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    • Maya Stiles Parsons Spier

      Columnist, Editor-in-Chief
    • October 14, 2013 in Columnists

    Does ‘beauty’ destroy a woman’s individuality?

    We must suffer to be beautiful.
    Hans Christian Anderson, The Little Mermaid, apparently misquoted

    When I was growing up, grownup women wore high heels.  From pumps to spikes, that’s what women wore when they were being “official” women – at work, out on the town, trying to look what society expected.  They also tweezed their brows out of existence and wore their makeup masks so that by the time they were done, no trace of the original woman remained – only a homogenous mask that made them look like every other woman.  Individuality?  Character?  That was for men.  Only a bland continuum of socially defined “beauty” remained.

    It’s not so different now.  I know I irritate the tar out of people (the job hazard of the opinionated) who think I’m being ridiculous, but frankly, high heels, plucked brows and makeup masks creep me out.

    Have you ever seen an exhibit of the shoes Chinese women wore on their poor bound feet?  Go out and look it up and see if they look eerily familiar to you (http://www.footwearhistory.com/lotus.shtml).  Do they?  They ought to.  Many of our modern high heels look just like them, only larger.  I kid you not.

    High heels damage women’s feet. A recent study (http://www.rnoh.nhs.uk/home/news/3d-foot-scanner-rnoh-transforming-diagnosis-and-treatment) shows  just what incredible harm they do to a woman’s foot, but there’s more! Achilles tendon surgery anyone? (http://www.livescience.com/10738-high-heels-reshape-leg-muscles-create-pain-worn.html). Keep digging. It gets worse.

    This is science, but for me, this was just the springboard for more thought on the matter.  Ever been impressed by women who can actually run in heels?  I’ve sure been.  Walking in them is hard enough.  Walk behind a woman in sky-high spikes and watch her ankles wobble back and forth.  Her tush stuck out and her back arched, she is forced out of a natural gait.  Now imagine she’s being chased by someone with evil intentions.  Imagine she’s trying to get away from a rapist.

    Seems to me that high heels are a rapist’s dream come true.  Here’s a victim with no chance of escape. Oh. Goody.

    Tell me, anybody, why aren’t shoes that actually take care of women’s feet, that a woman can walk with her body in a normal conformation, that give her a chance of escape the norm?  Why is it that the height of sexiness in footware includes bodily harm, physical contortion and an inability to escape a predator?  What the hell does this say about society’s view of women when footware is designed to pander to the concept of women as prey?  You don’t think so?  Start at the beginning of this column and read again.

    Add to that eradicating the original character of a woman’s face by destroying her eyebrows (for a delightfully creepy view of a whole bunch of familiar faces with eyebrows photoshopped out: http://celebswithnoeyebrows.com/), the required application of a veritable mask of makeup that remakes a woman’s face from the ground up (http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/stars-makeup-real-face-fame-gallery-1.21019) and you create someone who cannot properly walk, looks as much like a standard version of societally defined female “beauty” as possible and wears a layer of goop to prevent anything of her actual character from showing through.

    While a few sad men are starting to do this to themselves (look up “manscaping”), for the most part, men are supposed to look like who and what they are, and also to wear shoes that allow them to move naturally.  They aren’t supposed to look like characterless “fuckables” (pardon the language, but that’s the intent) who are constantly in heat and thus available, or natural victims who haven’t a thought in their lobotomized heads.

    And we wonder why we aren’t taken seriously?  We question why Hillary Clinton (who follows all the social rules for women’s appearance except for her eyebrows, which are shaped, not deleted) has her appearance savaged by critics when a male politician is pummeled for his politics?  In fact, if you look at pictures of women with power, you will notice that the great majority of them have retained as much of their facial character as they can get away with without drawing the savagery of the female-looks police.  Yup, they have real eyebrows.  Not sperm brows.  Not ‘Our Lady of Perpetual Surprise.’  Not a Bozo brow among them.

