Posts Tagged ‘body autonomy’

High heels break my heart.  High heels are always beyond beautiful to me, and all the shoes I see and like tend to have ridiculously high heels.  Iron Fist is my favorite guilty pleasure; they may be a bit Ed Hardy-ish, but MAN are they cute.

I mean…come on.

I am terrible at wearing high heels.  It takes lots of practice; there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of articles out there about how to walk properly in heels.  When I was friends with burlesque dancers, we used to practice walking around our city in high heels, and generally we’d be dead after about two blocks.  I have a vision of wearing heels to my high school graduation and being in tears by the end of the ceremony because the straps had bloodied my feet.

Heels have some nasty side effects, too.  They fucking hurt to wear – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  Many women wear


heels so often their Achilles tendon shortens, and it becomes painful to wear flat shoes or go barefoot.   They change your gait, make you walk more slowly and move toe-heel rather than heel-toe.  It’s damaging to your knees, to your back, to your feet.  If you’re not sitting down for at least 5-10 minutes every hour in heels, you run the risk of nerve damage in your feet;  after a night out drinking in heels, my friend was forced to have surgery; the night ended in damage to the balls of her feet and almost necessitated the removal of two toes.

Still, I find myself hesitating every time I go to clean out my shoe collection.  Part of a professional presentation as a woman often includes high heel shoes.  I kid myself into thinking I might wear them out to dinner, or to a wedding (I won’t).  They’re sometimes the only way to fancy up a boring outfit. Plus…they’re so pretty.

While reading Bad Feminist, one of the lines that’s stuck in my mind is about high heels and purses.   To paraphrase author Roxane Gay, they’re pretty, but they were invented to slow women down.  I agree with it, and I hate it.

The high heel shoe has a long and storied history.  It’s been a symbol of societally enforced sexiness for hundreds of years.  After all, an impractical shoe ensures women are physically slower and mentally preoccupied (either with how great they look, finding a great pair of shoes, or with how much pain they’re in).

look at those boys!

I can’t think of many punk or hardcore bands where heels are present (with the fabulous exception of the New York Dolls).  It’s tough to skank around if you can hardly walk; it’s tough to keep your balance when you’re already balancing.  Punk, in my mind, after the 1970s, was mostly about function over fashion, rejecting societal norms and making that rejection a fundamental part of your presentation.  Viv Albertine talks in her autobiography about wearing boots with dresses after she and a friend were chased and assaulted by a gang.  It’s tough to run for your life in heels.

This morning I had a moment of sadness that I was opting for flats, after walking to my car at a snail’s pace in my favorite fancy pair of heels.  But for me, I’m reminding myself today I can walk quickly and function well.  That’s my tradeoff.  And my heel collection, well…maybe that will be a tradeoff soon too.

But not one without regrets.

We all think we’re really, really smart.

And we are.  Evolution has turned us into some of the smartest, highly adaptable creatures on the face of the planet so far.  Evolution has done this through creating systems of shortcuts in our brains and bodies to ensure most time can be spent on thriving rather than simple survival.

Evidence of these systems is all around us, and depending on the discipline, the words may vary but the concepts do not.  In psychology we talk about heuristics (categories so we know how to deal with things), in neuroscience it’s brain categorization and cortex organization, in social science and justice movements we talk about stereotypes and prejudice. 

In each idea we see remnants of our incredible adaptation; we have these categories in our brains because if we had to think about daily minutia, we wouldn’t have (any) time left over for the business of thinking and living.  Invisibila just did a podcast on categories, talking about a person without the ability to create simple heuristics who was often baffled by different shaped couches (what is this?  is it a bomb?  I better stay away).

Categories are a part of our brains and our world, but if we’re not aware of these unconscious processes bad things happen.  This is why you’re more likely to associate negative words with a black face, even if you don’t think you’re racist.  This is why you promote a man after he mentors someone, while looking at the same task as part of a woman’s role in the workplace.  It’s why you assume someone who reads her daily horoscopes and drinks herbal tea is a holistic healer rather than a school teacher, even though it’s much more likely she is a teacher.

It’s the same reason we look at fat people and assume we know all sorts of things.

The thing that sucks?  It’s not entirely our fault.

We are deluged on a daily basis with news stories and talk shows and commercials, all telling us about how important it is to be thin(ner), how it’s a health issue, how we should be totally focused on our bodies.  This triggers what’s called the availability heuristic; when something’s always around and it’s on the top of our brain, we’re much more likely to overestimate the occurrence of this thing.  It’s the same principle behind why people are afraid of plane crashes, when it’s WAY more likely they’ll be in a car crash.

Bodies do not always reflect our behavior.  We’re taught that fat people get fat because they’re lazy, because they eat junk food, because their eating is out of control.  We’re taught that you can be thin if only…

If only you try harder, eat less, exercise more, TRY HARDER, TRY HARDER, TRY HARDER.

No.  No, no, no.

It’s been pointed out that if diets were a drug, no self-respecting doctor in the world would prescribe them.  It’s been said that the billion dollar diet industry is built that way because no diet has been shown to work for long term, sustainable, healthy weight loss.  EVER.

Just as we don’t accept total character judgments based on skin color or hair color or gender, it’s time to acknowledge we have enormous prejudice against fat bodies.  And just as skin color is ultimately a ridiculous way to determine anything about a person’s character, so body size does not determine character.

Okay, the title is way more important sounding than this post will be, but bear with me.

veeeeeery important.

Last weekend I was in another state and became very ill.  Severely ill.  Like, three days of nastiness.  While the cause of my disgusting escapades is still unclear (most likely alcohol + woman times + flu), the whole thing got me thinking about sickness and who is in charge of you when you’re sick.

While I was (embarrassingly) throwing up outside of a restaurant at which I was attempting dinner, a friend came to me and continued to insist I “slam water, water is what you need.”

Now, this is fine advice.  And probably accurate; being sick is amazingly dehydrating.  But it’s not really a great idea to pour a couple glasses of water into an empty, heaving, already queasy stomach.  Despite my insistance that water was not really sounding that great and that slamming a glass or two wasn’t the best idea, this friend insisted (and narrowly avoiding it coming right back up).

Grossness of that story aside, it bothered me that this friend didn’t listen to me, emphatically telling him this advice was maybe not the greatest for me at this point in time.  Why did he insist?  Why didn’t he ask my preferences?  Why didn’t he listen even after I was violently ill after following this advice?