High Heels Have Turned Into The Tangible Symbol Of The Patriarchal Workforce

by Helena Negru
merve türkan

The primary function of heels has changed a lot since they were first invented for Persian warriors.

They changed their symbolism from functional items, to a measure of status and then sexuality. But in 2016, heels seem to be the excruciating symbol of patriarchal power over the “weaker” gender.

From Cavalries To Viral, Blood-Soaked Heels

High heels are used to add height, and since they were first used, humanity gave them a wide array of functions. The first time someone wore heels was allegedly in Ancient Egypt. But in my humble opinion, those were only some low platform shoes. I believe the real high heels were invented by Persian warriors who used them to sit tightly in their saddle when they aimed at the enemy.

However, the real deal came with French royalty when Louis XIV made high heels synonymous with power; the higher the heel, the higher the status of the wearer. Why? Because high heels prevented one from walking properly and working. Keep this in mind, because we're going to return to this point. Also keep in mind the fact men were those who wore high heels originally.

Rationality Says No To Heels

During Enlightenment, high heels were forgotten, as rationality was telling people that wearing shoes preventing them from walking properly were not smart. Such frivolous clothing items were the last thing a man or a woman would like to flaunt in a time when education and intelligence were highly prized.

Author Elizabeth Semmelhack points out the fact high heels became a staple of sexuality and pornography. If we think of the Venetian courtesans who established the crazy Chopines as a symbol of prostitution, along with the red and purple dresses, high heels became associated with the lowest statue of a woman and the oldest job in the world.

Basically, high heels represent sexism. And now comes the real matter: The cases of Nicola Thorp and Nicola Gavins' work colleague.

Blood And The Workplace

While Victoria Beckham, the ultimate fashionista, and Julia Roberts ditch heels for flats or going barefoot, workplaces like PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Joey Restaurants force their female employees to wear high heels during eight hours long shifts. OK, we all know women wear high heels to boost their outfit and/or confidence along with their height, but wearing them should be their own choice.

The bloody socks of an employee of Joey, a Canadian restaurant, came after the case of Nicola Thorp, who was sent home because she wore flats instead of heels. The companies argued that they asked female to wear heels due to an outdated dress code, but I don't believe this. I am sure they were completely aware of the ordeal they force their female employees into, and they continued practice by hiding it under the word “smart."

By this standard, this means high heels are the only items that can make a woman look “smart” — dare I add, be smart? — as she works long, possibly underpaid serving shifts. While men can run around in comfortable flats, women were forced to wear items which prevented one from walking properly and working. These are the same items that were seen by the Enlightenment people as a bad idea. Of course, who could possibly believe running around serving tables, while carrying dishes on your arms and wearing high heels that make your feet bleed to be smart?

There are dozen ways to add height to your employees, and many of these options are very comfortable and appealing, so why heels? And why are women the only ones who need to be submissive to these painful practices reinforced by gender stereotypes?

After all, men were the first to wear heels, so why not ask the male waiters to work in heels? It would make them look “smart” and "powerful," right? Nicola Gavins also drew attention to the fact that women waiters at Joeys were required to buy an expensive outfit, while men could show up in any black pants and white shirt. This is another sign that men are trying to subdue women, despite it being 2016 and despite the fact that many claim women and men to be "equal." Is this practice making women employees feel good and respected?

In order to be productive, you need to feel comfortable, both physically and mentally. Having bleeding feet is definitely going to affect your ability to focus and be productive, which, in turn, is going to lead to a drastic drop in productivity. Overall, female employees will have a lower productivity, which is going to lead to lower salaries and even termination of contract.

In the long run, this will lead to women being seen as less productive. But is this really their “fault?" Or this is the natural consequence of being forced to work in shoes which make walking a bloody nightmare?

The takeaway from all these cases and practices is women still have a long way to go to escape the patriarchal misconceptions and restrictive dress codes of today. Even if it's politically correct to proclaim the equality between men and women, women are still expected to submit to men and their rules. If we are not going to take action against these wrongful rules, we might lose all the rights our ancestors fought for in the past. Is this the world we want our daughters to grow up in?