GOD SAVE ANYTHING BEFORE MY SHOES

On and on, I’ve been hearing and reading that women love shoes; that it is women’s favorite accessory, that we’re obsessed, addicted, crazy for them and, furthermore, that the reasons behind this compulsion lie anywhere between fashion and science [1].

Yet, for the most part, I’ve tried to ignore this reiterative media-induced mantra. Until I came across a documentary about women and shoes called “God save my shoes” and let’s just say that I’ve had a “straw that broke the camel’s back” moment.

I’m not sure if it was the animated infographic providing neurobiological “proof” of our intrinsic shoe obsession (huge logic fallacy, by the way [2]) or the bit in which the narrator says “there’s absolutely no length we won’t go to keep wearing our heels” while a woman is being prepped for a medical procedure to fix her heel-damaged feet, or maybe just the sum of the parts plus previous media conditioning, but something clicked. And I’ve had enough.

I am a woman and I don’t have this borderline clinical affection for footwear. And I’m quite sure that I’m not the only one.

I don’t intend to criticize the documentary itself —it did have interesting sub-subjects such as the history of the stiletto [3]— nor am I referring to high heels specifically (which is often used as a synonym of shoes in the context of women’s footwear), nor am I against shoes (I wear a pair of them everyday, hell, I can even appreciate design!); what I’m sick of is this ridiculous premise of women being inherently obsessed with shoes, opposed to men, who presumable aren’t. Also, this notion, as harmless as it may seem, is happily absorbed by many and waved around as a flag of modern, empowered and independent womanhood.

Oh but they’re just shoes, why make a big deal about something so innocuous, you may ask. Well, because as silly as it may seem, it reinforces the stereotype of women as hyper-consumerist creatures that just can’t help themselves when it comes to shopping and, furthermore, this trait is used as a sign of “yet another” difference between the sexes:

“Men and women are different in several respects, but the moment you get on to the subject of shoes, a chasm opens between the two sexes; it’s only for women that shoes become an all-consuming obsession [4].”

Why keep on making up and then frantically reinforcing these ideas in the media, when it is much more likely that only some people (male or female) are obsessed with shoes and that a few of them might have an actual problem because aren’t obsessive compulsive behaviors and hoarding serious psychological disorders?

But no, let’s just keep shoving these ideas down our throats, and make some big money in the process. It’s just marketing magic beans: convince an entire gender that they should be obsessed about something through repetitive media portrayals, maybe throw in some “scientific research” that proves “hardwiring”, add some class aspiration in the mix and voilà you’ve got yourself a thriving business. Oh, and when asked about involvement in the creation of the demand, just shrug your shoulders and say you’re just responding to what the consumers want.

OK, I might have gotten a bit carried away just there. The point is no cultural imperative should go unquestioned. Not even one regarding something as mundane as shoes, because it grows out of hyper-consumerism and gender clichés. Both of which, I think, need to be fought.

Words by Denise R.
Illustration by Judy Mièl & Lo Pecado

 


[1] Some of the arguments include: closeness between the sensory receptors in the brain, the release of dopamine when buying something, the stimulation of the prefrontal cortex (the “collecting spot”) when buying shoes…none of which provide female shoe obsession as a logic consequence.

[2] The argument here, I quote, is that “receptor sites the sensory corresponding to both the feet and the genitals sit right next to each other. Often these two areas of the brain communicate with the other and when a short circuiting takes place, the shoe high is exhilarating”… um… OK…this could shed some light in why it is pleasurable for some to include their feet in foreplay or (maybe?) foot fetishism, but not women’s supposed shoe obsession…

[3] Especially the correlation between the rise of the stiletto simultaneous to the return of men to the USA after WWII, in which women were being pushed back to the home and to their “feminine” duties.

[4] Women and shoes: A love affair in pairs http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/women-shoes-love-affair-pairs-article-1.247872#ixzz2rGPTjLkS

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