Unconstrained Miss Me: Musings on the heels from hell

By Sara Willner


Recently, for Purim* I dressed up as Drag Queen. I was a woman dressing up as a man dressing up as a woman. Playing the gender clown with my over the top makeup and baby plastic penis. Only I didn’t have any high heels and I hadn’t since the first and last time I owned a pair 18 years ago.

So I borrowed a couple of pairs from a friend. And I will admit straight up that they were a size to small. But I squeezed on in and enjoyed how my body rearranged itself and got into character. How I minced around the room on my tippy toes, because I don’t see how else anyone could walk in them. How I danced with little steps and a lot of arms, miles away from my regular stomping and spinning, jumping and whirling. How I towered over everyone, how I had to squat for miles before I actually reached the toilet seat. Half way through the night they were gone, but like the dedicated costumer that I am, the next night I was back, this time with a pair of patent platform open sandals, my toes, I reasoned, wouldn’t be as cramped.

I was wrong. I lived in mortal fear of breaking my ankles and knees and neck for most of the night. I rolled my ankles so many times that the shoes broke and I had to beg sticky tape from the bartender to stick them back together. It was only a few hours into the night and I was not having fun. Take your shoes off my sister said, so I did and it got better. The shoes were making me sad! This was a new discovery for me. Who would wear shoes that made them sad?

I spent the rest of the night spouting off to whoever would listen about my newly formed high heel conspiracy theory – created by men to restrain women physically, mentally and spiritually. It occurred to me that if I had grown up wearing heels I would be a different person today. I was sure of it. I wouldn’t be as free as I am, in my thoughts, in my movement or in my soul.

And yes, OBVIOUSLY there are many women who wear and enjoy heels, women who are free and powerful and can dance. But these are my thoughts upon experiencing heels for pretty much the first time. Wearing them as an adult, as a conscious woman and not as an impressionable young girl, I was astounded at the pain! This is what I’ve been seeing in movies my whole life, this is what women complain about, now I get it! The pain at the time, the pain after – my toes were screwed for weeks and my back ached.

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It was men I decided. They were to blame. Not only did they want us hypersexualized; tits out, bum out, back arched, legs flexed, tippy toeing around with our hips sway swaying from side to side. But they also wanted to restrict and restrain us. High heels throw off the body’s center of gravity and things don’t work right when you’re constantly trying not to fall over. They damage your feet, your knees, your back and your spine.

You can’t run in heels, not for fun and not when there’s a scary guy following you down the street. You can’t dance wildly and freely’ the last one left on the dance floor. You can’t walk quickly or far over cobblestones, grass or metal grids. You can’t go hiking, you can’t hop on one leg, you can’t kick people. I will admit that you can, however, take them off and stab someone in the eye.

After doing some research, I found out that high heels were originally created as riding shoes, they keep your riding foot in the stirrups. But then the common people started wearing them too, so the rich made their heels higher. By the 1700’s, high heels were a sign of wealth and class for both men and women. You know why it’s a sign of wealth? Because you can’t work or walk or really do anything in heels, which is fine because rich people had servants to do it all for them. At the end of the century, by the time the Enlightenment came around, men were mostly done with heels. Women on the other hand…

You know what it reminds me of? Foot binding. Mutilating feet because they’ll look dainty and sexy and make sure a woman can’t go anywhere. It reminds me of women who fainted every time they had an emotion because emotions demand air and you don’t get much air in a corset. It reminds me of low waisted pants which ruin your gait because you have to hitch them up every two minutes, it reminds me of bras you can’t wait to take off. You know who else can’t go anywhere or do anything? Ornaments.

And where your body goes, or rather, doesn’t go, your mind follows.

I know, I know, it’s not all men’s fault. We got into heels in the first place when women back in the day adopted men’s fashions. But think about it now, perhaps with an unconstrained body, there could be a different, more unconstrained version of you.


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*Purim- a jewish festival that involves costuming, the commandment to be happy and general festiveness

About the author:

Sara Willner is a boheme, with a background in sociology, anthropology and mechanics. She currently practices as a model and muse and is pursuing further academic research. You can find her on facebook @sarainthatnude and instagram @princessofhani