High Heels: Aren’t We Good Enough As We Are?

I am five feet one inches tall.

On a good day.

On a day when I am stretching and standing on the tippiest of tippy toes, like we all used to in primary school when trying to prove we were taller than a similarly-sized friend and therefore obviously much more mature, serious and commanding of playground respect.

I never won those competitions.

At the age of eleven, I became a vegetarian.  I thought I was pretty serious about it, with my right-on ethical stance and love and consideration for all those cute little animals, even though it was in truth mostly a ruse to get out of eating the stringier bits of meat in the Sunday dinner.  At the age of thirteen, one of my friends made a not entirely serious suggestion that I should return to carnivorous ways, on the off-chance that it might aid my growth, which was, as it had been throughout my childhood, seriously lacking.  I did, just so I could say I had tried everything.  It didn’t work, of course.  I was destined for a life in miniature.

As I grew up-or, to put it more accurately, grew older, as that longed-for growth spurt never did materialise-things got easier.  I got older, and now, at thirty-five, I no longer get asked for ID when buying wine, the fear of having to hand over my passport and be found lacking now replaced by crushing disappointment when the teenager on the checkout authorises my age-restricted purchases without even glancing up (or down, as the case may be).

I also discovered my secret weapon, my emotional crutch, every short girl’s must-have accessory du jour; the high heeled shoe.

We were bosom buddies, my high heels and me.  We went everywhere together.  To work, where I felt a rush of pride on being complimented on my ability to continue wearing elevated footwear well into the third trimester of pregnancy.  On nights out where, after the introduction of the smoking ban, I finally felt able to stand at the bar without the fear of bring accidentally poked in the eye by a cigarette from the hand of a larger neighbour.  In photos where sometimes, if the other people were sat down, I looked almost the same size.  And on cobbled streets, where I cursed their very existence and vowed on many occasions as I wobbled around precariously, that should I ever be crowned Queen of the World, the first thing I would do would be get rid of heritage paving.

I loved my heels.  They were what defined me.  If I was a dinosaur, I would be a velociraptor, perched on ridiculous stilts.

Me, generally to be found rocking this look on an average Saturday night.

However, from time to time, a conversation I had with a friend at university would pop into my head.  The friend was six feet tall in her flats, so it was easy for her to say, but I couldn’t deny that she had a point.

“As women, we are told we’re not good enough.  We wear make up because our faces aren’t pretty enough as they are.  We wear heels because our legs aren’t long enough as they are.”

Was that it?  Was it because I wasn’t enough as I was?  Did I feel obliged to hide my shame at being too short by crippling my feet?

I always predicted that by forty my feet would be finished.  I’ve suffered pain and lacerations, knee injuries and near-constant discomfort.  And for what?

Because I am not enough.  Because I am too short to be noticed.  Too short to be taken seriously.

I read the recent story of a receptionist who was sent home from work for refusing to wear heels with interest.  I’ve done those jobs.  Those jobs where you stand up for hours on end.  Where the whole purpose of your existence seems to be to present the unthreatening, acceptable, young and pretty face of a company where you know that your perceived role is to be an ornament and an airhead.  And I wondered, am I a bad feminist?  Me, who still feels shame at wearing trainers to work even though I walk half a mile to the station each morning and change out of those trainers and into something more acceptable-and heeled-as soon as I arrive at work.  Should I be tearing down the fabric of the patriarchy in a sensible pair of loafers?

I reserve my right to wear heels.  They make me feel just that little bit more than I am without them.  Just that little bit more noticeable, professional, attractive, confident.

But I won’t let them wear me anymore.  Heels, trainers, flats, slippers, barefoot.  I am enough, just as I am.

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33 Comments Add yours

  1. Hey, if wearing heels makes you feel confident, then go for it! I’m not a heels person myself (I fall over just standing in heels – forget about walking in them), but I have my own beauty crutch – mascara. I know I don’t strictly NEED it, but makes me feel just that little bit better about myself, so I wear it pretty much every day.

    1. Min says:

      Mascara is always a confidence booster too! I wish I was better at applying eyeliner though. It just gets sort of smeared on! Thanks for commenting.

  2. I can relate to a lot of this post as I’m also petite – 5ft exactly (and I can still remember just how delighted I was the day I realised that I’d reached that magic 5ft!) If you like wearing heels and are happy wearing them, that’s a good enough reason to keep wearing them though. I used to love my heels until I was pregnant with my first child and then I switched to flats and there I have stayed ever since. It doesn’t bother me to be little. There are no heels in the world that will make me look anything other than tiny next to my 6ft3in husband anyway! 🙂 #triballove

    1. Min says:

      Haha, I would keep wearing the flats if they went with my clothes, but I just don’t seem to be able to find an outfit that goes with flat shoes. A wardrobe built on heels, definitely!

  3. Ellen says:

    Loved this. When I was younger I spent time wishing I was a bit smaller so I could be petite and delicate and be thrown in the air by a knight in shining armour… Basically being a twat! I’m taller than my husband cause he’s a short arse but who cares? I read a book (Susan Bordo I think) that was actually about anorexia but it had this amazing bit in it that I thought of while reading this post about feeling like you take up too much space, and I get that. Fucking patriarchy. I do think you should wear whatever you want and if it makes you feel more confident then that’s great. #triballove

    1. Min says:

      Yes, I haven’t read that book but I have come across the concept of space and feeling like you take up too much space in quite a bit of feminist discourse. With anorexia you are making yourself lesser in a very literal sense. For me it was always more the opposite-feeling small and insignificant. I definitely still feel more confident when I wear heels, and I do have an amazing pair I wear at work now which are freakishly comfortable.

