Here's A Reminder Why Cannes Film Festival's No-Heels Rule Is Total Bullshit
The Debrief: Ultimately wearing heels, like all feminist issues, is about choice. Anyone trying to take that choice away can fuck off...
It’s a warm, midsummer Saturday night in 2012. I’m on a date with my boyfriend. We’ve had a delicious dinner of cold beer and greasy chicken wings, and we’re making our way down Upper Street towards Highbury Station, trying to make the last tube. Dale, in brogues, is speeding up and then slowing down to keep pace with me. I am wearing cheap, shiny plastic New Look peep toe shoes with spindly heels and giant bows, which allow me to walk at a rate of about a mile a year. I’d be better off if I constructed a pair of stilts out of cocktail sticks and cheesegraters. The only way I can keep my balance is by swinging my hips from left to right, across the width of the pavement. It might be quite sexy if I wasn’t silently crying because of the pain, which is distracting me a little from the self loathing I’m experiencing. ‘I bet Dale’s other girlfriends could walk in heels without feeling homicidal,’ I think to myself. ‘ Every woman in the world can, except me. I hate my stupid size eight feet, I hate not being dainty, I hate that my legs basically end in a pair of massive barges and I hate being a woman and earning less than men and never being able to afford cabs and feeling obliged to wear these stupid fucking heels!’
No woman should ever feel obliged to wear stupid fucking heels – yet the Cannes film festival has captured the world’s attention by forcing its female patrons to do so. A number of women in their fifties were turned away from a screening of Carol, because their shoes were ‘not tall enough’. This is a groundbreaking, Bechdel test passing mainstream gay movie with top lady acting talent, yet the people at the door weren’t prepared to let female audience members watch it in comfort. No-one seemed to know or care what the men were wearing on their feet, which seemed suspect to me, so I checked in Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman. I was right. Cannes was wrong. Caitlin explains ‘You can tell whether some misogynistic societal pressure is being exerted on women by calmly enquiring, “And are the men doing this, as well?” If they aren’t, chances are you’re dealing with what we strident feminists refer to as “some total fucking bullshit.”’
No woman should ever feel obliged to wear stupid fucking heels
I haven’t always hated heels. I grew up fascinated by them. My Mum, at 5”9, had no time for anything that was going to slow her down, or stunt my growth – so ‘tall shoes’ had the same sexy, forbidden grown up glamour as matches, or neat Ribena. Then Sex And The City came along and as a teenage virgin in rural Dorset, I obviously identified with four feisty single thirty somethings getting their end away all over Manhattan. Carrie’s love of high heels was an integral part of her personality and her independence. I genuinely thought that pissing away a house deposit on hundreds of pairs of Manolos was wild and romantic, and not the behaviour of a fiscal fool. It took me a long time to learn that SATC was a telly show, not an instruction manual, and that I couldn’t feel beautiful and sexy if I couldn’t feel my own toes.
Ultimately wearing heels, like all feminist issues, is about choice. Some women genuinely appreciate the swoony, sculptural beauty of a ‘tall shoe’ and feel like the very best version of themselves when they’re a little bit higher up. I’ve banned heels from my house, but I wouldn’t want any fans of the footwear to banish them from their wardrobes. The only place where it’s OK to make people wear a certain kind of shoe is at a bowling alley.
The day after my tearful hike home, I filled bin bags with tens of pairs of painful peep toes. I could have bought a pair of beautiful Gucci loafers with all the money I’d spent on £19.99 stilettos and platforms that hurt my feet when I was sitting down. In the last three years, I’ve bought one pair of heels – M&S navy snakeskin courts that I panic bought for a telly interview, because all of my shoes were a bit scuffed (and after all that, the camera cropped me at the waist). Now I lust after loafers, plimsolls and buckled boots. I can run for the bus, dance at parties and stand for long periods without threatening to bite people. I think flat is fabulous. But I know that forcing women into footwear that feels uncomfortable can fuck off.
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