High Heels, High Pain

By Hannah Byl 

Recently in my Cultural Anthropology class, my teacher was discussing beauty

standards around the world; and particularly pointed out how women are made to do often

painful and unhealthy things to themselves because men like it that way, which then becomes an

accepted part of that culture. For modern times, my teacher gave the example of women

wearing high heels, because “even though podiatrists and doctors have said for years they are

harmful to feet, women still wear them because men have told them to.” About half the class

was males, and almost every one of them was very quick to decry “But I actually don’t like when

girls wear high heels!”

So women were supposed to wear high heels because men wanted them to. And now

women aren’t supposed to wear high heels… for exactly the same reason?

The more I thought about it, this isn’t really an uncommon thing. I’ve found that wherever

there is something written about women’s fashion (especially online), it often follows that there is

something discussing men’s opinions of how women dress. Articles like this are often full of

statements like “guys like girls to wear (blank) instead of (blank) ” and “men don’t understand

trend (blank), so don’t bother”. And nearby, there’s usually something else describing how “men

like when women wear (blank) makeup”. High heels, boyfriend jeans, high waisted pants, and

peplums are all things women are commonly told to avoid wearing because men don’t like the

way women look in them. It seems men have an opinion on everything women wear, and women

are expected and do go to drastic measures to change their appearances to fit men’s ideals.

But women shouldn’t have to dress based on men’s perceived preferences, and it cannot

be an accepted and expected cultural norm for them to do so. If men’s tastes change, are

women expected to just follow what they say, regardless of their own opinions? For one thing,

it’s the woman wearing the clothes, not the man. Every woman is a person with her own ideas

about what she wants to wear, and a man shouldn’t expect a women to wear what he likes just

because he likes it. Another often used (and more humorous) argument against this expectation

is that men just don’t get women’s fashion. A trend among many fashion blogs is to take this

approach, saying men don’t understand trends or fashion, so why bother trying to dress for

them? Everyone is going to have their own opinions on fashion. That doesn’t mean they can

dictate a person’s opinion of others. No one should be expected to dress based on someone’s

else’s likes and dislikes, because feeling comfortable in one’s own skin is much more important

than doing what others want one to do.


I’m sure many of the men in my class thought they were doing a good thing by

proclaiming their dislike for high heels, thinking they were telling women that they don’t have to

dress up to be considered attractive. But that’s the point of the issue: women shouldn’t need

men’s approval on their outfit choices. At all. Many women do like to wear high heels, and that’s

fine, some women absolutely hate high heels, and that’s perfectly fine as well. Dress for

yourself, not because of someone else’s opinions, and feel comfortable and confident with what

you want to wear.


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