Gren-Hilda Duval de Villeneuve writes: Today, I’m going to tackle a profoundly important and complex subject, that of women’s shoes and the range of conflicting feelings this issue inspires in me.
Men’s footwear will have to take a back seat here, as it does not even register a blip on the radar when compared to the abundance, and really quite decadent variety, of women’s shoes.Adam Lovejoy has already expressed his views on this subject (read his piece, Give Women Proper Shoes. Now! posted most recently on 02.11.09. in the Angry Rants section) and while his ideas make complete objective sense – that there are not that many good shoes on offer – subjectively most women might reject them. The reason is women have a complex and almost completely irrational love of shoes, myself included, but I like to believe that I also have enough sense not to injure myself in the pursuit of beauty. For me, and I suspect for many other women as well, having perfectly crafted footwear is similar to possessing works of art, and wearing them is a luxury which makes us feel good about ourselves.
Since I first read Adam’s article, which was posted twice on this website, I have been tossing thoughts, feelings and theories relating to women and shoes around in my head. It is very interesting to consider why we, women, are willing to go through so much suffering, at great expense, just to wear that perfect looking pair of shoes. Most women I know enjoy shopping for clothes, but absolutely love shoe shopping. I’ve racked my brain trying to figure out why this is so, and here is the theory I came up with.
Drum roll please.
Like most things in life, our obsession with shoes boils down to sexual attractiveness. I have a lack of patience with the image making industry’s ideals of the perfect appearance and figure and it is true that 99% of women will never conform to these ideals. This leaves us with a sense of inadequacy and inferiority. Even those of us aware of these feelings still have a fight on our hands to combat the negativity caused by the all pervasive ‘ideal image’ promoted by the media. There is, however, one area where we can always feel good about ourselves, and even quite sexy, no matter what shape our bodies are. These are well-groomed feet, with beautifully painted toenails and obviously, exquisite shoes that provide us with a measure of confidence. Paradoxically, this very attractiveness is negated when our feet become deformed and bunioned, as a result of wearing cheap shoes that also defy the laws of physics. Additionally, I suspect that our sexual instincts can confuse the issue of wearing shoes in order to feel sexy and sublimate those feelings towards the shoes themselves. Men have also tapped into this link between shoes and sexuality, perhaps through their mothers’ love of footwear, and this is demonstrated by an abundance of shoe fetishes.
As with all human foibles, women’s attraction to shoes has been thoroughly exploited. With expensive shoes, designers vie for the attention of the rich and famous. As with clothing, this filters down to the majority of ‘everyday’, women who yearn for what they see made desirable by the image makers. Considering the masses of women with limited financial resources, it is inevitable that all they will be able to afford is cheap Chinese knock-offs of initially impractical designer shoes. I agree that it is absolutely shocking that we will buy these poor quality, often horrendously ugly foot damaging instruments of torture in the name of fashion. As we wince with every step we are no better than those who practised the ancient art of foot binding.
Like everything in our modern society, our attitude toward shoes is a further indication of our enslavement to image ideals, and since most of us have forfeited our ability to think for ourselves in favour of the enticements of modern society, the options of suffering open to us are endless.
I would love for women to consider what they are doing to themselves (and others, for example animals used for testing, and recently, shockingly, claims of human fat being used in skin creams) but while we continue to spend the majority of our time watching TV and allowing our views to be formed by that fantasy world, and other image industries, we will be doomed to the discomfort of sore feet and more importantly, a complete lack of common sense!
Personally I affirm my love for footwear. In my line of work I have to be on my feet all day, but cannot bring myself to accept practical but ugly shoes. A beautifully crafted shoe on a pedicured foot is sexy. It is possible, if you shop around, to find well-constructed, gorgeous and comfortable shoes and the companies who manufacture them deserve our support.
Women will have to realise that it is better to own fewer pairs of perfectly crafted shoes than a lot of cheap uncomfortable imitations. Once I brought this up with someone who bought cheap shoes constantly, sometimes up to a pair a week. Although her shoes caused her pain and often quickly got worn out, she made disparaging comments about me sticking to a handful of my more expensive shoes.
I realise my feelings go against our consumer driven society’s ideals, though. As long as we seek the quick fix of buying something as an antidote to emotional pain and feelings of inadequacy, we are allowing ourselves to be exploited by greedy shoe producers that dangle cheap baubles before our hypnotised eyes. In our quest for beauty, as in many other areas of our lives, we have tragically sacrificed our ability to think for ourselves.
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