“Hold up, I see a lot of folks in here sittin ’round like your shoes too tight
If you wear a size 10, don’t cram yo’ shit up in a size 6 ladies
Be proud of yo’ big-ass feet” – Missy Elliott
This great quote by Missy Elliott in her song Joy sums up the point of this article. Women are oppressed in so many subtle ways in our society that we don’t even notice. The burden of oppression can even be seen in our feet. Look at the images below. One is of a Chinese bound foot and the other is of a ballerina. They are not easy to look at and its hard to believe someone would do that to their body.
If you google ballerina feet, you will find even grosser pictures. Gender roles creep up on us when we’re young. I remember being in elementary school and feeling like I wanted to be a beautiful elegant ballerina. My best friend was the top of her ballet class and she encouraged me to try it but then I saw her feet. While dealing with growing pains, her feet were horribly abused by the wooden tipped shoes that ballerinas are forced to endure. Thank goodness I had the sense to settle for jazz dance instead. Why has this archaic dance not evolved? Male ballet dancers don’t need to wear these shoes. Ballet is a beautiful dance form until the ballerinas go en pointe. This is supposed to make them look weightless and graceful but I think they look more like timid birds helplessly fluttering over the floor. Can’t we have strong graceful ballerinas without deformed feet?
Foot binding took place in China from the 10th into the 20th century. I remember learning about foot binding in junior high and being shocked that a society could inflict such cruelty on woman for so long. According to Wikipedia, infection was a serious problem, therefore sometimes the toe nails were completely removed. Besides the extremely painful process, foot binding rendered women immobile taking away any last bit of independence they could get in their patriarchal society.
I know it’s not fair to compare modern-day high heels to Chinese foot binding, but the end result is the same: for women’s feet to look smaller and more attractive to the opposite sex. It’s not only men that convince us to wear high heels but women do it too because we grow up in a society that is constantly selling us the idea that woman with small feet, tense leg muscles, and tall/slender figures are ideal. I could write an article about how its unfair that women are pressured to be skinny but those torturous heels are a more serious issue for me. I have searched far and wide and have failed to find comfortable heels. I think it’s because I still have feeling in my feet. Many woman go through years of pain until their skin is so tough that they can handle any heel. It’s like an initiation into American womanhood. This truly became a reality for me when I started working as an executive assistant for an investment firm in an affluent area. I was always dressed properly with my nice business suit and proved to be one of the best employees in my department, but I could never really fit in or advance because I refused to be oppressed by my shoes. I was the only one that never wore high heels and I was shocked to discover what an impact it made. I later gladly parted with the corporate world but I’m still fascinated with this concept of the high heel. I understand wearing them occasionally on the weekends but wearing them more than 40 hours a week is madness and painful. Heels can cause back and foot problems. I wish women would come to their senses and liberate their feet. This is an individual choice for everyone and completely within our control. Feet play a huge role in who we are. Whether its woman squeezing into high heels, ballerinas awkwardly fluttering on their toes or women binding their feet, all are examples of how women are oppressed. Centuries from now, I wonder if future women will study us and ponder how our feet managed such abuse.