my opinion that there shouldn’t have to be a trade-off between mental health or social acceptance and the ability to define oneself outside of patriarchal norms. I think a good feminist, whatever that is, would probably keep that in mind too, and make sure that she doesn’t shame other women for not living up to a beauty standard that she does.

  3. I completely agree. I’ve struggled to try and reconcile my love of clothes, heels and makeup with being a feminist. I feel like I am judged by other feminists and not deemed to be a ‘real’ one because of what I choose to wear. I do think female beauty standards suck as you said and I try not to judge people on the clothes they wear or what they look like, I just feel like the same courtesy is not extended to me. For me feminism is about women having the right to choose and I choose, after considering the feminist ramifications (ie that I’m giving in to the patriarchy), to wear what makes me feel like me. These may sometimes include heels and makeup but where I live they certainly don’t live up to the patriarchal norms. In the conservative city where I go to school, I am often openly stared at and considered ‘weird’ for the clothes I wear, so I often feel like I’m damned both by feminists and the patriarchy

  4. Re Alice: I believe that “feminist is as feminist does”–feminism is entailed in a series of decisions and acts that honor women and girls and promotes their well-being. Feminism is being supportive of other women/girls, calling out misogny when it is spoken or done, working to rectify laws that restrict and discriminate against women/girls, and voting to put more women in office, among many other things. If we make the feminist membership card dependent on wearing drab clothes, I’ll be tossed out of the game in no time. I buy at 80-95% off (it’s possible if you enjoy looking around at end of season time) and revel in fabrics, colors, and the like. See undercoverpunk’s blog for more on stealth femininity among radical feminists. :)

  5. I wish that people would stop calling flat practical shoes ugly. Men wear them all the time and no omne says anything about that. I think heels and pointed toes are ugly, and i think feet are even more ugly when they have been in them. I am 5 “8 though, i wish short women would stop being so height competitive.

    • I’ve heard that there are entirely new body-image issues when you’re tall and female. I wouldn’t know, being short. But what is obvious, however, is that somehow—no matter what you are—if you have a vagina something is wrong with you. Be it your height, lack of height, high maintenance, low maintenance, prudishness, promiscuity, flatness, curvyness, or anything else.

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