Women, men and high heels

Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has captured international attention in recent weeks and sex has been a key element each time.

Feminists around the globe got very excited by a stirring and rather virulent speech Gillard made denouncing her main political rival in parliament. Accusing him of sexism and misogyny, Gillard rallied her troops – and sisterhood sympathisers – by drawing a figurative line in the sand and warning that demeaning comments would no longer be tolerated. One hesitates to say she figuratively stamped her foot because that would be denounced as demeaning. The battle of the sexes is frequently a take-no-prisoners war of attrition.

Anyway, as speeches go, it was not Churchillian but the passion with which it was delivered gave it impetus. So, when Gillard was making a State Visit to India recently and tumbled to the ground when her heel caught in wet grass, no-one knew where to look. But the media had a field day, repeating photos and vision almost ad nauseum.

A bit of a storm in a teacup, really, and the incident should have disappeared quickly. But feminists won’t let it go. Some are now trying to link the wearing of high heels with some kind of male plot to undermine women. You see, they are attacking shoe designers for creating very high heels. And, in their distorted efforts to push their own prejudices, their subtext is: all men are bastards.

For example, leading Australian feminist, Anne Summers, says: “Today women executives want to be feminine but what is on offer from the men who make shoes – and they are all men: Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik, Louboutin et al – is neither flattering nor womanly.” So, there are NO women shoe designers? In her desire to not let the facts get in the road of a good bias, Summers demeans her sisters. Silly.

But not as silly as a former editor of Australian Vogue magazine. Kirstie Clements, who says shoe design has “turned into misogyny”. Once more, there is a blanket inference that no woman designs shoes for women. Or, they are utter traitors to their sex. Again, just silly.

Summers acknowledges that Australia’s Governor-General Quentin Bryce (who would be a serious contender for the most stylish female leader in the world) has mostly abandoned stilettos for lower, thicker heels. Quite sensible. And, so far as one can discern, this has happened without any outcry from deranged males wishing to fantasise about some form of higher stature for the G-G.

But then Summers shoots herself in, one assumes, her low-heeled foot. She acknowledges that Prime Minister Gillard has had to be pragmatic, too, and compromises style and utility by wearing low heels “but even those let her down this week”. So, there was no male conspiracy! A world full of drooling misogynists were not responsible for the PM’s downfall. Get outta here!

The weird thing is that men I know don’t fall over themselves with lust for women in very high heels. For the most part, we look on with a mixture of sympathy and a kind of repulsion when we see women tottering along in heels that clearly are dangerous. For some fantasists they might be a turn-on in the bedroom but most males don’t get aroused by the sight of a woman in danger of breaking an ankle or a neck. In which case can we please stop this feminist fantasy about male misogyny? The vast majority of us are not guilty as accused. Frankly, there are many other attributes – yes, intellect is assuredly one of them – we favour in females. In this case, the shoe does not fit and we should not wear it.