Monday, November 24, 2008

Heels in low places

I would love to know by what argument American women were induced into walking on stilts so to affect a more "professional" appearance. "Make your legs appear longer, your breasts more available, be at all times slightly off-balance -- only then you will be taken seriously by your colleagues."

It would be easy to blame women for ever accepting this (at least if you share the view that high heels do not make sense as everyday footwear), but my guess is that the practice must have coincided with women's breakthrough into the workplace, and for this reason was not anticipated as a problem; or perhaps it was already so closely associated with the business world that it possessed an emancipatory appeal. Also, because the victory for women in the workplace did more to challenge the authority of the men at home than it did to challenge the authority men at work, it was in this respect quite limiting: men merely consolidated their authority over women in a new domain.

No doubt men sought common cause with the more parochial thread of feminism, which they viewed as manageable -- certainly preferable to the idea of women's equality overall -- and which granted them more extramarital options, besides. One might even view it as a net gain for professional men, if not for husbands: Women want to work? Sure, just create a distinct standard of "professionalism" for women, loaded with whatever men want -- less pay, upscale hooker wear, whatever. It's not by force; the women who want to succeed will know what to do.

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