Confessions of a Heel Hater

The summer before I began my first year at Vanderbilt, I attended a “summer send-off” party for all the incoming students to meet other Vanderbilt families in the area. It was one of those stand-around-and-talk-for-an-hour events, and I was there with both my parents, who are alums. I remember meeting the chancellor with my father, and pretty soon a crowd of more recent (not to mention good-looking) male alums had gathered. Although many of them were closer to my age than to my father’s, they were much closer to his height than to mine, and I started to feel like a child standing among grown-ups. I didn’t even make an effort to raise my voice above its natural sound field and into the world of Tall People. No one really took note of me. I walked away.

When we left, my dad told me I should consider wearing high-heeled shoes more often so that people could see me. While at the time, I accused him of being anti-women’s liberation (as if the rejection of high heels is the ultimate form of feminism), I had to admit that that was not the first time I had become invisible.

My refusal to wear heels is all the more ridiculous given my towering height of five feet. As I’ve been working on this Sole Sisters project, however, I’ve been exposed to a lot of stories about high-powered women with high-heeled shoes. Really, I don’t even know what my reason is or was for not wearing heels in the first place—whether I value the comfort of my feet too highly, or I just haven’t figured out how to walk in them, or whether my feet are just so traumatized from years of pointe ballet that I don’t even consider heels desirable…

But the truth is, all kinds of women wear high heels and have been for years—there’s got to be something empowering about them; they are not, as I had thought before, simply about tailoring one’s appearance to the male ideal of female beauty. Rather, they are an expression of art, an assertion of power, and a symbol of grace. Shoes can be subversive. As the saying goes, “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and on high heels.” So maybe it’s time I find a pair of heels in which I too can dance…