Heels: Oppressing Or Empowering Women In The Workplace?

louboutins1“Traditional” feminists — which, if you’ve read our site disclaimer, we are not — have long felt that a woman who would torture herself by placing rat-stabbers on her feet are less of a help to women and more of a hindrance.

However, a related story on the Daily Mail states that heels are, indeed, a reinforcing factor for women’s capabilities in the office and other settings, personal and professional alike.

According to psychologist Cecilia d’Felice, the message that stilettos are supposed to pass on in the workplace is that high heels give not so much an ‘I want to turn you on’ vibe as ‘I want to take you on.’

The validity and purpose of wearing heels has long been disputed, but like any other major fashion staple over the years, heels tall or short have never gone out of style.  Even when heels were “banned” in the Marie Antoinette-era days, fashionable women always found a way to work them into their wardrobes.  Heels have long been a sexual staple as well, exuding confidence and fertility, as the position and curvature of the pelvis and hip changes from that of what a woman normally maintains in bare feet or flats.  Evidently the tip of your hip really does it, as far as The Feminine Allure goes.

I personally love heels.  However, due to current circumstances beyond my control, I haven’t worn them in quite a while.  There were times where heels would be my sole footwear for months on end.  Incidentally, due to a broken toe that never really healed correctly, my heels-wearing days have recently been limited.  I do, however, look quite forward to the day when I can break out my best pair of patent Italian leather four-inchers and strut my stuff about the office like I actually do kick the ass and take the names that I claim to.

So what do you ladies think about heels? Do you love them or hate them?  Do you agree with more traditional feminists that heels place women on a sexual pedestal and belittle their minds with their “elevated” simplicity?



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34 thoughts on “Heels: Oppressing Or Empowering Women In The Workplace?

  1. I love heels though ahh I don’t really wear them as I have spent the past 5 or so years stomping around in Doc Martins and combat boots but when I do want to dress up I’ll brave the pain and put on a pair of heels.

    Personally I think they look fabulous and I’ve always envied women who can pull off a nice stiletto, I think they can portray a really powerful image rather than a sexual one but then that all depends on the rest of your outfit.

  2. I loooove heels. I have quite a few pairs, and I wear them for all kinds of occasions–at school, doing errands, going out with my fiance, to church, etc. The only place I don’t wear them is work since I have to be on my feet nonstop.

    Anyway, I think heels are really versatile since you can dress them up or dress them down with jeans or whatever. I love my sneakers and flip flops, but there is just nothing like a good pair of stilettos for feeling sexy and powerful!

  3. I am a slave for pretty shoes. I love all kinds of pretty, sexy, fun shoes, including heels. I LOVE high heels. I have heels that range from 1 inch kitten heels to 4 inch deals that could take out an eyeball if necessary. I am going back to work in several months and I’m making sure that my professional wardrobe is ready and up to date. I actually counted the number of heels in my closet the other day and I have 73 pairs!

    I equate gorgeous high heels and an awesome suit with confidence and power. I am 5’10″ without heels and usually wear 3 – 4 inch heels. I have had senior VPs (male of course) ask me if I was trying to make them nervous by wearing high heels. I would always laugh and say, “no, of course not! I just like pretty shoes”. Which is true, I love pretty shoes, but I also LOVE being taller or eye to eye with senior management. And yes, my shoes and suits WERE intended to make you nervous so I could get that 8 million I need for my next project…I just could never say that!

  4. I think they can look great, very sexy. But I can’t wear them to save my life!
    The pressure on the ball of the foot hurts like hell, and those little gel inserts don’t do a thing. And I have ‘weak’ ankles, which turn on uneven pavements even in flat shoes.

    Every time I’ve tried to wear heels with an evening outfit, I’ve ended up carrying them and walking barefoot at some stage. It’s a pity, because I’m shortish and roundish, and could really do with the extra height!

    • I’m so sorry- your poor feet! Have you tried wedges? They’re usually a bit more stable than heels. Also, there may be biological reasons as to why heels hurt your feet. You may have very high arches, which is a common factor with foot pain, since more pressure is placed on the ball of the foot. A podiatrist may have some good suggestions, as there are whole lines of footwear, complete with heels, for ladies with foot issues.
      But even if none of this helps, you don’t need heels to look great. You’re beautiful with or without them.

      • Aw, thanks, spike! ;-)

        Actually, I do have a pair of high-ish wedges that I can wear for a bit longer, though still not very long. I’m just scared of falling off them!

        I may have high arches, they sure look it. But it’s never occurred to me to find out if there’s a biological reason for the pain. A podiatrist, that’s a good idea. After all, it’s high heels that hurt today, tomorrow it could be the low ones. These things get worse with age!

        • Hi,

          For me, it’s always the balls of my feet that hurt, regardless if I wear flats or heels. Have you tried all the different types of inserts? Because some work much better than others and some work better for some shoes than others. I have the squishy jelly kind for some shoes and the bigger, sturdier kind for others.

          And sometimes, they just hurt but for some shoes, it’s worth the pain. Keeps me alert.

        • It took me a while to remember the name, but I have a shoe recommendation. Taryn Rose is the name of a line of shoes designed by a pro podiatrist. It includes heels, wedges, boots, flats, etc, and they are hailed as being very comfortable and supportive. I’ve never worn any myself, I confess, but it’s definitely worth a look- and they’re pretty, too. Hope this helps.

