Emma Thompson did stiletto lovers the world over a great disservice this week, when she urged everyone to stop wearing heels, claiming that it’s not possible to walk in them. At the National Board of Reviews gala last week, Thompson collected her award barefoot, telling the audience:
“I’ve taken my heels off as a feminist statement really, because why do we wear them? They’re so painful. And pointless, really. You know, I really would like to urge everyone to stop it. Just stop it. Don’t wear them anymore. You just can’t walk in them.”
– Emma Thompson
Apparently Emma didn’t take her own advice, however, because a few days later, she turned up at the Golden Globes in a pair of sky-high Louboutins, which she once again removed for the ceremony itself, saying the red on the sole was “her blood”.
For those who hate heels, it was all the validation they needed to reassure themselves that, yup: stilettos are pure evil, and it’s just NOT POSSIBLE to walk in them. Ever. Because if Emma Thompson can’t do it, why NO ONE can, right?
For those of us who love them, on the other hand – and who’ve been wearing them without issue for years – it was one of those moments we knew we’d be fielding questions about for years to come. Sure enough, the very next morning, I woke up to a comment on my other blog from a gentleman who attached a photo of Thompson, with heels in hands, to a request for me to please wear heels less often, because, after all, everyone KNOWS it’s not humanly possibly to walk in them, don’t they? And we know because Emma Thompson told us so!
I get comments like this (or ones telling me I MUST be “in pain” in my shoes) a few times per year, and I also see a lot of similar discussion on other blogs, mostly revolving around the idea that the blogger in the photos can’t POSSIBLY be able to walk in her heels, and must therefore be just wearing them for the photos, before changing back into sneakers or flats. You know, like a normal person?
Those comments, and the assumption that just because the person writing the comment finds it difficult to walk in heels, then anyone who claims to be able to do it must obviously be lying, never fail to exasperate me. For one thing, I really resent the implication that I’m basically lying to my readers, by pretending to wear something that I can’t actually walk in, and that my photos are all “staged”, in order to dupe people into believing in some kind of false reality. No one likes being called a liar, and I actually think it would be pretty silly of me to spend my money on shoes I wasn’t physically able to walk in, or which were actually painful, just for the sake of a photo on a blog, so it’s never very fun to hear that that’s exactly what (some) people apparently think of me.
More importantly, however, it’s just not true to suggest that ALL high heels are literally impossible to walk in, and that no one in the world can possibly find them comfortable. No, stilettos are never going to be “comfortable” in comparison to Ugg boots, say, or sneakers, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be appropriate for ANY situation or ANY person. In my case, for instance, I wear heels almost every day, and have done for most of my adult life. I’m now very used to walking in them, and while I wouldn’t wear them for long walks, or to climb a mountain, say, the fact is that my lifestyle doesn’t actually involve many long walks or mountains, and on the occasions when it DOES, I just wear something else.
On a day to day basis, however, I work a desk job, and don’t do a ton of walking (other than to walk the dog, which I change shoes for, partly because I don’t want to damage my heels!): there aren’t many times when high heels would be totally impractical, or render me immobile, and I’ve never understood why some people seem to want me to wear hiking boots in order to walk short distances, on a paved, flat surface. So, even although I’m going to a dinner party where I’ll be sitting down all night, I must wear “sensible” walking shoes, just because Emma Thompson and Steve from Facebook don’t think heels are comfortable? And this makes sense HOW?
Are SOME stilettos uncomfortable (even painful?) and hard to walk in? Sure. All shoes are not created equally: some are more comfortable than others, and I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of buying a pair of shoes which turn out to be painfully high, or just generally uncomfortable. (Celebrities, who often wear borrowed shoes to award ceremonies, are particularly familiar with this scenario, because those borrowed shoes aren’t always the right size…) Those are the kind of shoes I term “car to bar” shoes: they’re just not designed to take you much further than that, so unless you’re planning on sitting down all evening, you’ll probably want to avoid them. That’s not to say that there are NO heels out there which you’ll be able to walk in: it just means that those aren’t the ones.
Ultimately, though, comfort is such a personal and subjective thing, that it always confuses me when people claim to know how comfortable or otherwise someone else is. We all have different comfort and tolerance levels, and we all have differently shaped feet, so a pair of shoes that I find relatively comfortable could be complete torture to someone else, and vice versa. In other words, just because Emma Thompson can’t walk in her heels, it doesn’t follow that no one else can do it either. I mean, I can’t do gymnastics, but I’m not about to claim that gymnasts are therefore all a bunch of liars, because EVERYONE knows it’s impossible to do a handstand! Since when did Emma Thompson become the Ultimate Authority on Everything? Why does she believe her experiences to be universal, and what gives her the right to speak for everyone when she tells us we can’t walk in our heels?
And a “feminist” statement? Nice try, Emma, but for me, feminism means being allowed to chose my own clothes, and not allowing people to shame me into changing my style purely to suit THEIR ideas of what’s comfortable/appropriately “feminist”. I think this part of her comment annoyed me the most, because it implies that those of us who chose to wear high heels are “bad feminists”, and I really dislike this notion than in order to call yourself a feminist, you’re not allowed to be interested in fashion, or to care about your appearance. Amazingly enough, I find I’m able to support women’s rights AND wear lipstick and heels, and I’m not about to change that because Emma Thompson, or anyone else, tells me to. If Emma Thompson had simply said, “Hey, I don’t like heels, so I’m not going to wear them any more,” I’d applaud her. Instead, she’s saying, “I don’t like heels, so no one else should wear them either,” which is a little bit different.
As for “urging everyone” to stop wearing heels: why is this so important to some people? I would never try to convince someone that they must wear heels if they didn’t want to: I honestly couldn’t care less what other people wear on their feet. Why, then, are some people so desperate to dictate what I wear on mine?