    I’m not saying not to have fun.  Pull those stray hairs if they drive you nuts.  Wear makeup for the fun of it.  But don’t destroy your entire facial character.  Don’t feel like you can’t step out your door unless you have your full war paint on.  And don’t wear shoes that ensure that you won’t be able to walk naturally without surgery – or get away from a rapist.  After all, look at the philosophy behind the bindng of women’s feet.  Are you comfortable with that?  And do you think there’s really that much difference between that philosophy and those miserable looking shoes that are touted as the height of “cuteness” and “style?”  I guarantee you that if you take off your socially-indoctrinated lenses and look at them with a view as to what they mean and what they do to women’s bodies, they won’t look nearly as cute.

    One of my favorite bumper stickers is “Subvert the Dominant Paradigm.”  So can we please redefine the paradigm of women’s beauty to something that doesn’t punish women for refusing to eradicate their individuality, wear footwear that turns us into crippled victims and force us to put on a faceful of paint that turns us into everywoman and no-woman-at-all?

    Reclaiming our power does require reclaiming ourselves, after all.



    • Great article. I have always worn the comfortable shoes and my feet are still at war with me.


      • Maya North

      • October 14, 2013 at 5:00 pm
      • Reply

      It’s that, Madge, but it’s more. You know that the patriarchy both hates and fears women’s power. What more effective than to negate us as people? The most drastic form is the burka, but if you hog-tie us with shoes that cripple us, eradicate our individual faces by deleting our eyebrows and then putting a mask on us, how different is that, truly? I may disqualify myself from society’s idea of beauty by resisting this, but I’d rather do that then become the “Stepford wife” whose power and humanity has been eradicated. <3



    • Maya, I love this: “Yup, they have real eyebrows. Not sperm brows. Not ‘Our Lady of Perpetual Surprise.’ Not a Bozo brow among them.” It reminds of a neighbor that I have written about and how her surprised face would be interpreted had she been a dog at the dog park.
      Anyway, I must say that I wear comfortable shoes. My kids have teased me for YEARS about my penchant for cross dressing styles. I am all about comfort. Coincidentally, I married a man who couldn’t give a F— about make up or uncomfortable shoes. However, if I put on a dressed up outfit, or wear even a low heal, it hits him in the solar plexus…or lower. I don’t get it, but it flips a switch. Anyway, I completely agree with you. Women should not be encouraged to parade around the universe in their fuckable clothes. Or work in their fuckable clothes. Or totter in their impossibly torturous heals. Where the special fuck me pumps for a night out with your man, or wear your version on them, but don’t live in them. Too often it defines a woman as fuckable first and a nurse, teacher, president or whatever role, second. That is perverted.


        • Maya North

        • October 15, 2013 at 7:23 pm
        • Reply

        Once, years ago, I got all gussied up for a glam shot session — they did the makeup. I thought my husband would run screaming in terror. He has actually thanked me for leaving myself be. Yet once, when I had occasion to go to a fancy evening out, and I did a face and wore a long, silver velvet gown and black velvet opera coat — and did my own, rather more subtle makeup, he stood almost in tears because he thought I was beautiful. It’s fun when it’s just fun, but honestly, we are all more than our physical appearance — so much more. And yes, I was wearing comfy shoes with my fancy outfit 😉


      • Terri Connett

      • October 15, 2013 at 6:58 am
      • Reply

      Maya, Maya, Maya. You have no idea how timely your column is for me. Yesterday marked my three year anniversary of my foot surgery. I wore the tallest heels I could for years and paid for it with a huge bunion and painful hammertoe on my right foot. I finally had the surgery, knowing I couldn’t wear the heels anymore and feeling relieved that I was at a point where I just didn’t care. I haul out my surgery-scarred foot every time a young female friend is teetering on her shoes to try and discourage it. So far it’s not working. I guess if an old woman would have done that to me when I was in my 20’s — I would have ignored her too. Great column!! It made me think.


        • Maya North

        • October 15, 2013 at 7:25 pm
        • Reply

        Oh owie, Terri! 🙁 It’s not just what it does to our feet and the rest of our bodies. The whole cultural aspect of women harming their bodies to fit into a notion of “beauty,” of being considered nothing more than what we look like, and of homogenizing ourselves because the world (the patriarchy) cannot abide a woman at full strength is truly representative of our designated place in the world that we cannot and must not accept.



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