  5. I like ‘em. I think they’re cute, and fun to walk in, but they also have to be fairly comfortable. I’m less a fan of stilettos, because Ouch. Walking in those suckers kills my feet, and usually I do a lot of walking/dancing – it takes me 15 minutes down a fairly steep hill to walk from my car to my classes, for example. Also, my boyfriend isn’t a fan of heels in general so I don’t wear them too too often.

    As far as the feminist bent goes, I think that there should be no requirement or expectation that women HAVE TO wear heels, but I also think those feminists who like heels have every right to wear them if they damn well want to.

  6. I drool over them in stores, but I never wear them mainly because I walk like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman in heels. . .I lumber and lurch.

  7. They’re only oppressive if they hurt. If you wear chunky type heels you can go all day without pain and it’s empowering for those of us that are petite.

  8. I don’t wear them because my husband is shorter than I am. Before I got married, however, I did ballroom dancing for years. During those years, I grew accustomed to the pain and lack of balance that seem to go hand in hand with heels, and I also came to appreciate how sexy they make legs look. But I do get a little worried whenever I read studies about how bad they are for your back.

    • I adore the look of heels but I’m 5’7″ without them and my boyfriend is 5’9″ so I NEVER wear them so as not to make him self-conscious. He has never mentioned any concerns about being shorter if I were to wear them but I am having a hard time getting passed it on my own. Shame on me.

  9. I don’t wear them unless I’m dressing up and want my ass to look great. At 5’9″ it’s not practical for every day. I had a manager at Rite Aid who would only wear heels (very short asian woman) and that job required a lot of physical stuff including running up and down decaying wooden death stairs. She just felt uncomfortable in regular shoes.

  10. The sound of heels is empowering. Any woman walking at a constant pace gives the idea “She knows where she is going, she knows what she’s doing, and she’s going to do it. Now.”

    • That’s why the Taliban outlawed them when they were making the rules.
      Makes me like them even more. It’s proof that they make some men nervous.

  11. I adore a good pair of heels, though I also adore a good pair of motorcycle boots. My feelings don’t coincide with “traditional” feminists on this one either- I actually feel more powerful in heels, rather than less. I wear them when and where I feel like it, and since I am already slightly tall, I feel like I could reach out, grab the world, and shake it around a bit. Plus, they make my legs look great, and I can walk in them well.
    The only time, I think, that I would feel oppressed regarding heels would be if I was required to wear, or not to wear, them.

  12. I think heels can be incredibly empowering. There have been countless studies showing that taller people are perceived as more competent, powerful, etc. Since women are generally shorter than men, trying to level the height advantage with heels, should at least subconsciously give that woman a psychological “power boost.”

    Plus I love the sound they make on hard floors.

  13. I’ve never been able to wear more than a 2″ or less chunky heel due to being just generally uncoordinated. I turn my ankles or start to fall forward. My friends tell me I could learn to walk in them but at over 40 years old, I just don’t see the point. (pun intended) It isn’t something I am that interested in.
    I wear my low heels if I need to dress up, the rest of the time I wear flat, sturdy shoes that (I think) look cool. Heels might make you feel “kick-ass” but nothing is better than being sure-footed and “ready to do battle”.

  14. I think heels are empowering not de-powering! Besides the more than occasional poor woman struggling in heels, when have sexy sky high shoes ever been out of style? Like secret lingerie under a conservative outfit, heels gives a female the confidence we deserve and that extra little boost that is subtly noticeable and defiantly effective. Even if a woman can’t wear heels-for whatever reason, you bet she sure is wishing she could! Heck even SOME men envy and wish they could wear heels (yes, yes it’s true)! It’s just another way to shove our dainty feminine feet into a man’s world, and declare it for ourselves!

    I suggest investing in expensive shoes, only because they’re made of good materials that last, and they are much more comfortable! Christian Louboutin is my absolute favorite, and this world would be so dull without that brilliant man! The key is to wait till the end of the season when stores like Barney’s and Neiman Marcus are clearing the shelves for the new seasons. I just got a pair of Christian Louboutin JS Multi booties for 580$ with a original price of 1,065$!!! Just thought I’d share that…:) Happy shopping ladies!

  15. I think heels can look cute on people, but I pretty much never, ever wear them. I’m short, but like being short. And I’m small overall, so I’m not obsessed with trying to make my legs look any better. oh, and I walk a shit ton.

    no thanks

  16. I can see how the added height puts women on a more level power-field with men, but the very nature of high-heels/stillettos/spikes simply says “pole-dancer” to most guys and the power, one-upmanship takes the form of sexuality vs. physical strength, which IS the angle that women DO hold power over men with. Added height, without the “fuck-me” look, like by wearing boots, gives a power-height adjustment without the sexual element, allowing the woman to show that she’s willing to play on a level playing field without resorting to hormonal manipulation.

  17. Bird, I disagree. There are heels that say “pole dancer” but there are heels that are classy and elegant. It’s all in how you wear it. Boots, regardless of heel height, have a fuck me look. I have long legs and I rarely wear boots to work because the look is just too sexy. And when I wear high heels, my skirt always comes to my knees.

    Men are amazed at the fact that we can run around on 3″+ stilts because they know they can’t/couldn’t do it.

    I love heels, I am a shoe whore. I haven’t counted lately but I have lots, plus I have a pair hidden in the closet because I don’t want my husband to find out (they’re so gorgeous, I had to have them, they’re electric blue suede 4″inch heel hidden platform soul ankle boots. They sound awful but believe me, they’re not).

  18. I think if they give a woman more confidence, then, yes! They are empowering! But i’m 6’3 and have NEVER worn heels in my life, even to my prom i wore flats. I wish there was a way to look shorter lol.

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