Far from being misogynistic, high heels are my special treat - Women's Agenda

Far from being misogynistic, high heels are my special treat

My grandmother was one of the last of a generation of Chinese women to have their feet bound. She had the tiniest feet. Her little black slippers were the size of a child’s. The first time I saw her feet I was horrified by their claw-like appearance. She was a little girl when her feet were initially bound. In order for my grandmother’s feet to remain small as the rest of her body grew her toes were folded over so she was literally walking on her toes.

This was acceptable behaviour in an era and culture where women with small feet were more likely to attract a wealthy husband. Their parents enforced torture to secure a future for these daughters.

My choice of footwear today has nothing to do with this time. My wardrobe is packed with shoes of all heights, from flats to nose-bleedingly high. I adore shoes. Far from being an inhibitor or an enforced form of torture, I buy myself shoes as a personal reward for my achievements. In my world high heels signify celebration and success. I don’t buy the argument that high heels are an example of misogyny. That theory suggests that we don’t have the choice to reject them, when clearly many women do.

I bought my first pair of Manolo Blahnik heels, a fancy flesh-coloured pair, when I was first appointed to an editorship in 1989. When I launched my first magazine I treated myself to a pair of chocolate brown Jimmy Choos. Securing the role of editor-in-chief of ELLE resulted in a special treat: a purple and hot pink pair of YSL heels. A move to Fairfax was marked in my wardrobe with a favourite pair of canary yellow Prada heels. I have a gorgeous pair of shoes for every career promotion and achievement.

I love high heels. I prefer them to flats. It’s true that some of them are more beautiful than practical, but I don’t wear those to the office. They are reserved for evening occasions when I can sit and enjoy the company of my partner and friends. I wear my shoes for me so the fact that they spend most of the evening tucked under the table and out of sight really isn’t the point. I know that I’m wearing them and that makes me feel great. Anyone who adores shoes will understand this. No one forces me to buy high heels. No one makes me wear them. I can choose not to buy uncomfortable heels but I have a couple of torturous pairs in my wardrobe that I just had to own. I wear them sparingly but stare at them often.

When my 18-year-old was in kindergarten, I fell over Julia Gillard-style outside his school. I recall the shoes I was wearing clearly: a gorgeous pair of slate-grey Prada exceedingly high heels. I scraped my knees as I fell forward, having tripped on an uneven footpath. Was it the heels that made me do it? I also tripped over while wearing sandshoes on the same footpath a few weeks later so I’m not sure we can blame the shoes.

I can run in high heels. I can dance in high heels. I can sit at a boardroom table in high heels too. Shoes are a matter of personal choice these days. Some women prefer flats and others prefer high heels. Most women own a mixture of both. Our footwear today bears no resemblance to the situation enforced on Chinese women a century ago because we get to choose if we want to torture our own feet. Let’s not confuse the two issues.

Do you believe that high heels equal misogyny?

Stay Smart! Get Savvy!

Get Women's Agenda in your inbox