  4. MMT says:

    My rocky relationship with heels went down the pan after both ankles were screwed in some falling over accidents. Alcohol may or may not have been involved. I think being a feminist is all about making your own choices and screwing the expected stereotype, or adhering to it if that’s what suits you. P.s. Seriously envious of those boots!
    Thanks for linking lovely xx #coolmumclub

    1. Min says:

      Thanks for hosting and commenting. I may have had one or two “falling over accidents” myself, although not recently, fortunately!

  5. Heels are a necessity to a woman’s life. I couldn’t be without mine. In the Times today there is a big push on flats. There is a place for both obviously, but heels make you walk tall, feel proud and look sexy. What’s not to like?? A fellow high heel fan. #coolmumclub

  6. Heels are a necessity. There was an article in the Times today on the rise of flats amongst the rich and famous. There is a role for both obviously, but only one makes you walk tall, feel proud and look sexy. What’s not to like? #coolmumclub

    1. Min says:

      Flats are just having a moment I think, which is unsurprising as throughout the 2000s it was all about the heels. Timed it quite nicely I think, as I definitely need flats now, but I still think heels look better, make me feel better and are just generally fab!

  7. yvonne says:

    I love my heels, unfortunately I seem to be wearing flats more and more these days. Quicker to catch up with two nearly four-year-olds if you wear flats ha ha #FabFridayPost

    1. Min says:

      Exactly! That seems to be my hindrance these days too!

  8. Mrs Tubbs says:

    I never learnt to walk in high heels, so I don’t bother. But if others want too, then go for it. But it really depends on the job. If you’re on your feet all day, then high heels aren’t the best footwear. if you’re in an office, you can change into heels when you get there if you want … That’s what everyone in our office who wears them does!

    1. Min says:

      That’s what I do too! I’m a teacher, but I do get to sit down occasionally so it’s not too bad, and my current school footwear is very comfy, despite being heeled.

  9. Davina says:

    I invite you to come and stand next to me and feel tall. I am not quite five foot and weigh about six and a half stone soaking wet. I’m 29 and still get asked for ID and everyone looks horrified when I happen to mention that I have two children.

    I hate being short. I’ve always hated it, but I value comfort above all things and flatly (no pun intended) refuse to wear heels more than a couple of times a week. It’s not that I don’t like them; I just can’t fucking walk in them without feeling like I want to cut my feet off.

    Small is beautiful. Heels or no heels, you rock ?

    1. Min says:

      Thanks! Yes, I need to stop being so hung up on being short! To be honest I have got better since having Piglet-mainly through necessity-and now I find myself looking at flat shoes in the shops with interest, but I will need a complete wardrobe overhaul if I ever eschew heels completely as all my clothes seem to be designed to only look good with heels!

  10. Talya says:

    I agree! Heels are an amazing confidence booster but we shouldn’t be forced to wear them, or not wear them – it is purely a choice! Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub lovely xx

    1. Min says:

      Thanks for hosting and commenting! Completely agree.

  11. John Adams says:

    For what it’s worth I have seen any a feminist wearing high heels! Like your turn of phrase about wearing heels and not letting them wear you. #TruthAbout

  12. Sam says:

    Blimey, I never want to meet you in person, it’ll make me feel like a flippin’ giant 🙂 Seriously though, I’m not really a giant about 5’6”/5’7” but wearing heels always was a conflict for me because then it would make me feel too tall. Pft. I do now occasionally like to wear a medium sized heel because I think it is very flattering to the legs but the story in the news about being forced to wear heels? Well it’s only news because it comes across so shockingly chauvinist as a rule in the workplace. My cousin is air crew for BA and I remember her telling me that she was once told she wasn’t wearing enough make up. Same thing? Thanks for linking up to #thetruthabout

    1. Min says:

      Yes, the make up thing is an outrage too, though I guess heels is worse because they are actually painful, whereas make up is not, but both imply that part of the role is to be a decorative ornament-something that would certainly not be required of a male member of a cabin crew.

  13. teacuptoria says:

    I agree, I enjoy wearing heels but I also walk a fair distance to my office from my car so I tend to wear manageable mid heels. I’m 5’8″ though so if I wear heels, I get up to 6 ft which is pretty tall for a gal. My height has never stopped me wearing them though. i think women have the right to wear what they bloody want! Great post and I loved coming over to your blog for the first time. I had a good read 🙂 Toria xx

    1. Min says:

      Thank you! I’m chuffed that you stuck around and read some posts. Totally agree, we should wear what we want!

  14. I’m on the short side too and wearing heels does make me feel more professional. However, I love flats! #thetruthabout

    1. Min says:

      Yes, same here. Perhaps if I was taller flats would have the same effect, but alas!

  15. Bumbi's Mom says:

    Love the message on this one. Wear what makes you feel good as long as you are doing it for you and not to please others! Thanks for linking up with the #FabFridayPost

    1. Min says:

      Thanks for hosting and commenting!

  16. If you can even wear heels when pregnant more power to you! During this past pregnancy I was just having a hard time fitting into SHOES. Any of them.

    1. Min says:

      I have to say right at the end I was much the same. The curse of the swollen feet, another one of the many blessings of pregnancy!

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